SCHOOLHOUSE TERROR

Miss Claypool, a high school principal played by Jo Trozzo, hovers over custodian Stella (Brandy Mayo) and assistant Miss Sparrow (Mandy Castle) to get them to spill the beans on plans for a ‘Ditch Day’ by students. See more pictures from the hilarious school play below in Features.
Photo by Andrew Cremata

LBC ruling upheld

Reconsideration fails on 3-2 vote; election could be held April 3

By JEFF BRADY
Despite receiving two requests for reconsideration, the Local Boundary Commission majority did not waver from its recent decision to support the Skagway Borough petition.
After debating the matter for about 80 minutes on Feb. 8, the LBC voted against a reconsideration motion along the same 3-2 vote lines as before. Commissioners Bob Harcharek, Georgianna Zimmerle and Darroll Hargraves, who previously supported the Skagway petition, voted against the reconsideration motion, while Bob Hicks and Anthony Nakazawa voted for it.
After the vote, the Division of Elections was notified and is now in the process of setting up an election in Skagway on April 3 to coincide with the special state election on same sex benefits. Local voters will be asked if they support the Skagway petition to dissolve the city and establish a borough. Also on the ballot will be a full slate of candidates for mayor, borough assembly and school board. Candidates will have to file petitions with 50 signatures to get their names on the ballot.
There still is an avenue of judicial appeal to Superior Court up to 30 days after the reconsideration vote, but an injunction would have to be granted to stop the April election.
“We have cleared yet another hurdle,” Mayor Tim Bourcy announced at the Feb. 15 city council meeting. “It’s exciting but it may not be over.”
Bourcy attended the Anchorage hearing and spoke just once. Early on, he brought up a procedural matter as to whether Hicks could file a reconsideration request, when such a request was denied at a Jan. 11 LBC meeting. But Hicks explained that he did so under Roberts Rules of Order at a meeting, and that his later written request was covered under regulations.
Hicks had filed one of the requests for reconsideration on Feb. 4, and the commission also received one a week earlier from former state senators Vic Fischer and Arliss Sturgulewski. Both fell under the deadline for making such requests after the Jan. 19 delivery of the final decisional statement by the majority. The meeting in Anchorage on Feb. 8 to take up those requests was held on the final day before they would sunset.
The LBC members spent most of the debate on issues raised by Hicks. He opened the discussion by addressing several “distinctions.” He said reconsideration should be based on material issues of fact and substantive issues of law that were “erroneous in the first decision.” That means there should not have been any new material before them, and he formally objected to Zimmerle for distributing a Valdez resolution on borough formation. He also chided her for statements during the Skagway hearing about certain regulations being “ridiculous.”
In response, Zimmerle apologized for distributing the Valdez resolution, saying she did not view it “as part of this (Skagway) record at all.” As to Hicks’ repeated reference to her calling the definition of neighborhood living in regulations “ridiculous,” she said her choice of words was “unfortunate,” coming in “the heat of the moment” over the discussion about Dyea being a second community. But she said she still considered the phrase “density that is characteristic of neighborhood living” as ambiguous. She noted that “the concept of neighborhood living is evolving and depends on what area you live in, rural or urban.” She also said it was just one relevant factor that commissioners “MAY” consider. Population was in the same category, she added. “It doesn’t say we have to have 1,000 people... I feel the population is sufficiently stable in Skagway.”
Hicks also brought up “new evidence” that a commissioner’s vote may have been influenced by a legislator. At the Juneau airport, after the Dec. 11 hearing in Skagway, Hicks said a legislator came up to the group and threatened to cut the whole LBC budget if it did not approve the Skagway petition.
Rep. Bill Thomas has stated that his comment was a joke, but Hicks said he and others walked away. Only Hargraves remained in discussion with Thomas after the comment. After the January vote, Thomas mentioned the word “incentive” to the chair, Hicks also said, when he thanked the commission for its vote.
“I think a commissioner actually changed his mind,” Hicks said, citing an earlier conversation that December day with Hargraves in which the chair said he had told a senator that he was leaning against the petition.
Hargraves responding for the first time about the incident, said that Hicks’ statements were “way over-blown.... His conclusions have not come from what I know to be the facts in that instance.”
Hargraves continued, “I recall (Thomas) walking up and simply saying ‘if you don’t vote for that Skagway incorporation as a borough I’m going to cut your budget.’ No adjectives. He did not make it any bigger deal than that.”
As to the allegations of “trading my vote,” Hargraves said, “There was nothing that happened with that legislator that influenced my vote one iota. It just didn’t happen. I cast my vote based on what the evidence supported.”
He said he did talk to the legislator in a group of people for another minute, not 10, in which the representative spoke to him about legislation being introduced that would encourage the formation of boroughs. “And his statement to me was that if we can come up with incentives to encourage people to form boroughs then we think people are ready to create boroughs.”
He continued, “Now Commissioner Nakazawa and Commissioner Hicks take that word ‘incentive’ and have turned it around completely that there was an intent to provide an incentive to me. Nothing could be farther from the truth.”
Hargraves said it was clear to him what Thomas meant during that conversation, and later when Thomas spoke after the vote – that he proposed an “incentive of land and dollars from the state to create boroughs.”
Later, Hicks said he had worked with Hargraves for 30 years, knew him as a man of high integrity, and that he never intended to make an accusation that there was “some kind of a payoff.”
But he added, “I’m concerned that you did not walk away from that man.” “At worse,” he added, “there was something inadvertent.”

