Wrangell files a petition to form own borough

Posted: Friday, May 26, 2006

KETCHIKAN - Wrangell has petitioned the state to incorporate into a borough, eyeing land sought in a proposed expansion of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.

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The proposed borough would include all of Wrangell, Etolin, Zarembo, Woronkofski, Dry, and Farm islands, numerous small islands, and the mainland lying to the east, including Meyers Chuck, Union Bay, and other portions of the western Cleveland Peninsula.

The state Local Boundary Commission received the city's petition April 26 and announced it accepted it May 11.

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough also has petitioned to annex Meyers Chuck and Union Bay. Commission official Dan Bockhorst said the Wrangell and Ketchikan petitions would compete because they were received by the commission during a similar period.

"My understanding is that the commission will give concurrent consideration to the two proposals," Bockhorst said.

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough has petitioned the state to annex more than 4,700 square miles. Wrangell formally opposed that annexation.

Bockhorst said Ketchikan has until June 21 to submit a rebuttal to Wrangell. The Wrangell paperwork contends it has stronger economic ties to Meyers Chuck and Union Bay than Ketchikan does, he said.

Meyers Chuck is 40 miles northwest of Ketchikan and 50 miles south of Wrangell on Clarence Strait on the northwest tip of Cleveland Peninsula. According to the state's community data base, it has a population of 15. Meyers Chuck has a natural, well-protected harbor long used as shelter for fishing boats caught in the stormy waters of Clarence Strait.

Roy Eckert, Ketchikan Gateway Borough manager, said the borough will respond to Wrangell's petition.

"I think there is a stronger case to be made here for economic ties," Eckert said.

Many of the homeowners in Meyers Chuck live in Ketchikan full time, he said. Flight companies from Ketchikan serve the area, Eckert said, and most Meyers Chuck residents shop in Ketchikan.

"If (economic ties) is the sole argument made by Wrangell, then I think we have a better case," said Eckert.

Bockhorst said the commission's decision on the competing petitions will be based on standards in the Alaska Constitution - population, geography, economy, transportation, and others. Boroughs must embrace an area and population with common interests.

The public comment period on Wrangell's petition ends July 14.

Ultimately, the petition to incorporate would be considered at an election. If it passes, the city of Wrangell government would dissolve.

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