CURFEW CURTAILED

Seventh grader Shelby Surdyk presents a petition with signatures of residents opposed to proposed curfew times in a mock resolution before the Skagway City Council during Local Government Week. . See Curfew Story in features below. Jeff Brady

Few changes to City of Skagway resolution on Juneau Access
Testimony sides with better ferries; governor asked to 'reconsider' road

By JEFF BRADY
Seeing public testimony and written correspondence still leaning in favor of improved ferry service over a road to Juneau, the Skagway City Council on Jan. 15 made changes to language in its Juneau Access resolution, but kept its pro-ferry and anti-road message intact.
However, Council plans to have the community vote on the issue in the fall.
After hearing testimony for more than an hour, and then going through Resolution 03-8R line by line for another hour, the Council voted 4-1 to support an amended version of the resolution.
The resolution’s title still supports improved ferry service and opposes construction of any road linking Juneau to Skagway or Haines, but its conclusion asks Gov. Murkowski to support better ferry service and “reconsider” road construction.
After trying unsuccessfully to delete any road opposition language in the title or conclusion, Councilmember Dave Hunz convinced members to change the language at the bottom.
“I’d like to soften it and prevent a head-to-head battle with him (the governor),” Hunz said.
The body of the resolution now also contains less harsh language than what was originally passed last May. The only eliminated section was a controversial statement that said the construction of the Klondike Highway resulted in the loss of the year-round railroad economy. Most in attendance Jan. 15 agreed that was not true, since the railroad stopped year-round operations after it lost 70 percent of its revenue from Yukon mine closures in the early 1980s. However, the railroad was unable to compete with trucking over the highway when the mines reopened, some Councilmembers noted.
Kathy Hosford, one of the organizers of a pro-road movement in the community, brought forward a suggested amended resolution last month that supported improved ferry service “until the completion of the Department of Transportation’s Juneau Access Project.”
She also suggested deleting all references to road opposition, saying the resolution misrepresented a divided community and contained a number of inaccuracies. At the meeting, she tried to get the public and Council to focus on just making changes to the resolution, rather than turning it into a ferries versus road debate.

OPPOSING VIEWS – Jan Wrentmore (above) and Kathy Hosford (below) address the City Council. JB

The Council’s old resolution is “inaccurate, untruthful, and unrepresentative of its constituency,” she said.
She accused the anti-road effort of being orchestrated into supporting the old resolution without changes, based on mass e-mailing, and of not studying the reasons she put forth for the suggested amendments.
These included published ferry costs versus road maintenance costs that showed the road would be cheaper in the long run, minimal public safety concerns compared to air travel, and that a reference to “environmental destruction is an assumption with no basis of fact.”
However, Cheryl Barger said if the community cared about one eagle nest in Dyea, it should care about the hundreds between here and Juneau.
Hosford also claimed the local economy would improve with a road to Juneau, Skagway’s deep water port would continue to be used as the Gateway to the Yukon, and cruise ships would not stop coming here because of the railroad’s draw. She cited an October letter from John Hansen of the Northwest Cruise Association to the governor which said a road would not affect cruise patterns in upper Lynn Canal.
But Jan Wrentmore, chair of the Skagway Marine Access Committee (SMAC) said once the road is built, things could change. Goldbelt, Juneau’s Native corporation, has plans to develop a port at Berner’s Bay. Cruise ships could stop there and bus passengers to Skagway and Juneau to avoid paying high port fees, she said.
“It’s a mistake to think if the road comes to Skagway you will get everything you have now and more,” Wrentmore said.
City Manager Bob Ward said he thought cruise ships would still come, because the train tour is a huge revenue-producer for them. The bigger concern with a road, he said, would be the potential for future ore shipments to bypass Skagway and offload in Juneau if it has better port facilities. But Irene Henricksen countered that Skagway’s historical position as the closest deepwater port to the Yukon will remain unchanged.
Two business owners, Mike O’Daniel of Skagway Air/Skagway Hardware, and Ed Fairbanks of Fairway Market, said the road could put them out of business, affecting about 25 employees at each location.
“I’m sorry, but the lack of a road is one of the protections this community has,” Fairbanks said.
Several spoke to Skagway’s safe, small town charm and fears they would have to start locking their doors if a road were constructed. However, others like Jesse Downey got up and said a road would give residents more freedom to travel and more choices for shopping and medical care.
“I’m in complete support of a road,” Downey said. “I prefer the freedom to come and go as I please.”
Several residents said the “majority” had already spoken on the issue, and that the Council had an obligation to reflect it with a pro-ferry resolution. Many like so called “neo-hippie banana” Cory Thole said they spoke for themselves, not because of an e-mail campaign.
“No matter what time of year, we’re here to fight it,” Thole said. “We’re here and we’re not leaving.”
Others like John Harris said the majority wasn’t that clear and suggested putting the Juneau Access preferences to a vote, instead of looking at surveys or who speaks up at meetings.
“I asked for a vote when this first came up,” Harris said. “Rather than say this is the majority, see what the majority is.”
Speakers on both sides of the issue urged Council to change things that might be untrue in the original resolution.
“As a community, we can come up with something better,” said Raymie Eatough.
Councilmembers were up to that task. They took out the Klondike Highway vs. railroad section, and added a section that said “current demand for reliable, consistent, and economic travel exists in the Upper Lynn Canal between the ports of Haines, Skagway and Juneau.”
In another section, it softened language about a road up Lynn Canal, saying it would have “enormous construction expense, high (instead of prohibitive) maintenance costs, potential (instead of serious) threat to public safety, and environmental degradation (instead of destruction).”
Some redundant language about effects on the economy was removed but it still states: “roads frequently have serious negative impacts and historically result in the closure of small, locally owned businesses and services.”
Council also kept language that said the road “could end Skagway’s historic position as the Gateway to the Yukon and the northern port facility for goods going into the interior.”
Language about possible loss of year-round jobs in tug and barge service, air service, freight and ore shipments and ferry terminal and long shore services was left intact. J. Frey said winter barge service certainly would end with a road to Juneau.
Regarding cruise ships, the resolution now says traffic patterns could be altered, and could have negative (instead of far-reaching) impacts on Skagway as a destination.
When it came time to vote, Dan Henry noted that his council box showed 35 pieces of correspondence for the old resolution, and 23 for changing it based on Hosford’s proposed amendments. From public testimony, he counted 31 for keeping it the same, six for amending it, and three in the middle.
“I do feel a responsibility on my part to support those who want it as is, though we deleted things here that were over the top and off the mark,” Henry said.
Mike Catsi, Monica Carlson and Frey also supported the amended resolution.
Hunz, after getting the change from “oppose” to “reconsider” a road, still voted against the resolution.
“A lot of people who talked to me don’t oppose the road, so I will represent them,” Hunz said.
At the end of the meeting, nearly six hours after it started, Frey said the issue should go on the ballot, and all agreed.
“I have no problem if it is part of a regular election,” said Mayor Tim Bourcy.
This week, Hosford said she was sad about the resolution’s outcome, wishing she had better-educated the public.
“Had they been better informed about the reasons for the changes, they would have spoken to the amendments rather than the resolution as a whole,” she said.
The fact that council made about 10 changes to the resolution shows that they recognized problems and inaccuracies with it, she noted.
“My intent was to get some fair representation for the community,” she said.
After successfully getting nearly 200 Skagway signatures for a pro-road ad in last Sunday’s Juneau Empire, Hosford said she will continue to speak to the issue on a state level.

