Ketchikan, Alaska (KINY) The City Council approved the annual budget, took a stance on marijuana sales and heard concerns from residents about pedestrian safety at the Assembly meeting December 21.
Carrie Montero with the Ketchikan Wellness Coalition asked the Ketchikan City council to take action on what she sees as a
marijuana problem, "With two shops in town I already think there is a problem with people smoking in public. Not everyone wants to smoke it so why share it with other people."
She said marijuana can increase the chances of a heart attack, increase anxiety, and lead to marital and family problems and poor performance in school. She says public consumption of marijuana needs to be addressed.
Rene Schofield said the city should limit marijuana retailers to two. She says she sees problems with marijuana usage and sale on the streets, "I see a blatant disregard for the law against public consumption. I see it everyday on multiple occasions." She described one encounter she had with two men smoking marijuana at the docks, and coughing.
On the other side of the issue, there was support for more than two marijuana retail businesses in the city limits. Businessman Mark Woodward said a marijuana edibles manufacturer wants to come to Ketchikan. He went on to say that a study suggested the city would only collect $40,000 a year in taxes from marijuana. He says his business E and M, LLC has already surpassed that, "Just my store will produce over $50,000. That means we have done gross sales of over $1 million since April 10th. There is a demand here. It goes back to the vote in 2014. Your constituents in the city want this industry."
Resident Terrance Robbins spoke against marijuana edibles and claimed he worries children will buy them, "They say you can't sell candy, you can't sell products that kids say that's a Reese's peanut butter cup. Well guess what, they were selling them over there."
The council voted 6-1 on first reading to ban a marijuana manufacturing facility and limit to two marijuana retailers in the city limits.
Assembly member Janalee Gage says Portland let supply and demand govern the business and it turned into marijuana businesses
all over the place. She says she doesn't want that for Ketchikan. "I don't want to go downtown and see them in every other building and have to smell it. I've been smelling (marijuana smoke) a lot lately."
In other discussion, some residents asked the city to take action, or encourage the Alaska Department of Transportation to help improve pedestrian safety in the city limits. Resident Kathryn Tatsudo urged more pedestrian safety after a death on Steadman Street on December 18. 68 year old Ronald Fulgencio died in the crosswalk as he was struck by a car as he attempted to cross the street. Tatsudo urged the city to work on a public awareness campaign about pedestrian safety, "It was dark and I watched the video and you couldn't see him. It was horrible, just plain horrible. This is the third person struck by a car in front of my establishment in the past three years. Something has to be done. Something must be done here immediately to help keep our citizens and our friends and our customers and our acquaintances safe."
Some urged more police enforcement of speed limits, and better lighting.
The council also honored Jim and Connie Wingren who portray Santa and Mrs. Claus during the holidays.
Connie says working with kids has been a great part of their lives
Ty Reckee of the Path homeless Center in Ketchikan says around 30 percent of their homeless population is from outside Ketchikan.
Ketchikan City council approved a near $75 million budget for the new year.
The proposed plan includes no increase in staff, a 1.6 percent cost of living adjustment for employees, a 10 percent increase in health
care costs, and no tax rate increase. The property values have increased by 1 percent. Sales taxes are expected to bring in about $11.86 million, a one percent increase.
Ketchikan had a record number of cruise ship passengers, 1 million and 48 thousand.
Residents will also see a six percent increase in their monthly waste water bill.
The budget also $20.6 million in capital projects, $7.12 million for the fire department, $5.47 million for police, $2.5 million for the city
museum and $1.5 million for the public health center.
Electric rates are due to increase by 5 percent.
Staff says Ketchikan public utilities has lost $6.1 million in recent years.
Council member Gage said she understands the public doesn't want hire utility bills, "I get that people can't afford it. I also know the cost of living, and the cost of things are not going to go down."
Council member Dick Coose said he also knows the city must look at how they spend, "One of these days if the public doesn't get on our back or we don't do it right, we are going to be looking at sales taxes, and property taxes because costs are going up. I wouldn't say they are out of control but we must watch how we spend."
The budget was approved unanimously.