The Ketchikan City Council in a regular meeting Thursday is set to again consider Port of Ketchikan vehicle passes, exempting residential rentals from the seasonal sales tax hike, and a change to off-premises solicitation downtown. There are public hearings scheduled at the start of the meeting on all three topics, as well as a fourth public hearing concerning a right-of-way easement to the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.
Under new business, the Council is expected to consider approving a $25,000 contribution to the Alaska Trollers Association legal defense fund to follow up on a resolution that the Council passed in its meeting of Feb. 16. That resolution opposes a lawsuit filed by the Washington-state-based Wild Fish Conservancy that seeks to close the Southeast Alaska Chinook salmon fishery.
The meeting agenda also includes a discussion concerning the $24,696 in Community Grant Program funds that was left over after the Council approved 14 grants that totaled $335,304 of the $360,000 originally earmarked for that program.
A third item of new business set to be considered at Thursday's meeting, would, if approved, exempt the purchase of Zoll brand heart monitors and defibrillators for the Ketchikan Fire Department. The motion specifies that the cost not exceed $210,197.14.
In a memo to the Council, KFD Chief Rick Hines explains that purchasing another brand of Advanced Life Support monitors would be costly and would not allow for the interchanging of accessory equipment such as blood pressure cuffs, defibrillator pads, batteries and numerous cables.
Two potential executive sessions also are on Thursday's meeting agenda — one to evaluate the city's attorney and one to review information and dialogue with Cruise Lines International Association of Alaska concerning Port of Ketchikan issues.
Port vehicle passes
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 includes updated wording to ensure that applicants are compliant with the Port Security Plan.
There also is a new section added to the ordinance that outlines an administrative hearing process for appeals in regard to the revocation or suspension of vehicle port access passes.
The amendment will be in its second reading at Thursday's meeting.
Council Member Abby Bradberry during the Feb. 16 meeting proposed an amendment to the motion, which originally specified that there would be no charges for passes in April and October. Her amendment, which was unanimously approved, set a daily rate for April and October, when cruise ship visits are low in frequency.
In a memo attached to Thursday's meeting agenda, Assistant City Manager Lacey Simpson noted that charging a daily rate "is not feasible and enforcement would be difficult during the shoulder season."
In a memo, Ketchikan City Attorney Mitch Seaver instead proposes that, due to low ship numbers in the shoulder season, the monthly fees enacted for May through September also be applicable to the April and October passes on a pro-rated basis.
There are three proposed motions on the topic for Council members to consider: To approve the ordinance as it was amended; to approve it as it was first introduced in the Feb. 16 meeting, with zero pass charges in April and October; or to approve the ordinance with a new sentence added that addresses the suspension of a pass that would extend beyond the term of the pass.
Rental sales tax
A motion to levy a year-round 3.0% long-term rental sales tax on the first $1,000 of monthly rent 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 set a 5.5% tax rate from April 1 through Sept. 30, paired with a 3.0% tax rate in the winter.
If approved in its second reading, the rental tax would not change on April 1 as is planned for all other city sales tax.
In a memo written by City Finance Director Michelle Johansen, she noted that, if the motion was approved, the city would forego about $157,000 in revenue in 2023 and then about $187,000 in the next year.
She also advised that the Council might need to consider changing the effective date to July 1 or Oct. 1 to align with the beginning of the sales tax quarter.
During the Council meeting of Feb. 16, Council members approved an ordinance amending city code that would allow the city to regulate 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, Ketchikan City Attorney Mitch Seaver noted that the area of concern was the Salmon Landing Street and sidewalks area. Ketchikan City Manager Delilah 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.
The ordinance will be in its second reading at Thursday's meeting.
Alaska DOT easement
In a memo attached to Thursday's meeting agenda, Public Works Director Mark Hilson explained that there are easements that Alaska DOT needs to secure in order to improve portions of Tongass Avenue between the Hoadley Creek Bridge and the Tongass Avenue Viaduct.
Hilson noted that of the nine permanent right-of-way easements for the project, one is required to be conveyed via an ordinance due to its appraised value of $39,550. The City Charter requires disposition of property by ordinance when it is appraised at a value in excess of $30,000.
Funding support for the Alaska Trollers Association
According to information online at wildfishconservancy.org, a legal complaint was filed by the nonprofit organization in March, 2020 alleging that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is in violation of the Endangered Species Act "for failing to protect southern resident killer whales and wild Chinook. The lawsuit alleges the federal agency's authorization of the Southeast Alaska Chinook troll fishery contributes to the extinction of the endangered population of killer whales found in Puget Sound and much of the U.S. Pacific Coast and of wild Chinook."
During the Feb. 16 Council meeting, a resolution to oppose the lawsuit was unanimously approved. Council Member Jai Mahtani made an amendment to direct City staff to secure funding to supply $25,000 to support the effort to fight the suit, which also was unanimously approved by the Council.
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly also recently passed a similar resolution, as have other Southeast Alaska communities, according to a memo written by Walsh.
The City Council meeting is scheduled to be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, at the Council Chambers, located in City Hall at 334 Front St. There is time allotted at the start of the meeting for public comment.
The meeting can be viewed live via the KPU cable television service, on the City of Ketchikan YouTube channel and also on the City of Ketchikan's website at www.ktn-ak.us/current-agendas-and-minutes.