LBC Commissioner Bob Hicks (left) and Chair Darroll Hargraves debate points at the Skagway hearing in November 2006. JB

Hargraves said he had no problem with other parts of the dissension statement and Hicks’ reconsideration request. Hargraves then turned to the other reconsideration request from Fischer and Sturgulewski, saying “there should be some attention to this – a lot of work went into it.”
Fischer, who testified at the Skagway hearing as a member of the Alaska Constitutional Convention, had written that the LBC cannot dismiss Article 10 of the constitution in favor of Article 1, and that the framers did intend the formation of regional boroughs.
Looking back to the Yakutat Borough formation in 1991, Hargraves read from Fischer’s testimony in that case, in which the senator said that Yakutat could function as a regional borough, albeit a small one. He said Fischer also stated that the population standard has to be “relative to a given issue,” further noting that each situation is different.
“That was my conclusion in Skagway,” Hargraves said. He said he is aware that other cities may be interested in “single-site boroughs,” but that the commission must be flexible and evaluate each one against the standards. Boroughs are still evolving, he said, noting that there’s a lot of room for LBC to make its own sensible decisions and structure logical borough system for Alaska.
Finally, Hargraves noted that while Hicks and Nakazawa said they could sleep well with a “more lofty consideration somehow more pure than majority,” he wanted everyone to know that, “based on everything I know about this case, everything that has happened, the way I have interpreted the standards, the way I have applied the information to those standards, I continue to sleep very well.”
Nakazawa stated that Hargraves had taken some of Fischer’s Yakutat statements out of context. He referred to a page in the current reconsideration request which stated, “Skagway is not consistent with regional boroughs under the constitution.”
Hicks added that “Skagway is not Yakutat,” and chided the chairman for going against his own comments about precedent.
“You are now referring to Yakutat… you are establishing precedent.”
In her summation, Zimmerle said the record in the Skagway case is huge and that commissioners had considered all standards. Although she had suggested looking at all 18 standards before its vote, the LBC followed Hicks’ guidance in addressing five debatable standards. She said the commission did not have the appetite to further discuss non-controversial standards such as dissolution, transition and civil rights. “Thus I don’t think that further deliberation is necessary.”
She added that she, like others, had to clarify her statements and felt “a lot of this was blown out of proportion in written materials after the fact” by the minority, which used partial quotes out of context.
Hargraves added that when he referred to the issue being the
“hottest of hot potatoes,” he was speaking to the petition, not politics.
“No one was against it,” Hicks interrupted. “There was no opposition. We didn’t hear opposition.”
“I had heard plenty,” Hargraves responded. “We had testimony and letters of opposition.”
Harcharek, who had been listening the whole meeting, said he felt like he had been watching a drama. “Sometimes I find it mind-boggling.”
He said that for the most part, the dissenting opinion was well-written, with the exception of its calling the majority decision a “travesty.” But he said there was a need to have guidelines in regulations “as to what a dissenting opinion should and should not include.” He said it should address only items in the decisional statement. But Hicks said the dissension should be able to point out what was not considered.
Harcharek, the only member of the commission who had been in on both the 2002 and 2006 decisions, then said he had read and re-read the material, and “I can’t say I neglected anything.” He noted he had not been part of any ex-parte communication. “Any decision I have made has been well thought out and considered to the best of my ability.”
Hargraves then read the four determinations for reconsideration: 1) a substantial procedural error occurred in the original proceeding; 2) the original vote was based on fraud or misrepresentation; 3) the commission failed to address a material issue of fact or a controlling principle of law; and 4) new evidence not available at the time of the hearing relating to a matter of significant public policy as become known.
Hicks and Nakazawa voted yes, but the other three stood firm and said no.
“The majority held strong in the face of a pretty scathing attack by the minority,” commented City Manager Bob Ward, but he added that an appeal by Fischer is expected. If that happens, he said, then the Superior Court could dismiss it, order yet another remand to the LBC, or even deny the petition. “Then we would have to have an oar in the water for an appeal to the Supreme Court.”
The election should go forward as planned, he said, barring an injunction. “Hopefully, after seven years of fighting this, they (voters) will not turn it over,” Ward said.
Ward and City Clerk Marj Harris said the Division of Elections wants to have the election on April 3, but an e-mail from DOE this Wednesday said the date had not been finalized.
City councilmembers said they would help get the word out about the values of Skagway being a borough versus the risks of not becoming one. They are planning commentaries in the News, as well as a boxholder to voters.
Mike Korsmo said the council and community should also weigh in on a new set of draft LBC regulations at both a March 1 LBC meeting and before a March 12 deadline for written comments. They can be found at: www.commerce.state.ak.us/dca/lbc/regulation_revision.htm

