The Skagway Summer Camp kids are out and about taking various tours. Here they are on the Taiya River with Skagway Float Tours after a guided hike on the first mile of the Chilkoot Trail.

Photo by Jeff Brady

Second case of ‘swine flu’ found in Skagway

No more cases


The state announced a second confirmed case of the H1N1 virus in Skagway on June 12.
Dahl Memorial Clinic Nurse Practitioner Lynne Cameron said the man reported his symptoms on June 11. He was treated with the antiviral Tamiflu and was feeling better in less than a week, she said.
She didn’t know how the second man got sick. He had regular contact with tourists and people from out of state, she said, but had not been in contact with anyone ill, and had no contact with the first man who contracted the virus in Skagway.
“The interesting thing with this is we’ve had people living in the same household who haven’t even blinked,” she said.
Cameron said the H1N1 outbreak was remarkably light in Skagway. Last year’s Influenza A outbreak was much worse, she said. No other cases of the H1N1 virus were suspected in Skagway as of June 16.
As of June 19, Southeast Alaska had six confirmed cases of the virus, including one in Haines, two in Skagway, two in Juneau, and one in Sitka. Around the state, five were confirmed in the Anchorage area, 11 in the interior, and one on the gulf coast.
Cameron said anyone with symptoms should go to the clinic immediately, as Tamiflu is most effective within 40 hours of the virus’ onset. Preventive doses are possible for people whose immune system is susceptible to illness. The state was not advising administering such doses, and the clinic was reserving their supply of medicine for sick patients, she said.
Just days after Skagway’s first case was confirmed, the World Health Organization announced that the H1N1 virus had reached pandemic stage. The WHO elevated its alert level to phase six. That change means the disease has spread, not increased in severity said Brendan Hanley, the Yukon Territory’s Medical Officer of Health, in a recent statement. A phase six alert means the disease is circulating in at least two regions of the world, he said. In addition to North America, the disease has been confirmed in the Asia-Pacific region.

Gateway Yukon Project plans well-received, long list of tasks this summer

Preliminary estimate: $77 million


A delegation from Skagway was well-received in Washington, DC early this month as they unveiled the initial plans for an intermodal dock and other improvements on the west side of the port. The group returned with a sizable task list that must be completed over the next three months in order to have a chance at some federal economic stimulus grant funds for the port’s Gateway Yukon Project.
The estimated cost right now for the port improvements is $77 million, which breaks down into:
• $28 million for the intermodal barge dock with green low carbon cruise ship dock improvements.
• $9 million for AIDEA ore ship loader improvements.
• $9 million for rail barge ramp facilities.
• $7 million for intermodal upland improvements.
• $17 million for AIDEA ore terminal improvements.
• $7 million for ore dock rehabilitation and uplands.
Mayor Tom Cochran, Borough Manager Tom Smith, municipal lobbyist John Walsh, and port consultant Paul Taylor traveled to Washington, DC during the first week of June. They visited all members of the Alaska Congressional Delegation, the governor’s staff in DC, the Canadian Embassy, and grant administrators in the Department of Transportation.
“Everyone that we saw was really positive and wanted to help and wanted the project to go through,” said Cochran. “There’s a lot of work to do, and this is just the beginning. We have a laundry list of letters to write.”
The trip was a heads-up that Skagway was planning to submit a sizable application for a federal TIGER grant due in September.
The goal is diversification of Skagway’s economy through its port, so it can compete for ore shipments coming out of Yukon mines and serve as one of the Alaskan coastal hubs for shipping pipe and materials north for the building of the natural gas pipeline.
“This is big picture stuff,” Cochran told members of the newly formed Skagway Port Commission on June 10. “The end game is to have that railroad run freight to Whitehorse.”
He said they would be getting more information out to the public as the process rolls along to build support for the grant application.
Port Commission member Dennis Corrington said the timing could not be better, as three large ships will not be returning next summer.
Cochran said there are empty spaces on Broadway for the first time in many years, and the school is struggling to keep enrollment above 100 kids.
“I’d like to see 200 kids in our school again,” he said.
After the meeting, Smith went to work on a budget for the grant application (see separate story) which must be submitted by Sept. 15. The assembly later amended the new budget to allow $110,000 for grant preparation.
“The task is daunting,” Taylor said. “We need to holler soon and loud to get the grant and hope AIDEA will buy in. If not, we will have to decide whether to go on our own.”
Cochran said grant administrators initially were cool to the ideas, but their attitudes changed as the delegation presented the recent Skagway Port Plan and other materials touting the “Skagway Advantage.” Taylor said more promotional material is needed, starting with a new port brochure. A letter campaign also will start with Governor Sarah Palin, to get her behind the project and grant application. AIDEA, the Yukon Government, and White Pass also will be sought for letters of support.
Cochran said they were told they have a 10-to-1 chance of receiving the TIGER grant.
“We might not get it, but we’re going to try,” he said. “We have a good case.”
Last week, commission members met via teleconference with Jim Van Althorst, a consultant who is assisting them with writing a revised ordinance relating to port governance. Commission members supported the mayor’s position to have an appointed commission oversee the port in an advisory role, rather than having an elected port authority with more power. The commission will be expanded from three to five members.

