Lengthy public comment over a tidelands lease kicked off Thursday’s Ketchikan City Council meeting. The Council eventually voted unanimously to approve the $6,000-per-year lease with Olson Marine.
One of Olson Marine’s neighbors has long objected to operations at the barge company’s North Tongass business. The Church family owns several lots in the area, including a bed-and-breakfast and the car wash. Nicole Church said loading and offloading activity is disruptive, and that trucks kick up dirt as they drive up and down the road.
“If they could at least be limited in certain ways, it would help us continue to stay in our home and run our bed and breakfast,” she said.
Some of her suggested restrictions were limiting the hours of operation, and requiring that the Olsons pave the road. Church said she believes that continued operations without restrictions will hurt her business and property values.
Other neighbors disagreed. Monty Guymon lives right next door to Olson Marine, and said he’s never had any problem with the barge company.
“It hasn’t bothered me, and I’m right next door to them for Christ’s sake,” he said. “What are they complaining about? They’re way the hell down the road from me.”
Guymon added that noise from the Churches’ car wash, however, has woken him up.
Ron Porter is another property owner in the area, and said there is no basis to the Churches’ complaints.
“I’m here to tell you you’ve heard a fairy tale, and that’s exactly what it is,” he said.
The Olson’s attorney, Clay Keene, spoke at length refuting the Churches’ comments, and then the Olsons spoke, too.
Wendy Olson said, “It’s hard to listen to Nicole talk about my company and speak of facts she doesn’t know about. She withheld a word, rusty, today, but in her written documents she refers to our barges as rusty barges, and that’s like calling my children ugly.”
Rick Olson noted that a marine business lives by tides and currents, and can’t succeed if restricted to a time frame. They don’t want to work at night, and he said they try not to, but sometimes it can’t be helped.
He said they’ve been operating for two years already.
“We are what Ketchikan should want, I would think,” he said. “We’ve proven ourselves. Let’s just get this thing going. A tidelands lease, we know that’s a good thing. Putting a time limit on me? That’s not a good thing.”
The Council did not add any restrictions when approving the lease.
Also on Thursday, the City Council approved in first reading a motion to increase harbor rates by 7 percent. The issue will come back to the Council for a second reading.
The Council also approved an agreement to allow the Ketchikan Gateway Borough to build a public restroom at Thomas Basin next to the Salvation Army building. The city will assume responsibility for utilities and janitorial services, but the borough will own and maintain the facility.
Following an executive session, the Council also approved two motions that will allow Ketchikan Public Utilities to move forward with plans to build a 4G network.
Upcoming city meetings include two community agency grant funding meetings, Jan. 31 and Feb. 5, both at 4:30 p.m. The next regular City Council meeting is 7 p.m. Feb. 7.