CARTING BEAUTY

Paul and Denise Taylor pose in their award-winning yard next to their train cart filled with verbena, nasturtiums, calendulas, johnny jump-ups and “some strawberries that went crazy.” See more about their Edie Lee Award and other prizes given out at the 2004 Eastern Star Flower and Garden Show in features below. Ardyce Czuchna-Curl

Juneau Access question on Oct. 5 ballot

Voters to choose between improved ferry service or road; timing questioned

By GREY HUDDLESTON

After years of loud debate about Juneau Access, Skagway residents will get the chance to express their feelings on the issue quietly – in the privacy of a voting booth.
A question asking local voters whether they support a road or increased ferry service to Juneau will appear on the ballot in Skagway’s Oct. 5 municipal election, and the results will give a quantifiable measure of how the community feels about the proposed road.
The ballot question was approved at the Aug. 5 meeting of City Council after significant debate about its wording and the timeliness of asking the question in October.
Local residents Kathy Hosford and Mavis Irene Henricksen, speaking to Council, said that asking the question to voters now rather than a year ago is inappropriate timing and will divide the community.
“To bring this issue up now will only serve to divide our community again, and we just don’t need it,” said Hosford.
Other local residents, including Dennis Bousson and John Harris, spoke in favor of the vote, but could not agree on the wording of the question.
The original question proposed would ask voters simply whether or not they support a road, but Bousson said it would be better to ask voters to choose between improved ferry service or a road.
Harris disagreed, preferring the original wording. “The real question is ‘do you want a road or not?’ If you put issues in about what it’s going to do, that just convolutes the issue,” he said.
But the final wording approved by Council does ask voters to choose between ferry service and a road. The question will read: “Which of the following do you support for improved access from Skagway to Juneau: improved ferry service or road?” with boxes for voters to indicate their choice.
The wording is almost identical to what Juneau voters saw on their ballot a few years ago.
The motion to include the question on the ballot was passed by a 4-2 vote, with Council members Dave Hunz and Jay Frey voting no.
Hunz said it would be prudent to wait until the city has in hand the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project before bringing the issue before the voters.
Frey said the vote could be detrimental to the community in the eyes of the state. “My concern is that we’re going to do the community damage on the state level more than we’ve already done,” he said.
But a majority of Council members decided to go ahead and put the issue on the ballot. Council member Monica Carlson said Council keeps hearing about a silent majority that wants the road. “The only way we can give them that voice is in the ballot box,” she said.
Dan Henry, Mike Korsmo and Michael Catsi also voted for putting it on the ballot.
A related topic that came up during discussion was the absentee-voting system. Nancy Corrington told Council that the system should be examined before the Juneau question was put on the ballot. “Why should seasonal employees decide what happens in the winter?” she asked.
Mayor Tim Bourcy said these employees have the right to vote here. “It really bugs me that we invite seasonal people up here to work, to wash our dishes, to serve our clients, but we don’t want them to vote here,” he said.

UPDATE: Lieutenant Governor Loren Leman recently wrote a letter to Skagway voters regarding registration concerns. Details in Aug. 27 edition.

