Near the start of its regular meeting on Thursday, the Ketchikan City Council held an executive session to review information and dialogue with Cruise Lines International Association of Alaska concerning Port of Ketchikan issues, then moved on to approve an amendment to an ordinance in the municipal code regarding the City of Ketchikan's vehicle port access pass program.
During its meeting of Feb. 16, the Council approved an amendment to an ordinance in the municipal code regarding the vehicle port access pass program.
The amendment changed the annual pass period from May 1 through Sept. 30 to April 15 through Oct. 31, and specified that there would be no charges for passes in April and October. It included updated wording to ensure applicants are compliant with the Port Security Plan, and added a new section to the ordinance that outlines an administrative hearing process for appeals in regard to the revocation or suspension of vehicle port access passes.
Council Member Abby Bradberry during the Feb. 16 meeting proposed another amendment to the original motion. Her amendment, which was unanimously approved, set a daily rate for April and October, when cruise ship visits are low in frequency.
Bradberry said during Thursday's meeting that although the shoulder seasons may be very low on ship visits to the Port of Ketchikan now, the city should have mechanisms in place now for the future.
“I think it’s vital that we set that expectation of this port access pass and move forward for the future years,” Bradberry said.
Ketchikan City Attorney Mitch Seaver and Ketchikan City Manager Delilah Walsh both emphasized that during the shoulder-season months, when there are only a few ship visits to the port, there are no port security personnel to enforce pass compliance, making a daily rate pass system difficult.
Walsh said that the easiest option currently would be to have no pass fees in the months of April and October due to the low number of ship visits and low port security staffing.
Bradberry emphasized that although that is true now, it would be best to have a paid port access pass system in place now to ensure that in the future there is a working system. The procedure to bring that topic to the Council is so slow that it isn’t the best idea to wait until it becomes an urgent issue, she noted.
The amended port vehicle pass motion was approved, with Council members Jack Finnegan and Riley Gass voting no. A motion to add a new sentence that addresses the suspension of a pass that would extend beyond the term of the pass was unanimously approved.
The Council next discussed a motion to levy a year-round 3.0% long-term rental sales tax on the first $1,000 of monthly rent rather than raising the tax to the 5.5% rate on April 1 of each year as is planned for other sales taxes.
The first reading of that ordinance was unanimously approved by the Council in the meeting of Feb. 16, following the Council's decision in August to implement a seasonal sales tax. The seasonal rate implemented a 5.5% tax rate from April 1 through Sept. 30, paired with a 3.0% tax rate in the winter.
During its second reading at Thursday’s meeting, the motion to keep the residential sales tax rate flat at a 3.0% rate year-round was approved, with only Council Member Mahtani voting no.
A question-and-answer session is planned to help community members to understand the new seasonal sales tax. It is set for 6 p.m to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the City Council chambers located at City Hall at 334 Front St.
Another ordinance approved during Thursday’s meeting in its second reading addressed off-premises commercial solicitation within private streets and sidewalks open to the public that are located in the commercial solicitation restriction district.
In a memo, City Attorney Seaver noted that the area of concern was the Salmon Landing street and sidewalks area. Walsh noted during that meeting that Ketchikan Police Department officers plan to use their overtime budget to allow undercover officers to work the area to enforce the code.
Council Member Riley Gass said that he was uncomfortable with regulating people’s actions on private property.
Council Member Lallette Kistler said that although she agrees, visitors see those areas as public walkways, and when they are approached on the walkways by representatives of businesses in those areas, it can reflect negatively on the city. Council Member Mahtani said he agreed, and as an owner of a business in that area, he has seen many bad actors.
Council Member Abby Bradberry also agreed, saying “What kind of community do we want to showcase?”
Bradberry added that the ordinance is in the community’s best interest.
Ketchikan Vice Mayor Mark Flora said he agreed with Gass’ statement, but he also has seen business representatives invading public areas in negative ways. Council Member Janalee Gage also agreed, saying that she has been harassed in that area.
The motion was approved, with Gass voting no.
The meeting was ongoing at deadline, and a followup article is planned for a future edition of the Daily News.