dollar bills closeupThe Petersburg borough assembly at their last meeting agreed to budget changes, capitol project priorities as well as selling some borough property.
Assembly members unanimously passed an ordinance that would allow borough land to be sold near the Hammer and Wikan grocery store on Haugen Drive. Hammer and Wikan, Inc. has told the borough the company is interested in purchasing the land. The borough already decided to turn the property into commercial. At the latest meeting, the borough agreed to put it up for public auction. The borough can still work out the details of the sale later on.

The final reading of an ordinance adjusting the budget for fiscal year 2016 for known changes also gained support from assembly. The ordinance includes a commitment of up to $200,000 from the borough’s economic fund. Some of that money could be deposited in a bank to guarantee low-interest loans for downtown building owners to put in sprinkler systems. Also, if a building owner defaults on a loan, the borough’s economic fund money would be used to repay that debt.

Other changes approved in the budget are a new police patrol vehicle, maintenance for the electric department, repairing a water main at South Harbor, as well as funds to keep the blue bag recycling program going until the borough turns to carts, which it plans to do in mid-January.

Public Works Director, Karl Hagerman, said although the new recycling truck is late being shipped, the borough is still on track to take over the program from Rugers Trucking next month.

“Right now I’m not changing the implementation date of the cart program,” Hagerman said. “I’m still shooting for January 18.”

The borough assembly unanimously supported a capitol Pprojects list for 2016. The list will be sent to the Alaska Legislature to give them guidance as they go through the budget process this spring. The top of Petersburg’s list is the renovation of the borough’s municipal building which includes the police station, jail, and administrative offices. The borough is asking the state for about three million dollars to go along with about six to seven million the borough expects to have for the project.

Borough Manager Steve Giesbrecht said the dollar amounts on the projects list are not exact. He says they are more of a place holder.

“The dollar amounts you see in these are somewhat flexible,” Giesbrecht said. “They’re estimates, particularly in areas like ‘funding already secured’ and ‘estimated project costs’ and some places you’ll see we have question marks where we don’t have a cost. We’ll kind of work through that as we enter this into CAPSIS.”

CAPSIS is the Capital Project Submission and Information System which is an electronic system that the legislature uses to keep track of projects.

Also on the capitol projects list were requests for $1.6 million for Petersburg School District’s Food Service Preparation and Renovation and about $4 million for the Scow Bay Haul Out and Wash Down Pad.

The assembly also unanimously supported a resolution establishing budget policies for 2016-2017 but not without amending it to keep tobacco tax revenue going into the general fund. The borough administration had proposed that half of the tax pay for the Medical Center and for Assisted Living expenses annually. Assisted Living is currently supported by property tax revenue and Borough Manager Giesbrecht said it might make the budget process more transparent for the public.

“Trying to figure out a way to show people, just because we tax cigarettes, we’re not taxing it necessarily just to say ok, we’re going to throw it in the general fund and use it however we see fit,” Giesbrecht said. “[We were] actually trying to designate, see this is how some of that money gets used and we focused on the hospital and assisted living.”

Assembly members Nancy Strand, Jeigh Stanton Gregor, and Bob Lynn spoke against it saying they didn’t want the tobacco excise tax going to something specific.

“I don’t think that money should be earmarked for anything except the general fund or possibly an enterprise fund,” Strand said.

Lynn said, “We don’t know where we stand, we don’t have any idea from the Governor’s stand point right now what kind of funds we’re getting. I think we need to maintain some flexibility at this point.”

The assembly amended the resolution to put the tobacco tax into the general fund. Assembly members supported keeping the rest of the budget policies the same.

The next borough assembly meeting is Dec. 21.