Assembly moves forward to fund port development grants

The Skagway Municipal Assembly voted unanimously to move forward with port development projects at its June 18 meeting after adding money to the 2010 budget at their June 16 special meeting.
The municipality is pursuing grants for the small boat harbor expansion and for the Gateway Yukon projects.
The assembly voted to submit a grant application for the Small Boat Harbor improvements with little discussion. That application is due July 1, said Manager Tom Smith. The $5 million dollar grant requires a match, which can come from federal or municipal funding sources.
The assembly also gave Smith the go-ahead to spend most of the $110,000 added to the budget for port development at the June 16 special meeting. That money is mostly for work on the TIGER grant for the gateway project.
Smith provided proposals from three engineering and accounting firms for work on various aspects of port development.
The accounting firm KPMG’s proposed a $25,000 cost-benefit analysis of the Ore Dock development and a summary of the related grant application, and $10,000 for finalizing the grant including some graphics and the final copies.
PND proposed about one week of work – $23,000 – for planning and permitting work for the gateway project. That work included drawings and cost estimates of some aspects of the project, and work on relevant parts of the grant application.
Pacific Contract Company proposed $24,000 for work on the TIGER grant, and $24,150 for other governance and port business. Cochran asked the assembly to approve the first half of the proposal, but that they would discuss the second half at the next meeting. The second half included work with PND toward their portion of the project and work on the WP&YR tidelands lease negotiation, including travel to Seattle and Toronto for those projects respectively.
At the budget meeting, Smith said the whole Gateway Project would cost about $77 million, making the $110,000 budgeted for the grant application a fairly small portion of the total cost.
Smith also provided the assembly with PCC owner Paul Taylor’s breakdown of his company’s invoice, which the assembly originally denied payment on at its June 4 meeting. Cochran said anyone with questions about that invoice should come to the next finance committee meeting.
Cochran said he and Smith would be reviewing the municipality’s contract with PCC and would bring it back to the table. – MOLLY DISCHNER

