Despite the objections of some vendors who have leased space on the downtown dock to sell tours, the Ketchikan City Council voted Thursday to accept nearly all the proposed changes to the dock vendor lease program.
Those changes include moving vendor booths away from the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau on Berth 2; prohibiting freestanding signs outside the booths; and not allowing tour companies to take visitors to the Mountain Point Boat Launch unless they’re transferring them to a charter boat.
The Council chose to allow tour vendors to continue soliciting sales within a 6-foot radius of their sales booths. Partly because of that decision, Port and Harbors Director Steve Corporon said he won’t move forward with new larger booths for the dock.
The biggest objection from vendors who spoke Thursday was the proposal that would have prohibited them from soliciting sales outside of the booths. Steve McDonald told the Council he also didn’t believe the proposals had been vetted thoroughly, and suggested tabling the issue.
“I went to the harbormaster meeting and the three points I wanted to discuss, I was told they were non-negotiable, will not allow, and will not allow,” he said. “This proposal offers drastic changes that negatively affect so many of the public needs, the public needs to be given another opportunity to speak out on it and offer solutions.”
Council member Mark Flora is on the Port and Harbors Advisory Board, and responded that the proposal had been thoroughly vetted through a substantive report, and a two-and-a-half-hour board meeting.
Flora said as the industry moves toward larger ships bringing more people, the community will have to adjust.
“We’re going to run into more and more scenarios whereas changes are made to accommodate larger ships and larger numbers of passengers, everybody is going to be impacted and nobody is going to get everything they want,” he said.
Corporon noted there were only a couple of items that he did tell vendors were non-negotiable. One was the Mountain Point issue. That area is not developed for tourists, and groups of visitors were getting in the way of people trying to launch their boats.
He said Thursday that the other non-negotiable item was a request from vendors to place a tour sales booth next to the bronze statues on Berth 2.
“We made that area specifically as a focal point for Ketchikan; a gateway to Ketchikan. That’s where the arch is – that’s why we moved the statues there,” he said. “It’s a beautiful photo opportunity with the welcome arch and the statues and if you do it just right, you get Deer Mountain in the same shot. I will never allow that over there as a recommendation. I know it’s not up to me; it’s up to you guys and Karl, but I will never recommend that.”
The council voted 6-1 to amend the proposed changes, allowing tour vendors to continue soliciting tours outside of their sales booths. Council member Dick Coose voted no, arguing that with bigger ships and more passengers the congestion on the docks was going to get worse.
The council then voted unanimously to approve the overall motion, endorsing the rest of Corporon’s suggested changes to the dock tour vendor lease program.
Also Thursday, the Council agreed to reschedule its regular meeting of Nov. 16th to Nov. 20th. Too many members are expected to be absent on the 16th, and there wouldn’t be a quorum.