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Hard to believe something like the 10-plus inches that fell on Jan. 20-21 and sent high water careening down Ketchikan Creek is nearly 12 months past.
Time. It does pass quickly. Now we’ve launched into 2016, a year that promises to be of interest and impact to Ketchikan.
We’ll be hearing much about the State of Alaska’s budget situation as the Legislature goes back into session later this month and begins wrestling in ernest with how to deal with the massive state budget deficits opened up by the declines in oil prices that began in mid-2014.
We also anticipate hearing soon from Alaska’s Supreme Court, which is deciding on a Ketchikan-generated lawsuit that could affect how K-12 education is paid for in Alaska. There’s also no complete solution in sight for dealing with the state’s unfunded pension liabilities.
Like virtually every other municipality and community in The Last Frontier, Ketchikan will feel effects of the state’s budget situation.
We already are seeing effects, mostly in small ways. Take note, for instance, of the traffic cones and barricades placed to alert motorists of the unmaintained road past Second Waterfall Bridge as a minor indicator of tightening state budgets.
The pace of tightening is sure to increase as the Legislature and Walker administration confront the reality that oil prices and Alaska oil production are not likely to be bouncing back in the near future.
Where will that leave Ketchikan?
That’s a great question — and one that 2016 will begin to answer.
As the new year begins, we take encouragement that Ketchikan has some diversification in its economy, which could have some level of buffering effect against the state’s fiscal situation.
Commercial fishing, tourism and the Ketchikan Shipyard continue to be viable contributors to the local economy at present. In the long term, there remains potential in mineral and timber resources.
The bond-supported construction of Ketchikan Medical Center improvements will remain an economic assist in the near term, with the expanded facility having the potential to attract more regional health care services over the long term.
The community generally has solid infrastructure and quality public facilities (with some corresponding debt, unfortunately), and our power supply remains adequate and economically priced.
We have wonderful arts, youth sports and other opportunities that help to build and maintain our sense of community.
In so many words, Ketchikan has, at the beginning of 2016, assets that can help the community cope with what appears to be inclement weather ahead.
Come January 2017 — just another few moments ahead — we hope to be describing how Ketchikan used those assets well.