Haines Borough taxpayers might consider whether the Lutak Dock is truly a municipal obligation or a piece of freight industry infrastructure the taxpayers have been subsidizing for more than 40 years.

Consider that all or nearly all of the towns and cities in Southeast don’t own a freight dock. Juneau doesn’t. Ketchikan doesn’t. Petersburg doesn’t. Even Skagway, with its proximity to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, and potential to serve as a regional freight hub, chooses not to own a freight dock in town.

Freight docks are owned by the companies that ship freight to or through those communities. All over Southeast, a dock is a business expense for a shipper.

Consider that the U.S. Army — not the town of Haines — built the dock in 1953. The Army gave the dock to the city of Haines in the late 1970s when maintenance bills were coming due.

The dock generates roughly $500,000 in revenues. The Chamber of Commerce says if Haines becomes a regional freight center, dock revenues might triple. Even at that rate, the borough would need 20 years to pay off a loan-financed $30 million dock, and that’s not including costs of interest, maintenance or replacement.

Even potential industrial users of a rebuilt dock — including the company logging the Baby Brown timber sale and the folks at opentug.com — have said they can use AML’s freight ramp for their purposes.

The numbers don’t add up for the kind of Lutak Dock the Haines Borough is planning.

Further, it’s highly questionable whether the borough should own a dock at all.

Tom Morphet