The Ketchikan City Council, in its regular meeting Thursday, passed a 1.5% raise in electric utility rates and a 5% raise in water utility rates.
The electric raise was approved by a 4-3 vote, with council members Riley Gass, Abby Bradberry and Sam Bergeron voting against the raise.
Council Member Janalaee Gage said that the raises were inevitable and council members would only be pushing it “down the hill” every year if it wasn’t approved.
The 5% raise in water rates was passed 5-2, with Bergeron and Bradberry voting against the motion.
The council also unanimously approved a resolution to send a letter to the Alaska Congressional Delegation and Gov. Mike Dunleavy to ask them to urge the federal government to issue a temporary waiver to the federal Passenger Vessel Services Act, which could allow the Alaska cruise industry to resume operations in 2021.
A major barrier in the ability of ships to sail from the Lower 48 to Alaska is the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886, which requires foreign-flagged ships carrying passengers to stop at a foreign port when traveling between two U.S. ports. Most cruise ships are registered in foreign countries.
The Saxman City Council approved the resolution in its Feb. 9 meeting, and has been signed by Saxman City Mayor Frank Seludo, according to the Borough clerk’s office. The Borough Assembly approved the resolution at its Tuesday meeting.
In addition to the request addressing the PVSA, the resolution also asks that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issue “technical guidance” to allow the cruise lines to resume operations in the coming months.
There also was a presentation by representatives from the Ketchikan Shipyard/Vigor Industrial.
Vigor Industrial Government Relations Manager Jill Mackie said that Vigor has spent about $4.5 million on training since the beginning of their purchase of Alaska Ship and Drydock, the former operator of the state-owned shipyard, and Vigor continues to spend annually on the workforce.
“So we continue to invest annually, locally in our local workforce,” Mackie said.
Bergan Wieler, general manager of the Ketchikan Shipyard, said that more than 90 people are employed at the shipyard currently.
He said that even throughout the pandemic, “we were able to provide full paychecks and full-time employment to every employee who was working there.”
Also Thursday, the City Council held an executive session to discuss the status of negotiations between the City of Ketchikan and PeaceHealth for a new Ketchikan Medical Center lease and operating agreement during Thursday’s meeting.
The remainder of the meeting continued past the Ketchikan Daily News' press time, and will be covered in an upcoming edition of the newspaper.