Nine local nonprofits are vying for the City of Unalaska’s coveted community grants this year.
In total, the organizations have requested about $1.2 million.
That figure is on par with last year’s support, but it’s still about $40,000 more than the city wants to spend.
At a work session Wednesday night, the City Council heard presentations from each nonprofit and nearly all of them asked for the same level of assistance they received last year.
One organization that requested more money was Unalaskans Against Sexual Assault and Family Violence (USAFV). Director M. Lynn Crane said the extra $13,000 would largely go toward benefits for the shelter’s staff.
“We are requesting a 12 percent increase, because we’ve been told to expect a 28 percent increase to our health insurance premiums and an increase of 10 percent in our other insurance costs," said Crane. "We’re also assuming demand for services will continue to be very high as it has been for the last couple of years.”
Several councilors expressed their support for USAFV, and Mayor Frank Kelty cited the growing number of Unalaskans who seek help at the shelter.
“The case count last year was 394 and this year, we’re up to 200 already," said Kelty. "We don’t see any decrease in the cases USAFV has to respond to, and it’s just a real tragedy.”
Meanwhile, several councilors seemed reluctant about supporting the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), which has requested flat funding at $175,000.
Director Carlin Enlow said the city grant helps the CVB promote tourism to the island and manage the complicated logistics of cruise ship visits. With the growing popularity of trans-Pacific cruises, she said Unalaska and the CVB will only get busier.
“We’re never going to be a Sitka or a Homer or a huge visitor destination, but it is increasing," said Enlow. "With there not being another port between here and China, Japan, Russia, or the Arctic Circle, the calls will likely increase here.”
The council, however, was skeptical of how much the cruise industry really gives back to Unalaska.
Councilor Roger Rowland said visits often overwhelm the island, which relies on volunteers to welcome passengers and show them around the community.
“If they need all these services, they need to pay for them just like other industries pay for their services," said Rowland. "I hear a lot of talk about volunteers, but I worry about the danger. If we’re going to be safe with a bunch of tourists wandering the streets, I think we’re going to have to charge for it.”
Beyond requests for community grants, the city has received one application for capital funding.
The Unalaska Divers Association (UDA) has applied for $4,000, which would help the organization buy a new air compressor. Last year, councilors voted against UDA's funding request.
The City Council will make its final decision on grant funding in April, as the city continues to refine its budget plan.