Fulda Challenge set for Feb. 4

Dawson City team ready for ‘uphill grind’

The Fulda Challenge teams will jump on their bikes for a grueling climb up the Klondike Highway to Fraser on Wednesday morning, Feb. 4. Starting time will be 8:30 a.m. in front of the White Pass & Yukon Route depot.
The only North Americans in the event, Denise and Greg McHale of Dawson City, Yukon, hope training in cold weather this winter will work to their advantage. The McHales are excited about being the first team from the Yukon to represent Canada in the Fulda Challenge.
They will be participating in various events in the over 10 days from the Southeast Alaska coast to the Arctic Circle in the Yukon. After arriving from Haines on the ferry Feb. 3 and spending the night in tents outside the rail depot, the nine two-person teams will jump on mountain bikes for the 22-mile ride to Fraser.
How do you train for a 3,290-foot hill climb in unpredictable weather?
“As for the bike race up the pass, we’ve been training for that doing a lot of indoor spinning,” Denise McHale wrote in an email this week. “We have several interval spinning videos which range from 40 minutes to two hours, and focus on various aspects of cycling training. One of the videos is called the ‘uphill grind,’ which we’ve been doing a lot of!”
To prepare for other events, they’ve run on trails and roads, done lots of speed work on the treadmill and strength training, and have been getting out on quads and snowmobiles whenever possible.
Other events range from an snowshoe climb on the Haines pass, to climbing over the Carmacks bridge, to various motorized events. The black Fulda-Toyota vehicle entourage arrives in Skagway Feb. 3 and will be accompanied by a large group of European media. Every room in town is booked, and more are needed. If you can assist, call Skagway CVB at 983-2854.
For more on the event and other teams, go to www.fulda-challenge.com.

