The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly voted Monday to approve about $230,000 of the borough’s cruise passenger head tax funds to help pay for City of Ketchikan tourism-related projects.
The Assembly also approved $25,000 to help fund publication of the “Our Town” magazine; and $40,000 from the borough’s economic development fund to pay for legal expenses.
That last item is related to the borough’s challenge of the state’s assessment of Vigor Alaska shipyard’s property value. The borough claims the state-owned shipyard is exempt from taxes, and shouldn’t be included in the borough’s overall property value determination. By including it, the borough argues, the state has falsely inflated the borough’s required local contribution to the Ketchikan School District.
A pretrial hearing on the matter is set for mid-December.
The grant to the city initially was earmarked for the city-owned museum’s bathroom renovation. But that caused some concern among Assembly members.
Assembly Member Glen Thompson says the state has questioned some of the borough’s use of its share of state Commercial Vessel Passenger funds – commonly called CPV funds.
He proposed amending that to a more general grant for projects that fit CPV guidelines. Those guidelines stipulate that the funds be used on projects that directly benefit cruise passengers.
“What this allows us to do is give them the money they need to do the improvements, but it doesn’t tie it to anything specific other than CPV-related; and it puts the onus on the city to defend their expenditures,” he said. “They could certainly spend it on something else that’s CPV-related inside city limits and use other funds for the museum or do other substitution spending, but it takes the earmark off of it as opposed to the museum.”
Assembly Member John Harrington noted another benefit from the amendment.
“The other thing this does is, it avoids the city having to spend any money on a valuation to make sure that’s how much the bathrooms cost,” he said. “It’s an outright grant for the total amount and I’m happy with that. It saves them money and keeps it clean.”
The amendment passed 6-1 with Assembly Member Stephen Bradford voting no. He noted that taking away the earmark means there’s no possibility of a refund to the borough if the bathrooms end up costing less.
The main motion passed unanimously.
The bathroom portion of the museum renovation is estimated at about $475,000.
Also Monday, Bradford noted that Ketchikan was voted “Community of the Year” at the recent Southeast Conference annual meeting in Wrangell. He added that Southeast Conference’s 2017 fall meeting will be in Ketchikan.