The city has about $3.2 million from a state tax imposed on cruise passengers. The only condition is that it gets spent on projects that directly benefit passenger safety, transportation or efficiency.
Proposals on what to do with the money were submitted by groups and individuals around town. Municipal Administrator Jim Dinley makes recommendations to the Assembly, which will then make the final decision on what gets funded.
Dinley’s recommendations were posted in a list on the city website. He green-lighted five of the 10 suggested projects:
• $65,000 for pedestrian improvements at the intersection of Lake and Lincoln streets.
• Funding the construction of two security guard shacks near the lightering docks.
• Creating a summer youth work crew. No details were provided in the city list.
• The creation of better interpretive and directional signage to guide visitors around town.
• Adding recycling kiosks near the docks and downtown.
Norm Campbell coordinates recycling for the city. He says adding more kiosks wasn’t his idea, but he likes it.
“When you look in the garbage cans that are accessible to the public downtown, you see a lot of plastic, and of course some aluminum, but not as much as the plastic,” he said. “Plastic is a valuable commodity for us here. We can make some money recycling it.”
Five other projects did not get approval from city administration. One project would have seen the design a floating cruise ship moorage and passenger transfer facility. Lightering passengers into town is less than ideal, Dinley wrote, but he has concerns the project would be too expensive and take several years to be accepted by the community.
Also on the “no” list: Spending $25,000 at Fortress of the Bear to resurface the parking lot and improve traffic flow. Dinley said that didn’t benefit a sufficient number of passengers to justify funding it over other needs.
He used the same argument in withholding his recommendation from a proposal to provide stipends for transporting cruise ship passengers from a private dock out Halibut Point Road to downtown.
Dinley also rejected the idea of providing $300,000 to renovate the Sitka Historical Society and Museum. Bob Medinger is executive director of the Historical Society and Museum.
“Our collections storage is spread around several locations in town,” Medinger said. “Our exhibit space just is not adequate to tell the type of story we’d like to tell with Sitka and this amazing history we have. So we are hoping for an expanded and consolidated location that would better tell our story.”
Medinger says Dinley told him the plan would most likely not get approval this year, until a broader vision could be developed for the Centennial Hall complex. Medinger says he looks forward to future dialogue toward that goal.
A broader plan is also what’s in mind for Kettleson Memorial Library. The fifth and final project that did not receive city approval was to locate a visitors center inside the library – a move that presumably would’ve meant relocating the library.
Sarah Bell, director of the library, says it makes sense to look holistically at the area.
“Centennial Hall, museum, library, visitors center: There are lots of different needs that if we approach it in a unified fashion, it makes a lot more sense than piecemeal,” Bell said.
The list of projects now heads to the Sitka Assembly, which has the final say.
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