Sunday, January 08, 2012

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan Defends $60,000 One-Year Consulting Contract For Retiring Port Director Bill Sheffield

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan has come under some fire for deciding to award a one-year $60,000 transitional contract to Anchorage Port Director Bill Sheffield, who is retiring from the position on January 15th, 2012, and on January 8th, 2012, Sullivan fired back. In an LTE entitled "Mayor Sullivan gives credit to Sheffield for job well done", published in the Anchorage Daily News, Sullivan states that they have corrected the problems that occurred prior to his administration taking charge, and now have the expansion project back on track. He claims that while the federal Maritime Administration (MARAD) was managing the port expansion, Sheffield did a good job running the port operations; during his tenure, the port increased its revenues, improved its infrastructure, and is financially sound. Alaska Dispatch previously reported that Sullivan said the Assembly will have the opportunity to see, discuss and vote on whatever contract is finalized for Sheffield's consultant role.

Mayor Sullivan's letter was directed as a specific response to an LTE entitled "Tale of two Sheffields" by Lynn Willis, published on January 3rd, in which Willis was concerned that Sheffield was escaping accountability for the port problems. Back on January 4th, Sullivan also explained to KYUR Channel 13 that the contract would not cost taxpayers any extra money, saying "It's a sixty thousand dollar contract but it doesn't cost the city a dime because it comes out of the contracts we currently have with our federal lobbyists...It's no cost to the city it helps the transition and if anybody thinks Governor Sheffield needs a sixty thousand dollar contract he's a self made millionaire".

Although the port expansion project is managed by MARAD, funding is the responsibility of the Municipality of Anchorage. Mayor Sullivan believes Sheffield can still be instrumental in securing optimal funding for the port expansion. During his tenure, Sheffield has been able to patch together up to $60 million a year through port revenue, loans, state and federal grants, and federal earmarks.

But although many of the problems may have occurred prior to the Sullivan Administration, specifically during the mayoral tenure of our current U.S. Senator Mark Begich (who has managed to evade criticism), they coincided with Sheffield's tenure. These problems were documented and explained in an ADN article entitled "Port of Anchorage: A billion-dollar mess", first published back on January 15th, 2011.

-- The completion date for the massive dock replacement project at the Port of Anchorage has been pushed back to 2021 from a target of 2011 set before major construction began.

-- The price tag, which was $360 million as of 2005, has escalated to $1 billion based on a recent estimate by Sheffield himself.

The city decided not to build a traditional dock on pilings but instead chose a bulkhead system, which extends the shore into the sea. The design is a patented technique called Open Cell Sheet Pile. When Sheffield first began promoting the design in 2002, he said it would be cheaper and better than a traditional dock on pilings. PND Engineers Inc., who submitted the winning design, said more than 180 of its structures have been built successfully around the world, including many in Alaska: on the North Slope, in Dutch Harbor and on the North Star dock near the city port.

But during the 2009 construction season, problems surfaced when a contractor had trouble driving in some of the steel pile. When PND arranged for divers to check for damage that October, they found places where the pile pieces were bent and out of joint. In one spot, the gap was big enough for a diver to reach in and touch a side wall about 3 feet away. Subsequent inspections revealed more damage; of 66 cells targeted for inspection, 28 showed damage, some of it dramatic, and three more need further review, according to ICRC and the PND inspection reports. Other inspections targeted the walls reaching back to shore. They are packed in gravel on both sides. Hundreds of those sheets had to be pulled up for inspection. In all, the inspections revealed 635 damaged sheets out of 2,611 examined.

This revelation generated strong criticism in the comments to the January 15th story, and recently joining the critics was East Anchorage Assemblyman Paul Honeman, who's also running against Sullivan for mayor. Back on November 21st, Honeman called for Sheffield to be fired because the problems occurred during his watch; he was supported by Midtown Assemblyman Dick Traini. Downtown Assemblyman Patrick Flynn, whose district includes the port, also reluctantly supported the departure of Sheffield after the resignation announcement. After the $60,000 contract for Sheffield was announced, Honeman accused Mayor Sullivan of "cronyism", and delivered a two-page letter questioning the details of the consulting job to City Hall.

Even those more favorably disposed toward Sullivan appear skeptical. Respondents to an Anchorage Daily Planet online poll indicate by a two-to-one margin that they believe the contract extended to Sheffield is an example of cronyism, and the Daily Planet is normally friendly to Dan Sullivan.

Unfortunately, giving Sheffield a one-year contract may be the best of a bunch of bad options. The sheer complexity of the project requires overlap between Sheffield and his successor as port director. Furthermore, being in an election year, we still need someone who is experienced at soliciting additional funding for the project. From the perspective of continuity, it was probably the most logical decision Sullivan could make, even if it stinks.

1 comment:

  1. I heard that all army Corps of Engineers and Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan was arrived on Hometown

    Social media consulting contract