During their regular meeting Tuesday night (06-14-16), the Assembly approved purchase agreements with two bulk water companies, passed the FY17 budget and union bargaining agreements, and assumed control of marijuana licensing in Sitka.
Alaska Bulk Water, Inc. has had exclusive access to Sitka bulk water since 2006, before losing its contract in December. With this new 10-year purchase agreement, ABWI will carry forward $1.35 million (previously paid to the city) as pre-purchased water credits. And with a 20-year purchase agreement, ABWI has the right to maintain water loading infrastructure on the tidelands, under the condition they pay $5000 annually and allow other bulk water companies to use it for a fee.
The Assembly also approved a 20-year agreement with Arctic Blue Waters, Inc., out of Canada, purchasing 6.8 billion gallons of Sitka bulk water for nearly $1 million dollars.
Speaking with Gary Paxton Industrial Park Director Garry White, Assemblyman Matthew Hunter did the math.
Hunter: So that will bring the total the city has got for deposits on future water sales for $2.4 million over the last few years.
Hunter: Thank you. That’s fantastic. And if people are putting that much money forward I’m encouraged we’re going to see some sales at some point. Thank you.
In other underwater economies, the Assembly chose to disburse money from the Fisheries Enhancement Fund. $27,900 went to the Sitka Sound Science Center to continue it’s hatchery operation and $10,000 to the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, to address the graying of the fleet by supporting young fisherman.
Troller Eric Jordan got into fishing through programs at Sheldon Jackson College and now, has focused his energies on mentoring newcomers. “They see things through the fresh lens. I’ve seen literally thousands of whales. Thousands of times. They see them and they’re so excited about it, that it reinvigorates my love of the fishing. I share that with my partners and support people and it affects the whole community,” Jordan told the Assembly. “Plus, it is an injustice that ranchers and farmer’s kids get help and young fishermen do not.”
The Assembly also appointed itself as the Local Regulatory Authority (LRA) for issuing recreational marijuana licenses. That position was previously held by the Marijuana Advisory Committee, which drafted Sitka’s regulations. Legal assistant Rueben Yerkes said the LRA process will emulate how the Assembly evaluates liquor license applications. Currently, there are 7 applications from Sitka under review by the state’s Marijuana Control Board (see full state list here), including four cultivation facilities and three retail stores.
The Assembly also approved the FY17 budget. To make ends meet, the city is consolidating or leaving unfilled 5 positions and closing the library on Sundays, effective July 1st.
A breakdown of the budget is here: Motion and Ord 16-20
The group also approved two collective bargaining agreements, setting wage increases for municipal staff for the next three years. This year, employees with the Alaska State Employees Association and the Public Safety Employees Association will receive a 1.5% wage increase plus 500 dollars.
City Administrator Mark Gorman said the agreement was a compromise. “I can assure the Assembly that there was blood sweat and tears that went in on both sides to get us to this point. And I think both sides came to the table and negotiated in good faith,” Gorman said.