Buckwheat Donahue lets out his trademark howl in a howling wind at Log Cabin on March 28 for the 50K start of the 23rd annual ski race that bears his name. Read this year's Buckwheat Feature and check out more photos in the BSC Gallery.

Photo by Andrew Cremata

Little loss to Skagway from Holland America, Carnival re-deployments in 2010

Chair blames soft Alaska bookings on 5% tax


Skagway received some relief on the shifting cruise ship front at the end of March. The port will basically see the status quo in numbers of visits by Holland America Line and Carnival ships as a result of a shift in deployments to Alaska in 2010.
Unlike Royal Caribbean and Princess, which announced recently that they would be pulling one ship each from the Alaska market in 2010, Holland America and Carnival are keeping the same number of ships in Alaska. But they have mostly moved itineraries around to address softening demand.
In a March 22 press release, Carnival announced it would offer seven-day round-trip cruises from Seattle to Alaska in 2010, rather than the current deployment of alternating seven-day cruises between Vancouver and Seward. The move will be a boost to Seattle, and a boon to Seward and Vancouver. It was made in response to greater demand for cruising from U.S. ports that are closer to home and easier on customers’ wallets.
The 2,124-passenger Carnival Spirit will still call 19 times in Skagway, and also visit Juneau, Ketchikan, Victoria Island, B.C. and Tracy Arm.
Holland America, which like Princess is owned by the Carnival Corp., announced its 2010 itinerary on March 30. It is dropping 20 seven-day sailings between Vancouver and Seward, and replacing them with ten 14-day round-trip sailings of its flagship Amsterdam between Seattle and Anchorage.
“For HAL it simply made sense with softening demand for Alaska to reduce our overall capacity by offering fewer/longer round-trip cruises rather than 7-day gulf cruises,” wrote Holland America’s Bill Fletcher in an e-mail to the News. “Roundtrip from Seattle makes the air component easier/more affordable for guests. This strategy allowed us to continue our deployment of eight ships in Alaska for 2010 while some of our competitors are pulling ships out altogether.”
The Amsterdam will visit Skagway every other Friday in 2010, offsetting the loss of the Ryndam on every other Monday. The shift will affect Haines, which loses nine calls of the Ryndam.
The 14-day “Alaskan Adventurer” cruises on the 1,380-passenger Amsterdam depart roundtrip from Seattle May 17 through September 6, 2010. It will visit several ports, including Ketchikan, Skagway, Sitka, Anchorage, Homer, Kodiak, Juneau and Victoria, BC, as well as Tracy Arm and Hubbard Glacier.
“With the three new ports of Anchorage, Homer and Kodiak, guests will enjoy a unique Alaska cruising experience not available on other cruise itineraries,” said Richard Meadows, HAL’s executive vice president, marketing, sales, and guest programs, in the press release.
Overall, Holland America expects a drop of 11,000 passengers to Alaska next year as a result of the shift. Skagway already is losing 91,000 from the departure of RCI’s Serenade of the Seas and Princess’ Star Princess in 2010. This year, ships coming to Skagway will have a capacity for about 753,000 passengers, so based on recent news that number will drop to about 651,000 next year.
In a widely distributed story from Travel Trade at the end of March, Carnival Corp. chair Micky Arison, speaking at an investor meeting, assigned part of the blame for the flat growth in Alaska to the cruise ship initiative passed by voters in 2006.
“It should now be very evident to everyone that the initiative that passed a couple of years ago is having a very significant impact on tourism to Alaska,” Arison was quoted as saying. “The growth stopped immediately after the initiative passed. And today the tax is a significant price to pay in a very sensitive consumer environment.”
Arison said that Carnival Corp. is addressing the issue politically.
“If we don’t in the end find a political solution, I assume we will go ahead and litigate the issue, which is a last resort, but that is what we will do. Other than that, we will have to continue to reduce capacity until we find an equilibrium,” Arison told the investors.
The industry has not approached the legislature or voters on repealing the tax, but it did recently win passage of HB 134 addressing the enforcement of water quality standards in the initiative.

