A developer is asking the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly to change the terms of an agreement that’d allow him to buy 18 residential lots for $10 apiece. Plus a look at other happenings at Tuesday’s Borough Assembly meeting.

Back in 2018, developer Harlan Heaton reached a deal with Ketchikan’s borough to purchase residential lots in the Mountain Point area to build a new subdivision. But there’s a problem: The 18 lots don’t have roads or utility service. Under the agreement, Heaton has a five-year option to purchase the lots at a cost of $10 per lot, or $180 total, contingent on acquisition of other lots in the area owned by Alaska Mental Health Trust.

Borough Planning Director Richard Harney says the borough held a series of meetings with property owners in the subdivision to see if they would be interested in investing in developing roads and utilities.

“After those meetings, Mr. Heaton came forward and said that he could install the roads and some of the utilities up there but it would be very costly and he’d be able to do it. And so he provided a development agreement was the purchasing of those 18 borough kind of in kind for development of those roads and utilities.”

Harney says purchase of the Alaska Mental Health parcels was part of the agreement so roads into the area could be realigned to avoid difficult terrain and make the project more financially feasible.

Heaton also agreed to finance re-platting costs of up to $150,000, and to provide right-of-way access to the subdivision, to minimize impact on neighboring lots.

A public auction for the Mental Health Trust lands was held on October 6, 2021, but Heaton was not the highest bidder. So he can’t fulfill the terms of the deal as written. Now, Heaton is asking to modify the agreement to allow the sale of the borough-owed lots to go forward without with Mental Health Trust lots. But in a memo, borough staff say they don’t not believe the agreement needs to be modified at this time. It’ll be up to the assembly to decide.

In other business, Ketchikan’s Borough Assembly will consider an updated agreement with the city of Ketchikan for 911 dispatch services. Under the current agreement, the borough pays a flat fee to the city to take emergency calls from residents outside city limits. The cost to the borough this year would be approximately $16,700.

But officials from the city say it’s not quite a fair deal – it costs more than the borough pays to dispatch fire and police officers. In 2019, the City Council voted to renegotiate the dispatch agreement to bring the borough’s payments in line with the city’s cost.

Those negotiations recently wrapped up. City and borough officials say they’re prepared to sign a deal that would bill for dispatch services on a per-call basis.

In 2018, officials say each call cost approximately $150. With roughly 500 calls split between areas north and south of city limits, the cost for the borough’s two volunteer fire departments dispatched by the city was around $75,000 that year.  If approved by the Borough Assembly and City Council, the city will bill the borough each March based on the previous year’s call numbers.

Also on Tuesday, the assembly will consider introducing ordinances authorizing acceptance of two Alaska Drinking Water Fund loans, totaling approximately $1.6 million, for installation of a water storage tank and booster station in the Ravenwood neighborhood, and projects under the South Tongass Water System Master Plan.

A separate ordinance authorizing acceptance of a $100,000 Alaska Clean Water Fund Loan to study possible sewer leaks and flow problems in the Mountain Point Wastewater Treatment System will also be considered.

If approved, both ordinances will come back for a public hearing on November 1.

In addition, the assembly is scheduled to hold a work session to discuss COVID-19 relief funding programs, including the American Rescue Plan Act, and to meet in executive session to discuss a strategy for labor negotiations with four unions.

But before the assembly gets to any of that, they’ll have to swear in their new members.

The Borough Assembly will meet in special session prior to its regular meeting Tuesday to certify results of the October 5 borough election and swear in newly-elected assembly members Grant EchoHawk and Jaimie Palmer.

Ketchikan’s Borough Assembly is meeting on Tuesday rather than Monday because of the Alaska Day holiday. The meeting begins at 5:00 p.m. in Borough Assembly Chambers on First Avenue. Public comment will be heard at the beginning of the meeting. The meeting is also televised on local cable channels and live streamed at the borough’s website.

Disclosure: Grant EchoHawk is the president of KRBD’s nonprofit board of directors. He is not involved in the newsroom.