At a recent Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce luncheon, borough mayor David Landis gave a presentation on the state of the borough. Landis also answered questions about the status of the Gravina Access Project, the borough’s economic situation, and effects of likely state funding cuts.
Due to term limits, Landis said this would be his last address to the chamber as Ketchikan Gateway Borough mayor. He spoke about the borough’s powers and gave updates on each department.
One highlight is renovation of Ketchikan International Airport. Landis says pipes, roofs, heating systems, vents and carpeting are being replaced. The project is costing about $4 million, with most funding coming from passenger facility charges.
Regarding the Gravina Access Project, Landis says the project should provide new ferry passenger buildings on the Revilla side, improved ramps, larger parking areas and baggage handling areas.
“I think every year we hear someone (who) complains about taking baggage over to the other side. And this baggage handling system is designed to improve that and eliminate those problems.”
Work will be done by the state with state funding. The project should be completed in six phases, taking about four-and-a-half years.
Another topic was borough revenue. Landis says with a new Legislature, new governor, and no new taxes or ability to draw from Permanent Fund Reserves, municipalities will have to look hard at their budgets and expect reduced services.
“…and perhaps some local government backfilling of those services. It’s a relatively large amount, but it’s not catastrophic.”
At the end of the meeting Landis was asked about Governor Mike Dunleavy’s State of the State Address and proposed budget cuts. Landis says Dunleavy has said he will follow through on his campaign promises and cut $1.6 billion from the budget.
“It’s very difficult to imagine what might be cut. But we do expect that some of those cuts will reflect on our local services. We do have reserves both in the school and general government funds. We don’t have enough rainy day money to last forever though.”
Landis says there are ways the borough can assist with economic revitalization. He says the current housing assessment study will provide information on why people stay in Ketchikan, how they are able to afford existing housing, and how more affordable housing can be developed. Landis says the borough can also set up assistance programs; and organizations, business owners and community members can help by sharing ideas on how to address budget cuts and generate new revenue.