Bear carcass discovered in harbor

Trooper asks for anyone with information to call him

A group of divers from the Yukon found a disturbing underwater sight during a training exercise off the Railroad Dock on March 29.
The divers, members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, discovered what they thought might be a body wrapped in plastic and weighted down with a block. Upon bringing it to the surface, they discovered it was a bear carcass.
The divers then reported the find to their colleagues in the Skagway Police Department.
“It had been there a long time,” said Police Chief Ray Leggett. “It looked like a (human) body the way it was wrapped. Somebody didn’t want it found. They sunk it.”
Leggett said it was definitely a decomposing black bear and guessed its weight at close to 200 pounds.
The chief said SPD made a call to Fish and Wildlife Trooper Rick Merritt in Haines, who suggested disposing of the bear based on its condition. The RCMP divers sunk it back in the harbor.
Leggett speculated that someone who didn’t have a license shot the bear.
“There’s no real way to investigate it,” he said. “We turned it over to Fish and Game and they weren’t interested in it, so they (divers) disposed of it.”
Merritt said later that the bear had probably been sunk during the fall and had been partially eaten by crabs. He confirmed that it was a small black bear and asked anyone with information about the illegal disposal to call him at 907-766-2533.
This was not the first incident of its kind in Skagway.
Leggett confirmed that SPD received a report of a bear carcass found near the Railroad Dock in November 2003. That bear’s head, paws and pelt had been removed.
Black bears can only be hunted in season by licensed hunters, who are required to salvage the hide and skull (and meat the first six months of the year), and then the skull and skin must be sealed within 30 days by an officer. If a bear is shot in defense of life and property, it also must be turned in, but the bear cannot be kept by the shooter.


Dedman’s Collection purchase approved
Although there are still issues to work out over storage of flammable negatives and use of copyright photos in the Dedman’s Collection, the Skagway Borough Assembly voted to approve the $150,000 purchase at its April 2 meeting.
In her final report about the collection, Museum Director Judy Munns noted more money would have to be spent to separate the nitrate negatives in the collection – about 10 percent of the approximately 2,000 images – and keep them stored away from the others. She said that would be the highest priority for staff.
She also noted that more staff time would be needed to “reunite” all copies (print, slides, reprints, duplicates) with the negatives, and estimated that it would take three years to scan all the images. The Dedman family offered to assist in removing duplicates, and said the images could be scanned gradually after the collection is obtained. They would like a CD for their use.
All images before 1934 are in the public domain, but those after that date need verification of ownership, Munns noted. In an e-mail to the borough, Averill Harp of the Dedman family said the majority of those post-1930s photos bear the names Barbara Dedman Kalen, Dedman’s Photo Shop and Henry Dedman, which belong to the family. The rights to those will transfer with the sale, she said, however the family still wants the right to reproduce the images. Other images she considers obscure.
“Copyright only really becomes an issue when being commercially reproduced,” she wrote. “These few obscure photographs will in all likelihood never fall into that category and would be legal to display and archive.”
Harp’s mother, Betsy Albecker, told the assembly that the family wants to sell the photos in Dedman’s. “Basically, we just want to sell the pictures we’ve been selling all along,” she said.
Finance chair Dan Henry said he was struggling with the notion of the borough buying something that they may not have the rights to, and assembly member Mark Schaefer said he also had problems with the shared use concept.
But Mayor Tom Cochran said many of the photos had been reproduced already, and assembly member L.C. Cassidy said they simply have to decide whether the collection is worth it. She said that any time an antiquity is purchased, there is an associated cost of keeping it protected and preserved.
“The point is, we’ll have it, and it belongs in Skagway,” Cassidy said.
Assembly member Colette Hisman said she wanted the National Park Service to agree to its offer to help the municipality with the collection, but she said her main issue with the collection was over price. It was privately appraised last fall for $50,000, yet the Dedman family had set a price of $150,000.
NPS was willing to pay the asking price, but told the Dedmans it would have to wait until its next budget cycle. But the family said it needed to sell the collection this winter, and then offered it to the municipality. It was held up for about two months for a required acquisition report, and the assembly then wanted three readings of the ordinance for adequate public comment. There was none at last week’s meeting.
Member Mike Korsmo said he had always supported the purchase, noting that some Skagway collections have been lost over the years. “This is one of the ones we need to save,” he said.
The final tally was 4-1 in favor of Ordinance 09-04, which allowed for use of sales tax funds for the collection’s purchase. Hisman voted against it; Dave Hunz was absent.
“Averill thanks you,” Albecker said after the vote.

