Assembly agrees to accept state grant for new dock construction

Posted: Wednesday, August 11, 2010

At its regular meeting Monday, the Juneau Assembly moved forward in its long-standing effort to revitalize the downtown cruise ship docks.

The Assembly adopted an ordinance to accept a $9 million grant from the state for use in the Downtown Cruise Ship Berth Enhancements Capital Improvement Project. This money is to go toward a project to construct two concrete docks downtown with the capacity to harbor Panamax cruise ships.

Chip Thoma, president of Responsible Cruising in Alaska, told the Assembly that the project was vital to the cruise industry, as most cruise ships constructed today are the larger Panamax size, which was not the case when the harbors were first constructed.

He said it's much better to construct two new, floating docks to accommodate the ships than try to refurbish the old, inadequate wooden ones.

He included the prospect of turning the old harbors into sea walkways that would be accessible to residents while ships were in dock.

Joe Geldhof, attorney for Responsible Cruising in Alaska, also said these walks would solve security problems and open up access to everyone.

Thoma also mentioned that an additional $13 passenger fee next season will add to the ordinance in giving the city "a great opportunity to pay for these docks out of pocket."

Others addressed the Assembly in favor of the ordinance and the dock project as a whole. Among them was Joshua Adams, who authored "The Life and Times of the Alaskan Hotel." He said that downtown is not maximizing its potential and the new docks would help that.

On the Assembly, Ruth Danner inquired if the ordinance would give these funds directly to Docks and Harbors. City Manager Rod Swope responded that it would, but Docks and Harbors would still require the Assembly's approval to spend it, an assessment Mayor Bruce Botelho agreed with. The ordinance merely sets the money aside until the project is underway.

Assembly member Randy Wanamaker opposed the ordinance, saying he wanted to see the results of an assessment on repair options first.

Kirby Day of Princess Cruises also disagreed, saying there needs to be further inspections of navigational problems that could occur with the new docks.

Assembly member Jeff Bush said as this is just to accept the state's money and not appropriate it yet, "it would be inappropriate not to accept them."

Another issue that sparked extra attention was an ordinance that would on smoking in taxis. The ordinance would increase the fine for smoking in commercial passenger vehicles from $50 for the first offense to $100. The fine would increase further for second and third offenses.

Several Juneau residents spoke in favor of the ordinance to discourage smoking in taxis. Wendy Hamilton said, "It is nearly impossible to get a cab in Juneau that hasn't been smoked in."

The ordinance was ultimately tabled so the city could further examine the wording of the amendment plus that of the original ordinance.

Assembly member Jonathan Anderson said the wording did not address if its mention of "premises" applied to vehicles or just buildings.

Also at the meeting, the Assembly approved:

• $50,000 by the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development to put toward a bid to host the 2014 Arctic Winter games.

• An amendment with a Docks and Harbors contract to increase the consultant fee with PND Engineers by $365,000 to allow for the continuation of planning and environmental work for the proposed new launch ramp at Statter Harbor.

• Another contract amendment with Docks and Harbors for up to $408,950 for the design firm Jensen Yorba Lott in the construction administration and observation services for the port customs and visitor center project.

• $505,000 from the wastewater fund balance for four wastewater capital improvement projects identified in the fiscal 2011 Capital Improvement Program.

• $11,279 from the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to activities by the Local Emergency Planning Committee.

• $5,000 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to help fund the Treadwell Historic Plan and Construction Capital Improvement Project.

• $25,213 from the state office of history and archaeology as funding for phase 3 of the Treadwell Historic Plan and Construction Capital Improvement Project.

• Waiving the right to protest in a beverage dispensary license transfer from Marlintini's to Hoochies, LLC.

• Contact Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or

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