The Ketchikan City Council agreed Thursday to move forward with increasing water rates for some of the city’s largest commercial water users by 35 percent a year over three years.

The Council gave direction for city management to bring back an ordinance that would raise water rates for the three fish processing plants in town. Those companies use about half the city’s water, but pay for about 4.6 percent of the cost.

During public comment, Paul Cyr of EC Phillips argued against a rate hike for processors. He says the city would need to pay for and maintain its water infrastructure whether or not those businesses existed. Cyr also says the processors provide economic benefits to the entire community, and argued that the businesses are not subsidized by other rate payers.

Council members disagreed. Mark Flora says the current rate structure is the definition of a subsidy; and Judy Zenge noted that the Council told the seafood processors three years ago to prepare for some big rate changes.

The Council did not give direction on recommended wastewater rate increases, or on additional rate hikes for residential water or wastewater customers.

Also Thursday, the Council took no action on proposed parking improvements for the Ted Ferry Civic Center. The majority of the Council also remains opposed to providing shuttle service for popular events where parking becomes a problem.

But, Zenge said during Council member comments that she has an idea for finding shuttle sponsors for special events.  

In other matters, the Council expressed interest in potentially removing the senior sales-tax exemption for alcohol and tobacco purchases. The issue will be discussed during the city-borough cooperative relations committee meeting on March 24.

There also was talk of the potential arrival of Uber in the First City, and the need to establish regulations before that business tries to provide taxi service here.

The next Ketchikan City Council meeting is March 16.