Ketchikan’s borough Assembly passed a resolution authorizing acceptance of up to $745,485 from the state to increase access to COVID-19 testing and vaccines, and to implement strategies to decrease health inequities in the community.

Borough Manager Ruben Duran submitted the grant application to the state Department of Health and Social Service on March 15 — the same day the assembly met. He was seeking retroactive approval of the action.

Borough Finance Director Cynna Gubatayao says no specific use of the money has been identified. But she met with the local EOC incident commander, the City of Ketchikan finance director, and a borough staff member to discuss the grant.

“We felt that it was most appropriate to apply for and accept the funding rather than pass up an opportunity to help ensure that additional members of our community either has access to testing or vaccines or whatnot. It seemed inappropriate to just let it lapse due to the short time frame.”

Gubatayao says this is a reimbursable grant for money actually spent. The borough could choose to partner with other entities such as the cities of Saxman and Ketchikan, the hospital, schools and nonprofits to implement it.

Gubatayao says 10 percent needs to address health inequities in underserved communities.

“So in our community, I would assume that’s the Native community, perhaps the Filipino community where you have language issues. A couple of examples that have been given are multilingual publications or radio ads, that kind of thing.”

She says funding also could be used to staff vaccine drives held in locations with a high Native population, a homeless population or low income population.

The assembly unanimously passed the resolution.

In other action, the assembly gave staff the go ahead to execute a collective bargaining agreement with 17 unionized parks and recreation, maintenance and utility employees that are members of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1547. This would be a rollover of the previous contract which expires March 31. Duran says the draft included minor adjustments – allowing for a cost-of-living adjustment at the Assembly’s discretion, and amending the IBEW schedule of pay classifications and pay scale.

In other business, the assembly approved an ordinance amending the borough budget by $1.3 million to buy two 30-foot buses and complete the Transit Center Renovation Project.  The transit director was notified in mid-February that the borough was awarded federal grants for this purpose. The grants require a 20 percent local match, which was already budgeted through CARES Act funding and Commercial Vessel Passenger funds. A public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled at the assembly’s April 5 meeting.