The Sitka Assembly on Tuesday (1/9/19) night returned one incumbent and one former incumbent to the Sitka Community Hospital board, but chose not to reappoint the board president.

Connie Sipe failed to win a majority of votes cast by the six assembly members present. Instead, the two seats went to Dr. David Lam with six votes, and former board member Mary Ann Hall, with four votes.

Only assembly members Kevin Knox and Steven Eisenbeisz supported Sipe, who is an attorney and the former executive director of the Center for Community. During her service on the board, Sipe has been an outspoken advocate for maintaining the independence of the hospital, even as negotiations are underway for the possible merger of the facility with the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium.

KCAW News reached out to Sipe for comment on the assembly action, but she declined comment.

At its regular meeting the assembly also approved additional funding for temporary Centennial Hall staffing and security cameras. Centennial staff will now be managing a visitor information desk in the building, as a result of the new 3-year plan from Visit Sitka and the Sitka Chamber of Commerce. Manager Don Kluting said they’ve already been seeing an increase in events and visitors, spreading the building staff thin.

“With the newly renovated building over the last couple of years we’ve seen a drastic increase in the number of events that have taken place down here. Last year we had 1700 meetings or events. That’s a lot of additional events and a lot of additional room changes. That coupled with the increase in the visitor traffic in the summertime, we’re at the point where we need some additional help,” Kluting said. “We’re kind of drowning here.”

The appropriation was for $20,000 on first reading, but Kluting says they’ll need to ask for more funding midway through the summer, at the end of the fiscal year. Assembly member Stephen Eisenbeisz asked what Kluting anticipated for the total, calendar year budget. 

“Roughly about $35,000 to 40,000 tops, I would think, for two staff members during that duration,” Kluting said.

During a special work session just prior to the regular meeting, the assembly heard marketing plan and three-year strategy from Visit Sitka, which will rely more heavily on digital advertising. Director of Tourism Sherry Aiken said the trends have moved away from magazine print ads to more targeted ads online and using Instagram “influencers” to show ‘authentic experiences’ when they visit. As for the visitor’s guide? No more “Top Ten Things to do in Sitka.” They’re redesigning it, using a magazine style. 

“It’s on trend and it’s also what people want. They don’t want lists,” she said. “So right now we’re trying to get away from that and provide content that people need and really think is authentic.”

And finally, the Sitka Assembly  renewed the liquor licenses for Watson Point, Elks Lodge and Pizza Express.