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Eagle ordinance moves forward

Daily News Staff Writer

In a busy meeting on Thursday evening, the Ketchikan City Council’s business included taking steps toward implementing a ban on feeding various types of birds, including eagles.

The council voted 6-1 to approve in first reading an ordinance that would prohibit intentionally feeding wild bald eagles, gulls, ravens and crows within city limits. Council Member Julie Isom voted no.

The ordinance would also prohibit allowing others to feed those birds on one’s property. It calls for fines up to $500.

The ordinance will go into effect if it passes an additional round of voting when it returns to the council in second reading.

The issue first came up in July, when the council received complaints about Sourdough Tours, which has been feeding eagles from its West End property as part of tours since summer 2017. Some individuals with homes and businesses nearby said that the eagles have become a nuisance.

The council agreed that the practice was a nuisance in the instance of the tour company, but there was some disagreement on how the issue should be legislated.

Council Member Mark Flora said that though an ordinance would hurt the tour’s business, he supports an ordinance because eagle feeding is a public safety issue.

“If we allow this to happen — not just from these folks, but from anybody else — we’re habituating wild animals,” Flora said. “We’re turning them into pets. And I’m not really sure what part of the Alaskan experience that is, when we turn eagles into puppies and throw them treats.”

Isom said that while she hates the idea that a company is feeding eagles for profit, she wouldn’t support an ordinance because enforcing it would be a misappropriation of police resources. She added that the ordinance might be too broad because it classifies all instances of people feeding eagles as a nuisance, when that isn’t always the case.

Vice Mayor Bob Sivertsen, who eventually voted in favor of the ordinance, voiced a similar concern.

“Everybody has a right to own a dog, but when that dog moves in next door and barks all night long, then it becomes a nuisance. And that’s when you enforce the nuisance law,” Sivertsen said. “I’m not sure that this reads that way. In other words, it just bans it altogether and says, you just can’t own a dog because it might bark.”

In response to questions about the ordinance’s scope, City Attorney Mitch Seaver clarified that the ordinance wouldn’t affect, for example, a seafood processor that discards fish parts that eagles then eat, because in that case the feeding isn’t intentional.

Martha Thomas, speaking on behalf of Sourdough Tours, said that a city-wide ordinance shouldn’t target just one business.

“If this ordinance is directed at Sourdough Tours, then name it “Sourdough Tours,” she said.

Council Member Dick Coose said that he hates to affect just one company, but that he wants to put a stop to the practice before it becomes commonplace.

“If there’s some issues in there, we may have to tweak it in the end,” Coose said. “But this cannot continue.”

Ketchikan Regional Youth Facility

Also on Thursday, a public hearing was held on the subject of Women In Safe Homes’ desire to renovate the former Ketchikan Regional Youth Facility building and use it as a domestic violence shelter.

The city is considering applying, as part of a joint-application with WISH, for a Community Development Block Grants from the state. The proposed grants total a combined $1,372,000 and would go toward the building’s renovation. A public hearing is required as part of the application process.

WISH Executive Director Agnes Moran said that the KRYF building is a good fit because it’s safe, it’s more accessible, it has an outdoor play area for children and it’s near other services. She also noted the age and condition of WISH’s current building, which she said WISH has used for 38 years and is 100 years old.

“The building is coming to near the end of its useful life,” she said. “Which is one of the reasons why we’ve been looking at the KRYF facility for the past year.”

Several members of the public, including Diane Gubatayao, Gigi Pilcher, Dawn Rauwolf, Felix Wong, Kathleen Yarr, Rebecca Yunker also spoke in support of the block grant application.

Sales tax

The council also declared Oct. 6, 2018, a sales tax holiday, continuing a tradition in which, for one day a year, no sales taxes are collected throughout the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly approved the holiday during its Tuesday meeting, but its approval was contingent on the City Council doing the same.

The item passed without comment as part of the meeting’s consent agenda.

In other business on Thursday, the City Council:

Heard from several city employees who requested pay raises similar to those awarded to Ketchikan Public Utilities linemen in August.

Voted unanimously to hire a financial consulting firm to assist the city in determining how it will fund the Berths 1 and 2 expansion project.

Approved the city’s switch to become a “non-payee city.” That means that fines issued by Ketchikan Police Department will now be handled through the Alaska Court System.

Heard an update on the Southeast Alaska Power Agency from its chief executive officer, Trey Acteson.

Proclaimed that September 2018 is National Recovery Month, dedicated to assisting those with addictions and mental health disorders.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Sept. 20.