Ketchikan’s Borough Assembly has decided to consider bringing a bond proposition forward to improve sports fields — against the advice of staff.

The assembly voted down a staff recommendation to postpone issuing $6.6 million in bonds until the spring of 2022.. 

Improving the fields was among the capital priorities identified for the borough last year (Ketchikan Gateway Borough Sports Field Usage and Development Study). However, assembly member McQuerry didn’t feel this fall was the time to bring a bond proposition to voters, given the uncertainty whether cruise ships will return.

“And my very serious concern is that our community might very well vote it down, which makes it even harder to bring it back and pass later.”

Assembly member A.J. Pierce agreed that it’s uncertain when cruise ships will return and sales tax revenues increase, but she doesn’t want to see the projects delayed any longer.

“We all know that construction costs don’t get cheaper by the year. They get more expensive. So as you postpone things, things get exponentially more expensive.

Assembly member Jeremy Bynum argued that  the COVID-19 pandemic had been tough on both  the borough and on families. He said the fields are important in bringing back normalcy.

“These ball fields aren’t just about baseball, they’re about our community. They’re about our kids. And it’s this time of year when they want to get out there and strengthen their friendships, and families get together. I think it’s important that we give the community a voice in this, and I don’t think that we should postpone it.”

The vote was 2 – 5 with McQuerry and assembly member Austin Otos voting in favor of postponement.

The assembly opted to schedule a work session at its next regular meeting to discuss options and consider putting a capital improvement bond before borough voters this fall.

In other business, the assembly unanimously approved, in first reading, an ordinance giving the borough manager more flexibility in setting rules for when dogs can be off-leash on the Weiss Fields. The ordinance will be brought back for a public hearing and second reading at the assembly’s next meeting on June 21.

The Assembly also approved modifications to the junk vehicle program, removing the minimum age requirement of 18 years, which prohibited 16- and 17-year old motorists from participating in the program, and making the program more efficient. The program allows disposal of vehicles at no expense to the owner.

The assembly entered into executive session to discuss terms of Borough Manager Ruben Duran’s contract.  No official actions were taken on the matter when the assembly returned to open session.