It looks like Petersburg voters this fall will consider withdrawing from an independent ferry authority that offers service to Prince of Wales Island. Petersburg’s city council is advancing a ballot question to drop out of the Inter-Island Ferry Authority, because it no longer offers a ferry connection to Mitkof Island.
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The IFA offers a ferry year-round connection between Ketchikan and Hollis. From 2006 through 2008, the authority offered a summertime connection between the south end of Mitkof Island, Wrangell and Coffman Cove.
With that service ended, and the authority looking to sell one of its two vessels, Petersburg officials see no reason to remain a member of the organization.
“So it makes sense to me personally to, you know, why be involved in it if we don’t get service by the ferry system,” city councilor Mark Jensen said at Monday’s meeting. He and the rest of the council were unanimous in approving an ordinance in its first reading that will put the question to voters this October. That ordinance says the IFA is focusing on its Ketchikan to Hollis route and there’s no indication the service to south Mitkof will resume. It’ll take two more readings before that question will be added to Petersburg’s local ballot.
Also Monday, the council approved a city budget for next year and voted down a cut to the budget for the Petersburg Economic Development Council. Don Koenigs initially sought to reduce the PEDC budget by $75,000 dollars. The PEDC operates off the interest and principal of what was originally a six million dollar federal economic development grant.
Koenigs thought the budget for the PEDC’s cold storage facility needed a closer look. “I’ll say this is more in line with the projected revenue for the investment income and I would also say that they can go back and take a look at how that facility is being managed and how much time is being spent,” Koenigs said. “I’m not trying to micro manage but I think that when I look at the expenditure, we know that Ocean Beauty is not going to be using that facility this year. They were one of the tenants that was gonna be there, so we’re going to be running a shortfall. So maybe, maybe you could look at it, staff and people who are involved in it clearly can take a different look at it,” he added.
Koenigs was not in town and did not take part in a series of work sessions on the budget last month. Other councilors thought it was too late to make changes to the spending plan. Rick Braun said he agreed with Koenigs. “I really think we need to look real hard at the PEDC and the cold storage and how that’s run. But I think it may be too late this year, but it’s definitely something we need to do,” Braun said.
The mayor and other councilors voted against Koenigs and rejected the budget reduction. They approved the overall city budget unanimously. Councilors also approved a property tax levy of 10 point 9-9 mills, the same as the current year. The council also approved money to pave Second Street and Odin Street, two roads that have received new water and sewer lines in the past year. Secon of Juneau will be the subcontractor doing the paving work on the two streets for $226,000 dollars.