City seeks ‘equitable’ solution to pay scale problem

By ANDREW CREMATA
Skagway City Council’s adoption of a 12-step wage increase for the Skagway Police Department remains a contentious subject for City Manager Bob Ward and Mayor Tim Bourcy. Ward and Bourcy believe the council’s decision was unfair to other city departments and a more “equitable” approach should have been undertaken.
A resolution to revamp the pay scaled was on the Feb. 15 council agenda. Ward presented four possible alternatives that addressed wage disparity issues for all other city departments. Each resolution would have repealed the police pay raise, which was passed by the council in December and survived a veto by Bourcy.
Each of the four alternative resolutions said the council’s decision to authorize the wage-increase “created an inequity in the pay scale between the police department and all other municipal employees.” The resolutions offered different solutions to address the perceived inequity, two of which would call for the hiring of an independent professional firm to conduct an analysis of wages, benefits, and cost of living on a regional basis.
While members of city council were impressed by the police department’s independent study that addressed those issues, Ward has maintained the study was inaccurate and the city should have denied the SPD request for a pay scale increase until more thorough data for all city positions could be compiled.
A 1996 resolution that adopted pay scales for city employees called for two-year reviews to adjust them as necessary. The city’s failure to act on that part of the resolution, combined with a failure to address the police department’s concerns over pay in April 2006, before the current budget cycle, led to frustration within the police department and forced the city to address the issue in December.
At the Feb. 15 meeting Bourcy maintained the council acted inappropriately by adopting the police resolution and overriding his subsequent veto. He said some city employees felt “left out in the cold.... And rightfully so.”
He said the council has a duty to the taxpayers, and the issue of pay for the rest of city employees requires “ample consideration.”
Councilmember Mike Catsi suggested a series of work sessions to address each department’s wages separately. “If we do this, we do this right, and do it once,” he said.
Catsi said the police department looked at industry standards in their report and that other departments should be approached the same way.
Councilmember L. C. Cassidy agreed and said, “The whole thing is moving way too fast. It’s a huge issue.”
She said the decision should be comprehensive and fair and did not want to see it result in fighting between the departments.
Bourcy reacted to their comments by saying, “Finally we can agree on something here.... We left three-quarters of the city out.”
He said he wanted all of the departments treated equally and all of them should be paid retroactively, if need be.
Coming to an agreement over what is considered “equitable” could present a problem. Some city jobs require higher levels of training than others, and some, like the police department, have firm data regarding industry standards for pay while others do not.
Ward suggested an independent survey could provide more accurate information regarding the issue, and said, in his opinion, many parts of the police department’s independent study failed scrutiny. He said he did not believe the 12-step increase suggested by the department was accurate, and went so far as to call their cost of living survey “bogus.” He said other departments should get the same scrutiny.
Police Chief Ray Leggett responded to Ward’s comments by phone and said, “I am totally disappointed in how Bob Ward has responded to this issue. It is a travesty. Our staff and I stand by our numbers, which were conservative, and stand by our report, which was conservative. The city council stood by it and said it was done well.”
Councilmember Dan Henry said if an independent survey was initiated, it would postpone any action by the council until May, when the study would be completed. He also agreed with comments made by citizen John Tronrud who stated the tourism industry has created the need for more employees and infrastructure. Instead of paying for these needs through property tax, Tronrud suggested the scaling back of capital projects to clear up more sales tax monies to pay for these expanded services. He said it would take some of the burden off the 800 Skagway “year-rounders.”
Bourcy said he was for hiring a firm to conduct an independent survey, but council members said they thought the issue could be resolved without spending the $8,600 or more it would cost to conduct the study.
The original resolution was killed by the four members present, and the council started looking at Ward’s new options in a work session on Thursday night after this issue went to press. Members wanted to see a complete list of city job descriptions to compare them with similar jobs regionwide. More work sessions are expected before the next pay scale resolution comes before the full council.

