Local Government Needs a Better Plan for Gravina Access Funds
The Ketchikan Community trusts our local elected officials and their staff with the enormous responsibility of spending tax dollars and public monies in meaningful ways that maximize benefits to the public, and help sustain and grow the local tax base. The approximate $96,000,000 in remaining Gravina Access funds represents a unique opportunity to do just that. Unfortunately, the Borough and the City of Ketchikan’s current “wish list” of planned expenditures fail to meet the best interest of the public, and miss an excellent opportunity to maximize economic benefits for the families and businesses of our region.
The Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce represents over 200 member businesses, including the region’s largest private sector employers, who support thousands of jobs. At the Chamber’s September, 2016 board meeting, the Chamber board voted unanimously to strenuously object to the local government’s currently proposed expenditures of the $96m in remaining Gravina Access funds. The Chamber’s opposition, to both expenditure and process, captured in meeting minutes (available upon request), is for the following reasons:
- The Chamber of Commerce believes that any “Gravina Access” plan must include an assurance of dual ferry service during the months of May through August. Our community owns two ferries, and with an additional $96m available, local government should be able to find a way to put them both to use. Failing to do so would add a most embarrassing epilogue to the already dubious tale of “the bridge to nowhere.”
- Some of our local governments’ proposed expenditures appear to be unnecessary, duplicative, and without meaningful public benefit. Examples include proposals for a second, duplicate ferry terminal which will sit largely unused; buying land for parking; and replacing existing shelters, fee collection equipment, and facilities which are currently adequate, and have years of useful life remaining.
- It is difficult to understand many of the proposed expenditures because full descriptions, cost estimates, and rationales have not been made readily available to the public for review and input. Please consider making details available in a format similar to the Ketchikan Legislative Liaison format.
- Public processes to date have been inadequate, particularly regarding expenditure of “non-G4V” funds. We encourage our local governments to slow down, and put forth a proactive effort to create an inclusive, open, transparent process available to all of your constituents, encouraging meaningful engagement and dialogue. This process should include a clear and adequate timeline for project submission, review, and decision-making. Criteria should be made available to the public in a format which is very clear, and promotes rather than deters development of meaningful project proposals.
- The City of Saxman should be given an adequate opportunity to participate in the project identification and selection processes.
We hope our local governments will take the time to slow down, and invest the extra time needed to do a better, more inclusive job of working with the community to develop an improved, more meaningful list of projects.
Executive Director, Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce
President, Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce