The Ketchikan City Council will meet Thursday for its regularly scheduled meeting, and is expected to confirm the mayor’s emergency declaration in response to the new coronavirus, and discuss the shuttle of cruise ship passengers from Ward Cove to downtown Ketchikan.
Additionally, an executive session is scheduled to discuss further direction on three proposals from port holding companies to run the day-to-day operations of the downtown cruise ship docks.
This is the first City Council meeting following statewide health mandates closing food and beverage establishments to dine-in customers, closures to entertainment facilities like theaters and bowling alleys, and the release of Centers for Disease Control guidelines for social distancing. Those social-distancing guidelines include staying six feet apart from other people and not meeting in groups larger than 10.
It is also the first meeting since the city and Ketchikan Gateway Borough announced closures to the Gateway Recreation Center, and the Ketchikan Public Library and city museums, as well as the closure of borough and city administration buildings to the public.
Taylor Lee, City of Ketchikan’s deputy clerk, said council members were planning to attend Thursday’s meeting in person and, that while residents are encouraged to participate online and submit their comments via email to the city, people could still attend in person.
Patti Mackey, the CEO and President of the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau, wrote a letter on behalf of KVB members and board members, urging Alaska’s congressional delegation to save Alaska’s cruise ship season by helping to secure a waiver for the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886. The federal law could potentially lead to the delay of the Alaska cruise ships season until July 1 because of the Canadian government’s March 13 decision to close its ports.
The letter details potential financial impacts that cruise ship cancellations will have to Ketchikan and the rest of Alaska, including dips in seasonal hires.
More than 200 port calls, or 35% of the cruise season, could be affected, leaving a hole of $66 million in visitor spending in Ketchikan alone, according to the letter.
The council will take up the letter for discussion, and potential action is expected to be decided on it Thursday. Also slated for discussion by the council is the effects of the suspension of cruise ship sailings will have on the Port of Ketchikan.
The City of Ketchikan and the Ward Cove Dock Group have been negotiating the transportation of cruise ship passengers from Ward Cove to downtown Ketchikan since this past summer.
So far both entities have agreed on ground transportation staging area — a segment of the front street extension — and a $2 per-passenger fee. However, who that passenger fee should apply to is still being argued.
The Ward Cove Dock Group wants the fee to apply to passengers that depart the company’s Ward Cove facilities on a designated shuttle bus for downtown, according to a city memo from Port and Harbors Director Steve Corporon, giving the current status of negotiations.
However, the city says this doesn't’ account for all the passengers who ended up downtown after taking other means of transportation out of Ward Cove, be it a tour or otherwise, and would be transported back on these shuttles to Ward Cove.
The city proposes that the $2 per-passenger fee should be based on the cruise ship passenger manifest, and also cites the need to be able to replace the cost of potential infrastructure changes to accommodate space and staging for two full-sized buses.
Elsewhere on the agenda, the council is expected to confront rising waste disposal costs, which could result in an increase in solid waste disposal charges for residents.
The Regional Disposal Company has raised its rates. City staff is estimating additional costs of $147,000 through 2020, or an annual increase of $300,000, not including annual price and fuel cost escalators.
RDC’s price per ton of solid waste is proposed to go up nearly 8%, and the price per ton of recycled materials is proposed to increase by 130%, according to a city memo from Public Works Director Mark Hilson and Solid Waste Supervisor Lenny Neeley.
Also on the agenda Thursday night, the City Council will consider:
• Accepting the low bid from BAM LLC in the amount of $213,521, including a 10% contingency, for construction of a Creek Street viewing platform
• Accepting the sole bid from Secon Inc. in the amount of $99,240, including a 10% contingency for the Bawden Street/Spruce Mill Way pavement repair project
• Accepting the middle bid from Westpark Electric Ltd. in the amount of $9,392,000, including a 10% contingency for the construction of a subsea fiber cable to Prince Rupert, British Columbia.
The City Council meeting is scheduled to start at the City Council chambers at 334 Front St. There is time for public comment at the start of the meeting. The public is encouraged we encourage the public to access the live feed of themeeting via KPU, GCI, or online on the City of Ketchikan website. Citizens can submit questions or comments to be read aloud during the meeting to firstname.lastname@example.org.