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1/22/2013
Boro backs position

By NICK BOWMAN

Daily News Staff Writer

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly adopted Resolution 2451 on Monday with a 6-0 vote, establishing the borough’s opposition to the state’s current system for funding Alaska schools.

Assembly Member Glen Thompson was absent from the meeting.

The resolution claims that the state’s requirement of organized boroughs to locally fund a portion of school districts’ basic need is an unfair penalty.

The state urged municipalities to form boroughs, while at the same time guaranteeing that they would not be penalized for doing so. Borough Manager Dan Bockhorst has maintained that the state law requiring local contribution to school district budgets is a penalty of incorporation.

Bockhorst and Assembly Member Agnes Moran traveled to Anchorage in late 2012 to meet with officials of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and nearby communities. According to Moran and Bockhorst, most of those attending the meetings have been supportive of a change to state law.

Borough Mayor Dave Kiffer, along with Bockhorst, have met with Rep. Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell, and this Saturday met with Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, about local contribution requirements.

Bockhorst said that as a result of the meeting with Stedman, he thinks there "is more than a glimmer of hope" that the law will be changed. He said Stedman, who is vice-chair of the Senate Education Committee, requested more information from the borough to share with the committee.

Moran said Stedman was "pleased" to hear that she and Bockhorst were meeting with other borough officials about changing the law.

Bockhorst said during the meeting that the graduating class of 2013 will have commanded $61 million in borough funding from when its members started school to their high school graduation.

Also on Monday, the Assembly voted 5-1 to approve a $150,000 agreement and donation of land to the Ketchikan Youth Initiative to build a skate park beside the culvert near Park Avenue and Schoenbar Road. Assembly Member Mike Painter voted against the agreement.

Twenty-four people, a mix of adults and students, came to the meeting to show support for the park, which will be named the Shane White Memorial Park.

Bob Fultz, Bobby McCreary and other volunteers and members of KYI, along with several students, spoke in favor of the park.

Moran introduced an amendment, which was approved, that granted a 40-foot-wide strip of land on the southern side of the culvert to KYI and gave them first right of refusal for the land on the other side of the culvert.

She said that KYI only needed the lower portion of the land for the park to begin with, but could expand with greater funding and community interest later.

Painter voted against the grant, saying that it would stress parking for the nearby baseball field and events at Schoenbar Middle School. He also said there is greater participation in team sports in Ketchikan schools, and those students were still having to raise funding to travel despite a $200,000 grant to the Ketchikan School District’s activities budget.

Painter also said during discussion of the grant that he would withhold his support because even with public funding, the name of the park already was decided by KYI.

Moran responded to Painter, saying there would be a "nominal" number of parking spaces that would be filled by the park. Assembly Member Alan Bailey said this was the "right place, and right time" for a skate park. Assembly Member Todd Phillips said volunteers had been working on the park project for seven years, adding that the project "needs to be done."

The Assembly unanimously approved two items relating to the Portland Loo on Monday: A memorandum of agreement between the borough and the City of Ketchikan concerning maintenance and operation of the restroom and bus shelter at Thomas Basin and a contract with the City of Portland for the purchase of the modular restroom.

An agreement with the school district for a split of responsibility for 23 capital improvement projects also was approved on Monday. The district will be responsible for 18 improvements to school facilities costing $3.4 million. The borough will take responsibility for four improvements to district athletic fields and the demolition of the Mike Smithers Community Pool together costing $3.5 million.

Schools Superintendent Robert Boyle previously told the Daily News that the projects were split between upgrades to buildings and athletic fields because the fields doubled as a community resource as well as a school resource.

The property on which the Mike Smithers Community Pool sits will be given to the district, according to the borough.

The application and acceptance of a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant was approved by the Assembly in a 5-1 vote on Monday. Painter voted against the grant.

The 50-percent match from the state will be used for new pavement of the Dudley Field tennis courts.

Assembly members expressed skepticism of whether they needed iPads to better perform their duties. The motion to buy nine iPads with cellular service was amended to allow Assembly members to request on an individual basis that they be purchased. The motion passed with the amendment.

Representatives of the Alaska Department of Transportation, the Alaska Marine Highway System and the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority delivered a presentation at Monday’s meeting about a potential Ward Cove facility for the NOAA Ship Fairweather, which is currently being kept in Washington state.

Bob Weinstein and Sonia Henrick, local agents for Sen. Mark Begich and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, respectively, were at the meeting to communicate the senators’ support for returning the ship, which is intended to serve Alaska, to Ketchikan.

Robert Wright, of DOT, Christa Hagan, transportation planner for AMHS and Ted Leonard, executive director of AIDEA, presented their perspectives on the plan for the Ward Cove facility.

Wright said that the $30 million project, if successful, would benefit Ketchikan by acting as an "anchor tenant" in Ward Cove that would draw more vessels to the area.

The first phase of the plan, according to Wright, was the relocation of the AEDIA offices and warehouse to the former veneer mill in Ward Cove in late 2012.

The second phase of the plan, during which DOT will be partnering with AIDEA to secure funding, is the construction of a second, South Berth joint facility housing AMHS and NOAA.

Wright said the second facility could be built within two years of when they acquire full funding for the project.

The Fairweather is a hydrographic survey ship used to support the creation of nautical charts, according to NOAA.

The next Assembly meeting is scheduled for Feb. 4 in Assembly chambers.