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Delegation to fight for Juneau ferry jobs

Posted: August 11, 2011 - 9:44pm

Members of the Juneau legislative delegation say they’ll fight the possible move of jobs in the ferry reservations office from town.

The Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is reviewing whether it might save money or improve efficiency by moving 23 Juneau positions to Ketchikan, where most other Alaska Marine Highway System workers are based, department leaders confirmed earlier this week.

“Obviously the Juneau delegation is going to work hard to keep those jobs in Juneau,” said Rep. Cathy Munoz, R-Juneau.

Former Gov. Frank Murkowski angered Juneau, and ferry workers, several years ago when he moved most of the Marine Highway’s Channel Drive headquarters jobs to Ketchikan, where fleet maintenance is done. The reservations office jobs, at Seven Mile on Glacier Highway remained in Juneau then. Not all those jobs are filled at any given time.

Murkowski moved 49 headquarters positions to Ketchikan then, but only 11 employees agreed to make the move. The remainder, many with a spouse in a different Juneau agency, gave up their jobs to remain in Juneau.

Sen. Dennis Egan said he’s confident that Gov. Sean Parnell isn’t trying to move jobs from Juneau the way that Murkowski did, but was disappointed not to have first heard about the review from the department.

“We didn’t get a courtesy call from the deputy commissioner even letting us know they were considering this,” Egan said.

Munoz, too, said she was surprised by the department’s statement. Rep. Beth Kerttula, currently attending a National Conference of State Legislatures conference in Texas, did not return phone calls.

Mike Neussl, DOT’s deputy commissioner for marine operations, said the jobs would remain in Juneau for at least two more years while options are being reviewed, which Munoz called “encouraging.”

Neussl repeatedly emphasized that no final decision on the status of the positions has yet been made, but DOT spokeswoman Brenda Hewitt said the agency requires an annual $100 million state subsidy and needs to look at all cost savings options.

Munoz and Egan said they doubted there would be benefits to the state from moving the jobs.

“We’re going to urge the administration to make those positions secure in Juneau permanently,” Munoz said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

 

 

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