MARDI GRAS GIRLS...

& DUCKS GONE WILD!

Top, Skagway blonde bombshell and firecracker, Sadie Murphy, smiles behind her Mardi Gras glasses before the Kiddie Parade during the annual Fourth of July celebration. Later in the day, 1,000 duckies held on to their hats while racing down Pullen Creek during the Ducky Derby. See more in our big Fourth of July photo section .

Emily Palm photos

City budget passes, Ward takes soapbox
With a swift round of approval, the FY 2007 city budget passed at the June 22 special city council meeting. The short process was the culmination of a month’s worth of hammering out details.
Despite the sparse crowd, City Manager Bob Ward broke out the soapbox at the beginning of the meeting. Skagway provides more services than the typical town of 860, he said. While he doesn’t dispute the fact that a grocery store owner’s taxes in Juneau are lower, Ward said Skagway is still a reasonable place to live and do business.
Furthermore, Ward noted that he has been City Manager for ten years and employed by the city for 20. In all that time, he hasn’t asked for a raise. “I haven’t tried to supplement my income by stealing from the government,” he said, even though the $81,000 he makes a year is about $20,000 less than what other city managers make.
“That’s the end of my soapbox,” he said at the end of his bit and offered a last chance for budget comments. – EAP

Capital budget includes $11.55 million for Haines-Skagway

Governor Frank H. Murkowski recently signed into law SB 231, the FY2007 capital projects bill, which appropriates a total of $2.3 billion to nearly 1,200 individual projects statewide. .
Included in the bill are $11.55 million in projects for Haines and Skagway. The largest amount, $3.95 million, went toward AMHS terminal improvements in Skagway. Future Dahl Memorial Clinic construction in Skagway received two $500,000 appropriations.
Over in Haines, its pool management garnered $120,366, AMHS terminal improvements in Haines received $1.02 million, and Haines harbor deferred maintenance and transfer received $3.4 million. Electric cooperative debt reimbursement received $2 million.
In addition, the bill appropriates $49 million to municipalities and local communities to offset the high cost of fuel and other commodities, and another $19 million to pay the increased cost of the public employees retirement system, according to a press relewase from the governor’s office. SB 231 also includes two large appropriations that are contingent on passage of a new petroleum production tax to replace the current ELF-based tax. Those are $183 million to fully fund the power cost equalization endowment and $73 million to build three new schools in rural Alaska. The Legslature returned to Juneau this week for another special session on the oil tax.

THE BOTTLENECK – Walkers and bikers scoot through the one lane caused by the seawalk construction (right) and tour bus parking (left). JB

SMART stop change request denied
New blue signs for bus zones to come

By EMILY A. PALM
In a rare tie-breaking vote, Mayor Tim Bourcy turned down a request to amend the new SMART stop zone on Second Avenue. The Skagway City council and members from the community discussed the proposed resolution at the July 6 council meeting.
The change in question involved shifting the SMART stop on the south side of Second Avenue that currently begins at the lot line between lots three and four, block 36 and continues 75 feet east. The proposed move would have pushed the stop to the curb cut by Spring Street near the White Pass & Yukon Route administration office and continued west for 50 feet.
A problem with the current location, said Councilmember Craig Jennison, is that the stop sits in front of the WP&YR rail depot entrance. The bustle of taxis and other vehicles is hampered by hordes of people waiting for the SMART buses at that point .
John Mielke with White Pass voiced qualms about the request. The proposal puts the stop directly in front of the administration door, he said, which disrupts the flow of the building.
“People have to leave the building often,” the former mayor said, noting that people regularly park briefly in front of the building to run in and out. “All we’re asking for is some recognition that we face some issues,” he said, and proposed the stop be moved to the west instead of east side.
The council has a history of working with businesses owners. Traditionally the city has allowed business owners to propose the parking zones outside of their businesses, said Mayor Tim Bourcy.
Though the proposed stop lies directly in front of the entrance, the sidewalk is wide and flat at that portion of Second Avenue.
Gayla Hites, who operates a business across the street, gave a public testimony saying she encouraged the council to adopt the proposed change “in interest of traffic and pedestrian safety.”
Nicki Bunting, street car operator, spoke in support of the amended resolution. “I am an enormous advocate of the SMART bus,” she said. Out of the many cities she has avidly ridden buses in, Bunting said she could never recall a stop in the middle of the street. For good reason, she added, for the safety of drivers pulling in and out of the spot.
Moving the SMART zone would increase efficiency of loading and unloading and improve access to the depot, she said. Furthermore, the long benches and eaves along the proposed location would provide space to sit and some shelter for riders.
Undulation was the buzz word at the meeting; the steps and curbs and general unevenness of the sidewalk at the stop concerned advocates of the change. “It is the worst place in the city,” said Hites.
“If you vote no on this, you’re voting essentially for a place that’s unsafe,” said City Council Member L.C. Cassidy.
The Civic Affairs Committee hashed out the details of the proposal at a previous meeting on June 28. “Any sort of major change on any level in this town seems to be controversial,” said Jennison, committee chairman, at the small gathering.
Changing the Second Avenue SMART stop provoked much discussion. “We might as well beat this thing to death,” joked Mielke when he stood to make another point at the podium.
Councilmember Mike Korsmo suggested more time should be spent on where to relocate the SMART stop. “Not in the middle of the summer,” said member Mike Catsi, who voted no on the proposal with Dan Henry and Korsmo. L.C. Cassidy, Dave Hunz and Craig Jennison supported the change.
The mayor paused for a few seconds before casting the tie-breaking “No.”
The council unanimously agreed on adopting new SMART zone signs to more universal blue ones with a picture of a bus. “The blue color resembles that of most transits around the country,” wrote Stuart Brown with SMART in a letter to the council.
“The blue is great,” said Council Member Dan Henry.
At this point in the season, the new signs will need to go through budget approvals.
As a final topic of discussion, Jennison said he would like to see a crosswalk put in on the corner of second and Broadway to combat the current “free for all for pedestrians.”
There are not any current historical regulations against crosswalks, and discussions regarding the idea will follow.
The item is on the agenda of the next Historic District Commission meeting on July 17.

