Assembly stands against fast ferry resolution

Posted: Tuesday, February 08, 2000

The governor's endorsement of fast ferries to service Juneau and other parts of Southeast would have had the Juneau Assembly's vote of confidence Monday night if member Frankie Pillifant had had her way.

She didn't.

After testimony from a number of local residents, two of whom condemned the ferry plan and five who supported the governor, the panel voted down the resolution - which had been put on the agenda at Pillifant's urging.

Former mayor Jamie Parsons vehemently denounced the ferry choice, calling it ``a politically decreed back-room decision,'' that had received ``absolutely no public hearing.''

He called on the assembly to stick to its earlier resolution to support road access from Skagway and to ask the state Department of Transportation to make a formal presentation of its preferred alternative plan - road access - to the assembly.

But Southeast Alaska Conservation Council spokesman Mark Wheeler objected that the fast-ferry solution to perceived access problems was part of the Southeast Transportation Plan as early as the 1980s and was not a new idea.

The ferries were also contained within a later revised transportation plan that had received plenty of public exposure, he said.

Gov. Tony Knowles' decision doesn't rule out a road from Juneau to Skagway in the future. An environmental impact statement citing the road as the preferred alternative will be sent to the federal government, Knowles said when he revealed his fast-ferry plan recently.

A future governor ``could certainly opt for a road alternative,'' he said.

Deputy Mayor John MacKinnon proposed an amendment to the resolution that would have indicated assembly support for the governor's plan ``as an interim measure, until the road is constructed.''

It was voted down.

Member Jim Powell moved to reconsider the matter at the next, more fully representative assembly meeting. Only five of the nine members were present Monday.

``This is an issue that this community has struggled with for many years,'' he said. ``We need to bring it up when we have a full deck.''

Powell said the idea that the ferry plan had not had public exposure ``didn't ring true.''

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