During an extremely brief meeting Thursday, the Ketchikan City Council approved a $40,000 contract with CH2M Hill to evaluate the city’s Wastewater Division.

The evaluation was recommended by Public Works Director Mark Hilson. He wrote in a memo that the wastewater system failed to meet required Environmental Protection Agency effluent limits during April.

Hilson writes that he had concerns about the division’s performance prior to that incident. He adds that starting this evaluation process would show the EPA that the city is taking the April failure seriously.

Bob Sivertsen was the only Council member to comment Thursday on the motion. He says this isn’t the first time the city has hired a firm to analyze one of its divisions, and this study appears prudent.

“I took the opportunity to meet with management as they invited us to do,” he said. “I think their strategies and path forward are sound and I think we can gather efficiencies and make sure that we’re meeting our needs. It’s a good process.”  

The Council vote was unanimous in favor of the contract. The engineering and consulting firm will evaluate the wastewater division’s operations and maintenance, and make recommendations to improve the overall system.

Also Thursday, the Council voted unanimously and without discussion to declare Wednesday’s accident at Thomas Basin Boat Harbor a public emergency. That allows the city to move forward with repairs more quickly than usual.

On Wednesday morning, a seiner hit and seriously damaged Float 4 at Thomas Basin, essentially severing the float from the main float at the harbor. A crew was called in and a temporary “bridge” was installed within a couple of hours. More extensive repairs are under way.

Thursday’s Council meeting adjourned in about half an hour.