Ambassador program a go for 2009 season
A new wave of letters and testimony arrived in favor of starting a Skagway Community Ambassador program this summer, and the assembly voted unanimously to fund the program for a trial run in the summer of 2009.
It will require a capital outlay of $25,000 for the season from the cruise ship excise tax funds. About $11,000 would come out of the current fiscal year budget, with the balance carrying over to the next budget, explained Tourism Director Buckwheat Donahue.
It would fund two greeters who would walk up and down Broadway answering questions. They also would assist with pedestrian congestion issues during certain times at 2nd and Broadway. The program was originally proposed by the Golden Circle chapter of the Alaska Tourism Industry Association. It would be managed by the Skagway CVB with assistance from the police department.
Jennifer Schlatter, president of the ATIA chapter, said the intent of the program was to “be a presence downtown.” The ambassadors would spend a majority of their time “mitigating congestion,” but not directing traffic, she explained.
Police Chief Ray Leggett said the ambassadors would not have whistles and reiterated that they would not direct traffic. Rather, they would guide pedestrians and keep them from going out into traffic.
“We’ve had people walk right into moving buses,” he said.
He said they would not be a “narc squad” on the lookout for ordinance violations, but he would like the ambassadors to have radios so they can communicate with police. He said it would really help with lost kid reports.
A few letters came in last month questioning the program’s need in little Skagway, but several more came in prior to the meeting in support of it. Kirby Day, the director of shore operations for Princess Cruises, said the Juneau program had gained national recognition and had been copied by other communities like Victoria and Ketchikan. In Juneau they act more like crossing guards, and it also is funded by the 5% cruise head tax.
Three local representatives of tour companies spoke in favor of the program, saying it was a proper use of the tax that was approved in a 2006 statewide vote.
Vickey Moy of White Pass said the program would be a valuable “customer service tool” for the municipality.
“Having a person out there answering questions will go a long way,” she said. “I know we have two visitor centers in town but an added person on the street will help.”
“It sends a message that we are doing some pro-active things … to support the cruise ships coming,” said Tom Hall of Klondike Gold Dredge.
Bart Henderson of Chilkat Guides agreed, adding that the enormous crowds at mid-day downtown can be daunting and impersonal for some visitors. Having the ambassadors down there “puts a human face on the community,” he said.
Cassidy and Henry then said they see potential benefits from the program, if it is done right. “We need to polish the apple the next few years,” Henry added.
Others at the table were willing to give the program a try for a year.

New manager: two-year contract at $92,000 per year
Mayor Cochran announced at the meeting that an agreement had been reached with Thomas C. Smith to be the next borough manager.
Smith will be given a two-year contract with an annual salary of $92,000 per year. That’s $2,000 a year more than previous manager Alan Sorum was making.
Cochran said there were some challenges with PERS over how to incorporate Smith into the borough’s benefit package, since Smith had retired when he left Palmer in the late 1990s. But Cochran said, “we got it worked out and are quite happy with the outcome.”
Smith was expected to leave Minnesota for Alaska early this week and be here and on the job some time next week.


