New $60 million boat harbor coming to Valdez
Council votes to accept terms set by Federal funding of project
Valdez is building a new small boat harbor, though some members of the Valdez City Council are wary.
The council voted 5-1 to accept the $21 million in federal funding for the project despite the fact that a large portion of the project is currently unfunded and that by accepting the federal funding the council is committing to build the project.
In order to secure the $21 million in federal funding, the Army Corp of Engineers and the City of Valdez are required to sign a partnership agreement and the funding must be encumbered – meaning contracts are signed to spend it – before the end September.
According to the agenda statement, the $21 million pays for 80 percent of the federal portion of the project only, which covers the building of breakwaters and channel dredging – and commits the city to building the supporting infrastructure.
The city will be required to pay an additional $4,966,800 for that portion of the project, with half of that due at the time of the signing of the agreement.
The total estimated cost of the project, which is using rough numbers at this point, is around $60 million. City coffers currently contain $8.4 million in state grants and over $12 million in unencumbered funds for the project, leaving a $19 million deficit for the balance.
The rough numbers, high costs and seeming sense of urgency to sign on the dotted line left did not sit well with some council members.
"I've been struggling with this for quite some time," council member Donna Schantz said before lending her reluctant support to the project.
Schantz said she was not comfortable obligating the city to building the project without true cost estimates and she also worried about future costs to run the facility.
Council member Dennis Fleming panned the project and was the lone vote against it.
Valdez Star photo
Nate Smith took the oath office at the Valdez City Council meeting Monday night, administered by Sheri Pierce, city clerk. Smith was appointed to fill the vacancy left by Jeremy Miner. The term expires this October.
"This just doesn't make sense to me," he said. "I don't think there's an economic benefit to Valdez."
Public support for the project was not unanimous either. While a number of people spoke in favor of the project - which has been the city's number one legislative priority for many years – a number of opponents to the project spoke, including Joe Prax, a fiscal conservative.
Prax complained that current project cost estimates pencil out to a whopping $461,000 per slip and reiterated his belief that tax dollars should be spent by elected officials in a manner similar to how they would manage their personal money.
The project's current plans call for 132 boats slips at 100 feet each, additional boat launches and will require extensive dirt work on the landside portion to accommodate the land based portions of the new facility.
Council member Chris Moulton was absent from the meeting.