Mat-Su Borough Assembly approves funding for Port Mackenzie repairs

Ship unloads at Port MacKenzie. (Photo Courtesy Mat-Su Borough)
Ship unloads at Port MacKenzie. (Photo Courtesy Matanuska-Susitna Borough)

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly approved Tuesday the transfer of over a half-million dollars from existing funds to pay for repairs to the Port Mackenzie barge dock, although some expressed reservations about the port’s continuing costs.

With its vote on Tuesday, the assembly took money from funds dedicated to Port Mackenzie and the MV Susitna to pay for repairs to the port’s barge dock.

The vote comes as the insurance claim for another repair of nearly $2 million to the port is under review.

Borough manager John Moosey said a payout from the insurance company for that repair is not a certainty.

“It’s not a sure thing that we’re going to get reimbursement on this claim,” Moosey said. “We are working towards it, but I think we have an uphill battle, and I’d say that reimbursement from the insurance company is in doubt.”

Assembly member Dan Mayfield, whose district includes Port Mackenzie, said he supports funding the repairs to protect the port as an asset to the borough.

“The port is an asset that we really have to protect,” Mayfield said. “I realize we don’t have a lot of leases at the port at this point in time, but it’s a very, very valuable asset. It would be like this building here having — one quarter of the building having a giant hole in it.”

Assembly member Randall Kowalke, whose district includes the Northern Valley, said he had to hold his nose to vote for more funding for repairs to the port, but also envisions a future where it makes a profit.

“I think it’s the jewel in the crown,” Kowalke said. “I think they day will come when the KABATA (Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority) bridge is built, when the international airport for this region will be in that area, we’ll have the rail complete. A lot of things are going to happen out there. We can guarantee that they don’t happen if we let (Port Mackenzie) wash into the inlet.”

Assembly member Jim Sykes, who represents District 1, said it would be more expensive to mothball or abandon the port than to make this repair, so he is willing to support the funding.

Sykes also said he’s not certain how long his support for funding the port, which is not heavily used at this time, will last. The borough has to balance between protecting an asset and risking throwing money away, he said.

“It’s kind of a fine line between — are we far-sighted visionaries of an eventually successful port, or are we fools throwing money down a black hole?” Sykes said. “It’s a fine line,”

Ultimately, moving the funds to pay for repairs to the Port Mackenzie barge dock passed by a 6-1 vote, with Assembly member George McKee voting against the move.

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