Assembly will pick Petersburg Borough objection in October

Law Department, JEDC to draft city's response

The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly recently approved city staff working with Juneau Economic Development Council to counter some of Petersburg’s petition to form a borough.


That approval cited Juneau’s position as potentially filing its own petition with the Local Boundaries Commission for lands south of the borough that were in the “model borough boundaries” plan drafted by the state in 1991.

But the Assembly still has to decide whether those boundaries are what it will ultimately petition for. It may also consider going a bit further to encompass the entire watershed, instead of splitting the watershed as in the model boundaries.

The city has until Oct. 26 to file a response to Petersburg’s petition. Petersburg is seeking to dissolve as a city and form a large borough.

City Manager Rod Swope and City Attorney John Hartle gave the Assembly Committee of the Whole an update on the process on Monday.

Swope said the Assembly approved $10,000 to contract with an entity that will help the city’s Law Department draft the city response. It chose JEDC, which went to work even while contract negotiations continue.

Swope told the Assembly the contract will include an option to extend the term and he may have to ask the Assembly for additional funds on relatively short notice.

Hartle said this is a huge undertaking as Petersburg’s petition is more than 100 pages long.

Hartle said he, Swope, Mayor Bruce Botelho and JEDC staff have already met and are working on breaking down the project into segments.

He said they plan on drafting a responsive brief, rather than just comments, to submit.

“This week we’ll have a full outline of the project with holes to be filled in by everyone on the team,” Hartle said.

Botelho said the responsive brief will not be finished by the Assembly’s Oct. 10 meeting, but the Assembly will have to give direction at that point to give staff direction on arguments for the scope of the boundaries the borough wants to take on.

Botelho said the biggest question left is the scope of contested lands.

“Oct. 10 I think is probably my ultimate goal for go-no-go,” Botelho said. “Conceptually, we need to jump so our staff has adequate time to focus on whatever direction we take. It will be a monumental task to gather current and historic data.”

The Assembly committee also heard more from Engineering Department Director Rorie Watt on the AJ Mine report, specifically the water study for which the Assembly approved funds.

Watt has begun an outline for what the study will look like, but expects it to be expanded.

Assemblyman Merrill Sanford asked Watt to add a study on the power lines. He said the lines up through Starr Hill are loose and shaky and have lost access in the past.

“(We) have a backup generator, but sometimes that has failed also,” Sanford said. “Somehow add some type of analysis if we need to put additional lines up to see if we should have redundancy. We have lost power to the well field several times and it’s been a while since we’ve caught it sometimes.”

Assemblywoman Ruth Danner asked if current and future demand would be studied, along with adequate reservoirs or water towers, and a study of high and low water volume over time.

Danner added she has seen plenty of water towers “down South” but hasn’t seen them up here, and didn’t know if they were viable for Southeast. Watt said the borough does have reservoirs, and water towers wouldn’t be feasible because of elevations.

The other questions are expected to be a part of the study, and the reservoirs will be included on a map of existing systems.

Assemblywoman Karen Crane asked what the public process would be for more public comment on the draft and continued study.

Watt said he intends to hold several meetings for two categories of people — those who know a little bit about the subject but want to get a broader idea, and those who have been following the subject extensively. He is hoping to hold several lunch and 5 p.m. public meetings to do so, but hasn’t set potential dates.

Assemblyman Peter Freer asked what kind of process Watt would use for developing a Request for Proposal for conducting the study.

Watt said he plans on breaking down the study into smaller-term contracts and will solicit people with experience with Gold Creek and Last Chance Basin.

For a copy of Watt’s initial outline of the study, see

To submit comments send them to or via mail to Engineering Department; 155 South Seward Street; Juneau, AK 99801.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at


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