Contaminants found in Pullen Creek
Watershed Council plans restorations

By GREY HUDDLESTON

A study conducted by the environmental consulting firm POWTEC under contract by the Skagway Traditional Council has found elevated levels of lead, arsenic, and other contaminants in Pullen Creek.
Preliminary results of the ongoing study were released at a meeting hosted by the Taiya Inlet Watershed Council Aug. 9. The study data has not yet been verified by an independent review and is still considered preliminary and incomplete, said POWTEC’s Cathy Needham.
Pullen Creek was listed on the state’s 303(d) list of endangered bodies of water under the Clean Water Act of 1972 after heavy metal contaminants were found in the Skagway harbor, but no data existed for the creek itself.
POWTEC’s study was undertaken in 2003 to determine if the creek should remain on the endangered list and to determine if the contamination poses a hazard to the community. But Needham said no conclusions can be drawn before the data is complete and verified by independent review.
“This data is just to be used as baseline and background information,” she said.
The study analyzed samples of water, sediment and bank soil taken from five different locations on Pullen Creek in February, May and November of 2003. Levels of contaminants found were then compared to safe standard levels for these contaminants established by the state for groundwater (as opposed to drinking water).
The February samples revealed arsenic in the soil ranging from 3.7 to 20 micrograms per kilogram – while the state-established level is 1.8.
But Needham said a United States Geological Survey study found that the mean level of soil arsenic in Southeast Alaska is 17 micrograms per kilogram. In other words, the arsenic may be natural.
“Almost all of the heavy metals have some level of natural occurrence,” said Needham.
The February data also revealed lead exceeding the state level by threefold in soil near the fish hatchery, as well as arsenic, lead, and chromium in creek sediment.
No contaminants exceeding safe levels were found in the water itself. “It doesn’t look like it’s soluble or moving through the water column,” said Needham.
The data from May and November also turned up contaminants, but in smaller levels, possibly due to increased water flow. Arsenic and lead exceeding state levels were again found in the soil and sediment samples, but not in the water itself.
A separate screening test conducted in February and May also detected the presence of Pentachlorophenol, a wood preservative used in railroad ties, as well as a non-toxic plastic additive.
A draft report on the data released to the tribe makes several recommendations for further study. These include additional samplings during August, November and February, biological testing to determine if contaminants have made it into living organisms in the creek, as well as a hydrological study to determine precisely where the water in Pullen Creek is coming from.
The state will likely use the study data in determining whether to keep the creek on the list of endangered waters, and could give grant money to a local organization to carry out further study or restorative measures.
But Needham said it is up to the community to determine if the study’s findings are cause for true concern. “It’s up to stakeholders and community members to decide what levels of these substances concern them,” she said.
At the same meeting, Taiya Inlet Watershed Council coordinator Amber Bethe presented the Council’s “action plan,” for Pullen Creek. The plan is designed to compile existing information, solicit public input, and prioritize the community’s concerns regarding the creek.
The Watershed Council is currently working on a restoration project for the section of the creek between Pullen Pond and the footbridge to the Dewey Lakes trail head.
Bethe said she hopes to see access to the stream regulated in this reach to prevent erosion and new streamside vegetation planted. Eventually the project could involve the construction of salmon viewing platforms and fishing access points.
The project is still in the design phase, and will not begin until further funding has been secured.

Christian bus vandals arrested, two convicted

By GREY HUDDLESTON
Vacationers traveling through Skagway with Newton, N.C.-based Christian Tours were delayed several hours July 18 after the tires on their bus were slashed early that morning by vandals.
The vandals also used markers to write anti-Christian slogans on the bus, and wrote on the walls, a couch, and a television and DVD player in a nearby ATCO building used for Westmark employee housing.
Three former Westmark employees have been arrested in conjunction with the incident – two have pleaded guilty and were convicted of misdemeanor criminal mischief charges, said Assistant District Attorney Jack Schmidt.
Nicholas Klimczak and Jennifer Pernack, who pleaded guilty, were sentented to complete 240 hours of community service at the rate of 30 hours a month.
Jake Beckwith, the other individual arrested, has been indicted on charges of felony-level criminal mischief, but has not yet been convicted, said Schmidt. Beckwith is suspected of being responsible for the tire slashing.
“I’m still not even convinced I did it,” said Beckwith in a recent interview.
He said he remembers nothing of the night in question as he was admittedly drunk. “I don’t have anything against Christians or busses,” he said.
Jim Sager, general manager of the Westmark Inn, said the tire repairs cost $9,000 Canadian, while about $1,000 in damage was done to the ATCO building.
“I was shocked. I’ve certainly had mischievous employees in the past, but nothing like this,” Sager said.
Sonny Owenby, a manager for Burke International Tours, the bus company that operates Christian Tours, said the vacationers on the bus were upset about the vandalism.
“They couldn’t believe someone would interfere with their vacation that much,” Owenby said, adding that the tour was delayed between five and six hours.
“You can’t put a dollar value on the aggravation and delay – those people missed out on some sightseeing that day,” Owenby said.
Christian Tours has been coming to Skagway since 1983, and Owenby said nothing comparable has ever happened anywhere in Alaska. “We’ve had vandalism in other cities, but it’s more common in the big cities like New York and Washington, D.C.,” he said.
But the incident will not prevent the company from returning to Skagway in the future, Owenby said.
“I think it was just a result of him being drunk, but it kind of makes you wonder what the world’s coming to,” Owenby said.
About a dozen members of the Skagway community came out to express apologies to the tourists that morning, said Sager.
“I was pleasantly surprised to see a number of local residents come out and apologize on behalf of Skagway. That was a wonderful surprise,” Sager said.
The three individuals were arrested at the ATCO housing after another Westmark employee alerted the police, said Sager. Beckwith said the trio spent 36 hours in the Skagway holding cell before being shipped to Juneau for processing.
Several of the suspects’ friends took contributions for the suspects’ bail, managing to raise $10,000 in four hours, Beckwith said.

