Harold Jacobs (Yanyeidí) beats a drum while Ray Dennis Jr (Lukaaxh.ádi) and Lance A. Twitchell (Lukaaxh.ádi) peek out in their masks from behind a bead blanket held by Lachlan Dennis (Dakhl'aweidí) and Makeah Twitchell (Lukaaxh.ádi) during the day-long naming and dedication ceremony at the Skagway Tribal Community Center on April 16. See the centers Tlingit name and more pictures in this week's Photo Double Feature. Andrew Cremata
Public Safety Committee drafts ordinance to regulate cabs, horse, bike, walking tours
By JEFF BRADY
The recent start-upl of a taxi operation has brought a need to better define and regulate various modes of public transportation allowed on Skagway streets.
Shortly after Greg Clem, owner of Klondike Tours, arrived back in town this spring and started operating his yellow taxi vans, he requested that the city take a look at its ordinance.
The Public Safety Committee met on April 11 and reviewed not only a new draft taxi ordinance, but other proposed code language that would regulate non-motorized conveyances like the pedicabs and horse-drawn carriages, as well as commercial walking tours.
Over the past few years, the city has implemented moratoriums in those areas to get a handle on the downtown congestion problem. Now it wants existing operations capped at 2004 levels, and no new operators.
There was little debate on the non-motorized elements. Grandfathered operators Skagway Carriage Co. and North Country Pedicab would be allowed to run at existing levels, and their permits could not be sold or transferred. If either of the businesses ceased operation, the city would consider competitive bid franchises. Neither operator was present at the meeting.
Stuart Brown, operator of the franchised SMART city shuttle system, raised a concern about sanitation. The smell from horse urine patches at the turnaround apron by the Railroad Dock was a problem last year, he said, and he personally spread lime in the area after getting the tourism director to track down some from the state highway shop. Committee chair Monica Carlson said sanitation language could be added.
The two grandfathered commercial walking tours, Red Onion Saloon and Klondike Experience, were represented at the meeting. The National Park Service, which operates six free walking tours a day of 25-30 people, is covered in another section of the ordinance. The Red Onion also has as many as six tours a day, of 15-20 people. They get dropped off outside the city museum and then proceed south through the Historic District, said Jan Wrentmore.
She said it is a low volume, low-priced tour. I have a hard time seeing where this is a problem, Wrentmore added.
But the numbers from Klondike Experience were not certain. The company was reorganized over the winter when one of the partners in the business was removed, and they havent been able to track down all the records, said Candice Wallace, the new operations manager. They take a different route than the Red Onion or NPS tours, Wallace added, which includes their show and the city museum.
Committee member Mike Catsi said they need numbers and routes from both operators. I like the idea of walking tours, but not all happening at once, he said. They need to take different routes.
The bulk of the nearly four-hour long meeting was spent combing over six pages of proposed taxi code. City Manager Bob Ward said the material was culled from 19 different taxi ordinances across the state.
There was no objection to capping the number of operator permits at two, and the permits would be reviewed annually.
The intent is to make sure people who want to be in the taxi cab business want to be in the taxi cab business instead of wanting to be something else. Ward said.
A Klondike Tours and Taxis vehicle parks on Broadway in advance of the visitor season. Jeff Brady
Clem said six cabs is enough to operate in this town. He said that he has three taxi vehicles in addition to his regular tour fleet. Of those, one will be operating on the streets, one will be available for taking groups to Dyea or up the highway, and the other used as a back-up in case one is down for repairs.
All of his vehicle fares are point-to-point ($10 anywhere downtown, $50 to Dyea/Chilkoot Trail, etc.) but the vehicle can be rented by the half hour for $40. The Skagway Police Dept. would be in charge of enforcing all the rules for the taxis.
Operator licenses would cost $250 a year, plus an additional $50 per vehicle, and they would have to carry a $1 million insurance policy.
Bed and breakfast operator Jan Tronrud welcomed the taxis.
This is a service that this town has not had in a decade, she said. Dont make it cost prohibitive.
The longest discussions centered around the testing of drivers and what signage would be allowed on the taxi cabs. Currently, the sides of their vehicles say Klondike T-O-U-R-S and Taxi but they have a Taxi sign on top.
While insisting that they would keep their tour operations separate, Clem and his sister Teri Skelton wanted their company name on the side of the vehicle, and the freedom to direct customers to their tour sellers if approached about tours.
If they ask us (about tours), I dont think we should be restricted from talking to them, Skelton said.
But council members and Ward had reservations about having tours on the vehicles, because it could lead to other companies changing their signs. They suggested Taxi and Charters Available on the vehicles, in a restricted area.
I want taxi cabs, not moving sales platforms, Ward said.
The signage issue will be left up to the city council when the ordinance comes before them. First reading was slated for April 21.
As for testing, operators and potential drivers better be prepared for giving samples in order to obtain a license. The city appears to be joining the wave of other transportation regulators in requiring clean urine samples free of prohibited drugs from those who carry the public on their streets.
