The Ketchikan City Council listened to 90 minutes of public comment Thursday, nearly all focused on plans to reconfigure the downtown cruise dock.
Most of those who spoke wanted the city to move forward with one of the options on the table. While they varied on which they preferred, many felt that a plan from Survey Point Holdings would allow the city to maintain control, in contrast to a private-public partnership with the cruise industry.
The council previously approved a first reading of an ordinance to move forward with a Request for Proposals for a private-public partnership, but without specifying what kind of partnership it was seeking.
The council opted Thursday to postpone the second vote to issue the RFP. The vote now is scheduled for a special meeting on Aug. 28th, when representatives from consulting firm Bermello, Ajamil and Partners will be present.
The council did seem to lean toward a concession agreement. That means a private partner would finance improvements and pay the city for rights to operate the dock. The partner would make money by charging fees to the cruise lines and vendors.
There was some hesitation about giving up control of dock operations. But, the council can determine what it retains control over, and can reject any and all proposals the city receives through the RFP process.
Council Member Mark Flora argued that the city has been in control for the past 30 years.
“So before we decide that the best thing to do is the very thing, essentially, that we’ve done for the last 30 years – and let’s just keep doing that – why not look at an alternative that we’ve never looked at?” he said. “If we don’t like it, we can reject it and we’ve always got the opportunity to spend more money.”
The proposal from Survey Point Holdings also was on the table for discussion. That plan calls for the city to finance an estimated $20.5 million port expansion, which would allow three mega-ships to be moored at Berths 1, 2 and 3 at the same time.
City Manager Karl Amylon noted that the Survey Point Holdings plan cost estimate doesn’t include removal of a rock pinnacle that is a navigation concern, as well as needed corrosion protection for Berths 1 and 2, and uplands development.
Also Thursday, the council entered into an executive session to discuss a proposal from Talbot’s Inc., for the city to purchase the Talbot’s property next to Berth 4 for $3.5 million. The council took no action on the Talbots proposal Thursday.
In other matters, the council agreed to place a motion on the Sept. 5th meeting agenda to raise the sales tax cap from $1,000 to $2,000. It will be in the form of an ordinance, which requires two votes to pass.
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly approved a first reading of its own ordinance to raise the sales tax cap, and will be voting on a second reading on Monday.