It appears Ketchikan seafood processors will be paying more for water – 35 percent more a year for three years – following a Thursday vote by the Ketchikan City Council.
The ordinance raising rates for that industry passed in first reading by a 5-1 margin. It will have to come back for another vote.
A couple of City Council members were reluctant to approve such a large increase. Julie Isom and Dick Coose pushed for smaller rate hikes over five years instead. Here’s Isom:
“I don’t like it. It almost feels like an aim at that certain industry,” she said. “I just think it should have been spread over more than three years.”
Council Member Bob Sivertsen, though, pointed out that the new rates will be comparable to what other Alaska communities charge that industry. He had pushed for metering the companies to charge based on how much water they used, but that didn’t garner enough support.
“Without consensus to move forward with metered rates, we went to a proposal brought forth by management to bring them up to what’s called market rate,” he said. “That’s what other people are paying in other communities, as fish processors.”
The three processors in the city are EC Phillips, Trident Seafoods and Alaska General Seafoods. They use about half of the city’s water in their operations, but pay for about 4.6 percent of the cost.
Currently, each company is charged a flat rate of about $46,000 a year for water. By the end of the three years, they’ll each pay a flat rate of about $114,000 annually.
Paul Cyr of EC Phillips spoke during public comment in opposition to the rate increase. He argued that the amount of water the companies use is not a large factor in the cost of potable water production.
“The fixed cost of the water department are 98 percent of the budget. Two percent of the budget is the water,” he said.
The majority of the Council was not swayed, though. Isom was the only one to vote no on moving forward with the ordinance. The Council then delayed a separate motion to potentially raise rates for other large water users.
Also on Thursday, the Council approved a motion to submit comments in support of a plan to stabilize the shoreline along Thomas Basin harbor.
There were some speakers during public comment expressing concern about the plan, specifically how the rock slope might affect the current and accumulation of sediment. The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show’s plan has been submitted for approval to the Army Corps of Engineers.
The Council also discussed the city’s ongoing concerns about state legislation that would regulate transportation companies like Uber and Lyft without allowing for local regulations.
Among the concerns is the fact that the city’s lobbyist, Ray Matiashowski, has accepted a job lobbying for Lyft.
Sivertsen and Isom said they weren’t concerned about a conflict of interest, but others thought it was a problem. Here’s Council Member Judy Zenge: “He’s representing Lyft, which doesn’t want local control. We want local control. How is he going to draw that line?”
The Council gave four-hands direction to let Matiashowski know that it believes there’s a conflict of interest and to ask him to end his contract with Lyft.
Council members also agreed to send comments to the Legislature asking that local control be added to state regulations regarding those kinds of transportation services.