Juneau manager: City doesn't aim to vie with businesses

Private sector leaders say city role still unclear

Posted: Sunday, September 11, 2005

Juneau city manager Rod Swope told local business leaders Friday the city has no interest in competing with the private sector.

A group of business owners last month said they believe the city has crossed the line and is taking customers away from Juneau businesses.

Critics spoke out against the city's sale of lots for a subdivision near Lena Point, selling rock from the city quarry, doing asphalt projects, deploying truck services at the airport and holding onto land that could be developed by businesses.

Swope said Friday at the weekly Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon that the Lena Point subdivision and other instances in which the city took on the role of a private business were isolated cases.

"This is an exception to the rule. We don't do subdivisions," Swope said about the Lena Point projects.

No policy is being made behind the scenes to continue this role, he said.

But Mike Race, owner of Coldwell Banker Race Realty, said Swope's comments don't match the reality business owners have experienced.

"People are going to be reluctant to talk to you because it's going to affect their projects and their ability to deal if they speak up because they are in their process of having to work with you," Race said.

There was confusion over whether the city is involved in the asphalt-laying business. Jim Wilcox, of Glacier Lands, alleged that the city was involved and Swope denied it.

The city manager said certain events pushed the city into creating the Lena Point subdivision. To appease a worried neighborhood association, the city took on the task of developing lots that opened when a road was built to the site were a national fisheries research center is planned.

"They did that because they felt they could manipulate the city much better than they could a private contractor," Swope said.

The city is proposing to allow on-site sewer systems similar to septic tanks on the property. According to city regulations, inspections, installation and maintenance of the septic tanks will be handled by the private sector, Swope said.

Three years ago, Swope said the Juneau Assembly chose to sell rock to the private sector from the city quarry at Stabler's Point, whereas before the rock was used only for city construction.

"There was a lot of contractors that showed up at those hearings that wanted us to do that," said Swope, adding that gravel and other rock sold by the city is cheaper than materials offered by private businesses.

Wayne Coogan, an owner of the private Montana Creek quarry, said last month that the city's practice will gradually put people like him out of business.

Swope said the city is pumping $36 million into the local economy this fiscal year via contracts with the private sector.

• Andrew Petty can be reached andrew.petty@juneauempire.com

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