Ketchikan residents may soon get a lot more information about two private companies’ proposals to take over operations at the downtown city-owned cruise ship docks. That’s after months of public pressure for more transparency in the bidding process.
But first, the companies have to agree to waive confidentiality and release their bids.
Two bidders have offered tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in financial packages to the city in exchange for the right to manage Ketchikan’s cruise ship docks — and charge cruise lines for the privilege of calling on the city’s port.
The companies are Ketchikan-based Survey Point Holdings and a partnership called Ketchikan Port Solutions. That’s made up of international cruise port operator Global Ports Holding and an Anchorage firm called ConRAC Solutions that designs and operates rent-a-car facilities at airports.
Each of the bidders gave a public presentation last month outlining their offer. But the details of the bids remain confidential. Ketchikan’s City Council was scheduled to begin its final review of the proposals on Wednesday in what’s known as “executive session.”
But before the council started the closed-door portion of its meeting, it opened the floor to the public. Mary Wanzer was among the speakers who called on the City Council on Wednesday to release the full bids and forgo an executive session.
“Our future depends on the decisions you may make tonight. This decision should not be made without full transparency in the public input,” Wanzer told the council.
The future of the port — and, more specifically, the transparency of the process — has become an issue in the campaign for four open seats on the Ketchikan City Council. Four challengers seeking a seat on the council made similar requests Wednesday — Mary Stephenson, Riley Gass, Jai Mahtani and Abby Bradberry. Other candidates have also expressed doubts about turning to a private company to manage dock operations.
Now, two sitting city council members have supported revealing details of the bids: Dick Coose and Dave Kiffer.
The third incumbent up for re-election, Mark Flora, had a more nuanced take.
“We’re trying to honor the transparency that the community is demanding,” Flora said.
But he says the city had pledged to keep the bids confidential until the city is ready to sign a deal.
“But I think it’s also the other side of the coin, is to remind the community that this body entered into an agreement and to breach that agreement does not serve the public interest,” he continued.
Flora voted to enter the closed-door session. Kiffer, Coose and Council Member Judy Zenge were opposed in the 4-3 vote.
The council emerged more than two hours later and voted to release several documents:
- The companies’ initial bids,
- Questions from city staff about the bids, and the companies’ answers,
- The two bidders’ so-called “best and final offers”
- And a financial analysis of the two bids against the status quo performed by a Minneapolis-based financial firm, Piper Sandler Companies.
That is, if they can get Survey Point Holdings and Ketchikan Port Solutions to agree to waive the confidentiality provisions and make the documents public.
Colin Murphy has been leading the charge for Ketchikan Port Solutions — he’s the head of American business development for Global Ports Holding. After the vote, he told KRBD that his company has no objection to opening the process to the public.
“We think full visibility is a good thing. And in fact, we’ve already written to the city manager confirming that we will give our approval to release our proposal, provided they obviously release both. We think that’s a good thing,” Murphy said in a phone interview Thursday.
Ethan Berto of Survey Point Holdings wouldn’t talk on tape Thursday, but said his company was “generally open” to publicizing the bids. He said he had some questions about the terms — he said he wanted to ensure that the “best and final offers” were really final. Berto said he didn’t want to get into a bidding war.
Ketchikan City Manager Karl Amylon says in an email that he anticipates formal requests to release the documents will go out Friday. If the companies consent, they’ll be posted on the city’s website.
Global Ports Holding and ConRAC Solutions released the details of their bid Friday. Survey Point Holdings’ bid had not been released as of noon Saturday
This story has been updated.