Hather makes the ‘Hall’

Veteran coach to be honored by ASAA in April

By JEFF BRADY
Don Hather of Skagway recently was named to the 2007 class of the Alaska High School Hall of Fame. The hall was started last year by the Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA) in partnership with Matanuska Maid. He will be inducted during a banquet in Anchorage on April 15.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Hather said from his Skagway home. “I’ve had a lot of years in activities and I think it’s the biggest honor.”
According to an ASAA press release, the Hall of Fame was established to “identify and honor, in a permanent manner, individuals who exhibited high ethical standards and integrity while achieving excellence in high school athletics and activities, as well as others who have distinguished themselves by virtue of exemplary contributions to the advancement of interscholastic athletics and activities in the State of Alaska.”
Categories include student athlete and students who participated in fine art and academic activities. Former students must have graduated at least 10 years prior to induction. Other categories include coaches, advisors/directors, administrators,
officials/adjudicators and major contributors.
Hather was one of six coaches named. He retired in 1996 from coaching at three Alaska high schools – Hoonah, Tok and Skagway. He began his high school coaching career in Nebraska where in 1968 he was named Wrestling Coach of the Year. He began his Alaskan teaching career in the 1970s at Hoonah High School, coaching both wrestling and volleyball.
Known as an intense and dynamic coach, his volleyball team accomplished the virtually impossible feat of earning runner-up against Anchorage’s Dimond High School in the 1979 state championship finals – quite a feat for a school of 60 students! That was before schools were divided into classifications. Hather moved on to Tok High School in the early 1980s where he coached several state champion wrestlers - being honored by his peers in 1986 as Alaska State Wrestling Coach of the Year. His coaching duties at Tok included basketball where he coached a team that earned third place at the 2A state tournament.
In the 1990s, after his retirement, another move took Hather and his wife Betty to Skagway, where he served on the school board and helped coach wrestling.
“He has had a profound effect on the community as a booster and youth advocate, raising tens of thousands of dollars for local programs,” the press release said.
In addition to the honors mentioned, Hather was inducted into the Alaska Coaches Hall of Fame, the Alaska Officials Hall of Fame, the Alaska Wrestling Hall of Fame, and the University of Nebraska Kearney Athletic Hall of Fame.
He has had two local tournaments named for him, and together, Betty and he were honored with the Helen B. Clark Community Service Award in 2005.
Hather continues to help kids, even though he has been hampered of late with knee and back problems. You can find him at the SRC working those out on a stationary bike so he can get back to flipping burgers at fund-raisers.
“The way I look at it, our kids in the community are our kids and they are the future,” Hather said. “I don’t see that since I retired, I can’t continue to help kids. I enjoy doing that.”
Two former Haines athletes, Carl Blackhurst and Sarah Olerud Swinton, also were named to the Hall. A complete list can be found at www.asaa.org. The “who’s who” dinner ceremony will be held at 5:30 p.m. on April 15 at the Marriott Downtown Hotel in Anchorage. Ticket information can be found on the site.
“We’ll definitely get up there for the banquet,” Hather said. “I’m working out hard to get in better shape. Both of us are looking forward to it.”

