The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly spent most of its discussion time Monday deciding whether to increase the spending authority of the borough manager.
Currently, the manager can spend up to $25,000 without seeking prior approval from the assembly. That’s led to some missed opportunities recently, according to a memo from borough staff, because the limit delayed the borough’s ability to respond quickly to an offer.
The assembly was largely in favor of increasing the limit. But, Assembly Member Rodney Dial wanted to restrict that increase to capital items only, such as the purchase of a vehicle. The ensuing discussion was over what constitutes capital spending.
Borough Finance Director Cynna Gubatayao said engineering services, for example, are a capital expense. She asked for clarification, and was answered by Dial.
“Are you trying to limit it to capital equipment? That’s kinda the question,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if you’re trying to exclude professional services out of that?”
Dial answered: “Capital needs. As broad as possible so it would cover things such as vehicles and other capital needs. Essentially so that the assembly would still retain our oversight in some other areas where there might not be an emergent need for a $50,000 spending authority that could be used for whatever.”
Assembly Member Judith McQuerry voted against adding that restriction to the motion. She said the borough sets the budget, so the manager is limited already in what that office can authorize. McQuerry voted in favor of the main motion, though, “even though I think that we have murkied the waters terribly tonight. Because it will come back to us on May 7th and hopefully staff will be able to clarify what we’ve burdened them with, or unburdened them with.”
“I’d like to also say thank you for saying ‘murkied.’” said Mayor David Landis.
The ordinance passed in first reading and will come back for a public hearing and second vote.
In other matters, without much discussion, the assembly voted unanimously on Monday to send an appeal to the Federal Emergency Management Agency regarding its planned new floodzone maps for Ketchikan.
The appeal asks FEMA Region 10 to extend the new maps’ appeal period by a full year to allow further review. It also asks FEMA to send crews to Ketchikan to validate data used to create the maps.
The assembly also held two executive sessions on Monday to evaluate the borough manager and borough clerk. After the sessions, the assembly voted unanimously to increase Borough Manager Ruben Duran’s annual salary from $110,000 to $120,000, retroactive to December of 2017.