fire hallThe Ketchikan City Council moved quickly through its meeting Thursday night, transferring most items to the consent agenda with little discussion. Items generating some discussion included the old downtown fire station and problems with hawking from downtown vendors.

The Council approved a list of FY2017 Community of Ketchikan Capital Project priorities Thursday night. The list of six projects total approximately $25 million dollars. They are:

  • Airport Infrastructure and Safety Improvements
  • Front and Stedman Street Reconstruction
  • Saxman Harbor Phase I Construction
  • Replacement of the Houghtaling Elementary School roof
  • Security Upgrades to the schools
  • and the South Tongass Sewer Extension

The priority list was developed by the Borough Lobbying Executive Committee made up of representatives from the City and Borough of Ketchikan and the City of Saxman. All governmental bodies must approve the list before it is forwarded to the Governor’s office for consideration.

The council also approved a request by staff to sell surplus items currently stored in the old downtown fire station. Items include furniture, copiers, printers and miscellaneous tools.

The Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council expressed interest in using the building to house an artist in residency program. The City Council rejected that proposal at its August 20th meeting, but did agree to work with the City of Saxman and the Arts Council to allow the ground floor garage space to be used by carvers. The Saxman carving shed is being expanded this winter and will be unavailable for use.

Councilmember Dave Kiffer requested that the fate of the old fire station be discussed Thursday night. He says, in part, because of the Arts Council’s request, but also because of concerns and comments he’s heard from the community.

“I’ve been listening for several years to people saying ‘What are you going to do with that property?’ And in somewhat, I hate to say, typical local government fashion, we’re just going to sit on it until it either collapses or something happens or we’re forced to do something. I’d really like to see us start the process of deciding. Do we want to sell it? Do we want to surplus it? What do we want to do with it? What do we really plan for it?”

Kiffer says three main options have been proposed – to sell the building, convert the facility into a biomass heating plant or  to continue using the building for storage. He did not have a specific proposal, and asked councilmembers for their opinions.

Councilmember Dick Coose agrees that something needs to be done about the building, but has some concerns about costs.

“If we don’t use it for storage and we have to go rent it, what’s the value of that property to us as it is? It’s got a value. We’re going to pay somebody to rent that storage. And the inconvenience of having to go out of town or somewhere else to even have it stored.”

Coose also says he supports the idea of converting the building into a biomass facility, but feels it should be run by a private enterprise, not the city.

“I don’t want to run another utility, and I don’t want us running it. We go out for a RFP (Request for Proposal) that says, this building has potential for this right here. Give us proposals. If we don’t like them, we throw them out, and then it becomes another alternative. But it’s something we stay out of.”

Councilmembers DeAnn Karlson and Judy Zenge asked about the structural soundness and condition of the building along with its value.

City Manager Karl Amylon says regardless of what is done with the building, it will have to be declared surplus and appraised. The Council directed Amylon to move forward with an appraisal and to get quotes from architects on costs associated with addressing deficiencies in the building.

Another item generating some discussion was the issue of barking and hawking downtown. A committee composed of City Mayor Lew Williams III and representatives from the business and visitor industry met over the summer to discuss an ordinance restricting Off-Premises Commercial Solicitation. Susan Peters is a downtown business owner and member of that committee.

“I really feel that, according to the recommendations, we need to prohibit doorway solicitation and sales downtown. If we don’t, it will always continue. I think there’s been a great change in a lot of places downtown, but there still are people that are in the doorways soliciting.”

In addition to prohibiting doorway solicitations and sales, the ordinance regulates the number of conditional use permits for concessionaires, and reduces the size of the area covered by the ordinance.

Williams says the committee will meet to prepare a final proposal for the Council’s consideration.

Also Thursday night, the council approved an ordinance prohibiting objectionable air emissions within small boat harbors and approved a contract to replace the raw water main.

The next Ketchikan City Council meeting is scheduled for October 1st.