New Klondike Park superintendent named

Jim Corless, a career National Park Service employee and manager, has been named superintendent of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Skagway. He will begin his new duties in October.
Corless was named to the position, his first superintendency, by Marcia Blaszak, NPS Alaska Regional Director.
“Jim brings a wealth of experience with a broad background in history, cultural resource management and interpretation. Blaszak said in a press release. “He’s also an experienced planner, having been involved in the post-flood Yosemite National Park planning efforts in the late 1990s.”
Corless has served as the chief of interpretation and education at Lowell National Historical Park in Massachusetts since 2001. The park preserves American industrial revolution-era historical buildings, and is visited by about 700,000 people a year. Prior to his Lowell assignment, Corless spent seven years at Yosemite, working in positions of growing responsibility in interpretation and planning. Other parks where he has worked in his 23-year NPS career include Hopewell Furnace (Pennsylvania), Independence (Philadelphia), and San Antonio Missions (Texas).
“What a treat and honor it is to be taking on this assignment at Klondike Gold Rush. When my wife and I visited Skagway – by cruise ship, like most visitors – six years ago, we were taken by the richness of its history and location,” Corless said. “Today, it strikes me that in at least one very important way this assignment will greatly resemble my work at Lowell, where it is said ‘the City is the Park, the Park is the City.’ I look forward to working collaboratively with my new neighbors and colleagues in the preservation and interpretation of this highly remarkable place.”
KGRNHP is the most-visited park in Alaska, with more than
700,000 visits annually. The park operates the Chilkoot Trail, which in 1898 was the famous and heavily traveled land route to the gold fields of the Yukon. The park also preserves more than a dozen gold rush era buildings in downtown Skagway. Corless will replace Bruce Noble who left the park earlier this year to become superintendent at Colorado National Monument. Nancy Swanton has been the acting superintendent this summer.
Corless and his wife, Mary Jane, who have an adult daughter who attends the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will move to Skagway early this fall.

CITY: Mayor breaks tie for SMART extension negotiations

By JEFF BRADY
After hearing mostly positive testimony about the SMART bus operations, but several pleas for after-hours and even year-round service, Skagway City Council members were split on whether to enter negotiations for a contract extension requested by SMART owners Stuart and Teresa Brown.
It took a swift “yes” from Mayor Tim Bourcy to break the tie after Council members Dan Henry, Michael Catsi and Mike Korsmo voted for the motion, and members David Hunz, Jay Frey and Monica Carlson voted no.
Bourcy said SMART, by virtue of performance, had earned the right to negotiate a new contract, but he agreed that the city could make more money and that service needed to be extended.
“The ultimate goal is to get the best transportation system for this community,” Bourcy concluded.
Several letters in support of the Browns getting an extension were received at City Hall, many from organizations that have benefited from donated SMART service for special events like the Cancer Awareness Walk and school and daycare trips.
But White House Bed and Breakfast owners John and Jan Tronrud, while agreeing that the service runs well, said SMART should also meet late night ferries, make scheduled runs to Dyea, and provide rides like a taxi service year-round.
In testimony, Dyea lodge owner Kathy Hosford said the service should be made more available to the independent traveler, and Mavis Henricksen said there had already been too many changes to the original contract, which included year-round service. Those contract changes were approved by Council after the Browns showed the service wasn’t being used over the first winter. Council also approved rate increases and the option for an extension.
Audience member Bert Bounds questioned why Council member Catsi should be allowed to vote and discuss the issue, since he is employed by the Skagway Development Corp., of which Stuart Brown is chairman of the board. “They’re his boss,” Bounds said.
But Catsi said he has no financial interest in SMART, and others at the table said his participation did not violate state conflict of interest statutes.
City Manager Bob Ward said his intent in putting the matter before Council was to generate discussion about a possible extension and bring up issues raised by the Tronruds and others in negotiations. Then, if SMART can’t agree to some of the service requests, the contract could be put out to bid.
Frey said the contract should go out to bid to get the best deal for the city, and Hunz added that “some of the things we gave up” need to go back in the contract. He said others wanting to get into the business have approached him.
Catsi noted that SMART had won an Alaska Municipal League award for being the best city transit system in the state, and that material changes in the contract are allowed, as is an extension.
Catsi added, “It would send a bad message to anyone with a city contract that if you do a good job –”
“We cut your legs out,” said Henry, finishing the sentence.
Henry called SMART a “known quantity” and made the motion to extend the contract pending negotiations with the city manager
SMART’s Stuart Brown, who sat quietly during the discussion, said this week that he is amenable to the service requests that have been brought up and will be discussing options with the city manager. Teresa Brown clarified that SMART does operate year-round, with an on-call service from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

