Local News

Assembly moves forward with airport fee hikes

AirportFerryThe Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly introduced an ordinance Monday to increase various airport fees, including the cost of riding the ferry. If it’s approved in a second reading, the cost for someone to take the ferry will go from $5 to $6.

A long list of airport fees includes a lot of small increases. The monthly rate for floatplane stalls, for example, would go from $61 to $73; parking fees on the Gravina side would charge motorcycles and scooters the same rate as passenger cars; and landing fees for airplanes would go up.

None of those items were debated. But the ferry fees for passengers caused a little bit of angst. Here’s Assembly Member Agnes Moran: “I just took my handicapped sister, my 91-year-old mother, my son, my sister who was accompanying them, and I had to take an automobile because I had two wheelchairs. I can afford to do that, but there are other folks in this community that, that would be a real stretch.”

Moran made a motion to remove the ferry passenger fee increases from the proposed ordinance. That amendment initially passed 4-3, but then Assembly Member Mike Painter moved for immediate reconsideration. The amendment then failed.

The main motion passed in a 5-2 vote, with Moran and Alan Bailey voting no.

The reason behind all the increases is that the Ketchikan International Airport is operating at a deficit, and has been for many years. Airport Manager Mike Carney said the fee hikes will narrow that gap.

“All this is, is just a clear outlook for the body to see how we could increase the fees, how we could be better self-sustaining. We’re not going to get to it totally in this,” he said.

So how could the borough totally close the gap?

“If you wanted to erase the deficit at the airport, you would just take the fees that I increased, and double it,” Carney explained.

There also was talk of trying to get the state to help subsidize more airport operations.

The Assembly also had a long discussion of the borough’s prioritized list of capital projects to submit to the governor for funding consideration. The community’s government entities have in the past worked together on the lists, but last year that process fell apart when the borough and the cities of Ketchikan and Saxman disagreed.

The bodies ended up sending separate lists. With that in mind, the motion in front of the Assembly Monday was a borough-only list.

But Assembly Member Glen Thompson wanted to give cooperation another try. He proposed an amendment to allow other government agencies to submit suggestions for the list, and then have that list come back for Assembly review, and that amendment passed.

Thompson said he’d like to take it even further.

“I really think it would behoove us, and I know it’s a messy, pickle-making, nasty business, but we need to re-form that legislative executive lobbying committee, and put our list together the way we did last year,” he said. “It’s painful, but we need to do it. All three communities need to be represented.”

Assembly Member Bill Rotecki agreed. He said the legislators in Juneau see Ketchikan as one entity, not three governments. And sending separate lists also sends a mixed message.

The Assembly on Monday also voted to change the regular meeting agenda, but with a slight adjustment to the original motion. The suggestion to put presentations in front of public comment generated some public comment in opposition.

So, citizen remarks will continue to be heard where they traditionally have been – third from the top. Scheduled informational reports and presentations will follow, then public hearings.

In other business, the Assembly gave four-hands direction to start phasing in changes to the borough’s animal protection code, as recommended by a task force; and to move forward with an ordinance to provide up to $200,000 for the city’s Hole-In-The-Wall Harbor reconstruction project.

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