Selling state's white elephants on eBay could help cut deficit

Posted: Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Give somebody in Juneau a real pat on the back for figuring out that the outmoded state ferry E.L. Bartlett could be sold for a handsome return on eBay, an online auction site popular with those looking for a bargain.

The 34-year-old vessel, in good operating order but past its prime in ferrying passengers and automobiles back and forth between Whittier, Valdez and other ports of call, was auctioned off on the Internet for $389,500.

Good deal for a 1,500-ton, 193-foot ship the state bought for $3.25 million in 1969. Capable of carrying 30 cars and 236 passengers on each trip, the Bartlett will stay in state service through the end of this month.

State officials say it would cost too much now to bring it up to new federal standards. It's not known what use will be made of it by the successful eBay buyer, identified at the moment only as ''Salmon Man 1953.''

No matter.

The state got more than it hoped to in the sale, and now a new opportunity exists.

Having now discovered the value of this kind of property disposal, state and city officials should leap onto eBay and sell off all kinds of other white elephant items hereabouts.

Some suggestions:

The old McKay building on east Fourth Avenue in Anchorage. Its scaffold-encrusted frame has been an eyesore for years, and nothing ever seems to happen to it, despite threats by the city to tear it down. Maybe somebody in Newark or Rochester will submit a bid.

The multizillion-dollar fish processing plant out along Minnesota Drive, a beautiful facility that surely could be used for many purposes not including fish processing, of course. A high bid that would put a fancy pull-tab outlet and bingo parlor inside this gleaming building could bail the state out of a huge financial hole.

Some grain elevators in Valdez should be worth something. Can't think of what, exactly, but on e-Bay, people apparently will bid for anything.

One barely used fountain resting, unused, at the Loussac Library. Money previously raised to repair it could be used for other needed improvements to the library.

The market, however, should be wide open, considering what this state has to offer.

The Voice of the (Anchorage) Times

Sept. 3

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