School roof issues resolved

Heger Construction will be doing the school roof after all.
At the Aug. 5 City Council meeting, after hearing from Janilyn and Gary Heger and the city attorney, there was no objection from Council members to allow the contract to continue.
The project has been delayed twice, once last fall due to changes in roof specifications, and then to a bonding problem this spring. The project was supposed to be completed at the end of June, but the Skagway City School Board asked the city to consider putting it out to bid again.
In the meantime, Heger was able to secure bonding, but the two other bidders from last summer objected, leaving the decision up to the Council.
The Decra metal roofing for the project has been sitting in Seattle awaiting a decision to proceed, Janilyn Heger said at the meeting. It has been guaranteed to the company at last year’s steel prices, and the price will go up if the project is rebid. She also had problems with Council member Dave Hunz discussing the issue since he could be a potential bidder.
Regarding the bonding problems, she said they had bonding last fall, but lost it when 130 bonding companies stopped covering projects over the winter. Now they have it and are ready to proceed.
Council discussion of the issue was slated for both public and executive session, but after the Skagway News questioned the need for the latter, since the issue was already being discussed in public, the executive session discussion was withdrawn.
City Manager Bob Ward and City Attorney Bob Blasco said there were errors in the protest letters by the other contractors regarding the bonding situation, and the school’s concerns were not over who did the work but when it could be done.
Blasco, after conferring with the school’s attorney, said the district no longer considers Heger to be in a situation where the contract has been breached.
Gary Heger added he would prefer to do the work soon and get the project done over the next six weeks while weather is still good.
The school district has concerns about the work going on after school starts Aug. 19, but Heger said he can start on the front and work back.

Trial delayed till February
A trial on pretext issues and damages surrounding the Skaguay Tour Co. vs. City of Skagway case has been delayed from a previously scheduled Aug. 2 date to next February. Last month a Sitka judge ruled that the city’s canvassing ordinance was overbroad and limited more than commercial speech. A city request to cancel the trial was denied.
Council went into executive session Aug. 5 to discuss the latest developments in the case, including a request for individual council member financial records. STC owner Terry Robertson has requested about $100,000 in damages.
This issue will be covered in more detail in the Aug. 27 edition.

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

CIRCLE OF FRIENDS Librarian Julene Fairbanks reads to youngsters n the library yard during one of the popular reading club sessions held this summer. The kids will soon be back in school, but Reading Circle for pre-schoolers will resume in September. Ardyce-Czuchna-Curl

OTHER FEATURES THIS ISSUE:

• GARDEN CITY FEATURE: Taylors win Edie Lee Award at 2004 Eastern Star Flower & Garden Show

• PRIMARY ELECTION: State House and Senate candidates running in the Aug. 24 primary - Remember to vote!

•ARTS & EVENTS: Corsets, Mad Hatters and Ben Moore's 100th anniversary speech!

• HEARD ON THE WIND: Where are we again?

• SPORTS ROUNDUP: RBI breaks the Hambones' streak; Trail marathon results; Pullen Creek open for fishing.

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