Garbage collection rates will rise for the first time in a decade, by 21% (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

Garbage collection rates will rise for the first time in a decade, by 21% (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

Tuesday night (01-12-16), the Sitka Assembly unanimously voted to raise Sitka’s garbage rates for the first time in a decade. The rate hike is 21 percent across the board. For the bulk of customers with a 96-gallon cart, that’s a $9 increase a month.

The rate hike was written into the city’s new contract with Alaska Pacific Environmental Services. Approved by the Assembly in October, the contract expires in 10 years and gives the city the option to add a curbside commingled recycling program within the first five years. The Solid Waste Advisory Committee voted down implementing such a program down now, because it would have increased rates by an additional $10.

In new business, the Assembly was given a walkthrough of the rewrite process for Sitka’s Comprehensive Plan. It was last re-written in 1999 and revised in 2007. Speaking for the Planning Commission, which is leading this latest re-write, Maegan Bosak proposed the process by staff facilitated, but community oriented – stretching the $30,000 budget to involve the public as much as possible.

Bosak tossed out a variety of ideas, including surveys, workshops, and a website with an interactive map. “We’d like to do something with the arts, possibly an art competition and be a booth at all sorts of community events over the summer. We’re really in this generating ideas phase, and we love to hear any suggestions that people have,” Bosak added.

Bosak said the plan needed to updated now rather than later, to keep up with changing economic times and land use patterns. She mentioned that some of the budget would go towards marketing.  Assembly member Steven Eisenbeisz wondered why this was necessary.

Bosak replied that it would be used to reach out to Sitkans who don’t frequent meetings or write to City Hall. “If you kind of market it as its own autonomous thing and something that’s separate government, you may get a little more feedback. So that’s the intent. To go outside, have this be its own separate animal, and have it be lively and exciting. Focus on arts and community and be something to get people interested and in tune with,” Bosak said.

Assembly member Bob Potrzuski heralded the re-write. Addressing Bosak directly, he said, “I’m a big fan of planning and I hope you’re looking at that end product as you start the process: to have it not something that sits on the shelf – I spent 32 years in a public entity and that’s where plans went – but a living document that the Assembly can refer to, when something comes before us. To say, ‘Well, it’s a no brainer, it’s already there in the plan,’ I think that’s really important.”

Kick-off for revising Sitka’s Comprehensive Plan will begin in March and the process continue for fourteen months.

The Assembly also appointed over a dozen Sitkans to local committees. In December, thirteen of Sitka’s committees had at least one vacancy. Mayor Mim McConnell thanked those who volunteered to serve. “It’s going to mean that we don’t have to say quite so frequently, ‘We need people!’ This is going to be a great opportunity for all of you. So hope you enjoy your experience on the commission[s].’

And with that, Assembly waved in six members to Sitka Community Hospital Board, re-designed in the wake of the hospital’s financial crisis to give the city closer oversight. Mike Middleton, the city’s deputy finance director, will sit on the board as a non-voting member. The board has two specialized seats: one for professional financial experience and the other for professional healthcare experience. For those, the Assembly appointed Connie Sipe and David Lam. The other three members are Bryan Bertacchi, Steve Gage, and Mary Ann Hall.

The Assembly also appointed Dorik Mechau to the Library Commission, Matthew Turner to the Tree and Landscape Committee, Lindsay Evans to the Marijuana Advisory Committee, Brian Richardson to the Health Needs and Human Services Commission, James Mellema to the Police and Fire Commission, and re-appointed Peter Gorman to the Historic Preservation Commission.