Local News

Priorities list headed back to City Council

Capital project priorities continue to be a subject of debate in the community. The most recent action was taken by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly on Monday night.

The community priorities list bounced back into the City of Ketchikan’s court following Monday’s Borough Assembly meeting. The Assembly voted unanimously to send the list back to the city without any of the changes that the Council had hoped to inspire by rejecting the list on Sept. 5th.

Several members of the public spoke about the topic Monday night. City Council Member Bob Sivertsen was the first to address the issue. He says the city’s bridge funding request is critical, and not just to city residents.

“In all respect to the other communities, I think what they put on the project list is, they have the insight, they have the know-how, and they probably know what’s best for their communities,” he said. “But when it comes to the legislative priority group, they need to be vetted well and looked at what’s in the best interest of the community as you present it to Juneau.”

The lobbying executive committee, which includes representatives from the island’s three governments — the borough, the City of Ketchikan and the City of Saxman — voted Aug. 27th in favor of the prioritized list. It then was ratified by the Assembly on Sept. 4th, and by Saxman the following day.

The City Council, however, vetoed the list on Sept. 5th after City Manager Karl Amylon expressed concern about the prioritized order of projects.

The list is sent to the governor’s office before the governor writes his recommended budget. It’s used to request funding from the state for community projects. Upon rejecting the list, the Council asked the lobbying executive committee to reconsider the recommended priorities, but committee chairman Dave Kiffer, also the borough mayor, declined to reconvene the committee.

As it stands, the city’s $20 million request to help remodel the Ketchikan Medical Center remains the first priority, followed by Saxman’s $1 million request to continue planning and design work for the Mahoney Lake hydroelectric project. In third place is the borough’s $1.8 million request to help remodel the downtown Fireside Building into a performing arts center. Those three items represent the top project picked by each government entity.

The city wanted its fourth-place $13 million request for city bridges pushed up into second place, followed by $11 million for Ketchikan Shipyard improvements.

Assembly member Mike Painter questioned whether it was fair for the city to get the top two or three positions on the list. Sivertsen answered that priorities change each year, and the city’s projects won’t always be first.

Keith Smith, an advocate of the Performing Arts Center, also spoke to the Assembly. He says that for the sake of presenting a united front to the governor, he would be OK with placing the center lower on the priority list.

“We feel that for the success of the performing arts center, that it is far preferable to maybe be one step down lower on the list with the complete endorsement of all three bodies,” he said.

Painter responded that the borough’s list of 18 capital projects was whittled down to two for the prioritized list.

“And all of those projects were good projects, and they’ve been vetted through the system process, as with the other two entities in the community,” he said. “To be honest, I don’t think it’s fair for one governmental entity to have two positions in the top-three list.

Kiffer agreed. He says that while he appreciates the Performing Arts Center group’s willingness to give up its third-place position, there’s a bigger picture to consider.

“And we need to make it very clear that if the three groups are going to have this committee, if they’re going to get together, they can’t go back in and pull the rug out because you didn’t like the result,” he said. “Otherwise, there is no committee, there is no process, there is no community group,. And we go back to the good old days when we went up to Juneau and argued over our projects, and we all got nothing.”

Saxman resident Joe Williams and Saxman City Clerk Leona Haffner also spoke to the Assembly, urging the members to maintain the list.

Haffner says the lobbying executive committee did its job.

“I think sooner or later, everybody in here that has served on that has not always been 100 percent happy with the way that list comes out,” she said. “But in all fairness, we all get our projects in there, we debate them and we come to a consensus.”

Assembly Member Bill Rotecki says he believes the process requires more time, which is something the community should keep in mind next year. He added that the order of projects likely doesn’t matter that much, because the governor tends to supports what he thinks is important, not necessarily what’s highest on a project list.

Rotecki says he’s not pleased with the Council’s attitude about the process.

“The thing that troubles me about all this is that it did seem, really is seemed a little inconsiderate and backhanded for the city to do what they did,” he said. “So I’m kind of torn because I don’t think it’s appropriate to just say, ‘OK, we’ll do what the city wants.’”

Assembly Member Glen Thompson moved to keep the list as is and refer it back to the City Council. The motion passed unanimously. The Ketchikan City Council meets in regular session on Thursday, and the issue is on the agenda for consideration.

