Petersburg’s borough assembly last night voted to extend and expand a local health mandate for cruise ships and other passenger vessels expecting to dock in Petersburg this summer.The assembly also approved spending for two new public restrooms using COVID-19 relief emergency funding.

Local health mandate number five requires approval by the borough’s public health officer before a cruise ship can dock in Petersburg. It had been extended through the end of this month. The borough’s incident commander Karl Hagerman recommended changes. He told the assembly those changes respond to the state’s mandate number 10, the latest quarantine and testing options for travelers coming into Alaska from out of state.

“If there’s somebody onboard a ship or a vessel that meets that criteria, then that captain should be calling out health officer and getting permission to disembark in Petersbur,” Hagerman explained. “The health officer’s role in this will be to protect the community to interview the captain, ask questions about what process they’ve gone through to meet mandate number 10.”

The borough has already hired people to greet travelers arriving at the airport to determine compliance with the state’s quarantine or testing. This local mandate aims to put similar safeguards in place for passenger vessels arriving in port. Beside cruise ships, Hagerman also recommended it be expanded to include charter boats and yacht flotillas. The local mandate would bar passengers from coming ashore if anyone onboard has COVID-19 symptoms. It also puts the burden on the vessel owner to provide for medical care and medevacing a sick person onboard.

The assembly voted unanimously to extend and expand that local mandate. It’s now in place through the end of August. One company, American Cruise Lines, has been in contact with the borough about docking here this summer. But that company has pushed back its starting date for its first sailings in Southeast to July 23rd.

In related news, the assembly also voted to approve the purchase of two public restrooms from a company in Illinois. They’ll cost $92,870 combined plus shipping from Seattle.

Assembly member Jeff Meucci said public restrooms are a need identified by the town’s working group for the visitor industry.

“This gives us the opportunity to use them, not just for the visitors who come to town but when we have events in town and there’s not enough restroom facilities, instead of using the state office building or Viking Travel or somewhere like that, we have public restrooms that we’ll be taking care of and they’re handicap accessible and we’ll be able to keep them clean and tidy and when we’re not using them, they’ll be maintained well and put away for the winte,” Meucci said. “I think it’s a good thing for the community.”

The purchase avoids a competitive bid process. Borough staff wanted to skip bidding and advertising to speed up the purchase. Incident commander Hagerman answered questions from the assembly and agreed the restrooms are not cheap.

“It is a lot of money and it was somewhat shocking to us when we started looking around for these trailers,” he said, adding, “This is by no means a ritzy bathroom trailer. It’s very utilitarian. It’s a two restroom facility with one side being ADA compliant, the other one not.”

The vote was unanimous to approve that purchase. Mayor Mark Jensen was not at the meeting but he did submit a comment opposing the restroom buy.

The borough will use federal coronavirus emergency money it is receiving from the state of Alaska. It’s possible one restroom could be placed in the municipal building parking lot and another could be near the crane dock parking lot in the harbor.