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No decisions on any changes to Kodiak’s Port and Harbors Advisory Board

Kodiak’s harbor, January, 2020. (Photo by Kavitha George/KMXT)
Kodiak’s harbor, January, 2020. (Photo by Kavitha George/KMXT)

The future of Kodiak’s Port and Harbors Advisory Board was up for discussion at Tuesday night’s city council work session. There was no clear consensus on what changes, if any, might be in store for the group, except that the advisory board is here to stay.

Tuesday evening’s work session included discussion of a draft resolution that outlined some changes to the city’s Port and Harbors Advisory Board. Those included having city staff, including the harbormaster, take a more active role in setting the group’s meeting agendas.

About 30 people showed up for the work session, and nearly a dozen spoke during public comment. All voiced support for the PHAB’s independence.

“The best boards are those that have a healthy, spirited debate amongst themselves and with management on the decisions they must make, and are free to set its own agenda and consider any issue that is relevant to its responsibilities,” said PHAB chairman Nick Szabo.

Gerry Knagin, who owns a fishing vessel in Kodiak’s harbor, said the board is an important lifeline between the fleet and city government.

“The way it stands right now with how the Port and Harbor Advisory Board is I can go up to any one of those fishermen if I have a trouble, if I have some situation, I could bring it up to them,” said Knagin.

Others warned that the city was trying to dissolve the PHAB, but city officials were quick to say that’s not on the table. Kodiak’s city manager said potential changes to the PHAB were first discussed as part of a review of all the city’s advisory boards and committees.

Council members said there’s been a breakdown in communication between the city and the PHAB. City staff haven’t received regular reports from the board about what’s being discussed, according to council members, and there’s been a toxic environment at some meetings, including denigrating city staff.

“The common thread I see tonight is communication or lack of communication,” said councilmember John Whiddon. “That really is the whole issue, and that really needs to be resolved.”

Councilmember Charlie Davidson said the lack of communication is particularly problematic as the city eyes bigger grants from federal infrastructure money to pay for much-needed waterfront repairs.

“The first guy that gets in line, and he’s got his design ready, that’s who they’re gonna go for,” he said. “And you can see right now, with each passing moment, or day or year, the price of this stuff is going to go up, and where does that leave us if we don’t have the ability to complete the project?”

The draft resolution was meant to start discussions about possible changes to the group, according to city officials. At Tuesday’s work session, council member suggestions included adding a non-voting city council member to the PHAB and changing the regular meeting time, which is currently at noon, so the council member can attend.

No votes or actions can be taken at work sessions. City officials did agree that any changes to the PHAB would need more consideration and further discussion.