KETCHIKAN (KDN) — The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly has a packed agenda for tonight’s regular meeting.
The Assembly will hold discussions and consider actions on an assortment of topics, including the borough’s housing crisis; the 2023 fiscal year budget; the size of the borough’s General Fund reserves; employee evaluations for the borough attorney, manager and clerk; a $1.1 million budget appropriation; a rezone request; Martin Luther King Jr. Day; and seasonal Emergency Medical Service staff for the start of the cruise season.
Housing work session
The Assembly will hear a presentation from Borough Planning Director Richard Harney and Assistant Borough Manager Cynna Gubatayao regarding possible short-term, intermediate-term and long-term actions the Assembly could take to help alleviate the borough’s housing crisis.
As a short-term option, the Assembly might choose to direct staff to write regulatory language for vacation rentals. The borough’s Comprehensive Housing Assessment Plan identified “over 1,000 units that are unoccupied and unavailable” for long-term rentals, which “correlates to the units being converted and reserved for vacation rentals and short-term rentals, not available for year-round rentals,” per the agenda
“Initial regulatory language would identify how many vacation rentals are active and make sure taxes are being collected appropriately,” the agenda explains. “The real-time data from the registering and regulating will inform the community’s strategy for balancing the benefits of vacation rentals with the housing needs.”
As another short-term option, the Assembly could consider permitting “certain mobile buildings, specifically RVs and 5th wheels, on residential properties for limited durations,” which the Assembly last considered in 1978 but abandoned, according to the agenda.
For a more intermediate-term option that could be pursued and implemented in the next one to three years, the borough could pursue developing roads into the Mud Bight Subdivision and the Nichols View Service Area at Mountain Point “to relieve market-rate housing stock,” the agenda explains, a move that would open up approximately 150 residential lots for development between the two areas.
“Staff has been pursuing funding streams to accomplish these transportation networks, but it may take time to secure the funding and even longer to develop the roads,” the agenda adds. “The cost estimate provided in the legislative capital request is approximately $4.2 million for constructing the roads in Mud Bight and $10 million for roads and utilities in Nichols View.”
Finally, a long-range option: developing a new borough subdivision.
“The Denali Commission offers a planning grant that will assist staff in working toward a residential planned unit development subdivision for workforce housing,” the agenda states. “The Denali Commission and (Housing and Urban Development) staff encouraged Borough staff to apply for a planning grant that would identify (public and private) stakeholders …, and which should also include an implementation plan. The Denali staff advised Borough staff to act quickly and pursue funding options and identify partnerships to address the housing crisis.”
The planning grant would allow borough staff to “develop the concept further,” per the agenda. It is anticipated that it would award the borough $50,000 for this purpose.
Before diving into the housing work session, the Assembly will hold four public hearings.
The first two hearings will be on actions the Assembly unanimously approved at its last meeting: a $1.1 million transfer from the borough’s General Fund to eliminate the deficit in its self-insurance fund, and a request to rezone 809 Water St. from Heavy Industrial to General Commercial/Mobile Building Restricted.
Third is a code amendment to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a borough holiday. The day was made a holiday in recently negotiated contracts with represented borough employees; the code amendment would make it a holiday for non-represented borough employees, too.
The final ordinance to receive a public hearing would appropriate $38,500 from the North Tongass Service Area in the current fiscal year’s budget to add seasonal Emergency Medical Services staff for the start of the cruise season.
The North Tongass Fire and EMS Service Area is the primary first responder to the Ward Cove Dock, and needs to increase its capacity during the cruise ship season. No additional EMS providers were needed during the 2021 cruise ship season due to reduced sailings, so no increase has been funded in the current fiscal year’s budget. Future budgets will incorporate funding for the seasonal EMS increase.
After acting on the consent calendar and holding the housing work session, the Assembly will hear an update from Gubatayao on the borough’s planning for the 2023 fiscal year budget.
General Fund reserves
The Assembly’s final item of new business is a resolution that would increase the amount of General Fund reserves that the borough maintains and direct the borough finance director to report on the reserves at least annually.
The Assembly last set the reserve amount at 25% of the borough’s annual operating expenditures in 2017, amounting to about $3.4 million. At that meeting, borough staff had recommended maintaining a minimum fund balance of 25% to 30%, based on Government Finance Officers Association tools that assess municipal risk and vulnerability.
Increasing the reserve level to 30% — about $4.0 million — wouldn’t require any additional expenditures, Gubatayao explained in a Friday phone interview, because the borough already had a fund balance of $10.4 million as of the start of the current fiscal year, according to the agenda — equal to about 77% of the borough’s annual operating expenditures.
At the end of the meeting, the Assembly will enter three executive sessions to evaluate the borough attorney, manager and clerk.
At the Assembly’s April 4 meeting, Assembly Member Jeremy Bynum moved to postpone discussion on increasing the compensation for Assembly members and the borough mayor until the Assembly had evaluated the borough attorney and borough clerk. His motion passed unanimously.
Tonight’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, and at the start of each public hearing.