The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly met in regular session Monday night, and breezed through the agenda in about an hour. The longest discussion of the short Assembly meeting focused on a proposed Hopkins Alley revitalization project.
With only Assembly Member Bill Rotecki supporting the idea, the project will not move forward, at least not right now.
Assembly Member Glen Thompson was the most vocal opponent. He said property owners in that area should fund the study, because they are the beneficiaries.
Rotecki argued that the government can help move a blighted neighborhood in the right direction.
“There’s some things that private enterprise just plain doesn’t do, and one of the things that government can help in is be a coordinator,” he said. “Ultimately, if something is going to come of this, the private landowners are going to have to jump up and throw their money into it, but I think that we can be the initiators. I think we can be planners.”
Thompson said that’s an example of socialism.
“We should not be spending public funds so that the owner of that blighted property can somehow make it into a nice property that then competes with the guy next door who doesn’t have blighted property,” he said. “That’s how the market works.”
Borough Planning Director Tom Williams said the proposed project has three phases; the first phase would be exploratory.
“The idea is to get the stakeholders together and recognize what improvements need to take place,” he said. “The stakeholders include KPU, the city, all the property holders and the borough. The idea is to talk with everyone, see if they’re willing to go forward with phase 2, which is the development of an implementation plan.”
Williams said the first phase likely would cost between $20,000 and $25,000, paid for through the borough’s share of state cruise ship head taxes. The remainder of the project would be paid for primarily through a special neighborhood assessment, and grants.
Property owners have told Williams that they can’t invest in their buildings because of problems with the boardwalk and infrastructure. He said the business owners want the city or borough to kick-start the process.
Thompson said he agrees something needs to be done.
“I don’t think that this is a bad idea per se,” he said. “Everybody who drives by that area says, you know, this could be a better place. But it’s ultimately going to be up to the folks that live there and are neighbors with each other to get together and decide that they’re tired of living in a pigsty.”
Also on Monday, the Assembly unanimously approved a $2.5 million grant to the City of Ketchikan for the Whitman Lake hydroelectric dam project.
The Assembly also approved a new borough seal, designed by Ketchikan artist Terry Pyles. Thompson cast the only no vote.