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Council delays berth decision

Daily News Staff Writer

The Ketchikan City Council meeting went nearly four hours last night — the majority of the conversation was on how to move forward with berth expansion.

City Manager Karl Amylon said in order to move forward with the request-for-proposals process, the council needs to decide what berth or berths it wants to expand and what sort of investment plan — preferential berthing or concessionaire — it wants to pursue.

Preferential berthing would give a cruise line the first go at docking its ships at a negotiated berth in exchange for financial support to the city. A concessionaire would involve another entity operating the berth(s) in a long-term agreement in exchange for financial support.

Much discussion was had Thursday on whether to expand Berth 1 or Berth 3, and what sort of agreement to pursue with the industry.

In a split 4-3 decision, the council voted to postpone discussion and meet with its architecture and engineering firm, Bermello, Ajamil & Partners, at a special meeting on Aug. 28. Council members Dave Kiffer, Janalee Gage and Mark Flora were the dissenting votes.

The meeting on Aug. 28 will mark the fifth meeting that the council will have this month.

At the start of Thursday's regular meeting, Survey Point Holdings presented on a design for expansion of Berth 1. The cost for this project was debated, with Survey Point's estimate being around $20.5 million and City Mayor Bob Sivertsen saying the project could go as high as $40 million.

Concern was raised during public comment and by Council members Dick Coose and Dave Kiffer that the design, which calls for a 400-foot by 50-foot dock and two mooring dolphins to be placed in the direction of Thomas Basin, would put a chokehold on the harbor entrance.

In an executive session concerning the potential $3.5 million purchase of the Tabolt Inc. building south of Berth 4 off of Tongass Avenue, the council gave direction to the Amylon in moving forward. What that direction was not expanded on.

In a unanimous vote, the council directed the city staff to draft comments of concern about environmental issues and transportation problems, as well as potentially request a public hearing for the Army Corps of Engineers public comment process concerning a Ward Cove Group permit for a cruise ship dock north of Ketchikan.

The council discussed increasing the sales tax cap to $2,000, in the wake of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough approving the first reading of an ordinance raising the cap. The council agreed to postpone any decision until the next regularly scheduled meeting.

The council's next meeting is Aug. 22, to discuss the Ralph & Association city compensation plan update.

More will be written about Thursday night's meeting in a future edition of the Ketchikan Daily News.