On Thursday, the Ketchikan City Council discussed a budget transfer for a backflow prevention grant program to help local businesses comply with plumbing and fire codes.

Water Division Manager John Kleinegger requested a $15,000 transfer from the KPU Enterprise Fund to the prevention program. Under the initial proposal, affected businesses could request up to $3,000.

Kleingger says there are 12 known businesses that could benefit from the program, though he acknowledges there may be more. He says the intent is to prevent contamination to the water system.

In response to a question from Mayor Lew Williams III, City Manager Karl Amylon said the program helps businesses to comply with an expensive regulation.

“I fully understand any reluctance on the part of the Council to continue the program given the state of our financial situation relative to the utilities.  I think the question you have to weigh is, if we’re not going to do the program, are we going to discourage businesses from complying with law given the expense of putting in this type of system?”

Council Member Dick Coose suggested amending the original motion to reduce grants to $1,500 per business. This was approved 6-1 with Council Member Julie Isom voting no.

A second amendment was proposed by Council Member Bob Sivertsen to reduce the entire budget transfer from $15,000 to $8,000. The motion failed 6-1 with only Sivertsen voting in favor.

The Council then approved the amended motion 4-3.

Coose and Council Members Judy Zenge, Janilee Gage and KJ Harris voted yes, and Sivertsen, Julie Isom and Council Member Dave Kiffer voted no.

The council also unanimously approved several public works programs, including maintenance of city streets, repair of Spruce Mill Way, and the first phase of the Tongass Avenue force main rehabilitation project.

The State Department of Transportation plans to repave Stedman Street. City Manager Amylon says that provides an opportunity to address utility replacement on Front, Mill and Stedman Streets at the same time, though he acknowledges those projects are not currently in the budget.

“It’s a lot of money. I understand what we’re up against in terms of our funding but, if you want to take any solace, we’re not alone. This is something that’s going on in the United States nationally. I just saw a report that said some 64,000 bridges in the country need immediate replacement. We’re not replacing them.”

Mayor Lew Williams III asked management to come up with ideas for the Council. He also suggested putting the issue to the community for consideration.

Also Thursday, the Council approved an amendment to a compliance order between the City of Ketchikan and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation regarding the city’s municipal water system. The changes relate to bacteria issues, switching source water testing at Ketchikan Lakes from total coliform bacteria to fecal bacteria only, and extending the deadline for the compliance order.

City Manager Amylon says DEC has basically agreed to the proposal and a one-year extension to meet compliance.

“Both Mr. Kleinegger and I believe this is something that’s in the community’s best interest and is the next logical step in the process that we’re undertaking to avoid what could be a very costly filtration alternative should one be mandated on us.”

The measure passed 6-1 with Gage voting no.

Also Thursday, the council designated April 16-23 as Spring Clean-Up Week, and April 29 and 30 as Hazardous Waste Collection Days.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Ketchikan City Council is March 17.