The Tongass Historical Museum. (KRBD file photo)

The Tongass Historical Museum. (KRBD file photo)

The Ketchikan City Council on Thursday night had a lengthy discussion about, but ultimately approved, a 50-percent schematic design and cost estimate for the Centennial Building gallery expansion and renovation project.

The project focuses on the first floor of the building, which houses the city’s Tongass Historical Museum. The cost estimate is $1.3 million. That’s $300,000 more than what was than originally budgeted.  Museum director Lacey Simpson explained the cost increase.

“The cost estimate increase for the 50-percent schematic design has very little to do with the design modifications that differ from the December 17th, 10-percent conceptual design that the City Council approved. The cost estimate increase is more related to things that are inherent to the project itself, such as asbestos abatement, mechanical and electrical costs, and fire-alarm system replacement. These are things that have to happen with this facility upgrade. They were vastly underestimated when the 50-percent draft went to HMS for cost estimating.”

Also, the work likely will take two months longer than expected. While several Council members expressed concerns about the additional expense, City Manager Karl Amylon says this is not unusual at this phase.

“Now we’re into design. We’re at 50-percent based on hard architectural concepts and designs. I don’t think you should view it as a three or four-hundred-thousand dollar cost overrun. It really isn’t because we didn’t have a 100-percent design to base the budget estimates on to begin with. We really didn’t have anything solid to base those estimates on when we put the budget together.”

The council voted 6-0 to approve the 50-percent design costs with an understanding that there would be another review at the 100-percent design phase before putting the project out to bid in June. Council Member Julie Isom was not present.

Also Thursday night, the Council voted 6-0 to officially protest the renewal of First City Saloon’s liquor license. The business is delinquent on paying back taxes owed to the City of Ketchikan and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.

City Council member KJ Harris said, “It’s real tough. I hate to do it, but you’ve got to pay your taxes. It’s the rule.”

The state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board has the final say on liquor license renewals.

The Council also unanimously approved an ordinance regarding off-premises commercial solicitation restrictions, or hawking.  During public comment, some felt this was unfair to private property owners.

City Mayor Lew Williams III explained that changes were made to the ordinance to address those concerns.

“If somebody comes into your alcove, you can address them and try to sell them something there instead of having to be inside your door. So we’re not restricting the use of private property,” he said. “I think that came out as a good thing. I’m happy with where we are. I think we’re ready to put it in place and see how it goes this summer and reevaluate it at the end of the season.”

The Council held three executive sessions Thursday night. The first addresses a potential lawsuit from former Assistant Fire Chief Jon Dorman over a sick-leave payment dispute, and the second was to discuss potential litigation against the State of Alaska if the Legislature decides to not share proceeds of the state cruise passenger head tax.

The Council  took no action, but provided direction to management on both of those issues.

The third executive session was to talk about ongoing contract negotiations with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The Council took no action on that issue.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Ketchikan City Council is Thursday, May 6th.