FY 2010 Skagway muni. budget set; two public works employees added


The Skagway Municipal Assembly subtracted slightly more than they added before unanimously passing the fiscal year 2010 budget at a special meeting on June 16.
The assembly voted to add $138,000 to capital projects budget and $1,000 to the general fund during the final reading, and removed $78,483 from capital projects and $63,500 from the general fund. They also approved the addition of two positions to the Public Works Department, which will cost about $160,000.
The municipality’s final budget included $15,299,367 for capital projects, and $4,528,194 in the General Fund.
Mayor Tom Cochran asked treasurer Cindy O’Daniel not to increase the mill rates, and instead take the money for the additions from the sales tax fund or other sources.
The mill rates were set as follows:
Service Area I: 7.25 mills
Service Area II: 5.98 mills
Service Area III: 4.79 mills
Service Area IV: 3.12 mills
Service Area V: 1.31 mills
The changes to the capital projects budget were mostly additions.
In a 6-0 vote, $20,000 was added to the line item for Flood Control Mapping. The project already had $15,000 designated for it, but Borough Clerk Marj Harris said the estimate for the map had come in at about $25,000, and the Letter of Map Amendment to the Federal Emergency Management Agency was another $6,500. The total amount also provides money for technical assistance with the FEMA application if necessary.
The assembly voted unanimously to add $110,000 for Port Development. Borough Manager Tom Smith based the amount on proposals for work on the federal TIGER grant, negotiations on the White Pass and Yukon Route tidelands lease, harbor drawings, and some work on the small boat harbor plans.
The assembly also voted unanimously to add $8,000 for storage containers for part of the Rapuzzi Collection. Assembly member L.C. Cassidy said the items taken out of the Myers Meat Market were now in paid storage because the museum did not have anywhere to put them. Purchasing the containers would allow them to store the objects as long as needed, and possibly re-sell the containers once they weren’t needed.
One project was taken out of the capital projects budget with much discussion. A line-item to pay for Cruise Line Agencies to get a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) station in Skagway was removed after Cochran’s vote broke the 3-3 tie. Assembly members Colette Hisman, Dave Hunz and Mark Schaefer supported the motion to remove the station, while Cassidy, Dan Henry and Mike Korsmo opposed it.
There was less discussion over changes to the general fund. Two items were removed from that budget unanimously: a $13,000 line item for a four-wheel vehicle, and a $50,500 mobile lift. The police department said they no longer needed the four-wheeler. Korsmo moved to delete the lift, which was listed in the Fire Department’s equipment budget, and Schaefer seconded. Cochran said the department could use other lifts in town if needed, and it might be something to look at in the future. Korsmo asked the assembly for the only addition to the fund – $1,000 for the Sustainable Skagway group to look at possible efficiencies in Skagway. That passed 5-1 with Hunz opposing the motion.
A motion to remove the money budgeted for purchasing the Garden City R.V. Park failed after Cochran cast the tie-breaking vote. Hunz made the motion, which was seconded by Hisman.
“We cannot do everything, every year,” she said.
Henry said the land fund would be paying the down payment, not the general fund, and that the community had supported the purchase at a town meeting. Schaefer cast a third vote for that motion. Cassidy, Henry and Korsmo opposed it.
The assembly voted 6-0 to add two positions to the Public Works Department: a garbage collector and an operator. O’Daniel estimated the positions would cost about $160,000 total for their salaries and benefits. Much of that cost will come out of the projects they will be working on, she said, although the municipality will also have to pay for part of the cost, such as sick pay and vacation days.
Public Works Director Grant Lawson submitted a list of projects that the department is currently behind on, which included sidewalk repair and replacement, covering the old Dyea Road landfill, road improvements at Smuggler’s Cove, cemetery improvement and maintenance, and a number of other projects. He also said that the additional employees would help allow the department to do regular maintenance, instead of letting things break and then fixing them.


L.C. Cassidy surprises assembly with resignation

At the end of assembly discussion on June 18, member L. C. Cassidy said she had something to tell the assembly.
“This will be my last meeting,” she said, explaining that she had some personal things to attend to. Cassidy said she hoped someone enthusiastic would be able to take her place at the table.
Mayor Tom Cochran said he had spoken to Cassidy about her decision earlier that day.
“You have our support,” he said.
Assembly member Mik Korsmo said he was sorry to hear she was leaving, and thanked her for her work.
Dan Henry said his farewell and described her as an “extremely capable and qualified individual.”
Cassidy leaves soon for New Hampshire for three weeks or so to visit family, she said.
She was serving the second year of her first full term on the assembly. She was first elected to the city council in 2006, was voted in during the borough election in June 2007, and then to a full term in October of that year.
The mayor can appoint a member to sit until the next election in October. Then candidates would vie for a one-year seat to complete Cassidy’s term. – MD

