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Council eyes Berth 4 options: Hears report from port design consultants

Daily News Staff Writer

At the special Ketchikan City Council special meeting Wednesday night, the council passed a motion to move forward with a process to solicit industry interest in partnering with the city for port expansion.

Council Member Judy Zenge made an amendment to the motion to look at a proposal from Survey Point Holdings. She included a suggestion from Council Member Sam Bergeron to include a work session to discuss Survey Point's proposal. Both the amendment and the motion passed unanimously.

The focus of the meeting was to hear a presentation from the city's contracted port architecture development firm and garner community feedback on port expansion and uplands development.

In a move separate from typical City Council meetings, Zenge, filling in for Mayor Bob Sivertsen who participated telephonically, moved public comments to after the presentation of Luis Ajamil of Bermello, Ajamil and Partners Inc., instead of at the start of the meeting.

Ajamil presented on the process of garnering financial support through partnerships. He broke the request for proposals process into four steps.

The first step, according to Ajamil, is to draft an RFP. For this to happen, the project must be defined and the amount of investment, and what types of partnerships the city wants with potential interested parties, must be decided. This includes preferential berthing agreements, ownership stakes, and the like. The second step is test marketing, to gauge interest and what has worked in other ports. Then adjustments to the RFP would be made to make it more viable.

Ajamil said the city doesn't want to put out an RFP and have no interest. He estimated the process would take 60 days.

The third step would be to acquire community feedback, City Council review and further adjustment to the RFP. The last step in the RFP process would be to issue the final RFP, which would take another 30 days, according to Ajamil’s presentation.

He said before the city begins the RFP process, it needs to decide what it wants to do and test to see whether there is market interest.

Ajamil first broke down the city’s options into two overarching strategies. The first was to continue to expand four large berths in the city and compete with the proposed two berths in Ward Cove. The second was to operate three large berths and reserve one berth for smaller, expedition-sized cruise ships.

This was further broken down into about half a dozen different port improvement options; Ajamil only spoke to plans concerning city owned berths.

The options ranged from $35 million to $178 million. The $35 million is just for the costs of upland improvements. The cheaper options involve a plan to turn Berth 1 and Berth 2 into one large berth. The most expensive option would include plans to expand and upgrade berths 1, 2 and 3.

About 20 people spoke, some supporting expansion, some against, but the nearly 100 people in attendance applauded no matter what the speaker's viewpoint. About five or six people encouraged the city to keep working with Survey Point Holdings on possible expansion options for Berth 4.

Before the council voted on the motion Sivertsen said, "What we're doing tonight is deciding to build a house. And now we're going to start after that fact to figure out what the house looks like. And so we're going to take all these proposals and options and take them into mind."

During council member comments at the close of the meeting, several council members commented on the divergent comments of the audience ranging from stopping the cruise ships to expanding as quickly as possible.

"The challenge is," said Council Member Dave Kiffer, "If we take a decision that is not the direction you want us to go, that doesn't mean we're not listening. The only way we are going to solve the situation is if we can agree where the middle is. If we hold to our opinions that it's got to be this or it's got to be that, we're going to be sitting here in 20 years saying, 'wow that didn't work out so well.'"