Local News

Council approves 2013 budgets, Whitman grant

The Ketchikan City Council approved the 2013 City and Ketchikan Public Utilities budgets Thursday night.

The KPU budget passed unanimously, but the city budget passed in a split vote — four to three. Council Members Sam Bergeron, Matt Olsen and DeAnn Karlson voted no.

The city budget includes a half-mill property tax increase, which will raise the city’s tax rate to 6.7 mills. Combined with the borough’s 5 mills, city property owners will pay 11.7 mills in annual property taxes.

A mill is $1 per $1,000 of assessed value. That means a home in the city worth $200,000 will be taxed a combined total of $2,340 next year, which is $100 more than this year.

Hannah Ramiskey spoke during public comment, and asked Council members to consider how their actions affect the public, especially those on the lower end of the income scale.

“It might not seem like a big deal to those of us who are not on low income, or who work for the government, or who are assured annual increases or whatever,” she said. “But there are a lot of people in this town that, increases in property taxes mean a lot to their bottom line. And I’d just like you to think about that.”

Also Thursday, the Council added back about $27,500 to the budget for the federal lobbyist contract. After the Council chose earlier to remove that contract, lobbyist Steve Silver offered to cut his fee in half.

The motion passed 5-2 with Bergeron and Olsen voting no.

The Council also approved a motion transferring community agency grant funding from the city budget to the KPU budget. Olsen had suggested transferring the entire amount, about $325,000, but Bergeron’s amendment to transfer half of that passed in a 4-3 vote. Dick Coose, KJ Harris and Bob Sivertsen voted no.

A motion approving a grant agreement with the Ketchikan Gateway Borough passed unanimously. That $2.5 million grant will help the city build the long-planned Whitman Lake hydroelectric dam. The Council also unanimously approved contracts for Whitman with Dawson Construction and Burke Electric.

Project engineer Jenny Holstrom said revised design plans still need approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, but the contractors will be ready.

“According to the preliminary construction schedule I received from Dawson, they’re looking to mobilize by the end of next month, start doing the survey work, preparing for starting to dig as soon as we get FERC approval,” she told the Council.

FERC has 60 days to review the new plan. If it takes the full two months, the project will bump pretty close to its March 16 deadline for the start of construction.

The $26 million Whitman dam will add 4.6 megawatts to the community’s hydroelectric power resources.

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