The Haines Borough Finance Committee at its Monday meeting scrutinized manager David Sosa’s request for $100,000 in Lutak Dock funds, with the committee chair cautioning Sosa to be careful about how he presented his plans to the public.

Sosa is asking the assembly to appropriate $100,000 from the Lutak Dock enterprise fund for continued planning and assessment of the deteriorating structure. What the money would go toward isn’t defined, though Sosa said some of it would likely be used for travel to other port facilities and updating a 2012 Northern Economics study.

Finance committee chair Joanne Waterman asked Sosa why he needed to travel to other ports to figure out what to do. She urged Sosa to consider his answer carefully, as residents are often critical of perceived “junkets” when public officials travel.

Sosa reiterated his point that face-to-face interactions often yield better information than speaking over the phone or teleconferencing. Trips to other docks in Southeast will allow borough officials to see – not just hear about – the challenges and successes other towns are facing, Sosa said in an interview.

“Most people would conduct research if they were going to buy a car. They would compare makes and models, talk to other people about their experiences with different makes and models, they would possibly go to Consumer Reports or other sites to get information, they would visit a car lot to test drive the vehicle. If buying a used car, most people would hire a mechanic to check things out. Your average person would do this for a purchase in the tens of thousands. Doesn’t it make sense for the borough to do something similar for a purchase in the multi-millions?”

Sosa said he would probably take two day trips to regional port facilities with one or two other borough officials. This would likely cost a few thousand dollars, he said.

Committee member Ron Jackson said the trips might be worthwhile if they are “very carefully selected” and relatively inexpensive. Jackson said he is aware that the public will be watching the process closely.

“The public perception is, when (public officials are) traveling somewhere, it can be somewhat of a junket and do we really get a good return for the money we spent,” Jackson said.

Committee member George Campbell was tentatively supportive. “Is it worth $2,000? I don’t necessarily know for sure, but it’s also an opportunity for our manager to learn more about Southeast Alaska,” he said.

At Monday’s meeting, Jackson also expressed doubts about updating the 2012 Northern Economics study, which looked at prospective dock customers and cost $25,000.

“My sense of it is, it’s not that old of a report and I’m kind of a penny-pincher on things,” Jackson said. “I’d just like to be a little tighter with the money if it isn’t going to get some significant results.”

Campbell called the expenditure “a necessary evil” and said a study update would expand the borough’s financing options for the Lutak Dock project.

Sosa said representatives of Northern Economics would call into a meeting Jan. 22 to review their proposal. “We will have some questions regarding price,” he said.

The $100,000 appropriation is part of a larger budget amendment ordinance scheduled for its second public hearing next month.