An appropriation for a housing-needs assessment passed in first reading during Monday’s Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly meeting, but only after discussion about postponing it.
Assembly Member AJ Pierce first suggested delaying the motion. She said there are factors in play that could affect such a study, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s new floodplain maps, and tax assessment updates.
“Would it be better to consider this, to maybe postpone this and have some more time for things to kind of even out, and not pay for something now and then demographics change in six to eight months, perhaps?” she said.
Assembly Member Judith McQuerry, though, said factors are always going to be shifting.
“And, one of the things that the cooperative relations committee has been trying to do is postpone the FEMA implementation for a year,” she said. “I don’t think we want to postpone the housing needs assessment until we have a solution on the FEMA thing.”
The cooperative relations committee is a committee of city and borough officials. They work together on issues of mutual interest.
FEMA is working toward expanding the number of local properties included in flood zones, and thus required to have flood insurance if they have a federally backed mortgage.
Assembly Member Rodney Dial agreed with Pierce that the FEMA flood zone expansion could affect property values and affordability. Alan Bailey, speaking by phone, also was concerned about shifting factors affecting the relevance of the study.
But, Assembly Member Sue Pickrell said an assessment is needed sooner rather than later. She said it will take a few months to get a contract in place, anyway.
“I think there is an urgent need,” she said. “Just because of the people that I know who are in dire straits for a need for housing. I guess I would be in favor of not delaying it, and if we do, maybe just by a couple of months. But at this point, I think we should just move forward with it.”
Borough Manager Ruben Duran told the assembly that staff will need to work on a request for proposals, then assess the companies that respond. They then will bring a contract back to the Assembly for approval before moving forward with the assessment.
A vote to introduce an appropriation of $60,000 for the housing needs assessment passed 5-1 with Bailey voting no. The motion will come back to the assembly for a second vote.
That motion had been paired with another appropriation to pay off former employees’ build-up of vacation time, but the assembly split the question to vote on the items separately. The vote on vacation funds passed unanimously.
Also on Monday, the assembly briefly discussed a list of federal policy issues that a local delegation will bring to Washington, D.C., during an April lobbying trip. That delegation will be Dial, Duran and Mayor David Landis.
The group has appointments to meet with Rep. Don Young, and Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan; as well as with officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, FEMA, and National Association of Counties.
Some of the topics on the list include Secure Rural Schools and PILT funding, homeporting NOAA’s ship Fairweather in Ketchikan, sea otter management, and the FEMA flood insurance program.