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It's Ketchikan's job to get its capital project priorities in order.
Why would the community not do that job? Why would it allow Juneau or the Legislature that meets there to do it? Why would it signal to Gov. Sean Parnell and legislators that the community is divided on what is and isn't important or to what extent?
As happens every year about this time, Ketchikan's Legislative Liaison has compiled a list of capital projects in the community in need of funding.
The liaison's executive team — representatives of Ketchikan Gateway Borough and the cities of Ketchikan and Saxman — came up with the top seven projects. It prioritized the projects, leading off with a Ketchikan Medical Center surgical suite improvement and addition.
The list, in order of preference, also included the Mahoney Lake hydroelectric project, the Ketchikan Performing Arts Center, Ketchikan off-system bridge repairs, service-area road building and repairs, the Saxman Community Center parking lot and the Ketchikan Shipyard.
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly and Saxman City Council approved the committee recommendations in the order in which they were received. The Ketchikan City Council did not, sending it back to the committee, which refused to reconvene.
The city argued the dire state of its off-system bridges, seeking a higher place on the list for that project — above the arts center. It expressed support for advancing shipyard improvements from seventh to third on the list. That would leave fourth place for the arts center.
As debate unfolded, the arts center spokespeople did not object to taking a lower slot on the list of top priorities. But the Ketchikan City Council could not sway the Assembly.
The list went back and forth between the Assembly and the Council and even back to the liaison's executive committee. The Council discussed sending its own list, without Assembly or Saxman projects, to the governor. That prompted the executive committee to convene again.
Then the Ketchikan City Council voted to approve a list at its special meeting Monday, which was scheduled to swear in recently elected council members. The approved list has the projects in no particular order.
Then later this week Ketchikan Council member Sam Bergeron asked for a reconsideration of the Council's affirming vote. The reconsideration is scheduled for the Council's meeting next Thursday.
As of noon Friday, in an unscientific poll conducted by the Ketchikan Daily News on its website, 42 percent of responders indicated the service area road building and repairs should be the community's top priority. Mahoney Lake, the shipyard, off-system bridges and the medical center followed in that order. The arts center and the Saxman parking lot had no support.
Good individuals — as all on the Assembly and councils are —will disagree on what is most important for the community. Usually, they work out those disagreements. Such individuals in this case also are smart enough to realize that this batting of the list back and forth isn't without risk. Ketchikan doesn't operate in a vacuum; the governor and other legislators are aware of this dispute.
The community needs to finalize a prioritized list before the dispute gains greater publicity, which could harm the chances of Ketchikan and Saxman in acquiring state money for any of these projects. If Ketchikan can't decide on a prioritized list, it's unlikely the Legislature will do what Ketchikan prefers.
The community has to know what it wants most before it has a chance of receiving it.