The Ketchikan City Council tackled five executive sessions Thursday evening — three in a special meeting held in advance of the regular meeting, and two in the latter part of the regular meeting. Both were held virtually.
The executive sessions in the special meeting were planned to discuss strategies for negotiations between the City and the IBEW Local 1547, as well as to review and discuss the KPU Telecommunications Division’s business plan for new broadband and internet offerings.
One executive session in the regular meeting was set to discuss the status of negotiations for an updated lease and operating agreement with PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center. Representative from ECG Management Consultants were to give a presentation during that session.
The second executive season was set to discuss Layton Dawson Joint Venture Constructors’ performance of its contractual obligations for the PeaceHealth Medical Center project.
Council Members, speaking of the high number of executive sessions scheduled in one night, sounded disgruntled. Just before the vote on whether to enter into the fifth session at about 10:30 p.m., Council Member Dave Kiffer voiced his reluctance to vote for entering yet another that night.
He said that two of the sessions were time-sensitive discussions, but one of the sessions was set only because staff didn’t want to make “what was a very obvious decision.”
Another session wasn’t time sensitive at all, he added, imploring staff to “please don’t do it again.”
He explained: “We don’t make good decisions, we don’t make good policy, we don’t do good government when we have four or five executive sessions in a meeting.”
Council Member Janelee Gage, citing her need to get up early for work the next day, asked that staff “be considerate” of council members’ time so they could do their best work.
Council Member Judy Zenge agreed, as did Council Member Sam Bergeron and Council Member Mark Flora.
Also at Thursday’s regular meeting, the council approved the motion to accept the 60% design for the Berth 3 new mooring dolphin and bollards as part of its consent calendar.
Berth 3, as it is now, is deemed inadequate for the larger-class cruise ships that moor at the port.
In March the Council approved a contract with PND Engineers of Seattle to begin the initial schematic design work and permit submissions for the project. In May, the the council approved an amendment that allotted $110,000 to enlist PND to take the design to 100% completion.
The projected total cost of the project, Ketchikan City Manager Amylon said, would be about $5 million, with a target completion date of April 2023. That cost likely would necessitate a bond proposition in fall, 2021.
A motion to spend $10,000 on a remote workers recruitment campaign that was presented to the council in its Nov. 5 meeting by Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Michelle O’Brien was approved in a 5-1 vote at the meeting. Council Member Riley Gass voted against the motion and Council Member Abby Bradberry abstained, citing a conflict of interest because she has been chosen as a Chamber of Commerce board member.
In the motion, it is stated that the $10,000 expenditure will be contingent upon a matching payment from the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.
O’Brien presented the program as a way to boost the local economy by luring city denizens from other states to work remotely in Ketchikan.
She floated the idea for the city to spend the funds to support a marketing campaign and website to attract workers from high-priced urban areas that would be attracted to the Ketchikan’s attributes of safety, natural beauty, arts, culture and relatively modest cost of living.
Gage said she would like locals to be a focus of the campaign as well, so they also could have the opportunities presented.
Council Member Gass said he would not support the program ahead of the budgeting process, which will start at a meeting Monday evening and end in December.
He said his reluctance came from the fact that the city is very tight on money this year and he also has heard from locals that are concerned that the program would be focusing on the big cities O’Brien mentioned in her presentation.
Flora explained the way he saw the expenditure.
“Given the state of the economy and the need to diversify, we’re looking at a $99 million general government budget,” he said. “This is $10,000. I think we should approve this, I think we should get the ball rolling and get this plan in action.”
Zenge said “the chamber has put a lot of effort into this. I welcome this. It’s good for us to look outside the box and see what’s out there. We’ve done things the same way forever, this is something new and I’m excited about it. I think that this has some potential.”
Another discussion that council members had during the meeting was brought forward by Gage, addressing the question of whether city council members should sit in on upcoming negotiations in collective bargaining agreements.
Gage said that the City of Wrangell has been putting council members in such negotiations, and thought it would be good to consider it in Ketchikan.
She explained that the goal would be to have “a little more understanding of what our (city negotiators) are going through.”
Zenge wanted more information before deciding if she supported the idea, possibly consulting with Wrangell participants to learn more about it.
“I know for sure that I’m not OK with being part of the negotiation committee,” she said. “I personally don’t think we have any business doing that.”
“I think managers manage and policy makers make policy,” he said.
The discussion was tabled as members moved onto the next agenda item.
During council member comments, just before the last executive session was held, Gage and Gass congratulated local Native leader and artist Delores Churchill, who was honored at the meeting’s start for her contributions to the “community and the world.”
City of Ketchikan Mayor Bob Sivertsen read a proclamation outlining her accomplishments that led to setting “October 23, 2020 as Dr. Delores Ilskyalas Churchill Day.”
Gass and Amylon also had words of congratulations and thanks for City of Ketchikan Finance Director Bob Newell, who will retire at the end of the month.
Amylon said, “his work has just been exemplary over the years and I just appreciate having had the opportunity to work with him, and this community is a much better place for him being part of city government and being the finance director.”