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Mat-Su Assembly votes to store ferry

Posted: August 21, 2013 - 11:09pm

ANCHORAGE — The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly is trying to find a way to end its monthly maintenance of a ferry that has never been put into service and instead indefinitely store the vessel at Port MacKenzie.

The Anchorage Daily News reports assembly members voted 5-2 Tuesday to direct borough manager John Moosey to continue negotiations with a company that could build a cradle to place the Susitna, an $80 million Navy prototype, in dry dock.

Cruz Construction Inc. has proposed a cradle designed to support the 129-passenger, 20-car, catamaran-style vessel. Moosey estimated it would cost $1.1 million to move the ferry from Ketchikan, where the ferry was built and where it’s been docked. He did not have an estimate for future maintenance or for refloating the ferry if the borough finds a suitable buyer.

The borough received the ferry free by pledging to operate it between Port MacKenzie and Anchorage. However, the borough concluded that operating the vessel would be too expensive and an Anchorage landing was never completed.

Since April 2012, the borough has spent $69,550 every month on insurance, taxes, security, crew and docking, an expenditure of nearly $1.2 million.

The borough in January offered to give the ferry to another federal, state or local entity. It has also received offers to buy it but most are for only about $1 million. The borough would like $6 million to repay a Federal Transit Administration grant.

Officials from Cruz Construction told Moosey the company can only float the Susitna into Port MacKenzie at high tides on two days. One is next month and the other is in October. Company officials said they wanted an assembly decision by Friday.

Assemblyman Jim Colver voted for storing the vessel but called the moving expense “inflated.”

Assemblyman Steve Colligan also voted for pursing the dry dock.

“This comes down to a gut-level confidence for me,” Colligan said. “We’ve got to shore up and stem the bleeding here.”

Assemblymen Warren Keogh and Noel Woods opposed boat storage. Keogh said the hull could be damaged and far more difficult to sell if it’s cracked.

“There’s nothing I’d rather see than to have this boat in Cook Inlet, whether it’s dry docked or operating,” Keogh said. “But frankly, as the dry docking costs and risks are described here, it’s not prudent to do it.”

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