The Ketchikan City Council flew through a short meeting agenda Thursday, completing all regular business in about 40 minutes before going into the first of two executive sessions.
The Council unanimously approved three measures related to the city’s water treatment system with little discussion.
The $1.65 million chlorination facility should be done and ready to operate within a year. The facility is expected to help reduce the levels of regulated byproducts formed when organic material comes in contact with chlorine.
Most of the funding will come from a low-interest loan the city received in 2007 from the state. That loan was for the new chloramine water treatment system, which was supposed to fix the byproducts problem. But that system didn’t reduce the levels to a low enough threshold.
Thursday’s three motions awarded the contract to put up the building, a separate contract to construct the overall facility, and a motion to transfer funds to Ketchikan Public Utilities Water Division.
Also Thursday, the Council voted to move forward with a proposed tobacco tax, as recommended by the Borough-City Cooperative Relations Council. That advisory group wants the city and borough to work together to create an areawide tobacco tax of $3 per pack. A comparable tax would be charged on other kinds of tobacco and on e-cigarettes.
Council Member KJ Harris voted against the motion. He said the idea rubs him the wrong way, especially the inclusion of e-cigarettes, which can be used to help people quit tobacco.
“I have a problem with the poor smokers, who are all addicted to cigarettes, and not we’re going to charge them another $3 for their addictive product, we’re going to charge them more for a cessation device; and it’s all coming back on the parents, because we know the damn kids steal the cigarettes from mom and dad, so it’s just another $3 tax on mom and dad,” he said.
The motion passed 4-1. Council Members DeAnn Karlson and Dave Kiffer were absent.
The Borough Assembly voted Monday against a similar motion. However, the proposed tobacco tax likely will return to the Assembly for reconsideration. It is possible for the City of Ketchikan to impose a tobacco tax within city limits, but the current proposal calls for an areawide tax.
Also Thursday, the Council agreed to leave Council Member Matt Olsen’s seat vacant after he moves away in August, rather than appoint a temporary member. An appointee would have served only three meetings at most before the regular Oct. 6 election.
The Council took no action following each of the two executive sessions. The first was to discuss contract negotiations with the Public Safety Employees Association. The second was to discuss legal and financial issues related to the city’s attempt to sell KPU Telecommunications Division.
The next Ketchikan City Council meeting is a special budget work session, scheduled for 7 p.m. next Thursday, June 25.