KETCHIKAN - In another reversal, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly has resurrected plans to annex more than 3,000 square miles of surrounding land.
The Assembly revived the proposal Tuesday, voting against an ordinance that would have repealed the expansion plan officially.
Assembly Member Jack Shay argued that the expansion gives Ketchikan a chance to increase federal timber receipt funding for local schools.
Ketchikan receives $29 per student in the federal funding. In comparison, Craig receives $811 per student, Klawock receives $328 per student and Hydaburg gets $443 per student, Shay said.
"Not only are we being robbed, but I suggest to you that the downturn of the timber industry affected us far more than the cited Prince of Wales towns," he said. "Our kids have been cheated for years. Still, outlying communities have the gall to complain. This is infuriating."
In a separate vote, the Assembly directed staff members to exclude Hyder and Meyers Chuck from its petition to the state.
At a meeting earlier this month, the Assembly indefinitely postponed a required public hearing on the expansion in Hyder, in effect shelving its plans. Shay conceded that Coffman Cove, Thorne Bay and perhaps Klawock were damaged more by timber declines.
Ketchikan stands to gain $1.4 million in federal funding by expanding its boundaries, he said.
"If we abandon this plan, we also will lose an opportunity to bargain with these communities," he said.
Surrounding towns, including those on Prince of Wales Island, have opposed the borough's plan.
Borough Attorney Scott Brandt-Erichsen said the state distributes the federal funding using a formula based on a borough's geographic size. For communities in the so-called unorganized borough, the state divides the money by using a population-based formula, he said.
Assembly Member David Landis said the borough should find a way to address its education funding shortfalls without taking money from other school districts. He described the expansion effort as a "hijack."
"We're likely to spend an inordinate amount of staff time and effort on something that might not happen," he said. "My crystal ball says here we go down a road that is not going to produce fruit, but is going to cause grief."
The state's Local Boundary Commission turned down a similar borough expansion petition from Ketchikan in 1998 because Hyder and Meyers Chuck weren't included. Shay said the boundary commission has "changed drastically" under the Murkowski administration.
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