Dr. Dickens returns

Dr. Michael Dickens returned to the district in early April after an extended medical leave, initially brought on by a fall on the ice in January. Various diabetes-related complications left him hospitalized, immobilized and recuperating in Arizona.
He said it was a “long ordeal” but he has use of his legs back, though he now is on an insulin pump and having to take several pills a day.
“I feel very fortunate to be back,” he told school board members on April 6. “I’m tired of seeing doctors.”
Board members, who had not met in regular session while Dickens was away, said they were glad to see him back.
Dickens said there fortunately were no major issues that needed his attention while he was gone, and the staff and board held things together.
He started out his report with a string of kudos for accomplishments by students and staff: hosting the DDF Tourney, winning two state DDF events and qualifying two students for nationals, the successful performances of “Bye Bye Birdie”, the DARE program, and the girls’ basketball team’s run to the state championship game.
He said he was even more pleased that the girls took home the state tourney academic award. Many of the same girls also won the same award during the state volleyball tourney last fall.

Budget hearing next week
One major piece of business that was delayed until Dickens’ return was preparation of the 2010 budget, which usually is ready to send to City Hall by mid-April. The district was recently given an extension to May 1.
At this week’s meeting, the board held an executive session to discuss budget strategy, staff negotiations, and the superintendent’s evaluation. No action was taken after the session.
The district has been working on a new contract with staff, and Dickens’ contract is up at the end of June. After the meeting, Dickens said he received a positive evaluation but had not yet made a decision on his future. His focus right now is on the budget, he said.
A draft budget will be presented during a work session next Tuesday, April 14. The public is welcome to participate. The board then plans to meet in a work session with the borough assembly the following week. A final budget would come to the board for approval at its April 28 regular meeting.
New borough assembly liaison Colette Hisman said the schedule should work fine with the municipality’s upcoming budget preparations.
The district did receive some good budget news via City Hall from borough lobbyist John Walsh. The federal stimulus education package for Alaska contains $25,000 for Skagway.
“If all goes well and there isn’t a fight between the governor and the legislature, we might get some extra money,” Dickens said.

SUGAR RUSH – Skagway kids swoop down on cupcakes after last week's DARE program graduation. In class, they learned how to avoid much worse things. See more photos on Blotter page. Photo by Andrew Cremata


O’Daniel, Ellis make All-State team

Two Skagway sophomores made the Anchorage Daily News / Alaska Media All-State Basketball Team, which was unveiled March 29.
Guard Kaylie O’Daniel was selected to the first team, and forward Jesse Ellis made the second team, capping off their all-tourney performances in the State 2A Tournament. Skagway reached the championship game for the first time in school history, falling to region rival Yakutat in the finale.
The girls 2A Player of the Year was Rose Fraker of three-time state champ Yakutat. Joining her on the first team were O’Daniel, Tammy Burgess of Point Hope, Jessica Williams of Noorvik, and Ellen Esbenshade of Yakutat.
Ellis was joined on the second team by Sam Lane of Point Hope, Mary Olson of Chevak, Grace Ehlers of Ninilchik, and Misty Olson of Chevak.
The late Lena Ferguson of Chevak, who succumbed to breast cancer just prior to her team’s region tourney, was named Coach of the Year.
Four Southeast boys received all-state honors. Stephen Adams of Yakutat was named to the second team, and Sean Hall of Klawock made the third team. Yakutat’s Shea Jackson and Clinton Ivers received honorable mention. Boys Player of the Year was Tim Field of runner-up Noorvik, and Coach of the Year was Rex Rock, Jr. of champion Point Hope.

2nd place for J-Hi
Aviera Vogel dribbles against Hoonah in the C division championship game of the HoopTime Tournament in Juneau last month. It was Skagway’s first appearance at the junior high tourney which is held in conjunction with the adult Gold Medal tourney, and both teams made the finals. Hoonah prevailed in two close games. The Skagway girls fell 39-29, and the boys lost 34-28. Five Skagway players made the all tourney teams: Nick Ackerman, Airik Cochran, and Zack Wassman for the boys; and Vogel and Polly Brown for the girls.
Photo by Cindy O’Daniel

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