KETCHIKAN - Ketchikan officials have tentatively approved a half-cent city sales tax increase to pay for bridge and trestle repairs.
The tax hike was narrowly passed in a first reading by the city council Thursday after a split vote required Mayor Bob Weinstein to break the tie.
The proposed increase - if approved in a second reading - would take effect July 1. The city currently has a 6 percent sales tax.
Council member K.J. Harris said there was no way he would support a tax increase, considering the national and local economy.
Harris said the city should exhaust all other options, including layoffs.
Inspections of bridges last September deemed some of the structures to be unsafe.
Interim repairs have been done to some bridges.
According to the city, it would take about $11.2 million for full repairs.
The proposed tax increase would pay for the debt service on a proposed $6.6 million bond package set to go before Ketchikan voters in May.
Council member Chuck Freeman said he also didn't want to raise taxes and would like to explore other options. But, he said, "Barring other sources, we need to have the process open to us."
After approving the bond election, he asked, "now we're not going to provide a method of paying for (it)?"
Weinstein said he also didn't want a tax increase, but would be angry if he lived on one of the streets closed because of bridge problems.
"We can't just sit here with our heads in the sand and pretend we're going to get state or federal assistance," he said.