CONFETTI CELEBRATION

Ali Doland (rear) closes her eyes to a flapping flag while Pam Dockter ducks confetti as she drives a Skagway Carriage Co. horse-drawn buggy in Skagway’s annual Fourth of July parade. The carriage took the Most Patriotic Float category. See more pictures on our Fourth of July page. DL

HDC decision on Golden North upheld

Hotel not for sale, appeal still in question

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS

The proposed Golden North Hotel vestibule has been denied again.
The Skagway City Council, meeting as the Board of Appeals on June 26, voted 5-0 not to uphold the Planning & Zoning Commission’s decision to overturn that of the Historic District Commission to not allow a vestibule to be added on the Golden North Hotel.
Last year, the HDC turned down an application from hotel owner Dennis and Nancy Corrington to add the vestibule on the front of the historic hotel. The HDC contended that a vestibule of the kind the Corringtons wanted did not exist during the Gold Rush Historical period of 1897-1910, either on the hotel or any other building. There was a small arctic entry added in the 1920s, said Karl Gurcke, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park historian.
The issue was appealed to the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission which did not have the votes to uphold the HDC decision. Two of the three members present voted for the HDC decision, but the issue needed a majority of three votes to pass. The HDC then appealed to the Board of Appeals. At the request of the Corringtons, the matter was postponed till this summer.
The purpose of the addition, the Corringtons said, was to provide a weather shelter for people in wheelchairs waiting for a bus and for wheelchair accessible phones. It would run the length of the building and up to the boardwalk.
However, Councilmember Mike Catsi questioned the logic of this by asking if the Corringtons intended to move the S.M.A.R.T. bus stop to what was formerly the loading area in front of the hotel. The loading area was removed after the hotel was taken out of operation by the Corringtons. But a loading zone cannot be used as a bus stop, said City Manager Bob Ward.
“Currently, the S.M.A.R.T. bus does not have a spot in front of the Golden North Hotel, there has been a loading zone there for decades and I’m operating under the assumption that if there is a gathering place and a handicap accessible spot with phones, that the S.M.A.R.T. bus schedule could be changed so it could stop at that location, as it has changed every year since the S.M.A.R.T. bus has been in operation,” said Dennis Corrington.
Betsy Albecker, a descendent of the hotel’s original owners, said adding the vestibule would look like “a man in a tuxedo who’s just added a tutu to his outfit – it just doesn’t fit.”
Corrington’s attorney Michael Jungreis said by phone that the issue was that appeals were limited to the aggrieved party, therefore the HDC could not appeal. The city’s attorney, Amy Gurton, replied that the statute does not prohibit the HDC from bringing an appeal.
There was also the issue of whether HDC regulations recognized the need to include the Americans With Disabilities Act provisions in its decisions.
“The HDC does allow for ADA access in its review of permit applications,” said Casey McBride, HDC chair. “But the HDC does not enforce ADA, neither does the HDC design ADA access for applicants. It is the responsibility of the permit applicant to provide the HDC with plans that conform with the HDC design criteria and meet ADA requirements.”
ADA access is addressed in the Skagway Municipal Code and in the International Building Code, McBride said.
Dennis Corrington said Tuesday he hadn’t made up his mind whether to appeal to the city within the 30-day time period allowed or go the judicial route. He did say the hotel is not currently listed anywhere for sale.
“When you get it passed, then you get it rescinded, there’s a message in that,” he said. “Being a heavy taxpayer in Skagway, I’m not dumb. It’ s obviously a direction they want us to go in.”
Corrington said he’s happy with how the retail store in the hotel is doing, and for now, he’s just enjoying summer and planting flowers.

Dyea fire station still a burning issue
Fire Chief hopes grants will help cover cost

By ROBERT WARREN
The hot topic at the July 2 Dyea Community Advisory Board meeting is the resurgence of the plan for a fire station in Dyea.
“Fire Station Dyea is not dead,” said Fire Chief Martin Beckner.
This is the third time Beckner has applied for a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant that would pay for 90 percent of a new pumper tanker truck. The city was promptly denied in the past, giving the Chief hope now that he’s heard nothing back yet.
“It takes a while to find out,” said Beckner, “but no news is good news so far.”
Beckner has a reconditioned pumper tanker in mind capable of carrying between 1,500 and 2,000 gallons of water. The cost of the vehicle would be $130,000 with an additional $6,000 slated for additional expenses. The grant would cover $122,400, leaving the city to pay the remaining $13,600.
A heated fire station is necessary to house a pumper tanker. The City Council approved $250,000 for the facility for FY 04.
“The fire station is doable with the equipment we have now,” said Beckner. But he would ultimately like to see a new station equipped with a pumper tanker and the brush truck already owned by the city. A new station would also alleviate some storage concerns at the present station.
With utility services on their way to Dyea and more development to follow, the need for another station is there. The question now is where is the best place for the facility?
Beckner said he would like to see a fire station on a state-maintained road to prevent the equipment from becoming trapped in the winter snow. The Dyea Road is maintained by the state all the way to West Creek.
Should a station go up in Dyea, fire insurance premiums could see substantial drops in the area. The Insurance Services Organization sets up a point scale for its subscribers, who are insurance companies, to assist in setting premium rates. One is best with 10 being no fire protection at all.
Skagway is currently ranked as a five. Dyea’s present ranking as nine would drop with a new station in the area, as would insurance premiums.
Skagwayans will know the outcome of the grant by summer’s end, as the deadline date for approval is the end of September. Even if the grant is denied this year, Beckner said he is committed to seeing another station so that response to fires could be coming from two directions.
“The biggest thing is just getting the equipment closer to the homes for response,” said Beckner.

