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KETCHIKAN (KDN) — Water rates for seafood processors are coming back to the Ketchikan City Council at its Thursday night meeting.
The council is scheduled to hold a public hearing for a proposed ordinance that would more than double the water rate for seafood processors, as well as a second reading of the ordinance. The council, at its April 6 meeting, voted 5-1 to approve the first reading of an ordinance that would amend the Ketchikan Municipal Code to increase water rates for Ketchikan’s three fish processors — E.C. Phillips and Son, Trident Seafoods, and Alaska General Seafoods — by 35 percent per year over the next three years.
Council Member Julie Isom voted against the ordinance, and Council Member Dave Kiffer was absent.
The proposed ordinance came about as the result of a study by the FCS Group consulting firm that, in part, determined that all rate classes were paying more than their share of the cost of providing water service except for the seafood processors, which were responsible for 48 percent of the cost of production but were only paying 4.6 percent of the revenues generated. This resulted in annual revenue shortfalls, according to the study.
Paul Cyr, with E.C. Phillips and Son, has previously opposed some proposed water rate increases and spoke out against the new proposed rates — specifically the three-year phase-in period — at the April 6 meeting.
"Frankly, we don’t think that it’s fair — a 35 percent increase year over year for three years — it’s over a 100 percent increase," Cyr said. "That’s a real tough pill to swallow, and doing it just against the fish processors, really it amounts to a tax against the fish business in Ketchikan. Fishermen, the people who work for the fish processors and the fish processors."
Cyr suggested stretching the same increase over a five-year period.
Isom and Council Member Dick Coose also voiced support for at least considering a five-year phase-in period.
If approved on second reading at Thursday’s meeting, the ordinance will go into effect about one month later.
Also at Thursday’s meeting, the council is scheduled to take a step toward preparing for the next wave of larger cruise ships expected to enter the Alaska market in the coming years.
The council is being asked to approve a $184,998 contract between the city and design firm Moffatt & Nichol for "upland planning to support expanded marine facilities and larger cruise vessels," according to the council’s agenda.
The council, at a Jan. 26 special meeting, directed city staff to proceed with initial planning for upland improvements to accommodate the additional pedestrian and vehicular traffic that likely will come with larger cruise ships, according to an April 10 memo from Port and Harbors Director Steve Corporon to City Manager Karl Amylon.
Local residents, during several previous port planning meetings, expressed concerns with Ketchikan’s ability to handle increased pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
The Ketchikan City Council meets at 7 p.m. Thursday in City Hall. There will be time for public comment at the start of the meeting.