The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly agreed in principle Monday to help the City of Ketchikan with expenses for the long-planned Whitman Lake Hydroelectric Project.
The issue wasn’t on the meeting agenda, but City Mayor Lew Williams III and others spoke during public comment, asking the Assembly for financial assistance for the project, which will increase the community’s power-generating capacity.
Last week, the Ketchikan City Council bucked the advice of City Manager Karl Amylon, and chose to continue with the Whitman project. Amylon had expressed concern about the expense – about $2.5 million over the $14.3-million budget – and the uncertainty of where the extra funds could be found.
Assembly Member Glen Thompson said a resolution offering a grant to help pay for the project will be brought to the Assembly at a future meeting.
“We have money in our economic development fund. There’s about $8.75 million in that fund right now, which originally was the Stevens money that came from the shutdown of the pulp mill,” he said. “And being that this is an economic development project, it’s infrastructure, it’s boroughwide, it seems to fit pretty well with the desire for those funds.”
Thompson said it appears that most Assembly members want to help with the project.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of questions that haven’t been asked and a lot of things we need to know about how the project fits in with what we’re trying to do, and what our charge is for economic development, but I really didn’t see a lot of dissention around the table last night,” he said.
Also Monday, the Assembly introduced an ordinance that would allow the borough to appropriate state and federal grant funds for various projects. The ordinance will come back to the Assembly on Nov. 19th for final consideration.