fire hallThe Ketchikan City Council voted unanimously Thursday to reject a proposal that would have conveyed the old Main Street fire station to the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council for use as an artist residency program.

Council Member Judy Zenge said she likes the idea of an artist residency program, but she believes the building has value that the city shouldn’t give away.

“Right now, with our state budget the way it is, I just don’t think giving away our assets is a good idea,” she said. “If anything, we should be selling that property.”

The Council did, however, agree to work with the City of Saxman and the Arts Council to allow the ground floor garage space to be used by carvers, who will need a space this winter while the Saxman carving shed is expanded.

Arts Council Executive Director Kathleen Light told the Council that her organization is willing to help facilitate moving the Saxman carvers into the building for the winter.

“It would behoove the entire community to allow the carvers to go in there, if nothing else. Let them continue their work,” she said. “They’re in the middle of contracts for the City of Ketchikan, for the City of Saxman. It would benefit everyone to allow them to continue working. Plus, it would allow you to see what it’s like to have that caliber of artist in our downtown area, and what it does for us. It’s an extraordinary opportunity for everyone in Ketchikan.”

The Main Street fire station has been unoccupied since 2011, when the fire department moved into its new building. The old building is now used for storage.

Also Thursday, the Council agreed to move forward with a revision to Phase 2 of the hospital expansion plan. City Manager Karl Amylon explained that the estimated cost of Phase 2 has increased from about $23 million to nearly $30 million, and the likelihood of obtaining state grants to help pay for the project is extremely low.

Because of that, Amylon said, city officials met with representatives of PeaceHealth, which operates the city’s hospital, and came up with “Phase 2 Light.”

“So, take components and elements from Phase 2, and incorporated into this Phase 2 Light transition project that we’ve identified here and move on, and then when things turn around and the timing is right, there probably will have to be a Phase 3 project at some point,” he said.

Amylon said the extent of the Phase 2 Light project depends on whether Phase 1 remains within the approximately $45 million budget. He said they’re counting pennies to make it happen, but it’s going to be tight.

The next Ketchikan City Council meeting is Sept. 3.