Ice house demolition fails to win enough HDC votes

The historic ice house on Fifth Ave. is off a six-month clock waiting for demolition, but it may just sit boarded up in its present location until it falls down.
Seeing no apparent compromise to date between the property owners and the National Park Service, three of the four members of the Historic District Commission on Jan. 12 voted in favor of allowing the demolition process to proceed, but it was not enough votes to pass.
The building can’t be torn down, and for the time being it can’t be moved.
“I think this is a sad thing,” responded Andrew Knorr, representing the property owners. “It is going to rot. I want to see it preserved.”
It was HDC’s second time dealing with the issue. Members approved the demolition on a 6-1 vote at its Nov. 10 meeting, but that decision was appealed by NPS to the Planning and Zoning Commission, which remanded the issue back to HDC for reconsideration this month. Based on a preliminary historic structures report from NPS, the P&Z members on Dec. 19 voted unanimously to urge the parties to reach a compromise before the issue came up again before HDC.
The parties never got together until the day of the meeting.
During testimony, Knorr said plans for his new building on the “Moe’s Mall” lots at Fifth and Broadway have been altered for the ice house, which encroaches 6.5 feet onto his retail use property. But he said he would prefer the ice house’s removal, or a temporary move back onto its own lot by NPS until the agency finds a place for it.
Knorr reiterated that he has no plans to restore the building and sees no retail value in keeping it. “It’s a warehouse,” he said.
In discussions with Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Superintendent Bruce Noble, Knorr said NPS currently has “no money and no place to put it.”
Knorr added that he did offer to lease the ice house in its original location to NPS for restoration, but he said Noble replied “‘What’s in it for the Park Service?’”
Noble testified that he did discuss the possibility of a lease, but did not remember using those words. “We can’t lease property that we don’t own,” he said.
Noble outlined four options, but acknowledged that none of them work well for Knorr: 1) leaving it where it is and allow a variance for setbacks so Knorr can build his new building; 2) move the ice house east, closer to the hardware store warehouse, requiring another variance, and move it again at a later date; 3) relocation to some non-NPS location in the district since NPS does not have a good spot for it; and 4) allow the demolition to proceed and document the building before it comes down in six months.
Noble said he hoped demolition would not proceed, calling the ice house a “contributing property” within the Skagway National Historic Landmark. He also prefers keeping the building in its original location, even though he acknowledged the park has moved buildings like the Goldberg Cigar Store and Itjen House.
Knorr said the Park Service should be the entity to save the ice house, adding that he would still accept a compromise in writing from NPS to commit to moving it east on the property by April 15, when he hopes to break ground for his new project.
HDC members said more information about the building’s condition and history – it was used as an ice-making and storage house before refrigeration – had come to light since their initial vote. But after a lengthy discussion, and a failed motion to postpone a decision, only one, Nancy Schave, changed her vote from November. It was enough.
“I don’t think we can assume the National Park Service has the responsibility for all the buildings in Skagway,” Schave said, adding that ownership of historic properties in the district requires a responsibility.
“I don’t want to see it moved,” she added. “If Andrew lets it rot, maybe someone else will come along and save it.”
Member Virginia Long pointed to a letter from State Historic Preservation Officer Judith Bittner, urging the HDC to hold off on the demolition.
“Has there been enough time for all alternative uses and locations for the building to be studied? Is there a possibility the building does not have to be moved or demolished at this time?” she wrote in a letter to the city. “I ask these questions, in part, because I anticipate having a small amount of the Alaska funds from the federal Historic Preservation Fund to subgrant for projects around the state this year. I hope your commission will consider the program.”

The historic ice house on Fifth Avenue near Spring Street. JB

Long and the other members clearly agonized over their votes, but in the end voted to proceed with the demolition, hoping the six-month time clock required by city code would accelerate a possible compromise or other alternatives.
Colette Hisman said a private business owner can’t be expected to pour as much money into restoration as the government.
“I would dearly love for the Park Service to take it,” Hisman added. “I would like to see it saved. I would like to see it displayed for people who do not understand what it was like to not have refrigeration.”
HDC chair Casey McBride worried about leaving the building in its present location, saying groundbreaking and foundation work on the new building may cause the ice house to collapse. He also worried about moving it, even once, before it is documented, in case it falls down.
After the vote, Long suggested that Knorr move it over to Long’s property next to the Portland House at 5th and State, and let her deal with it. Any request to move it would require separate HDC approval.
In spite of the ice house decision, HDC members praised the Knorr and Moe families for their plans for the new building at Fifth and Broadway, which will have three different false fronts based on the historic B.M. Behrends and Mondamin Hotel buildings. Members approved the plans, contingent on a Planning and Zoning review of the parking plan. The plans showed, with the ice house staying where it is, there is only room to park four cars in one row behind the building.
After the meeting, Knorr said he was not sure if he would appeal the most recent HDC ice house decision to Planning and Zoning.
“We need to regroup and replan,” he said. “The only reason parking is an issue is because the ice house is in the way.”
In other business, HDC approved phase one of a new building that Dennis Corrington will construct in place of his “Skagway Station” railroad cars at Broadway and Sixth. Approval is conditional on a replat of the lots before P&Z. Corrington wants to combine the phase one property with a lot to the rear, where he hopes to place another building.
– JB

OTHER FEATURES:

• CURFEW CURTAILED: Skagway students mock resolution

• SPORTS: Girls unbeaten at Hather Tourney, boys bounce back to scare Hoonah

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

DOWNTOWN WHITEOUT - Last weekend's blizzard didn't leave much snow on the ground, but enough blew around to make it difficult to see the road. JB

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