The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly will consider a slew of new proposals at its regular meeting on Monday, including approval of a lease agreement with the Ketchikan School District for office space in the White Cliff Building and a resolution requesting a state health mandate on in-state travel.
School District office lease
The district has negotiated a lease agreement with the borough to use space on the second floor of the White Cliff building as office space for four district administrators: the district's business manager, human resources manager and its payroll staff. The Assembly will decide on Monday whether to approve the agreement.
The existing district offices at Ketchikan High School will be used "to provide modified programs for immune compromised students," the agenda states. The full-capacity reopening plan that the Ketchikan School Board agreed to on Wednesday has not affected the need for the office space, according to the agenda.
The district would pay a total of $24,849 for the space for the rest of the 2021 fiscal year, which lasts until the end of June 2021. That money would cover the district's "proportionate share of utilities, insurance, common area janitorial services and maintenance for White Cliff," according to the meeting agenda.
District administrators initially would set up offices in suite 223 of the building, which is fully finished and has been vacant for more than two years, according to the agenda, and temporarily in the borough mayor's office. At the end of November, they would move out of the mayor's office into suite 330, which is currently being held for materials and space for the upcoming elections. The election materials then will be moved into a neighboring storage room within the building.
As part of the lease, the district also would use suite 224, which currently is unfinished, with exposed thermal insulation and uncarpeted floors. An accompanying ordinance is on Monday's agenda would appropriate $100,000 from the borough's Land Trust Fund to finish the suite. The agenda notes that the finished suite would "still be a large open space with no dividing wall. The district would utilize mobile partitions to configure the interior space."
If the Assembly adopts the ordinance, the district would move up to four more staff to be housed in that suite.
Borough staff are recommending approval of the lease agreement and the appropriation to finish suite 224.
Intrastate travel restrictions
Assembly members Felix Wong and Austin Otos are sponsoring a resolution asking Gov. Mike Dunleavy to issue a new health mandate extending the state's existing travel mandates for out-of-state travelers to travelers within the state. They argue the measure would keep Alaskans safer from spread of the novel coronavirus.
The existing mandate requires out-of-state travelers to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival into Alaska unless they have either received a negative test result within 72 hours of departing for Alaska or if they have received a test from a state-sponsored traveler testing site. In the latter case, they are expected to quarantine until they receive a negative test result from the test site.
Wong said in a Friday phone interview that the measure is about community safety.
"We need, at a state level, to control community spread, which is happening in Ketchikan," Wong said. "If we don't act soon, to control spread within the state by intrastate travelers, we might see it get out of hand real quickly. ... It's really due to luck, that we are isolated enough where we don't see the kind of severity that states like Texas and Florida are experiencing right now. However, it's beginning to start climbing, if you pay attention close enough. ... If we don't act soon enough, then it could spread pretty quickly, especially now that we are going to attempt to reopen schools to full capacity."
Wong said the resolution was partly brought forth due to the efforts of resident Bev Davies, who has taken a similar resolution to the Ketchikan City Council for consideration at its meeting Thursday. He added that getting the support of the Assembly would send a stronger message to Dunleavy than individual action alone.
There is a precedent for the measure. On March 27, in response to growing case counts statewide, Dunleavy issued a health mandate that forbade travel between communities in the state except for critical infrastructure workers and for individuals with critical personal needs. That mandate lapsed in late April, when the state was recording no more than four new cases of the virus daily. Since then, total new cases have exploded statewide, with Anchorage bearing the brunt of new cases and infections spreading to smaller communities that previously were untouched. Dunleavy has not issued another in-state travel mandate.
CARES Act nonprofit relief
After increasing the portion of COVID-19 relief funding for local nonprofits, the Assembly will revisit the matter on Monday with a vote to finally approve the funds. The money would come from the borough's $10.4 million portion of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act passed in late March.
Twenty-one grants with a combined value of $300,800 would be awarded if the funds are approved. The Assembly unanimously approved the increase in funding levels for the program at its most recent regular session. The program initially had been appropriated $200,000, but that number was increased to $300,800 to meet the amounts requested by nonprofits.
Authorizing arts relief grant application
The borough is pursuing a $50,000 grant from the Rasmuson Foundation to bolster its relief funding for local arts and cultural organizations.
The foundation has created a program to match municipal CARES Act grants to arts and culture organizations for up to $50,000 per community. The borough is set to award CARES Act funding to four nonprofits through its nonprofit relief program that would qualify for the Rasmuson grant: the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council, which requested $20,000 through the borough program; First City Players, which requested $20,000; Ketchikan Theatre Ballet, which requested $20,000; and the Ketchikan Community Concert Band, which requested $5,000.
If awarded, the $50,000 grant would be divided among the four groups proportional to their grant requests and would increase each group's relief by about 77%.
The Assembly must approve all grant applications that exceed $25,000.
Monday's meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Assembly chambers at 1900 First Ave. There will be time for public comment near the start of the meeting. Written comment can be read into the record, by emailing it to the borough clerk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Members of the public can watch the meeting live on local KPU and GCI channels or on the borough's website at kgbak.us.
The meeting agenda can be found on the borough website at bit.ly/33cTvSD.