Local News

Assembly: Reconsider project priority list

The Lobbying Executive Committee will reconvene Friday to reconsider a list of community project priorities.

On Monday, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly agreed to compromise on what has been a contentious issue involving the borough, the City of Ketchikan and the City of Saxman.

The lobbying executive committee, which includes representatives from those three governments, voted Aug. 27 in favor of the prioritized list. It then was ratified by the Assembly and Saxman the following week.

The City Council, however, vetoed the list on Sept. 5 after City Manager Karl Amylon expressed concern about the 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 governor and the Legislature for community projects.

Upon rejecting the list, the Council asked the lobbying executive committee to reconsider the order of the recommended priorities, but committee chairman Dave Kiffer, also the borough mayor, declined to reconvene the committee, and the Assembly sent the list back to the city on Sept. 17. Three days later, the City Council rejected the list a second time.

The Council meets again on Thursday, and on the agenda is a motion to send a separate list to the governor. However, that agenda was written before Monday’s Borough Assembly meeting.

As it stands, the city’s $20 million request to help remodel the Ketchikan Medical Center is the top priority, and that project’s placement is not in dispute. It’s 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 wants its fourth-place $13 million request for city bridges pushed up into second place, followed by $11 million for Ketchikan Shipyard improvements.

If the committee can agree Friday, and the three governments each ratify the new list, the community will be able to submit a single list to the governor, hopefully before Parnell’s office drafts the governor’s budget.

Assembly Member Agnes Moran said the community is a little late getting the list to the governor.

“The governor starts looking at his budget in August, so any time after August it can go in. So, we’re pretty late to the game on this,” she said. “I don’t think we’ve missed the bus, but we’re pretty late to the game on this one. The community list, where other entites in the community, nongovernmental entities, submit, that needs to be in to the borough by Oct. 15. That’s the list that goes directly to the Legislature when they convene.”

Moran said it’s time to compromise, and she understands the city’s concerns about its deteriorating bridges.

“People forget sometimes that even if you’re in the borough, the city’s priorities are the borough’s priorities, because we’re all part of the borough,” she said. “And Saxman’s priorities are the borough’s priorities. We’re all in it together here on this island, even though we may not think so at times.”

Also on Monday, the Assembly approved a $25,000 grant to the local Small Business Development Center.

The next regular Assembly meeting is scheduled for Oct. 15.

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