Although Sitka Sound Industries proposed hauling out boats on a hydraulic trailer similar to the one pictured here, board members preferred a plan that offered a 300-ton travelift. (GPIP image/SSI proposal)

A proposal for a new marine haul out and boatyard is on its way to the Sitka Assembly, for consideration in May.

The board of the Gary Paxton Industrial Park on Monday (4-27-20) evaluated a pair of competing proposals for a new marine services center at the park, and sent the high scorer on to city hall. Board members, working under a fast timeline, hope the city will refine the plan before committing to it.


Based on the relatively low scores, the park board wasn’t exactly dazzled by the proposals: Although both proposers had extensive experience in marine industries, neither had any previous experience in either managing — or working for — a haul out and boatyard. And, neither was bringing much capital with them, instead relying on the city to bankroll the early investment in equipment.

Shipwright Jeremy Serka, testifying from the public, thought the proposals were inadequate.

“They’re not focused,” he said. “There’s no engineering here. There’s nothing there. And the fact that one of these has to be accepted — in its current form — is not enough for me, and frankly for anybody else in the marine trades.”

The main difference between the two proposals was the equipment: Sitka Sound Industries, fronted by Baker Hensley and Mark Quinn, planned to purchase a 60-ton hydraulic boat trailer, which could haul out boats up to 60-feet long — most, but not all of the Sitka fleet. WC Enterprises, managed by Kelly Warren and Dan Cooper, would use a 300-ton travelift, which might actually be too big for many of Sitka’s mid- and small-sized fishing vessels.

See both proposals in the April 27, 2020, Gary Paxton Industrial Park board packet.

This was a problem for Linda Behnken, the executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, in her public testimony.

“The research we had done so far said a big hoist, that the big hoist just can’t safely, easily work with small vessels,” Behnken said. “And since that’s such a key piece of the objective of this yard is that it efficiently service the small-boat fleet that’s the heart and soul of Sitka’s fleet. You need to know the answer to that question before you eliminate the other proposal from moving ahead.”

Jeff Farvour, a member of the public who has served on a task force exploring the haul out issue, asked if the process were too rushed to meet somewhere in the middle.

“I very much appreciate the two proposals,” said Farvour. “I think they complement each other. But I think this needs some more planning. If you have to slow this down to do this right, I think that’s more important than possibly moving too quickly forward.”

The industrial park board has been moving on a fast timeline, after Sitka’s lone haul out, Halibut Point Marine, announced that it would be closing down within the next two years.

Board member Mike Johnson reminded everyone that the board was intentionally casting a wide net.

“We were more or less asked to create a document that was pretty broad, and not well-defined, so that we could mine up more ideas and not discourage potential bidders from putting in a proposal,” said Johnson.

Johnson, along with other board members, scored the Warren-Cooper proposal slightly above the one written by Hensley and Quinn, saying that if the 300-ton hoist did not adequately serve the Sitka fleet, they’d have to buy a relatively inexpensive hydraulic trailer, or risk going out of business.

Johnson said that the Sitka Assembly would likely do much more work to “dial in” the plan.

The motion to accept the WC Enterprises proposal passed unanimously. The Sitka Assembly is expected to take up the matter in May.