The Ketchikan City Council has a couple of items on its Thursday meeting agenda that aim to seek ways to ease the financial strain on the city’s budget brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of those items asks council members to consider approving a motion to spend $5,000 to retain the services of Rain Coast Data to prepare a document to elucidate the financial losses that the city has realized with the lack of a 2020 cruise ship season.
In a memo attached to Thursday’s meeting agenda written by Assistant City Manager Lacey Simpson, she wrote that the City of Ketchikan will receive $1.7 million in federal relief funds. She added that those funds “are certainly appreciated but do not begin to address the financial needs of the city.”
In a memo written by City Manager Karl Amylon, attached to the March 18 Council meeting agenda, he stated that the State of Alaska is expected to receive $1.02 billion in relief funds from the federal government, but that “it is unclear whether Governor Dunleavy intends to distribute any of these financial resources to municipalities to address the effects of the pandemic at the local level.”
Simpson’s memo added that “after consultation with state officials, additional information on Ketchikan’s unique losses as a port community will be necessary.”
Hiring Rain Coast Data to compile that additional information would help the city to “make a compelling argument” to state officials that Ketchikan needs additional financial relief from the state.
In a second agenda item addressing the city’s need for relief funds, is a planned discussion regarding whether to retain the city’s former federal lobbyist Steve Silver for a price of $4,500 per month in order to help the city secure funds for city projects through the newly revitalized congressional earmarks program.
In a memo attached to Thursday’s meeting agenda, Amylon wrote that “it appears there will be multiple funding opportunities above and beyond” the $1.7 million in federal money already set aside for the City of Ketchikan.
In the same memo, City Finance Director Michelle Johansen listed several ways that the federal funds could be used by municipalities, if secured.
Funding gaps could be filled, and money also could be distributed to the community. Those funds also could be used for water, sewer and broadband projects, as well as transportation systems and other infrastructure, she wrote. The intent of the federal American Rescue Act package is to allow investment in the tourism, travel and hospitality sectors, she added.
Libraries, museums and other cultural organizations, as well as struggling restaurants and shuttered businesses, could be eligible for financial support through the package. Funding also is available for housing assistance.
Specifically addressing earmark projects, Johansen wrote that the city would need to contact the Alaska congressional delegation to submit a list of projects that need funding as soon as possible, so the delegates can prioritize their earmarks before the congressional deadline of April 30.
Also in Thursday’s agenda packet is an item submitted by Johansen outlining the city’s sales tax collections.
“Collections to date are $92,299 more than projected for 2021,” she wrote.
She added that the city also collected $544,875 more than it did in February 2020. The year-to-date collections however, are slightly lower than the year-to-date 2020 collections by 1.38%.
Other items on Thursday’s City Council meeting are:
● A motion to approve an ordinance that would amend and add provisions to the Ketchikan Municipal Code of Ethics.
● Approval for the Ketchikan Historic Commission to apply for two grants from the Alaska Office of History and Archaeology’s State Historic Preservation office. One would fund a historic preservation plan draft and the other would fund historical interpretive signage.
● A notice that the Berth 3 restrooms downtown will be re-opened for public use on April 12, with staff support from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., until October.
● Notice that any current dock vendor may open in 2021 on Berth 1 without charge, while keeping all other terms of an existing lease. City staff also plan to re-negotiate terms with vendors should cruise ships return in 2021 and to extend lease terms to 2022 in the case of no cruise season in this year.
● A motion to consider entering into an executive session to discuss a new collective bargaining agreement between Ketchikan Public Utilities and the IBEW.
The City Council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday and will be conducted via WebEx videoconference.
The meeting can be viewed live via the KPU cable television service, on the City of Ketchikan’s Facebook page or YouTube channel as well as on the City of Ketchikan website at http://www.ktn-ak.us/current-agendas-and-minutes.
Individuals who would like to provide public comment telephonically during the meeting should contact the Ketchikan city clerk’s office by phone at 228-5658 by 4 p.m. Thursday. There is a three-minute limit on telephonic comments.
Individuals interested in providing written comments can do so via email, sent to email@example.com by 4 p.m. Thursday. Written comments will not be read at the meeting but will be “put on the table” for the City Council members.