The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly voted Monday evening in favor of a voter information brochure, in case there is a charter commission election in December; discussed selective logging in the Blank Inlet area; and talked about the search for a new borough manager.
During discussion of the election brochure, the two newly elected Assembly members, Rodney Dial and Judith McQuerry, both said they’d like to postpone the matter entirely.
Dial said he heard repeatedly from the public that they didn’t understand the need for a special election to create a charter commission.
“I believe that we will be better served by saving our money and considering a resolution that would postpone an election on this matter until the next regularly scheduled October election,” he said. “That would allow additional time to gauge the results of the next legislative session and save the costs of a mail-in election. At that time, if the public sufficiently supported the effort, I would certainly consider supporting funds for it.”
In mid-September, the Assembly voted to start the process of creating a home-rule charter for the borough. That process begins with the election of a seven-member charter commission.
The filing period to run for the commission already has begun, and Borough Manager Dan Bockhorst said there has been some interest.
“There are petitions that have been requested from the borough clerk, at least seven of them, to my knowledge, which is the minimum number that would be necessary in order for this election to go forward,” he said.
While nobody has officially filed yet, eligible candidates have until Nov. 4th to submit the paperwork. Bockhorst said halting the process at this point could lead to a legal challenge.
Spending money to create a brochure is up to the Assembly, but Assembly Member John Harrington argues the brochure is an important element.
“We’ve had discussion here that the citizens are not aware of what’s involved in this charter commission,” he said. “As such, I think it points out that if we’re going to have an election, we need to have a brochure to go out to the citizens to tell them what’s involved in this and what the purpose is.”
If the charter election moves forward and the process is approved by voters, it would cost the borough about $50,000. That includes the special mail-in election, the informational brochure and the charter commission’s costs for one year.
A motion to approve funding for the brochure passed 5-2 with Dial and McQuerry voting no.
In his report to the Assembly, Borough Manager Dan Bockhorst talked about the borough’s selective-harvest timber sale at Blank Inlet. The borough received about $275,000 for that sale, and Bockhorst commended Alcan Forest Products for the selective harvest method that minimized the visual impact of logging the parcel.
There was some discussion about whether similar selective harvest on Deer Mountain would have similar low-impact results. Alaska Mental Health Trust has said it will log Deer Mountain if a federal land trade is not approved by Congress early next year.
Also Monday, Assembly Member Glen Thompson gave an update on the search for a new borough manager. Bockhorst is retiring at the end of this year.
Thompson said the search committee is down to four candidates, who will be interviewed this week.
“We’re hopeful to get two or three finalists out of this selection in the next couple of days,” he said. “That will then be brought to the Assembly for final approval and hopefully negotiating a contract with a new manager.”
The interviews will take place Wednesday, starting early in the morning. They will be recorded and posted on the borough’s website.
Thompson said the finalists then will visit Ketchikan in person, probably the first week in November to meet the Assembly and see the community. He said there will be opportunities for the finalists to meet members of the public.