An ordinance to allow dogs to be off leash inside Weiss Fields, close to Point Higgins Elementary School, was introduced Tuesday by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly.

The measure passed in a 6-1 vote. It will come back for a final vote during the assembly’s Jan. 15th meeting.

The ordinance was requested by a local resident. Those fields are securely fenced, and dog owners have used them to exercise dogs that don’t get along well with other dogs. Some of those owners have been fined for violating the leash law.

If the ordinance is approved on Jan. 15th, dog owners will be allowed to exercise their pets inside those fields whenever there are no scheduled events or games.

Also in that ordinance is an increase to the borough’s fine for not cleaning up animal waste. It would double to $200. Assembly Member Judith McQuerry objected to that part of the measure. She said $200 is excessive, especially compared to other borough fines.

“I cannot believe that someone should pay 100 percent more for their dog causing a problem than for a human to do the same thing,” she said.

According to borough code, the fine for a human defecating on borough property is $100. McQuerry moved to keep the fine for not cleaning up dog waste at $100, but there was no second to that motion.

In other matters, the Assembly unanimously approved a recommended rezone for 355 Carlanna Lake Road. The rezone will allow veterinary and kennel services at that address. Island to Island Veterinary Clinic owners want to buy the property, which formerly housed a health clinic.

Jeff White is a neighboring property owner. He said he’s in favor of the vet clinic moving to that space, “under one condition, and that’s that the fact that there will be animals there, dogs, (that) the noise is considered. I’m not sure if there’s been any kind of plan on how to soundproof the animals that are kept overnight or kenneled in there.”

Borough planner Richard Harney said noise mitigation will be considered during the Conditional Use Permit process, which is the next step following the rezone.

During public comment, Terri Robbins spoke about a citizen ballot initiative sponsored by Alaskans for Integrity. Robbins said the initiative’s intent is to improve government accountability.

It has five components. The first bans lawmakers from collecting a per diem salary if they fail to approve a budget within the regular session. Robbins said it also expands the conflict of interest reporting requirements.

“It denies state funding for overseas trips by state legislators unless they first prove that the trip results in significant benefit to the state of Alaska,” she said. “It prohibits lobbyists from buying alcohol or extravagant meals for legislators and their staff. (And) it restricts money that foreign influence corporations can spend on state and local candidates.”

More information can be found on the Alaskans for Integrity Facebook page. Robbins said she and other volunteers will be collecting signatures at The Plaza in hopes of getting the initiative on the fall ballot.

Rep. Dan Ortiz also spoke to the Assembly Tuesday, about the upcoming legislative session. We’ll have more about his presentation in a separate report.