Ketchikan officials are cracking down on camping in some public parking lots inside city limits. Heightened penalties for illegal camping are set to take effect next month. That’s after the City Council passed a measure that also allows officials to clear encampments.
City officials cited complaints from downtown residents about noise, theft and drug use at an Edmonds Street parking lot just a block away from Ketchikan’s police station as the impetus for a measure that strengthens an existing ban on overnight camping in city-owned parking lots.
At a meeting last October, Silvia Greuter said she called police to report drug activity and other nuisances in the lot.
“We have homeless people living in the parking lot. We have drug interactions going on in broad daylight,” she said at the time.
Gruder recalled the police officer suggested their hands were tied.
“I said, ‘What’s left? What can I do?’ And he said, ‘You can go down to City Hall and get an ordinance put in place,'” she said.
And that’s what happened on Thursday evening.
Ryan McHale was the lone voice opposing the new measure. The Ketchikan resident said the City Council should instead expand funding for organizations that support the community’s unhoused people.
“Strengthening the city’s ban on camping and city on parking lots is the wrong approach. Forced removal, possible destruction of personal property and increased fines do not resolve the underlying conditions that create the need for camping in the first place and serve only to take away resources for those already living on the edge,” he said.
He asked the council to reduce the fine by two thirds, which would max out to $100, and strike portions of the measure that would allow the city to confiscate tents, bedding, medications and food with 72 hours’ notice. They’d be held by the city for up to three months.
But the ordinance passed as written. Supporters included Council Member Riley Gass. He said that organizations like the Park Avenue Temporary Home and First City Homeless Services provide plenty of beds for people in need of shelter to sleep.
“I think the community has gone far enough to provide somewhere for people to go who don’t have a place to go. If that weren’t the case, I wouldn’t be in support of this. But quite frankly, if someone is homeless, it doesn’t mean they have a right to do these negative things in public areas.
Each day of illegal camping could incur an infraction — a minor offense like a traffic ticket — which would come with a fine of up to $300.
Council Member Lallette Kistler said she hoped judges would stop short of imposing the maximum fine. But she still supported the measure which passed unanimously.
It’s slated to take effect on Feb 19.
The search for a new Ketchikan city manager is officially on. That’s after the City Council greenlit a contract worth up to $55,000 with Texas-based search firm Strategic Government Resources. Company representatives told the council that the firm specializes in municipal government recruiting and expects to deliver a slate of candidates in about four months.
The council also OKed the hiring of a retired Coast Guard captain as Ketchikan’s next port and harbors director. The council voted 5-1 to hire Darryl Verfaillie of Valdez. Gass was the lone no vote. He said he would have preferred to hire a candidate with deeper ties to Ketchikan.
Mayor Dave Kiffer and Council Member Janalee Gage were absent from the meeting.