LOW TECH LOTTERY

Vice Mayor J. Frey sticks his hand into the cookie tin to draw a land lottery winner. See story below. - DL

Skagway Medical Corp. lease not renewed
With legal advice, SMC board tries to figure out transition

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
In a sudden move, the Skagway City Council voted 5-1 not to renew the Skagway Medical Corp.’s lease at its March 27 meeting. Councilmembers Mike Korsmo, Mike Catsi, Dave Hunz, John Mielke, and Dan Henry voted for the motion, and J. Frey, voted against it.
The meeting was called to address the Skagway Medical Corp.’s request for funds for an audit, but it turned out that it wasn’t really needed. There was no need for a full audit, said SMC secretary Leslie Dodd at the meeting.
Dodd said she felt comfortable with financial tracking that was being implemented.
With the clinic slated to be managed by Bartlett Regional Hospital, City Manager Bob Ward also questioned a need for an audit.
Mayor Tim Bourcy, who attended a SMC board meeting in mid-March, said at the meeting that he was discouraged with some of the board’s activity, and that he didn’t feel they understood their responsibilities.
“I won’t sign a three-party agreement,” he said. “I think the board is dysfunctional.”
Dodd said the board has had a huge responsibility since being elected last fall by the small clinic membership of about 80.
“This board has been handed a can of worms, and the problems were not made on this board’s watch,” Dodd said.
The day after the meeting, Bourcy went to the clinic to talk with the employees, said Chief of Staff Kendall Simm, who said it helped alleviate anxieties.
“I think it’ll work fine,” she said, in a phone interview.
Simm said other small towns in Alaska have had the same problems and several have turned to Bartlett, as did the City of Craig.
Addressing rumors that a city take-over had been planned all along, Simm said the move had been discussed with the last board, and that she sent a letter to the mayor and the city council advising them to consider it.
In the March 14 letter Simm said; “...The employees want to work in a stable work environment. However, the actions of several board members have created more issues and problems by contacting state and federal agencies. In my opinion, the potential agreement with Bartlett is placed in jeopardy by these random acts and behavior unfitting a board member. What hospital would go into an agreement with a board who may at any time call a state or federal agency to question their management?”
Simm said the proper line of communication in the clinic is for board members to address their concerns to her, and if not satisfied to the medical director.
“We’ve been through 14 health care providers since 1994, and the bottom line reason the majority gave for leaving was because of board interference with the running of the clinic,” Simm said. “The board is there to set policy. What’s been going on since 1994 won’t work.”
It remains with the City Council to decide if the current clinic staff will become city employees. The administrator will be a Bartlett employee.
At the meeting on April 4, Councilmember Mielke said he thought they should be city employees, and Catsi concurred, asking that an ordinance be drawn up after looking at the ordinances used by Craig and Juneau, both of which have Bartlett-run clinics.
“I want to stay with the Bartlett model,” said Korsmo. “We can make it work and give them (clinic employees) some security. They deserve it and the community deserves it.”
But Hunz disagreed.
“...They have too many employees now that there’s a private clinic going in,” said Hunz, referring to the opening of the Klondike Medical Clinic by former SMC physician’s assistant Tim Cristman. “The city doesn’t need to be in the medical business, but needs to help people in medical services.”
Hunz also wanted to see a three-party agreement.
No decision was made on whether clinic employees would become city employees, and the discussion ended with Frey saying there was no job security for anyone, anymore.
At a SMC board meeting on April 4 at the Fire Hall, board members discussed with their attorney Mary Nordale of Fairbanks, how to make a smooth transition.
Nordale did mention that medical files are the property of the client, and a notice would need to be sent to everyone to come and get their file or approve that it be transferred to the new administration.
Board members seemed committed to as painless a move as possible. SMC’s hiring committee is bringing up a potential administrator candidate next week for a face-to-face interview.
Asked how he felt about the direction the clinic was moving, SMC Board President Jan Nelson said: “Personally, I don’t care who runs the clinic as long as the community gets good health care and the employees are taken care of. That’s what the board’s wanted all along.”

Jack Beedle of DOT&PF answers a question during one of two public scoping presentations at the National Park Service auditorium. Behind him are a map of the proposed road route from Juneau to Skagway, and 1997 charts identifying alternatives and costs from the draft EIS, which will be updated. - JB

