- Associated Press - Friday, June 30, 2017

SITKA, Alaska (AP) - The city of Sitka will consider a free downtown bus service this summer on a trial basis.

The Assembly voted 6-0 Tuesday to have Interim Municipal Administrator Phillip Messina prepare a supplemental budget ordinance for the trial project.

The proposal came out of a brainstorming session of downtown merchants and the Chamber of Commerce who observed that despite increased numbers of cruise ship visitors fewer were coming into the core business district, said Pat Kehoe, a member of the Island Artists Gallery, a co-op of local artists who have opened a store front gallery in downtown Sitka.

Buses would run in a 15-minute loop, Kehoe said.

Assembly members expressed concern about moving too quickly, but advocates for the program said it’s important to test it during the busiest part of the season when the biggest ships will be in town - between the second week of July and the first week of August, the Daily Sitka Sentinel reported (https://bit.ly/2t8l3Vp ).

The city’s relationship with Sitka Tribe of Alaska allows the city to work with the tribal government without competitive bidding, Public Works Director Mike Harmon said.

Assembly member Steven Eisenbeisz, who has a downtown shop, said he would like to see businesses “supportive with their pocketbook.”

“That means more to me,” he said. “If it comes back, I’d like to see what the (business) community is willing to put into their own pilot project.”

Bob Potrzuski expressed support for the idea but said he needed to see a formal plan.

“It’s just a little fuzzy,” he said. “I would like to see things a little more concrete.”

The pilot project is not to cost more than $10,000.

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