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Pool bond vote moves forward


Daily News Staff Writer

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly Monday introduced an ordinance to put bonding for a new swimming pool up for a vote and requested more information before changing the ordinance's wording.

The Assembly voted unanimously to introduce the ordinance and directed Borough Attorney Scott Brandt-Erichsen to ask the borough's bond counsel whether the ballot could specify that the borough intended to pay for a new pool with the existing recreational sales tax.

Kelly Chick, pool committee spokeswoman, asked for that wording because it had been discussed during the past year that an increase in sales tax might be necessary to fund the pool. However, on June 1, the Assembly directed the manager to bring back an ordinance that would seek long-term financing for a new pool to avoid an increase in sales tax.

Before making any changes to the ordinance, Borough Attorney Scott Brandt-Erichsen advised that the Assembly seek advice from the bond counsel.

Brandt-Erichsen said he believed that the bond counsel would advise against specifying the tax because the "full faith, credit and resources of the borough" would be pledged to pay back the bonds. He said that included all sales tax and property tax.

He said he would ask the borough's bond counsel, David Thompson, whether the bond question could specify the type of the tax or whether the question could just state "existing" sales tax.

"We can say half-cent recreation sales tax to pay for the pool," Assembly Member Glen Thompson said. "In reality, the whole farm is mortgaged."

Assembly Member John Harrington asked whether the question could read "existing sales tax or other taxes of the borough."

Borough Mayor Dave Kiffer said he didn't think adding "or other taxes" would be helpful to get the proposition approved by voters.

The Assembly will review the ordinance again July 6 and could schedule the proposition for a vote in October.

The proposition now reads: "Shall Ketchikan Gateway Borough incur debt and issue general obligation bonds (payable also from sales and use tax revenues) in the principal amount of not to exceed $23.5 million, maturing within a maximum of 30 years, to finance the acquisition, construction and equipping of a new community aquatic center to replace the Mike Smithers pool, and shall Ordinance 1528 of the borough authorizing the issuance of the bonds for the capital project be approved?"

Chick said she believed the community is "100 percent behind the project." She recently went to several organizations providing information and gaining feedback about building a new swimming pool.

The proposal is to build a pool next to the Gateway Recreation Center. The facility would include a pool with eight lanes, a diving well with two diving boards and another warm-water pool with a recreational slide. The facility would include a sauna, a weight room and a second-floor viewing area.

Also on Monday, the Assembly unanimously approved two items put on the agenda by Assembly Member Janine Gibbons.

One was affirming the borough's position to promote local procurement of goods and services.

Gibbons said she was inspired to bring up the issue because of the recent effort to build a bus shelter at Berth IV, utilizing many Ketchikan businesses.

"Spend local before going outside," Gibbons said. "It's a great philosophy to have."

Harrington said that major projects could be broken into smaller pieces, such as the Mountain Point waterline project, to encourage more local companies to get involved.

He said it was frustrating to see big projects go to out-of-town companies and said splitting up projects would help local businesses better able to bid on projects.

Assembly Member Mike Painter said another example of supporting local business is the 5-percent local-bidder preference. Thompson said he would like to try to increase that percentage.

However, Brandt-Erichsen advised against increasing the local preference because that could make contracts more easily challenged. He said 5 percent was standard.

Gibbon's other item was establishing a tree board to finish up the requirements of being a Tree City USA.

Ketchikan received that designation for the first time in May. The other requirements are having a tree-care ordinance, observing Arbor Day and spending $2 per capita on tree care.

Thompson said he supported the issue as long as the tree board kept to discussing publicly owned trees.

The board will consist of five members, two with horticultural experience.

The duties of the tree board will be to plan for the care, preservation, pruning, planting, replanting and removal of trees in parks, along streets or other public areas. A plan will be presented annually to the Assembly.

The Assembly also voted 6-1 to direct the manager to bring back a report on the effects of the borough acquiring health and social services powers for the sole purpose of making grants. Assembly Member Mike Salazar voted no.

"At this point, we're only asking (the manager) to look at it and bring it back," Harrington said.

During the recent budget process, some Assembly members raised concerns about awarding grants to nonprofit groups without having health and social service powers.

The only purpose of acquiring the powers would be to provide grants, but not take on the public health and social services that the City of Ketchikan already provides, according to borough information.

The borough manager is expected to provide a report on July 6. The Assembly could then choose at that meeting to ask voters in October whether to acquire those additional powers.