Visitors disembarking from the Norwegian Joy congregate May 13 on Berth 3 in downtown Ketchikan. The mega-ship is one of five visiting Alaska this year. More ships that at 1,000 feet or longer will be entering the Alaska market in the near future, which is driving the city’s plans to reconfigure its dock. (KRBD photo by Leila Kheiry)

The Ketchikan City Council voted Thursday to move forward with a potential private-public partnership to develop the Port of Ketchikan. Council members stressed that the move is a small first step.

The vote directs city staff to start the process of preparing a Request for Proposals. As a result of the vote, representatives from consulting firm Bermello and Ajamil will meet with the council during a special meeting on June 11.

Council Member Lew Williams III asked about the process, and what would happen during that special meeting. City Manager Karl Amylon said the consultants will go over the design, and what the council wants in the RFP.

Williams said he wants to see the process move quickly.

“Can we get this turned around in 30 days after we give them direction?” he asked. “My goal is to be able to get these proposals out, give them 45 days, and hopefully get proposals back before everybody leaves town.”

The cruise season ends in early October. Amylon said the RFP shouldn’t be too complicated, because details will have to be determined in partnership with whoever the city chooses.  

The city is looking into a private-public partnership because estimates to reconfigure the downtown dock to allow for larger ships coming into the market will cost up to $150 million.

Before council discussion, there was some public comment on the topic. Tory Korn of Survey Point Holdings said they have plans to expand the downtown dock. He said the city should work with a local company, in order to ensure local control.

Survey Point owns Berth 4, which the city leases. That company can submit an RFP through the process that the council approved.

Loren Stanton expressed concern to the council about a trip on a cruise ship taken by City Mayor Bob Sivertsen and City Manager Karl Amylon. Stanton said the trip violates the city’s code, which prohibits gifts:

“Under circumstances in which it could reasonably be inferred that the gift is intended to influence the performance of official duties, actions or judgment, or is intended as a reward for any official action of the officer or employee,” he read.  

City Attorney Mitch Seaver later told the council that the “gift” of a free trip was a benefit to the municipality rather than the individual. In that case, he said, it wouldn’t be a violation.

Sivertsen said everyone on the ship went for free, and it wasn’t a normal cruise. He said there were many industry service representatives on board, as well as officials from other port communities, including Seattle.

However, most of the council agreed that the appearance was bad. Council Member Dave Kiffer said in the future, if such a trip is considered valuable enough to go, the city should pay for it.

Also Thursday, the council voted in first reading to put a question on the October ballot asking voters whether on-site consumption of marijuana should be prohibited. With that wording, a “no” vote would allow on-site consumption within city limits.

Council Member Sam Bergeron suggested that the council vote on prohibiting it without voter ratification. Council Member Judy Zenge asked why it shouldn’t go to voters.

Here’s Bergeron: “The reason that I didn’t think it needed to go before voters is I think it’s an issue of public safety. I think that’s an issue we can address here at the table.”

Zenge said it appears that Bergeron thinks the measure would fail, and that’s why he didn’t want it on the ballot.

He said he believes it would pass.

“You brought that up, so that cat’s out of the bag that because ‘you think the vote of the people is going to change the outcome.’ That’s not what I was thinking at all,” he said. “Now that that’s out there, it has that appearance, so I’m going to withdraw the motion.”

The motion to place the issue on the ballot passed 5-2 with Dick Coose and Janalee Gage voting no. It will come back to the council for a second vote.

The next Ketchikan City Council meeting is June 6.