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By MATT ARMSTRONG
Daily News Staff Writer
The Ketchikan City Council, at its Thursday night meeting, declined to pay for public art at the Ketchikan International Airport. The council also learned that the City of Ketchikan is again in need of a museum director.
The council voted 4-3 against providing $7,500 — half of the $15,000 price that it would have split with the Ketchikan Gateway Borough — for the purchase of the 20-foot mural painted last fall at the Main Street Gallery by Ricardo Bu´rquez. Council members Bob Sivertsen, Judy Zenge, Dick Coose and Mark Flora voted against the motion, while council members Julie Isom, Dave Kiffer and Janalee Gage voted in favor.
The idea for the city and borough to split the cost of the mural and install the artwork at the airport came out of a Feb. 10 cooperative relations committee meeting. The Borough Assembly has not taken action on the proposal.
Isom said Thursday that the two main opposition points she’d heard about previous public art projects — namely the rain gauge — was that the art is “ugly” and that the artist wasn’t local.
However, neither of those issues applied to the mural, Isom said.
“One of the other forms of opposition that I’ve heard is that it will set a precedent and that other artists won’t like it,” Isom said. “We have heard from several artists tonight that are in support of this, and I was so glad that artists came forward ... to say that they’re in support of this particular art piece to go in the airport.”
Several local residents spoke in support of buying the mural and placing it at the airport during the public comment portion of Thursday’s meeting, with no one voicing opposition.
Coose and Sivertsen, however, said that they had heard from people who were against spending money on the mural.
“I’m going to admit that this is probably a very good picture and (that) it really represents Ketchikan well, but I will not support spending city money on purchasing this and hanging it,” Coose said. “We’ve got too many other things that are, in my opinion, more important. ... I guess the people I’ve heard from, taxpayers, do not support it.”
Zenge didn’t support the purchase because she didn’t want the council to set a precedent.
“Again, it comes back people have to follow a procedure, and we didn’t commission this piece,” Zenge said. “I think that, if we’re going to do something, it has to be available for everyone to apply. I don’t think it’s right for us to buy this piece and not look at all the other pieces that get shown.”
Kathleen Light, executive director of the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council, when asked by Sivertsen about what the initial plan was for the mural, said that there wasn’t a plan at first.
“The end goal was the celebration, the opening of the gallery,” Light said. “ ... Obviously, any piece in the gallery is for sale, artists put pieces in the gallery to sell them. As it started to evolve, people were coming to the gallery and (saying), ‘This should be somewhere that the community can see it, this should be in the airport.’ This is an obviously exceptional depiction of what our community not only looks like, but feels like.”
KAAHC operates the Main Street Gallery.
City Manager Karl Amylon, toward the end of the meeting, informed the council that Lee Gray resigned from her position as the city’s museum director after just more than three months on the job. Gray arrived in Ketchikan on Jan. 1, and started as the director on Jan. 9.
The city’s Museum Department includes both the Tongass Historical Museum in the city-owned Centennial Building and the Totem Heritage Center. Before Gray’s arrival, the director position had been vacant since May 13, when former director Lacey Simpson moved to the Lower 48 with her family.
Gray submitted her resignation Thursday morning, and it was effective immediately, Amylon said after the meeting. He would not comment on Gray’s reason for resigning the position.
The city plans to start a search for a new director “in the next couple weeks,” Amylon said.
Anita Maxwell, the department’s senior curator of programs, will serve as acting museum director until a new director comes aboard. Maxwell served as the acting director between Simpson’s departure and Gray’s arrival.
Amylon told the council that he’s confident the temporary exhibit planned to open in late April in the Tongass Historical Museum is still on-track to open.
Also at the meeting, the council:
• Voted 7-0 to send a letter to the Alaska Legislature expressing the city’s concerns over proposed legislation that would allow for ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft to operate in the state. The city’s concerns include vehicle safety and insurance standards, a lack of local control of licensing drivers for those companies, and the collection of taxes from those companies.
• Voted 7-0 to approve a liquor license renewal for the Ketchikan Loyal Order of Moose Lodge, contingent on satisfactory payment of delinquent taxes.
Also at the meeting, the council voted 7-0 to approve several items on its consent agenda, including:
• The second reading and final approval of an ordinance that will, in part, add new sections to the Ketchikan Municipal Code that define what a disabled accessible taxi is — establish application, service and driver training requirements — and allow an additional, non-accessible cab for each accessible taxi the endorsement holder may operate. The ordinance will go into effect in about a month.
• A motion to designate April 15 through April 22 as Ketchikan Spring Clean-Up Week.
• A 2017-2019 medical director services agreement between the city and Dr. Marc Dumas. Dumas has served as the Ketchikan Fire Department’s medical director since October 2015.
• The first reading of an ordinance that would declare a 1996 Ford F350 ambulance surplus property, and to authorize the donation of the ambulance to the City of Klawock.
• Reappointment of Sonja Alvarez to the Museum Advisory Board.
The Ketchikan City Council next meets at 7 p.m. April 6 in City Hall. There will be time for public comment at the start of the meeting.