New hatchery project spawns debate
By ANDREW CREMATA
In what City Manager Bob Ward called a new twist to the citys potential role in owning and operating a fish hatchery, Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Haines) has made the city an offer to provide the money to build up to a $1.5 million hatchery if the city accepts ownership and management responsibility for the proposed facility.
Members of City Council were reluctant to enter into the arrangement at their April 7 meeting without more information from the state.
Alternative options to the construction of a hatchery are continuing to use Douglas Island Pink and Chums facility for salmon rearing at a cost of $160,000 a year or scrapping the plan all together. Ward also mentioned the possibility of building a bare bones, down and dirty hatchery at a cost of $250,000, but warned that unlike the more expensive facility, the $300,000 a year operating costs of a hatchery could not be offset by visitor revenue generated by opening the smaller facility to tours.
In order to pay for the proposed Skagway hatchery, as well as hatcheries in Anchorage and Fairbanks and improvements to an existing facility in Petersburg, the Alaska Legislature is considering a sportfish facility surcharge. This fee legislation was proposed in lieu of a fishing license fee increase but the end result is the same; more cost to the average angler to fish Alaska waters.
The state sees the cost increase as one that directly benefits fisherman because hatchery operations in the state increase overall fish population numbers making it easier for fisherman to put fish on their tables.
Under the plan, resident anglers would pay a surcharge of $8.50 a year for their fishing license, bringing the resident cost to $23.50. Nonresidents would see the same increase on a one-day license making it $18.50 and an annual non-resident license would increase by $45 to $145. This means that 80 per cent of the funds generated would be from non-residents, according to the state.
The benefits of higher fishing license fees will be recognized in Skagway, only if the city accepts Rep. Thomas offer, but there is apprehension on the part of city council members. The main source of their reluctance stems from the operating costs of a production hatchery.
Its a lot of money and theres a lot of questions on my mind, said Councilman Jay Frey.
One of Freys questions concerned the nature of the
water supply to the hatchery. Ward responded that the costs include a direct line from the Alaska Power and Telephones tailrace to the hatchery as well as an emergency line into the city water source.
Mayor Tim Bourcy wondered if habitat enhancement of Pullen Creek was an alternative to hatchery fish rearing, but Ward echoed the sentiments of the Department of Fish and Game when he pointed out that no enhancements to Pullen Creek would provide adequate spawning habitat for chinook salmon.
The only other option to the city for local salmon rearing besides a hatchery project is to continue the relationship with DIPAC, which will cost the city $160,000 this year. DIPAC raises the fish in Juneau until they are ready to be released in the creek.
Maybe the cost to DIPAC could be offset with the state money, said Bourcy.
Councilman Mike Catsi agreed that this option should be looked into, but because the state legislation earmarks the money for hatchery projects, it may not be possible.
In past city discussions about a hatchery in Skagway, it was proposed that operational costs could be offset by opening the facility up to tours at $2-3 a head. The natural flow of tourists along Congress Way would lead them to the hatchery. The offer by the state to build the hatchery would make this option a possibility.
Still, Catsi and Frey agreed that it was better for the city to pay DIPAC $160,000 a year than the higher operating cost of a hatchery facility.
I want more information, said Catsi.
All agreed and decided to table the issue until more concrete information could be obtained.
Wells Fargo donation of land for clinic completed
Wells Fargo Bank Alaska has made official its donation of six municipal lots to the City of Skagway for construction of a new medical clinic.
The lots, with an appraised value of $302,500, are located on the north side of 14th Avenue between State Street and Broadway, in a central area of downtown Skagway. The bank, formerly known as National Bank of Alaska, has owned the undeveloped property since 1917.
The deal was announced in an April 11 joint press release from the bank and the city.
Wells Fargo is proud to be a part of Skagways heritage, and we are thrilled to give back to the community with this land donation, said Richard Strutz, Wells Fargo Alaska region president. This new medical clinic will provide quality health care for years to come. It is an excellent use of the land.
The City of Skagway has been working for several years with the Denali Commission for funding of a new medical facility in Skagway.
The need is certainly there for a new clinic, said Bob Ward, City Manager. With the support of the Denali Commission, and now the donation of the land from Wells Fargo, this dream is that much closer to becoming a reality.
The land had been owned by the local bank almost since its inception.
In 1916, the Bank of Alaska (later to become National Bank of Alaska) opened its first branch in Skagway, when gold was still a common form of currency. The branch was the first concrete building in Skagway and was renovated in 1998 to preserve the buildings architecture and gold rush era relics inside the branch. Today, the Skagway branch provides cutting-edge financial services and is a historical attraction during the busy summer season.
Wells Fargo, which purchased NBAs assets from the Rasmuson family a few years ago, also dates back to the gold rush. Its affiliates serve customers throughout Alaska with more than 65 stores, 120 ATMs and online.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
ALMOST AN UNWRAP The silhouette of the Arctic Brotherhood Hall can be seen behind its plastic curtain, which came down a day earlier than scheduled, on April 30. For a peek at some of the stick work, see Photo Double Feature. AC
OTHER ONLINE STORIES THIS ISSUE
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.