Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/13/1996 09:30 AM Senate FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
       SENATE BILL NO. 278                                                     
       "An Act relating to the  authority of the Department of                 
  Natural   Resources to allow  credits against fees  at state                 
  historical     parks."                                                       
  Mr. Joe Ambrose, aide to Senator Robin Taylor was invited to                 
  join the committee and testified on  behalf of SB 278.  This                 
  bill  was  introduced  to  address  concerns raised  by  the                 
  Ketchikan Area State Parks Advisory  Board and the Ketchikan                 
  Gateway Borough Assembly.   It would provide  a mechanism by                 
  which the  Division of  Parks and  Outdoor Recreation  could                 
  acquire two  small parcels of  land adjacent to  Totem Bight                 
  State  Historical Park.    Ketchikan  Public Utilities  will                 
  vacate  the  property  which will  revert  to  the Ketchikan                 
  Gateway Borough.   SB 278 would  allow DNR to offer  credits                 
  against fees paid by commercial  operators for payments made                 
  to a municipality  for projects that would  alleviate access                 
  congestion and parking  problems at  historical parks.   The                 
  Division of Parks  and Outdoor Recreation indicated  the use                 
  of this provision  at any State  Historical Park other  than                 
  Totem  Bight is  unlikely.   The  authority would  sunset on                 
  December 31,  2000.   This three  year window  is needed  to                 
  avoid drawing too quickly against fees.                                      
  Totem Bight is  a twelve and a half  acre State Park located                 
  north of the city of Ketchikan.  It had an estimated 160,000                 
  visitors in 1995, half of them arriving on commercial tours.                 
  In 1977 it was estimated that  the park could handle between                 
  636 and 744 people at one time.   Actual use now exceeds 925                 
  people.  The park has only  7 parking spaces for buses.   Up                 
  to 21 buses  park in the lot, on the road shoulders and at a                 
  nearby gift shop.  Park staff advises independent travellers                 
  and local park users to avoid the park when the ships are in                 
  town.  To mitigate this  overcrowding and congestion DNR  is                 
  proposing  tour  operators pay  for  the acquisition  of the                 
  borough-owned parcels  to provide  additional parking  space                 
  and  additional  attractions such  as  trails and  a carving                 
  demonstration  area.  The  Department of  Transportation has                 
  told  us  they  are  interested  in developing  a  transport                 
  enhancement project  along the  road at Totem  Bight if  the                 
  land becomes available.   Totem Bight  is a valuable  asset,                 
  the  State has  invested  more than  $1  million in  capital                 
  improvement  projects  in  the  past  10  years.    Mr.  Jim                 
  Stratton,   Division   Director   advised   that  they   are                 
  anticipating they  would  be  using  approximately  $150,000                 
  credits for this  project.   Senator Taylor is  a long  time                 
  supporter of this unique facility on the water.                              
  Senator Rieger asked if the sponsor of the bill would object                 
  to  expanding  the  bill  to   include  private,  non-profit                 
  Mr. Ambrose indicated  the sponsor preferred to  confine the                 
  bill to historical parks.                                                    
  Senator  Sharp  asked if  the  bill  results in  allowing  a                 
  partial or total diversion of payments now being made to DNR                 
  to  a municipality  for  improvements they  would do  on the                 
  parking  lot, why doesn't  the fiscal note  show a reduction                 
  program  receipt.  Mr. Ambrose  said that the department was                 
  planning to increase the fees, not as a result of this bill,                 
  and  his  understanding  as  far  as  the  fiscal  note  was                 
  concerned is that the end  result is the State ends up  with                 
  the asset.   Senator Sharp  also asked about  the parcel  of                 
  land owned by the Ketchikan  Public Utilities that they plan                 
  to vacate and would it revert  back to the Ketchikan Gateway                 
  Borough.  Is this a transfer or sale?  Mr. Ambrose indicated                 
  that there was no sale.  The property originally belonged to                 
  Ketchikan Gateway Borough and KPU had  been using it.  There                 
  was a reversion clause and they  have to put it back in  its                 
  original condition.                                                          
  Senator Frank asked if they were  going to increase the fees                 
  because it is now  a more convenient facility.   Mr. Ambrose                 
  said the decision  to increase  the fee next  year was  made                 
  prior  to  anyone  even  talking  about  this  bill.     The                 
  Department would have to explain the fiscal note.                            
  Senator Rieger said if this was to be a single park it might                 
  not  matter.    A private,  non-profit  corporation  in many                 
  situations  would  be   the  best  entity  to   develope  an                 
  improvement in  a park.   Sometimes  there is  some lack  of                 
  confidence in the municipal government to do what the people                 
  in the area want.   Instead of restricting the  entity doing                 
  the improvements as to municipalities,  it should be brought                 
  into   private,  non-profits  to   avoid  the  problems  you                 
  sometimes have  when city  halls' views  are different  from                 
  those of the people outside of city hall.                                    
  Senator  Phillips  said  there is  an  Eagle  River Visitors                 
  Center  that  is  going to  go  non-profit  to  operate that                 
  facility and he would like to give them that ability.    Co-                 
  chairman Halford said that  this could be a  pilot, one-time                 
  project but would  not make it the policy of the State.  Mr.                 
  Ambrose said that  the municipality would not be  making the                 
  improvement.  They  will be transferring the property to the                 
  State and  improvements at Totem  Bight State Park  are made                 
  from revenue generators within the  park.  This matter  just                 
  refers to the parking lot.                                                   
  Senator Frank asked  if the park's  budget would go down  by                 
  $150,000 because the program receipts were going to go down.                 
  Co-chairman Halford indicated that they would not.                           
  In answer  to  questions  posed by  members  at  large,  Mr.                 
  Ambrose indicated that there were  other historical parks in                 
  the  State, however they  do not  have the  parking problems                 
  this one has.  This is a very specific  bill.  When the idea                 
  came up the concern  that the Co-chairman had was  the first                 
  thing Senator Taylor  thought about.  What  authority are we                 
  to give them?   That is why the sunset provision  is drafted                 
  as closely as it is.                                                         
  Senator Sharp MOVED  SB 278 and  without objection the  bill                 
  was REPORTED OUT with individual  recommendations and a zero                 
  fiscal note from the Department of Natural Resources.                        

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