The Ketchikan City Council’s regular meeting Thursday evening will include a recommendation by the Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center to cancel the local Halloween tradition of blocking vehicle traffic on Jackson Street to make trick-or-treating safer for families.
In a letter attached to the agenda, Ketchikan EOC Incident Commander Abner Hoage and Ketchikan Police Chief Joseph White referred to the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus during trick-or-treating events as the reason for the recommendation to cancel the police department’s involvement in the Halloween event.
“Our recommendation is to not block off Jackson Street as it would enable participation in a higher risk activity and unless directed otherwise this is how we intend to proceed,” the letter states.
Hoage and White wrote that they had consulted with Alaska Public Health and reviewed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations in the process of coming to the decision to cancel, “in order to ensure we continue to remain at Level 1 — Low Risk.”
They also included information from the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html that includes a list of the variety of holidays approaching and the considerations and recommendations offered by the CDC for celebrating safely during the pandemic.
In his memo to the City Council on the agenda item, Ketchikan City Manager Karl Amylon wrote that “unless the City Council directs otherwise, my office intends to direct Chief White not to have the Police Department participate in the Jackson Street road closure on Halloween.
The City Council also will consider a motion at Thursday’s meeting that would approve a $271,000 budget transfer from the city’s appropriated reserves of the community facilities development fund to the 2020 Public Health Department’s overnight warming center capital account.
The action in that motion was precipitated by the council’s decision in a Sept. 3 meeting to serve the local nonprofit Ketchikan Youth Initiatives a notice of violations of deed terms in order to repossess the building the city had conveyed to KYI in 2009.
The building at 632 Park Ave. had slowly been undergoing renovations by KYI over the years, but the organization had not been able to fulfill its obligation either to pay its bills for construction projects or to renovate it to a level that could sustain the youth activities stipulated in the agreement with the city.
The move to repossess the building was triggered by the urgent need of Ketchikan Homeless Services to find a location at which to re-open its Overnight Warming Center before winter weather sets in.
If the council approves the budget transfer, according to a memo written by Amylon and attached to Thursday’s meeting agenda, the motion would further authorize city staff to enter into a settlement agreement with KYI and the nonprofit Residential Youth Care. That agreement would provide $119,354 for the renovation of the Park Avenue building to serve as an overnight warming center; $76,646 for payment of outstanding KYI contractor debt; $75,000 to RYC for local youth programming activities and transfer of the building back to the city.
RYC became involved, according to a memo written by former Public Works Director and Acting Port and Harbors Director Mark Hilson, when KYI board members reached out to RYC to ask that the organization provide a representative to act as an intermediary in the repossession negotiations between the city and KYI.
One aspect of the negotiated offer that RYC representative Dustin Larna helped to set up was that RYC, if the agreement was accepted as presented, would add $25,000 to the local youth programming portion of the plan, bringing the funding available for youth programming to $100,000.
“Given the financial circumstances we are facing as a community,” Hilson wrote, “and the impact this is sure to have on youth over the next 12 to 24 months, I believe incorporating youth programming into this property conveyance has the dual benefit of helping the homeless population and helping the youth of Ketchikan. It could also help reduce the homeless population by helping to prevent youth from becoming homeless in the first place.”
Related to those issues, Hilson wrote, is a separate motion the council will consider at Thursday’s meeting to accept a $683,499 grant for First City Homeless Services from the Alaska Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Nonprofit Relief program.
Although the grant cannot be used for renovation of existing buildings, such as the Park Ave. building, Amylon wrote in a memo, the grant funds could be directed to an organization that could receive a grant for an eligible activity such as public safety employee compensation and benefits. Used in that way, funds could be freed up to be applied to homeless issues and projects that are planned by First City Homeless Services.
A third agenda item concerning the repossession of the Park Avenue building that the council is set to address at Thursday’s meeting will be whether to hold an executive session requested by City of Ketchikan Attorney Mitch Seaver to discuss the terms of conveyance.
Another agenda item requested by Seaver is a motion set before the council that would extend the city’s disaster emergency order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that was declared in March. The order was set to expire at November 1, and if approved, the extension would push the emergency order to March 1, 2021.
Approving the emergency order would allow certain provisions to be retained to improve public safety during the duration of the order, including the suspension of a requirement that council members be physically present at meetings for a quorum and the expansion of the city manager’s authority in actions that would mitigate public safety.
Other items on the City Council’s Thursday agenda include:
● An update on programs and activities of the Women In Safe Homes organization by WISH Executive Director Agnes Moran.
● The authorization of using $18,000 from the Tongass Historical Museum’s public art capital account to hire Rhonda Green of Salvage Divas to create new hand rails and an entry gate at the museum.
● Notification of the appointment of Joe Nall as the new Ketchikan Streets Division supervisor.
The City Council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, at the Ted Ferry Civic Center. A maximum of 50 attendees will be allowed and chairs will be set six feet apart. Attendees will be asked to sign in at the door, and pens will be sanitized between users. Other surfaces also will be properly sanitized. Paper masks also will be available for use by attendees, and masks will be mandatory when six feet of distancing between people is not possible.
The meeting can be viewed live via the KPU cable television service, on the City of Ketchikan YouTube channel, on the City of Ketchikan’s Facebook page and also on the City of Ketchikan website at http://www.ktn-ak.us/current-agendas-and-minutes.