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Council to talk civic center access


Daily News Staff Writer

Access to the Ted Ferry Civic Center, the potential of an additional fee for smokers who purchase cigarettes inside city limits, and a restriction on mobility devices in parts of downtown and Newtown are on the agenda for Thursday night’s Ketchikan City Council meeting.

Council Member Judy Zenge asked that the council take up the issue of providing bus and shuttle transportation between downtown and the civic center during large events. The council, at its Jan. 19 meeting, voted against providing $1,350 to fund a shuttle between the Centennial Building and civic center for the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council’s 2017 Wearable Art Show, held earlier this month at the civic center.

Zenge, in a phone interview Wednesday evening, said that she thinks it’s worth having a conversation to find ways to provide transportation between downtown and the civic center for events that might need it, and to find ways to offer and fund such a service.

“Maybe nothing wil change, but maybe there’s something else that we can do,” Zenge said. “Right now with (the museum) parking lot in such a mess, even if the (Cape Fox Lodge) tram working, I don’t know how well it would work. There’s not that many parking spaces down there.”

Zenge added that Council Member Dave Kiffer previously raised good points about the situation.

Kiffer, during the council’s Feb. 2 meeting, said that, to him, the council “suffered from a severe sense of institutional amnesia” when it voted against funding the shuttle for the Wearable Art Show.

“The City Council decided a couple decades ago plus to locate the civic center, which is our building — it’s a public building, we should provide access to it — in a location that was centrally located but not very convenient,” Kiffer said. “We also knew at the time (that) there wasn’t enough parking. ... No matter what we did, there would not be enough parking for the major events up there.”

Kiffer added during the meeting that the lack of parking isn’t as much of an issue when the Cape Fox Lodge’s funicular is running between the lodge and Creek Street, which has not been for the past several months and on previous occasions.

Cape Fox Lodge, however, is working to have the funicular running again. At least, in some situations.

Lodge General Manager Timothy Lewis, in a Feb. 3 letter to the city, wrote that the business is trying to modernize the funicular in three stages, the first of which is planned for completion this month and will allow the tram to operate under the supervision of a Cape Fox employee. The second phase is planned for completion by the end of April.

“At this time, or anytime in the future, Cape Fox will not guarantee the operation of the funicular for specific events,” Lewis wrote. “With the completion of stage one, we will be monitoring the new systems and limiting use of the funicular to guests of the lodge and restaurant patrons. The new design of the energy system limits high winds and snow use, which will cause the tram to be shut down.

“ ... With (stage two) completion, the tram will be able to be operated without a Cape Fox employee,” the letter continued. “The tram will then be open to the public. ... With the completion of phase two, the operational status of the funicular will still be based on weather and never be guaranteed by Cape Fox.”

Lewis’ letter also noted the lodge’s monetary commitment to the project.

“With the lack of financial support from the City Council to modernize the funicular, we chose to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars of our own funds into this project because we realized the community benefits from this, as well as (benefits for) our Lodge,” Lewis wrote. “Our intentions are to keep the tram operational as often as we can without having to increase or add fares for patrons.”

Tobacco excise tax

The council also is scheduled to discuss the possibility of implementing a tobacco excise tax of $1 per pack of cigarettes sold within city limits. Council Member Janalee Gage asked in December that the council discuss the issue at a future meeting.

Voters in the October local election approved a $2 per pack tax — which also included a 50 percent wholesale tax on all other tobacco products and electronic cigarettes — for all such products sold within the City of Ketchikan and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.

If the city were to move forward with an additional excise tax, the tax would apply only to products sold inside the city, which might result in the city taking in reduced sales tax receipts due to tobacco users buying products in the borough, according to a memo from City Manager Karl Amylon.

No segue into Segway tours?

Also on the council’s agenda is the first reading of an ordinance that would add a chapter to the Ketchikan Municipal Code prohibiting electric personal assisted mobility devices — Segways — in the same areas where the city prohibits barking and hawking from vendors.

The ordinance is proposed “in anticipation of private companies seeking to initiate Segway tours within the downtown (core),” according to a memo from Amylon to the mayor and council.

“Given the excessive amount of pedestrian and vehicular congestion that exists downtown during the cruise ship season, it is staff’s belief that the use of such devices is incompatible with what are already overly strained traffic corridors,” the memo continued.

The proposed ordinance defines the devices, in part, as “a self-balancing device with two wheels not in tandem, designed to transport only one person by an electric propulsion system having a maximum speed on a paved level surface of less than twenty miles per hour.”

Restricted areas would include Hopkins Alley, Schoenbar Court, the 1000 block of Kennedy Street, Creek Street, Spruce Mill Way, the Port of Ketchikan’s waterfront promenade, and parts of Water, Main, Front, Bawden, Dock, Mission, Mill, Stedman and Thomas streets.

The proposed ordinance would not restrict electric or motorized wheelchairs and power chairs.

The Ketchikan City Council meets at 7 p.m. Thursday in City Hall. There will be time for public comment at the start of the meeting.