Capital project priorities continue to be a subject of debate in the community. The most recent action was taken by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly on Monday night.

The community priorities list bounced back into the City of Ketchikan’s court following Monday’s Borough Assembly meeting. The Assembly voted unanimously to send the list back to the city without any of the changes that the Council had hoped to inspire by rejecting the list on Sept. 5th.

Several members of the public spoke about the topic Monday night. City Council Member Bob Sivertsen was the first to address the issue. He says the city’s bridge funding request is critical, and not just to city residents.

“In all respect to the other communities, I think what they put on the project list is, they have the insight, they have the know-how, and they probably know what’s best for their communities,” he said. “But when it comes to the legislative priority group, they need to be vetted well and looked at what’s in the best interest of the community as you present it to Juneau.”

The lobbying executive committee, which includes representatives from the island’s three governments — the borough, the City of Ketchikan and the City of Saxman — voted Aug. 27th in favor of the prioritized list. It then was ratified by the Assembly on Sept. 4th, and by Saxman the following day.

The City Council, however, vetoed the list on Sept. 5th after City Manager Karl Amylon expressed concern about the prioritized order of projects.

The list is sent to the governor’s office before the governor writes his recommended budget. It’s used to request funding from the state for community projects. Upon rejecting the list, the Council asked the lobbying executive committee to reconsider the recommended priorities, but committee chairman Dave Kiffer, also the borough mayor, declined to reconvene the committee.

As it stands, the city’s $20 million request to help remodel the Ketchikan Medical Center remains the first priority, followed by Saxman’s $1 million request to continue planning and design work for the Mahoney Lake hydroelectric project. In third place is the borough’s $1.8 million request to help remodel the downtown Fireside Building into a performing arts center. Those three items represent the top project picked by each government entity.

The city wanted its fourth-place $13 million request for city bridges pushed up into second place, followed by $11 million for Ketchikan Shipyard improvements.

Assembly member Mike Painter questioned whether it was fair for the city to get the top two or three positions on the list. Sivertsen answered that priorities change each year, and the city’s projects won’t always be first.

Keith Smith, an advocate of the Performing Arts Center, also spoke to the Assembly. He says that for the sake of presenting a united front to the governor, he would be OK with placing the center lower on the priority list.

“We feel that for the success of the performing arts center, that it is far preferable to maybe be one step down lower on the list with the complete endorsement of all three bodies,” he said.

Painter responded that the borough’s list of 18 capital projects was whittled down to two for the prioritized list.

“And all of those projects were good projects, and they’ve been vetted through the system process, as with the other two entities in the community,” he said. “To be honest, I don’t think it’s fair for one governmental entity to have two positions in the top-three list.

Kiffer agreed. He says that while he appreciates the Performing Arts Center group’s willingness to give up its third-place position, there’s a bigger picture to consider.

“And we need to make it very clear that if the three groups are going to have this committee, if they’re going to get together, they can’t go back in and pull the rug out because you didn’t like the result,” he said. “Otherwise, there is no committee, there is no process, there is no community group,. And we go back to the good old days when we went up to Juneau and argued over our projects, and we all got nothing.”

Saxman resident Joe Williams and Saxman City Clerk Leona Haffner also spoke to the Assembly, urging the members to maintain the list.

Haffner says the lobbying executive committee did its job.

“I think sooner or later, everybody in here that has served on that has not always been 100 percent happy with the way that list comes out,” she said. “But in all fairness, we all get our projects in there, we debate them and we come to a consensus.”

Assembly Member Bill Rotecki says he believes the process requires more time, which is something the community should keep in mind next year. He added that the order of projects likely doesn’t matter that much, because the governor tends to supports what he thinks is important, not necessarily what’s highest on a project list.

Rotecki says he’s not pleased with the Council’s attitude about the process.

“The thing that troubles me about all this is that it did seem, really is seemed a little inconsiderate and backhanded for the city to do what they did,” he said. “So I’m kind of torn because I don’t think it’s appropriate to just say, ‘OK, we’ll do what the city wants.’”

Assembly Member Glen Thompson moved to keep the list as is and refer it back to the City Council. The motion passed unanimously. The Ketchikan City Council meets in regular session on Thursday, and the issue is on the agenda for consideration.

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