Juneau Access on the table again
DOT&PF, SEACC come to town to scope out EIS

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS and JEFF BRADY
It seems that no matter what Juneau Access alternative is considered doable by spending $2.7 million to complete the environmental impact statement, Gov. Frank Murkowski can order whatever one he prefers, said a Department of Transportation and Public Facilities official.
At a scoping meeting Wednesday night at a packed National Park Service visitor center, Reuben Yost, regional environmental coordinator for DOT&PF’s Southeast Region pre-construction department, said whoever is governor has such authority. But the final say on that would be up to the funding agency, the Federal Highway Administration.
Some in the audience wondered aloud what was the point in even having such meetings. About 100 attended the two public presentations.
Yost tried to reassure the audience by saying that all alternatives were on the table now, including a West Lynn Canal road, and that the years of additional data gathering will provide a clearer picture of the environmental and economic impacts. He said they used indicator species: brown and black bear, goats, and martens. Also, eagle nest, Steller sea lion haul-outs and avalanche monitoring have been ongoing since 2000.
But Jack Beedle, group chief of the DOT&PF’s Southeast Region pre-construction department, slipped at one point by saying, “When this road will be built, I mean if (the proposed road’s) built.”
Yost also admitted that the number of avalanche chutes have grown by two to 60, and that a mediation plan for them has not been developed.
The answer to Juneau Access remains elusive after years of study and research. It is being revived by the Murkowski administration after Gov. Tony Knowles decided not to complete the environmental impact statement with a “preferred alternative” of a road from Juneau to Skagway on the east side of the canal. He cited the additional $1.5 million (the cost in 2000) needed for completing the document and public opposition in Skagway, Haines and Juneau. Finishing the EIS now is expected to cost $2.7 million, more than figured because of the Federal Highway Administration’s requirement of a supplemental draft EIS.
Murkowski campaigned last year on completing the EIS and on developing roads in the state to transport resources. Yost mentioned that it must be remembered that Fran Ulmer, the Democratic candidate for governor, also campaigned promising to complete the EIS.
The Knowles administration also looked into a fast ferry system, one of which will be ready for use on the Sitka run next year. Skagway was slated to get a fast ferry within the next few years, but that is not a certainty.
The Haines Borough Assembly has not passed a resolution for or against a road, but did ask the administration in February to include a road from Haines to Skagway if the EIS is completed. Juneau’s public vote supported improved ferry service and its assembly voted 5-4 to complete the draft EIS, and the Skagway City Council also has gone on record as supporting improved ferry service. A recent unscientific survey done by the anti-road Skagway Marine Access Committee found 134 residents against the road and 24 in favor.
An earlier meeting with city officials at City Hall brought out a majority of anti-road residents as did the two sessions at the Park Service. Most vocal were those who were concerned about scars along Lynn Canal and the road entering Skagway along Lower Dewey Lake.
However, at the City Hall meeting, Mavis Irene Henricksen said people were afraid to come out and talk about their support for a road because they were afraid of being disliked or picked on, a sentiment echoed by Tom Cochran at the Park Service gathering.
Kathy Hosford, who attended the City Hall meeting as a representative of the Skagway Chamber of Commerce Transportation Committee, said people felt as if they needed more information. Since the Chamber is about commerce, she said a road would certainly play an important part in that.
Public comments are due by April 18; field work, technical studies and new community surveys will be conducted May-December 2003; and a year from now the supplemental draft EIS will be ready for public and agency comment.
In late March, the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council sent a grassroots organizer to Skagway for an informational meeting.
Emily Ferry (no kidding) emphasized the avalanche danger if the road is built.
“They want to build a road up the deepest fjord in the country,” she told 35 people at A.B. Hall.
She questioned if federal funding for the entire project is possible because the $300 million is equal to all the federal funding Alaska receives.
In 1997, the estimate to build the road was $232 million and yearly maintenance ran $4.3 million. Fast ferry alternative estimates were $94-167 million for capital costs and yearly maintenance, $14.1-19.3 million.
What was a certainty coming out of Wednesday’s meetings was Yost’s assertion that if a road is built there would be no need for ferries to run north from Juneau. However, he did emphasize that a shuttle ferry would operate between Haines and Skagway or Haines and Katzehin to connect Haines travelers to the highway.
There also will be a more diligent study of social and economic impacts on the year-round economies of all three communities, the officials said.
Mike O’Daniel said his family’s business stands to lose 15 year-round jobs if a road is built. “Is that a fair trade for, say, a service station?” he asked.
As for the road coming to town along Lower Lake, Yost said there is an FHA provision which says roads can’t be built through wilderness or recreation areas, if there are other alternatives. That route was chosen because it would not interfere with the historic ships’ registries on the rocks by the Railroad Dock, he said. “You mean, graffiti,” said someone in the back.
The DOT&OF officials said they’d take another look at that route too, and update the costs of fast ferries. The earlier draft EIS looked at larger fast ferries that what the state ended up building.

Land lottery draws 14
All lots selected, save one
Eager faces turned to the front of the Skagway City Council Chambers as Vice Mayor J. Frey pulled land lottery tickets out of a cookie tin. Low tech, but it worked just fine.
Spencer Morgan and Joe Gill won the two lots next to the old land fill. The upper lots at the old state explosive shed area went to Mark Larsen, Dawn Brown and Steve Jaklitsch. The southernmost lot, the one with the most difficult access, was refused by the remaining nine hopefuls: Beth Winslow, Bill Toner, Jim Sager, Colette Hisman, Linda VanHouten, Jeff Brown, Jeffrey Hitt, and Dave Hunz.
Larsen, who was chosen first, and had his choice of all the lots, had his picture made with a digital camera showing him pointing to his lot on the plot map, so he could e-mail family and friends.
The land sale on Tuesday raised $371,000 for the City’s land fund. There’s been no decision on what to do with the unsold lot, said City Clerk Marj Harris. –DL

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