Ketchikan’s City Council is scheduled to consider whether to extend the community’s COVID-19 emergency declaration through August 1. It’s currently set to expire at the end of this month. Thursday’s meeting will be the second time the city council has tried to pass an extension.
The council first considered the extension June 3. But with a shorthanded council, the emergency ordinance fell one vote short of the supermajority needed to pass.
Council Member Riley Gass had vocally opposed the extension, saying the emergency phase of the pandemic had passed. Council Member Judy Zenge voted in support, saying the city needed a bit more time to ensure the pandemic is under control. Council Member Sam Bergeron asked that the council try the vote again at its next meeting.
First approved in March 2020, the declaration provides broad authority for the city manager. He is empowered to use city resources to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, close city facilities and disregard what the declaration calls “time-consuming procedures and laws” on city spending.
It also allows the council to meet outside the chambers in City Hall. All in-person council meetings since the pandemic began have been held in the much roomier Ted Ferry Civic Center to allow council members and the public to keep a safe distance from one another to avoid spreading COVID-19.
An ordinance to allow for in-person meetings outside the chambers was approved in first reading at the council’s June 3 meeting, but because city ordinances generally require two votes and a 30-day waiting period, the measure would not take effect until mid-July at the earliest.
The ordinance does not affect the interagency Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center, the mayor said earlier this month.
Ketchikan’s city manager, Karl Amylon, recommends approving the one-month extension, according to a memo to the council. It will need five votes to pass.
In other business, the City Council is set to recognize retiring Ketchikan police chief Joe White.
A proposed resolution extols White’s “community-minded and approachable philosophy to local law enforcement.” White is a quarter-century veteran of the Ketchikan Police Department. He was promoted to chief in 2017. He’s set to retire June 21 and move to Arizona with his family, the city says.
“Chief White’s initiative to create a more engaging Police Department has yielded a capable and committed police force that will carry on the foundations of community policing established under his administration,” the resolution reads.
The city manager is tasked with hiring the new police chief. The manager’s office says internal and outside candidates have submitted applications to take over as chief, but interviews have not yet begun.
Ketchikan’s City Council meets at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Ted Ferry Civic Center. Members of the public can offer comments at the beginning of the meeting. The city live-streams the proceedings on local cable channels, social media and the city’s website.