The Crisis at WaterfallBy Austin Otos
September 03, 2018
The Alaska Department of Transportation has allocated $10 million to upgrade the bridges and has slated the project to begin spring of 2019. The replacement of these bridges is of less concern than the much larger underlying issue, building a water tank for fire emergencies.
Currently, The North Tongass Volunteer Fire Department has invested significant staff and volunteer hours, equipment, and has developed a strategy to meet the emergency demands of properties located past the bridges. What they lack, however, is accessible water to fight fires. A water tank would be an expensive endeavor that could cost as much as $1 million. Even though the cost of this project is daunting, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough could allocate money from PILT (payment in lieu of taxes), which are unrestricted funds given to local municipalities to offset losses in property taxes from non-taxable federal land within their boundaries. More importantly, PILT money is specifically granted to local communities to provide vital services such as road construction, public schools, and firefighting.
On average PILT money that has been given to our local municipality in the past five years has been around $1.1 million annually, which would be enough to fund a water tank project. This, coupled with the Borough designating a piece of land for the water tank to be built on, would help to alleviate the issue of scarce water resources for the developing subdivision. This area is due to expand, which would require investment in basic public infrastructure such as sewer, power, and most importantly, water lines.
The lack of water for emergency response purposes could stunt the growth of needed affordable housing, which in turn would decrease future property taxes for local schools. The crisis at Waterfall subdivision should not be overlooked by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.
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About: Austin Otos is a Ketchikan Borough Assembly Candidate
Received September 01, 2018 - Published September 03, 2018
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