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Parnell Blocks Fund Transfer From Hoonah Dock To Sitka Pool

Cruise ship passengers board a tendering vessel at Huna Totem’s Icy Strait Point. Lawmakers have funded a new berthing facility, which has not been built. Photo by Ed Schoenfeld, Coastalaska News.

Cruise ship passengers board a tendering vessel at Huna Totem’s Icy Strait Point. Lawmakers have funded a new berthing facility, which has not been built. Photo by Ed Schoenfeld, Coastalaska News.

Governor Sean Parnell left Southeast Alaska project funding intact when he signed the capital budget Tuesday.

But he blocked the transfer of money from one older project to another.

The Legislature’s capital budget called for taking $5 million out of $17 million set aside for a cruise-ship dock in Hoonah. Lawmakers transferred that money to a planned aquatic center in Sitka.

During an Anchorage press conference, Parnell said it was a bad idea.

“That dock is still needed. The growth in passenger traffic, travel-industry traffic, is creating jobs in Hoonah, right down to our high-school age level. That money needs to stay there so they can continue to build their economy there,” he said.

He said it’s unfair to let one town, quote, “rob” another of its capital-project funding.

Sitka’s aquatic center, which has other funding, will be part of the state-run Mount Edgecumbe boarding high school.

Money for Hoonah’s dock was in the 2011 capital budget. And Hoonah’s municipal government and the local Icy Strait Point tourist attraction have clashed over its location.

Parnell’s Budget Director Karen Rehfeld said the project is still on track.

“The mayor and others have been in touch with us to let us know that they are doing some of the geotechnical work now and that it is moving forward,” she said. “And clearly if the $5 million had been reapporiated from the project for another community’s project, they simply would not be able to move forward with it.

The governor did allow $2 million from the dock project to be transferred to the Hoonah Health Center. The Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium facility needs matching funds to begin construction of a new building.

Rehfeld said Hoonah leaders told her office they supported that change. And since it was in the same community, the governor kept it in the budget.

Sitka Democratic Rep. Jonathan Kriess-Tomkins said he was not involved in the reappropriation effort. Sitka Republican Sen. Bert Stedman could not be reached for immediate comment. Both also represent Hoonah.

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