Mayor breaks tie to move forward with land purchase

After a heated discussion at the Skagway Municipal Assembly’s June 18 meeting, the assembly voted 3-3 to authorize Manager Tom Smith to move forward with the Letter of Intent on the Garden City RV Park purchase. Mayor Tom Cochran broke the tie with a vote in favor of moving forward on the purchase. The letter, Assemblyman Dan Henry said, does not guarantee the purchase, but allows Smith to continue negotiations and details the assembly’s intent to purchase the land.
Assembly members Dave Hunz, Mark Schaefer, and Collete Hisman voted against the motion. Each thought it was an unnecessary expense right now, when the assembly has a number of other projects it’s working on.
Assembly member L.C. Cassidy, who voted in favor of the motion, said the community had a number of projects they listed as important in the comprehensive plan, and land was needed for many of them. – MD


Great experience but no wins at DDF nationals

Skagway High sent two recent graduates to Birmingham, Alabama for the Drama, Debate, and Forensics National Competition last week.
Shelby Surdyk and Alini Jashiki said the national competition was more intense than the Alaska competitions they attended all year. Neither girl made the first cut, where the field is slashed from more than 200 participants down to just 60, but both said it was a learning experience.
Each performed in six rounds, spread over two days. Surdyk was entered in international extemporaneous speaking, so she gave a different speech in each round, while Jashiki gave the same oration she had been rehearsing in Skagway – Juvenile Delinquencies.
Jashiki said the level was way higher at the national competition, and she learned something from every round she watched. She tried to look at the difference between her performances and her competitors to learn from them, she said.
“…I just went there to learn more and be inspired by other high school kids,” said Jashiki.
Jashiki said teacher-coach Kent Fielding watched one of her rounds and said her oration had improved while she was there.
Unlike Jashiki, Surdyk hadn’t spent anytime this spring rehearsing the speeches she gave in Birmingham. Instead, she had compiled two tubs full of newspaper and journal articles and other sources of information on international events throughout the year. For each round, she drew three topics on an issue, and chose one to speak about, using information in her tubs and her head to write the speech, she said. Those seven-minute speeches were done without notes, said Fielding.
The topics at the national competition were not as predictable as the ones she had drawn at regional competitions, Surdyk said.
“In Alaska, every question I drew, I could forsee myself drawing,” she said. At nationals, every round was a surprise.
Surdyk likened the experience to a tornado – crazy and awesome.
“It was a total blast,” she said, adding that it was also very exhausting. “I was knocked out afterwards.”
Surdyk’s speeches ranged from Europe’s energy vulnerability (her first round speech), to one on whether Mexico could win the war against drugs using military force. She was also able to use her interest in nuclear issues in a speech about Israel, she said. Her topic asked the direction Israel’s Prime Minister would take his country. She discussed the country’s relationship with Iran, their nuclear arsenals, and the responsibility to other Arab nations, she said.
Surdyk didn’t get to watch her competitors, but said she did watch other competitions, and got to watch some of the finals.
“I’d like to see someone from Alaska up there one day,” she said.
Surdyk and Jashiki weren’t the only Alaskans at the competition. Students from South Anchorage, Chugiak, and Haines High School competed. The rest of the competitors came from the other 49 states, as well as some international competitors.
Surdyk said she thought they represented Skagway very well. She competed with six speakers in each round. Scores were not available, but she knew she hadn’t been last in any of her rounds, and thought she had placed toward the top in a few of them. But to break the cut – move on to the top 60 – she needed to be at the top of every round.
Fielding judged eight rounds spread through a number of different categories: duo, dramatic interpretation, extemporaneous communication, prose, storytelling, and poetry. He said he noticed that in the dramatic interpretation category, national competitors put more emphasis on a character’s development over time rather than their death, as is more common in Alaska.
Nationals wasn’t the last DDF event for Surdyk, even if she did graduate in May. She and Fielding left town again on Monday. They, along with Brandy Mayo, Mickey Wilson and Ian Klupar will be in Dikili, Turkey for three weeks.
The students are attending an International Debate Education Association Climate Change Advocacy Institute with partial scholarships from the association, said Fielding. They’ll be learning about climate change and organizing, as well as putting together a final performance project, he said. They’ll perform that piece in Skagway this fall, he said. – MOLLY DISCHNER


GRINDING ONWARD – With his head bent to the wind, Dash Feierabend finishes the final leg for his team, Park Tools. See more photos in our KCIBR Featre below. Teeka Ballas

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