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Council Endorses $1.17 Million In Community Support

UDA T-Dock Music Video

This week's city council meeting featured a few surprise moments during deliberations over community funding support.

During a roll call vote on a motion to reject a $13,000 grant request from the Unalaska Divers Association (UDA), Mayor Shirley Marquardt cast the tie vote, intending to agree with the motion to nix the funding altogether. But she said the wrong word, which meant the capital grant request was approved - for now. 

Melissa Good is the chair of the non-profit association of local recreational divers.

"It's kind of a surprise, the last vote. I think we'd be lucky for it to go through the first hearing," Good said. "But I think maybe we didn't come through clear enough with our proposal, so I think that's probably the main problem."

The group had asked for help funding a one-time purchase of equipment to encourage locals to get into the sport. Good said that without the city funding, the divers' group won't be able to proceed with a deal brokered with an Anchorage dive shop.

If UDA had secured the grant, they would buy "four sets of full dive gear - that's dry suit, regulators, hoods, gloves, fins, BCs, everything - and they've offered to give us a deal on dive gear because we are a non-profit and because we would be buying four sets. So we would be getting a special deal that not everybody can get," Good said.

But some city council members didn't agree with financing a "hobby," as Marquardt described it.

"I don't see the need to furnish new divers with equipment when they are going to need to purchase their own equipment anyway," Councilor Rowland said.

Councilor Leclere said less than ten percent of residents would benefit from the grant, and Councilor Johnson said the city would be creating unfair competition for local commercial dive businesses if it gave money to UDA.

There were only two grant applications not funded at the level requested - those of Unalaska Community Broadcasting (UCB) and the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). UCB is the non-profit that produces KUCB radio, this website and Channel 8 television.

Council member Leclere objected to increasing funding to UCB over the amount it received in 2015. For its 2016 grant application, the UCB board opted to raise the request by $4,600 to offset coming substantial funding reductions by the state. She said she felt Unalaska Community Broadcasting should restructure and fundraise more. Council members Kelty, Johnson and Tungul agreed.

Five members voted to reduce this year's grant by $15,000 from the amount requested on the Convention and Visitor's Bureau application. Council member David Gregory voted against the reduction.

CVB board members said they had based next fiscal year's budget on different funding scenarios and therefore had a budget ready based on receiving $170,000 from the city.

In total, the council voted to distribute $1,167,247 in community support grants.

Besides speaking for the Unalaska Diver's Association, Melissa Good also sits on the board of the Museum of the Aleutians (MOTA). When it came time for the council to vote on MOTA's $294,000 grant request, member Kelty asked for a status update on the search for a new executive director.

"We conducted four interviews last week, so we are done conducting interviews looking for a director," Good said. "We are going to meet in executive session on Thursday to narrow that down to two. We hopefully plan to fly those two in to do some face to face interviews so we are moving along very well."

As it has for many years, the council voted in favor of contributing more than the set funding cap to the Unalaska City School District. Just under $4 million will be allocated to Unalaska's public schools from city coffers.

The council will be voting two more times on the various funding amounts, and City Manager David Martinson reminded members that they could always alter totals down the line should budgetary constraints require it.

A first reading of the fiscal year '17 city budget is scheduled for the May 10 council meeting. At the May 24 meeting, Unalaska city officials are expected to vote on a second reading and finalize all funding at that time.

Greta Mart worked for KUCB in 2015 and 2016.