With only five of seven members present Monday night, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly rejected an ordinance to increase sludge fees in a 3-2 vote. However, the item will come back to the Assembly at its Jan. 19 meeting.

Assembly Member John Harrington, who voted against the ordinance and has repeatedly said he disagrees with the borough’s sludge program, moved to reconsider the motion after it failed.

“Yes it’d be nice to kill this, but I can’t in good conscience do that with a small gathering like this today,” he said.

Harrington has argued that the borough should move toward enforcement, requiring homeowners to comply with health and safety standards.

Also voting no on the ordinance was Assembly Member Bill Rotecki.

In the interests of public health, the borough wants homeowners to use its sludge- pumping service. Borough residents with septic systems now pay a quarterly $45 fee for sludge pumping. If they use the service every three years, which is recommended, that adds up to $540 for each pump.

Costs are going up, though, especially if the borough succeeds in convincing more homeowners to use the service. To pay for that, the ordinance calls for a new quarterly fee of $57.18.

Also Monday, the Assembly agreed to send the borough’s planning director to a Colorado conference that will focus on public safety and policy issues related to marijuana legalization.

Rotecki noted that the Washington law legalizing marijuana is more similar to the one approved by Alaska voters in the recent election.

“In which case, I would encourage educating ourselves on the Washington law, and the consequences and the problems,” he said. “Especially the problems.”

The Assembly also agreed on Monday to apply for about $4.7 million in loans from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation for a water and wastewater extension project in the South Tongass area.

Monday’s meeting was short, perhaps in anticipation of the Assembly’s two-day strategic planning meeting, which is scheduled for all day Friday and Saturday.