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Dillingham City Council approves 2 harbor float repairs, landfill program

Councilmembers Kurt Armstrong and Kim Johnson and Mayor Alice Ruby at a Dillingham City Council meeting on June 5, 2023.
Christina McDermott
Councilmembers Kurt Armstrong and Kim Johnson and Mayor Alice Ruby at a Dillingham City Council meeting on June 5, 2023.

The Dillingham City Council met for nearly three hours on June 5 to discuss a range of topics — from the budget to harbor repairs to the city manager position. KDLG's Christina McDermott attended the meeting and has the updates.

Izzy Ross: What were the main takeaways from this three-hour city council meeting last Thursday?

Christina McDermott: Councilmembers discussed the budget extensively - everything from funding harbor and road repairs to how much to offer for increasing wages, which they didn't come to any conclusions on. Councilmembers did vote to fix two of the four harbor floats, in a reversal from the previous meeting. They also voted to join the Green Star program for the landfill, and discussed hiring a new interim city manager.

Lobbyist Chris Hladick said the city has about $100 million in repairs that it needs to do, but Councilmember Perry Abrams said there’s only going to be about $5 million in next year's general fund. Some of that money can come from federal grants. But, Hladick said the city needs to invest to get the grant.

Hladick: "If you're gonna go to the legislature, if you have an engineering done, it sort of puts you in a different class. And if you just and and you have your match identified, you know, shows that the community has skin in the game, they're serious about this project, and engineering can show conceptual drawings, it gives you more." 

Abrams said the city isn’t breaking even and that he wanted to see significant changes to its spending. He suggested putting general fund money toward the match requirements for some of the available grants.

Armstrong: "We got to do something bigger than what we're doing in order to live within our budget. We take that money, put it away, and we just don't use it that will force us to stay within our budget requirements."

Hladick did receive funding from the state — enough to actually match a federal harbor grant that will provide $11 million dollars for repairs. All four harbor floats and the city’s crane need to be repaired. The city is also reviewing the cost of extending the sea wall. Councilmembers voted to fix two of the four harbor floats, in a reversal from the previous meeting, as mentioned above. Kaleb Westfall introduced the memorandum, because he said he had received new information.

Westfall: "The contractor had both of them and had already ordered supplies, and was doing a pretty awesome job. So yeah, I'm in favor."

The city will conduct a competitive bid process for the other two harbor floats.

Councilmember Kurt Armstrong said the city is still working on implementing a fish tax, which would help produce revenue for the city.

Ross: Right, we heard a lot about the harbor last month, so it sounds like they're making some progress toward repairs ahead of this fishing season. What about the roads?

McDermott: So, a lot of talk about necessary road repairs for Sq– Creek Road and Dragnet Road. Aksel Buholm moved for the city to give an update on these roads at the next meeting, and that update will include their easements and whether they are up to code. That motion passed unanimously.

Ross: Another thing that the council had talked about at an earlier council and budget workshop was wage increases for city staff?

McDermott: Yep! A motion passed to introduce the proposal of a 10% wage increase. Note they just approved the introduction of the increase, not the actual increase. Westfall and Abrams put up a motion to increase wages by 5% and then conduct a wage study, but that motion failed.

Ross: Alright. And you mentioned the city manager role. We've seen a lot of turnover in recent years in that position, and it sounds like we might see a new person in that role again soon.

McDermott: Yes I did mention it. Right now, Lori Goodell is the acting city manager. Aksel Buholm moved to appoint Kim Johnson to that position. Here’s what Buholm said:

Buholm: "If you look at Kim's record — what she is — she has a Master's in public administration. She’s a Curyung Tribal chief, is also on the BBNC board. I believe she is highly qualified, and actually I know she's highly qualified to take the position so I would like to bring this to a vote." 

Councilmembers Armstrong agreed that Johnson was a good candidate for the role, but said that making that decision in the meeting was the wrong timing. And Johnson herself said that while she had applied for the job in the past and brought important skills to the table, she would vote no on the motion.

Johnson: "There is a process in place to hire a manager and I'm willing to wait. And I know, we have an existing city manager who is on extended family medical leave. And there's a timeframe that we must follow. And so to me, let's follow that process. Let's work through this. And at this point, I will be voting no on this motion."

The council had a recess before rejoining and voting ‘no’ on the motion 4 - 2, with Michael Bennett and Buholm as the two yes votes.

Ross: So will Johnson be applying for the role permanently?

McDermott: That’s unclear. The city does plan to start that hiring process in July.

Ross: Got it. Anything else people should know about that meeting?

McDermott: So, I mentioned that the council voted in favor of joining the Green Star program. It’s a program that helps communities in Alaska improve landfill operations. The program will assist with training, repairs and replacements and general updates. It passed unanimously.

Ross: The City Council will meet again on June 15. Thanks Christina!

Get in touch with the author at or 907-842-2200.

Christina McDermott began reporting for KDLG, Dillingham’s NPR member station, in March 2023. Previously, she worked with KCBX News in San Luis Obispo, California, where she focused on local news and cultural stories. She’s passionate about producing evocative, sound-rich work that informs and connects the public.
Izzy Ross is the news director at KDLG, the NPR member station in Dillingham. She reports, edits, and hosts stories from around the Bristol Bay region, and collaborates with other radio stations across the state.
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