CITY: New manager to make $90,000

Ward to stay on another month for $10,000 transition period

Alan Sorum will start his new job as city manager of Skagway today, Feb. 23.
A committee led by Mayor Tim Bourcy, Finance chair Dan Henry, and City Manager Search Committee chair Mike Korsmo reached an agreement with Sorum to pay him $90,000 a year. The city also will cover up to $5,000 in moving expenses from Valdez, and he will receive 20 days leave in his first year. He will have an unpaid leave for a week this March to attend his daughter’s school activities.
Sorum will be evaluated on an annual basis prior to March 1.
Retiring manager Bob Ward will be paid $10,000 to stay on with the city as an adviser during a transition period until March 23, though the Feb. 15 city council meeting was his last behind the manager’s desk.
“I hope I’m not holding you up too badly,” he said of the negotiated figure for him to stick around. “Ten thousand is a little more than I make now, but this is delaying my retirement a month at some cost to me.”
Ward, who was city manager for 11 years, noted in his final report that there was “a significant amount of personal regret” that his final meeting would be noted for an issue – employee pay – where he was at odds with many of the council members. But he said that it had been a pleasure and honor to work with them on completing many projects and reaching many milestones.
“You have a firm foundation in place from which to build upon the Skagway of the future,” he continued, wishing them the best in their private and public lives. “I am comfortable in the believe that Skagway is in good hands.”
The mayor, council members, and tourism director all praised Ward over the course of the meeting.
“I can’t thank Bob enough for his years of service,” said Korsmo. “You be hard-pressed to find a better manager throughout the state.... We found that out during the search.”
Henry said the mayor and the manager are to be commended for their work on borough formation. Henry added that he respected Ward’s approach to the pay scale issue and that there was a reason why his license plate says “Crisis.”
“There’s been a remarkable amount of restraint on his part and his integrity is irrefutable,” Henry said, adding that he hoped Sorum can “rise to the level of Bob Ward.”
Mayor Bourcy said he appreciated Ward’s years of service. “The fact that he still has hair is amazing,” he said, adding that he would save most of his comments for a going-away party on March 17. – JB

CITY: Tom Cochran appointed to council seat
Tom Cochran is back on the Skagway City Council. Cochran was appointed at the Feb. 15 meeting to fill the seat left vacant by last month’s resignation of Craig Jennison.
Mayor Tim Bourcy said he had originally intended to leave the seat vacant until the borough election, but that there would be “quorum issues” in March if the seat was not filled.
He said Cochran did a good job running a write-in campaign in last October’s election, and “the voters spoke.” Cochran received 166 votes in a race for two seats won by incumbents L.C. Cassidy and Dave Hunz. He previously served on the council about a decade ago.
Cochran was at the meeting listening to the debate on the pay scale issue. He was sworn in the next day and joined the table at a pay scale work session this week.
“I was definitely willing to do it, since I ran last time” Cochran said, about being contacted by the mayor. “I was happy that he chose someone that ran, because in the past I know that wasn’t always the case.”
As for taking on a big issue such as pay scale, Cochran said “There’s always something going on. You might as well jump in with both feet.
“I’m just happy the mayor and council had the confidence in me to serve and I hope I can serve the community of Skagway.”
Council has recently postponed decisions on two issues before them where they needed more members present: the employee pay scale revisions, and a proposed city property lease extension request by Councilman Dan Henry’s business, Skagway Fish. Co.– JB

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

CITY SHIELD • VYAZEMSKY, RUSSIA

Skagway's Mike Catsi and Mike Healy pose with Susan Cosner of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) in front of the Vyazemsky City Hall near the Russia-Chinese border last month. See story in features. The city exchange program continues in early March with a visit to Skagway by Vyazemsky Mayor Victor Shashtum.

YUKON QUEST FEATURE: A dog's day in the Yukon

• FEATURE: Skagway reps visit Russia Far East; Vyazemsky mayor due here March 5

• SCHOOL FEATURE: 'Ditch Day' Dramatics

• SHS & SKAGWAY ACTIVITIES: DDF team scores big at regionals; Wild basketball finishes in Kake for Skagway teams

To read all the stories in the News, including complete city and school digests, letters and commentary, police and court reports, and view our many advertisers for Skagway products and services, you must subscribe to the real thing. Out of town subscriptions cost $35 per year for second class mail, $45 for first class mail. Send a check to Skagway News, Box 498, Skagway, AK 99840 or call us at 907-983-2354 with a credit card number.