Petersburg’s borough assembly Monday took the first step toward approving a new comprehensive plan for the borough. Assembly members also reported back from a recent trip to the state capital and heard updates on numerous projects.

Petersburg paid a consulting firm to write Petersburg’s latest comprehensive plan and waterfront master plan, taking about a year and resulting in two draft documents released in December. Since then the harbor board, planning and zoning commission and land selection committee have been reviewing the drafts and recommending some small changes.

Planning and Zoning commissioner Dave Kensinger told the assembly that the comprehensive plan is not set in stone. “It’s basically just an outline, give us some direction of where we wanna go,” Kensinger said. “So if there’s something in here that somebody has real particular heartburn over and I’m sure there’s something in here that everybody could pick out that they have heartburn over, that I just wanna remind the community at large that everything in here is subject to change and revision by this body and by the voters if they so choose.”

The plan makes recommendations that would have to be implemented by the assembly or voters at a later date. That includes a general land use map for the entire borough and a recommendation to extend subdivision authority outside of the old city limits of Petersburg.
Kensinger thought the drafting of the plan involved a lot of public input. Assembly member voted 6-0 in favor of an ordinance adopting the documents in first reading. That ordinance has two more votes before the assembly including a public hearing on the documents on March 7.

The assembly also approved comments from the Planning Commission on the latest Tongass Land Management Plan amendment. February 22nd was the deadline to comment on that plan.
In other business, assembly members Cindi Lagoudakis and Bob Lynn along with mayor Mark Jensen reported on this month’s meeting of the Alaska Municipal League in Juneau.

“I think we really need to keep a close eye on the funding mechanism that the state uses to supply money to the municipalities,” Jensen told the assembly. “They’re talking about reducing revenue sharing, upping the municipality’s share of the PERS liability.” PERS is the public employees retirement system, a retirement benefit for government workers in Alaska. Jensen noted the state is also looking at reducing the percentage of raw fish tax paid to municipalities. Local elected officials plan to return to Juneau next month.

Borough manager Steve Giesbrecht reported on numerous local projects. Among them, borough public works employees Monday demolished the old Mitkof Sales and Service building next to the municipal building. “Pretty much it’s down and maybe a day or two left to finish up,” Giesbrecht said. “Just as a reminder, we were gonna have to do that regardless. DEC wanted that building removed and things capped. Plus the advantage of giving us some extra parking places.”

Borough staff tore down and removed the Mitkof Sales and Service building next to Sing Lee Alley this week.

Borough staff tore down and removed the Mitkof Sales and Service building next to Sing Lee Alley this week.

The city bought the property from Dave Randrup in 2009. The former auto repair shop had leaking underground fuel storage tanks removed in 2010 and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is requiring an asphalt cap to block exposure to contaminated soils. Giesbrecht said that paving work will be done this year when SECON returns to town for road paving work.

Speaking of that road paving, the Juneau-based contractor is expected to be back in Petersburg March 21 and plans to restart work on South Nordic Drive by the end of March. SECON is doing an 8.3 million dollar project to repave portions of two state owned roads, Nordic and Haugen drives. The borough also plans to contract with the company for paving of some local roadways this year.

The assembly also gave final approval to changes to the current year’s budget, including some of the funding needed to complete the police station and municipal building renovation. It’s also time to start considering the borough’s spending plan for next fiscal year. Assembly members will get their first look at next year’s budget at a special session March 1st.