CITY: Murphy allowed to park four vehicles on Dyea Flats, for now
Despite a provision in city code that prohibits commercial vehicle parking on Dyea Flats, the Skagway City Council voted unanimously on July 6 to allow Robert Murphy’s Alaska Excursions to park up to four vehicles until it gets more advice on the issue from the city attorney and the Dyea Community Advisory Board.
One member of the DCAB weighed in heavily on the issue at the meeting. Dennis Bousson said that just because the city allowed commercial permits on the Flats to expire in 2004, this did not allow for an expansion of permits or give Murphy the right to park on the Flats without public process.
Bousson asked, “What is precluding Robert Murphy from building his own bridge to the property?”
He then launched into an “unspoken handbook for getting around laws,” including ignoring evidence, pleading ignorance, taking the role of victim, intimidation, dragging one’s feet, and “playing the local card.”
Murphy spoke next and said he is just asking for access to his property.
He said he brought a bridge proposal to the city and “it was vetoed,” so he went through the process of purchasing vehicles to place on his property, which sits across Nelson Slough, west of the Dyea Flats. His tour passengers are then bused to a footbridge, doubling the amount of traffic on the road because the buses have to go back to the pickup point at the entrance to Dyea.
“I would love to put a bridge out there,” he said. “What I would ask for is dispensation (to park for up to four vehicle) until we can get a bridge.”
City Manager Bob Ward said local engineer Paul Taylor had looked at the situation in recent weeks and suggested that it might be more feasible to build an access road along the west side of the slough, but that would require filling in of wetlands. “It may be a less expensive option than building a bridge,” Ward said.
The city would have a stake in a new bridge, as some of the new Municipal Entitlement Lands are southwest of Murphy’s property along Taiya Inlet. An old wagon road easement still exists through those parcels.
Mayor Tim Bourcy said he would like more input from DCAB, but that it was up to the Council as to what can be allowed. “Right now the code is clear,” he said.
Councilmembers urged a cooperative effort. Lisa Cassidy called the situation unusual. “I know it’s the law but for someone to be incredibly hurt by that is unnecessary.”
Member Dave Hunz said he felt very strong about a person having access to his property, and reminded members that Murphy had come to them initially to try and work out a deal. “Until we get access for his property, then we should allow some parking,” he said.
But Mike Catsi brought up the question of what will happen if they do allow parking. Would they be able to disallow parking for the other commercial operator on the Flats, Sockeye Cycle?
Ward said “anyone can cry foul,” but said City Attorney Robert Blasco had not been contacted, he noted. The mayor urged Ward to seek the attorney’s advice before the next meeting on July 20.
Dan Henry said the issue rests not with Murphy, whose business has grown over the past three summers, but with the Council for not keeping up with the situation. He said the dispensation request was reasonable for the time being, while working with DCAB.
But Mike Korsmo said he sympathized with Bousson’s concerns, and the mayor said it wasn’t the Council’s fault.
“The horse may be out of the barn, but the owner opened the door,” Bourcy said. – JB

CITY: R&M gets Dyea lands survey
Skagway City Council voted 5-1 to accept a $188,050 proposal from R Engineering to complete the second phase of survey work for the Municipal Entitlement Lands.
The R&M price was the second lowest. Kalen and Associates had proposed $102,100, but City Manager Bob Ward said the proposal was “non-responsive.” He said it was limited to five acre parcels and any other size would result in additional costs. It also did not allow an objective comparison with the other proposals. Two others were received from Larsen Consulting for $194,107 and TNH for $294,858.
The R&M proposal also was preferable because it will use LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) technology, Ward said.
“I’m impressed with that approach,” added Mayor Tim Bourcy.
Mike Korsmo said Kalen’s proposal mentioned LIDAR as an optional add-on for $12,000. He cast the lone vote against the motion to accept R’s proposal. – JB

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

SPECTRUM OF EMOTIONS

Mama said there’d be days like this – Attitudes among the crowd in Bonanza Bar and Grill separated like oil and water. Those cheering for Italy raised their arms in exultation, while those vying for France went home with bad tastes in their mouths. See more about World Cup in Skagway in Sports & Recreation below. EAP

• SPORTS & REC.: Pockets of Skagway catch World Cup fever; Cruise crews play own World Cup at Seven Pastures soccer field

• JULY OBITUARIES: Inez Soldin Knorr, Ruth Margaret Kasko, Stanley A. Kowalke

• HEARD ON THE WIND

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