Skagway Search & Rescue members carry the remains down the steep mountainside on June 26. DL

Fatal crash incongruous with pilot’s experience
Investigation officials still searching for cause

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
The fatal airplane crash that killed Kansans Richard and Leah Ross is a puzzlement to crash investigators.
The elderly couple, enroute from Juneau to Whitehorse, Yukon, were killed after the wing of their Cessna 172 airplane clipped a mountainside, causing the plane to crash into the side of Mine Mountain, about 500 feet above the Klondike Highway in the White Pass.
According to his hometown newspaper, “The Newton Kansan,” the pilot, Richard Ross, 70, was a retired aeronautical engineer who spent his career in aircraft research, design and testing. He was also an aircraft accident investigator and taught at Wichita State University.
So how did a man with almost 50 years experience in the aviation industry find himself in such a situation?
Principal Operations Inspector Mick Green of the Federal Aviation Administration said from Juneau that Ross had flown the White Pass several weeks before the fatal crash.
“He knew that terrain,” said Green, “but maybe he had blue sky all the way that first day.”
Green said there’s really no way for private pilots from out of state to be warned about the dangers of flying the White Pass or any other pass in Alaska, because there’s no weather stations reporting up-to-date information. There have been some steps taken though, he said, by placing a video camera in trouble areas like the one in Haines, that covers three directions – toward Skagway, up the Chilkat River and down to Glacier Point.
“There are no red flags, the passes in Alaska are just known as the toughest part of a flight,” said Green. “How would he check the weather in a pass that’s similar to a million places in Southeast Alaska? That’s the pilot’s responsibility.”
Green did say he was told Ross went up to a private carrier in the Juneau airport to ask how the flying conditions were in Petersburg and Wrangell in preparation for a flight there. Going over the Pass, though, Ross was flying visually which is the only way small planes fly in Southeast Alaska.
The FAA in Wichita, Kansas reported it’s trying to determine if the pilot was even given a weather briefing. Clint Johnson, an investigator with the NTSB in Anchorage, said they’re waiting for the tapes from the flight service center to determine if Ross received a weather report, and if so, how close to take-off.
It was reported in the Skagway News’s June 27 edition that the state Department of Transportation & Public Facilities Maintenance Division issues a report on the Pass’s weather every morning, but in checking with DOT/PF Road Crew Foreman Keith Knorr, he said the report is only done in winter for road conditions. There was no weather report from the pass the day of the crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report July 3 noting that, “The closest official weather observation station is located at the Skagway Airport, located about 12 nautical miles south, and 2,900 feet lower than the accident site. On June 25, 2003, at 10:53 a.m., an automated weather observation system was reporting, in part: Wind, 200 degrees (true) at 14 knots; visibility, 10 statute miles; clouds, 5,500 feet overcast; temperature, 57 degrees F; dew point, 46 degrees F; altimeter, 30.05 in Hg.”
“If I got that report I’d be happy with that,” said Green.
But Johnson said the only way a pilot could know about the conditions in the absence of a weather reporting station was from pilot reports.
Pilot Mike O’Daniel, vice president for Skagway Air Service, said the pass is used as a route to the Interior.
“There’s nothing up there reporting weather, ”O’Daniel said. “Most of the time we have some flight service ask if it’s open or closed.”
The only way O’Daniel gets a take on the weather in Lynn Canal is by flying the canal and taking a look.
In the end, it was the pilot’s responsibility to make a good decision, said Green. It is like the old Alaska saying: “There are young pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there’s no bold, old pilots.”
Johnson said Tuesday he was still waiting for the written autopsy report on Ross, but if there was anything out of the ordinary, he said that the state medical examiner would have already called him.
As for the responders from the Skagway Volunteer Fire Department, Search and Rescue, Emergency Medical Services, Johnson said they were so professional they made his job easy.
“You can put that in the paper,” Johnson said.
Plane crash responders include: Brush 24 – Bob Dill and Wayne Greenstreet; Ambulance 22 – Nancy Schave, Tom Lux and Candice Cahill; Fire Base – Martin Beckner (Incident Command), Linda Beckner, Reed McClusky, Dave Lama, James Cooper, and Katherine Selmer; Engine 20 – Deanna Ritari and Chris Grooms; Engine 19 – Travis Locke and Fred Beeks; personally owned vehicles – Casey McBride, Marissa Mireur, Jason Haddock, and Ken Nalan; Search and Rescue P.O.V. – Colin Aikman, Andus Hale, Jason Helbig, Amber Bethe, Scott Hindermann, Gail Doughty, and Jason Jones; Stand-by – Raymie Eatough and Rebecca Slosberg.
Members of the Search and Rescue recovery team were Casey McBride (Incident Commander), Wayne Greenstreet (Operations), Colin Aikman (Rescue 3), Jason Helbig, Gail Doughty, Marissa Mireur, Jason Jones, Bob Dill, Jason Haddock, Scott Hindermann, Dave Lama, Andus Hale, Tom Lux (EMSIII), and Amber Bethe.
The couple were remembered in their town paper as “tireless volunteers” – something this town treasures in its own residents.


A TEMSCO helicopter lifts the Cessna off the crash site on June 26. Jesse Naiman

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