The Ketchikan Gateway Borough is asking the state for $5.3 million to help pay for reconstruction of Norman Walker Field, across from Schoenbar Middle School.
The assembly on Monday approved a resolution adding that project to a list of capital funding requests that will be sent to state lawmakers. The field reconstruction would replace the current rough, sandy surface with artificial turf.
A couple of baseball coaches, and Ketchikan Little League board president Nathanial Currall spoke in support of the project on Monday. Currall told the assembly that it also has the support of Sen. Bert Stedman, who represents much of Southeast.
In a December interview with KRBD, Sen. Stedman talked about his desire to secure a turf field for Ketchikan, with lighting, new dugouts and covered bleachers. He had suggested the community add field reconstruction to its funding requests from the state.
“It may not come this year, it may not come next year. But before I ride off to the sunset, I’d really like to see that done,” he told KRBD. “And by the way, that’s the same field I played in when I came here in the Little League All Stars in 1968, from Petersburg. We got thoroughly trounced on by Ketchikan. Went home totally humiliated. So, when I leave the Senate office, I’d really like to see that field that I lost so poorly on completely renovated and changed, so it’s unrecognizable.”
During Monday’s assembly discussion of the topic, Assembly Member Sven Westergard pointed to a historic photo in Borough Assembly chambers of people playing baseball many decades ago.
“I think some of that sand is still in that field,” he said. “And I think I brought a lot of it home in my knees and elbows as a kid, so I’m definitely for trying to get that done.”
“Artificial turf wouldn’t have had the same effect, would it?” said Borough Mayor David Landis.
“It burns differently, but it doesn’t stay in the skin that long,” Westergard replied.
The resolution adding that project to the list of borough capital requests passed unanimously. Two other projects added to the list on Monday were $150,000 to update the approximately 13-year-old Gravina Island development plan; and $12 million for road construction and improvements on Revilla and Gravina islands.
Projects already on the list were water storage tanks for North Tongass-area fire suppression; deferred maintenance at Ketchikan International Airport; security upgrades at Ketchikan High School; South Tongass water improvements; a major mechanical upgrade at Fawn Mountain Elementary School; and upgrades to the Mountain Point wastewater treatment plant.
Also Monday, the assembly approved a resolution calling on state lawmakers to maintain funding for the Gravina Access Improvement Project, and not redirect those funds elsewhere in the state.
The assembly also postponed action on joining the National Association of Counties “Live Healthy” medical, dental and prescription program.
The next Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly meeting is Feb. 4.