Friday, January 16, 2009

Sittin' by the dock of the bay, waiting for the bills to flow away

The Alaska Ferry Dock's price tag of 900,000 dollars has been on the minds of Prince Rupert officials for most of the year now, with the province having provided 350,000 dollars in funding for the renovation project the city still waits for word from the federal government to see if they plan to step up and help out.

While the correspondences travel back and forth and the city seeks ways to try and reduce the burden for local taxpayers, the actual job seems to be tying up valuable employee hours as well.

In a briefing for council from November, city staff advised council that many other projects have been delayed or sidelined as the ferry project continued to eat up money and labour costs through most of the year.

Those concerns will no doubt weigh heavily on council as they begin to prepare their own budget deliberations for 2009, trying to allocate the dwindling resources to the long list of projects that need their attention.

The Thursday Daily News outlined the impact the repairs have had on the city's budget and time allocations thus far.

Alaska ferry dock drains city budget, council told
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Page three

Time is always money in Prince Rupert and that is apparent when the city considers how much repair work to do the Alaska Ferry Dock, where repairs cost not only money but time.

During his November report, the city’s Chief Financial Officer Dan Rodin said the municipality has not been able to keep up to date with a significant number of other projects because its financial resources have been tied to the dock repairs, which have cost more than expected.

“There are a number of projects that, due to timing and a number of reasons, didn’t get done during the 2008 period, so the projects and the related funding will be rolled over to 2009,” said Rodin.

The Alaska Ferry Dock was hugely significant and took up many hours of our city’s manager of public works (Bob Thompson)’s time.”

Rodin added that because the city is a fairly small operation, there are not enough senior managers at city hall to oversee the project and others so that they might be finished in a timely fashion.

The city has had a difficult time funding the AFD during the past year, with a price tag of more than $900,000 to get the repairs done. The province kicked in $350,000 but the federal government has largely ignored the project.

Alaskan government officials have decided to wait no longer for the Canadian government to help with maintenance of the facility and have put a preliminary 2010 budget that includes $7.5 million set aside for the purchase of the dock.

Mayor Jack Mussallem said the city was now aware of the Alaskan’s interest in the dock and was open to hearing offers for the port.

The city right now leased the docklands from the Prince Rupert Port Authority and then leases use of the dock to the Alaskan Marine Highway System.

Even with the dock costs, Rodin was able to say that the city should expect a healthy report when the amended budget is published later this year.

“We are pretty much on budget,” Rodin told council.

“We expect our revenues will be very close and we expect that our expenditures to be slightly less than budget.”

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