PILED HIGH

Sheet piles for the Broadway Dock expansion project resemble a silhouette of skyscrapers framed by Mount Harding. Read more about the dock project in headlines below. Andrew Cremata

Public reacts positively to new clinic concept

By ANDREW CREMATA
It was a town-hall atmosphere at the Dahl Memorial Clinic Community Information Meeting, held on Nov. 2 at City Hall. The crowd of about 45 heard and made comments concerning the conceptual phase of the proposed new clinic.
The gathering included clinic board members and personnel, city officials, interested citizens, and Aiza Paulson, a representative from Livingston & Sloan Architects, the company who prepared the conceptual phase diagram.
A mailer went out to box holders in the community inviting input from anyone interested in the future clinic, and an opportunity to voice any concerns before the project begins its next step, the design phase. The mailer identified facts from a survey that found 61 percent of Skagway citizens did not think the current 35-year-old clinic adequately met the needs of the community.
Paulson outlined the details of the current conceptual phase of the project. This includes a basic diagram of the proposed facility including a site plan and an adjacency plan. Some of the features highlighted for the new clinic include expanded urgent care, laboratory and radiological services, and more exam rooms. A separate 1,200 square foot building would provide housing for summer personnel.
The conceptual phase also includes cost estimates for construction of the new clinic at $6,249,590 and a business plan detailing operating costs with the City of Skagway’s subsidy of clinic operations to increase from $290,780 to $369,426 in the first year of operations.
Both the conceptual and design phases of the project are funded 100 percent by the Denali Commission, which would also pay for half of the construction cost if they approve the design.
Most comments made by those in attendance were positive.
Clinic Board Chair Leslie Dodd heralded the potential benefits to the clinic from being able to offer housing to summer personnel.
“We’ve had Lo Cums say no (to working at the clinic) because we haven’t had a place to put them up,” said Dodd. “Housing will add a huge piece to the puzzle.”
After a comment by Mayor Tim Bourcy about “getting creative” with methods to bring in money for the clinic, former Mayor John Mielke brought laughter to the crowd by joking that the cruise ship companies could sponsor individual rooms at the clinic such as the “Princess Room or the Carnival Room.”
Donna Moore expressed concern about storage issues at the clinic. Paulson reassured her that the clinic had a whole room devoted to storage, and each exam room would also have storage. She went on to explain that while the diagrams in the conceptual phase are rather crude, during the design phase the plans would become more detailed showing doors, windows, and closet space.
Funding for the city’s 50 per cent of construction costs was also discussed. In reference to potential sources for construction monies Dodd said, “I think it’s time to start thinking about a five per cent sales tax.”
Bourcy said that he had received a comment from someone locally who said that they would support a sales tax increase if the clinic had a doctor.
This sparked a conversation about the prospect of a doctor coming to Skagway. Moore said that in her opinion the current medical staff was just as good as a doctor, and that having a doctor would not eliminate the need to travel to Juneau because many would still need to see a specialist.
She added, “Sometimes I think nurses do more than doctors.”
Mielke said that Skagway is spoiled in some ways comparing a visit to our clinic with a visit to a doctor’s office down south where a patient is often “shuffled around like cattle.”
Bourcy then outlined the next step in the process, presenting the design and the 40-page business plan to the Denali Commission for their approval. “They may come back and say that it is above and beyond the scope for this community,” he said. “It is conceptual; we have a long way to go.”
New City Councilmember Lisa Cassidy expressed concern about a perceived lack of public input. She said, “Obviously there are a lot of people not here.”
Bourcy said that comments by the public could still be received by anyone involved in the process.
Mielke said, “The truth is (the public) will get involved after we’ve made the decision to build.”
City Manager Bob Ward said the plan would go to the Denali Commission this week, allowing no additional opportunity for public comment on the conceptual phase. He added that public concerns need to be voiced sooner than later because while changes can be made later in the process, they would become more expensive as time went on.
In his report to Council on Nov. 3, Ward said, “I was surprised there were no nay-sayers there.”
Ward praised the “small, but enthusiastic gathering,” citing some comments that were made concerning sales tax. He said that some at the meeting had mentioned their reluctance to increase sales tax for a pool, but said they would be more willing to accept the increase if it were for the clinic.
Ward said that next year $1.5 million would be set aside in reserves for the clinic, leaving an additional $2.5 million needed for the completion of the clinic in its present form.
“We might be looking into a sales tax increase down the road,” he said.

Railroad sale or restructure?

Tri-White announces ‘strategic incentive’

By JEFF BRADY
The board of directors of Tri-White Corporation have announced a “strategic initiative to address the future of its significant investment in its wholly-owned subsidiary, White Pass & Yukon Route. The investigation of the potential for the asset could include the sale of all or part of this business, a strategic alliance or partnership, or other restructuring of the asset within Tri-White,” according to a press release dated Sept. 28 on the corporation’s Website.
The company is in the process of retaining a financial advisor to assist with the strategic planning activities and expects to move forward with a recommendation in 2006, the release noted.
“Since Tri-White’s inception in 1997, White Pass has been a cornerstone of the Company’s portfolio,” stated K. Rai Sahi, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, of Tri-White, in a statement. “With its world class rail excursion and highly rated port facilities in Skagway, Alaska, this business unit has built on its blue chip customer base, delivering unparalleled growth and generating substantial cash flow for our shareholders.”
Sahi continued, “As with all of our investments, we periodically examine the stage of development within each company to assess the value created and to define a program to meet the Tri-White business objectives”.
Tri-White Corp. holds a diverse merchant-banking portfolio. The company is presently the largest shareholder of ClubLink, Canada’s leading owner, operator and developer of high quality member golf clubs, daily fee golf clubs and golf resorts with 34 properties in Canada. As well, Tri-White is the largest shareholder of Clearlink Capital Corporation. Clearlink provides customized financing, asset management and equipment trading services to large organizations through the acquisition of technology and related equipment.
In addition, Tri-White owns a 100 percent interest in the historic White Pass & Yukon Route Railway, with strategic holdings in the port operations and supporting excursions, based in Skagway.
WP&YR President Gary C. Danielson, a member of the Tri-White board, said nothing will change in the operation of the railroad while the parent corporation conducts its investigation.
“Currently it’s business as usual,” Danielson said this week. “It’s not unusual for a company to announce its intentions to look at all possibilities in the marketplace. We’ve always done that and will continue to do that. We don’t perceive there to be any effect on our company, employees or current operations.”
As noted in the press release, there also is the potential for restructuring the WP&YR, which itself has seven subsidiaries.

What’s up with the dock?

You may have seen the large cranes and the sheet pile that resembles the monolith from 2001 A Space Odyssey, or you may have heard the rapid metallic pounding clatter emanating from the direction of the Broadway Dock.
These are the sights and sounds of progress. Namely, future enhanced dock accessibility for the larger cruise ships that are due to arrive in Skagway next summer.
The Zuiderdam is one such ship. On the Holland America website, it is listed as 950 feet long – by comparison the Zaandam is 780 feet long.
Gary Danielson, president of White Pass & Yukon Route, said this ship is 100 feet longer than any other ship that has docked on the Broadway Dock, and will be the first of these larger ships to reach Skagway.
The problem lies in the fact that the Broadway Dock is just not equipped to handle ships of this size, and so its accessibility must be extended an additional 110 feet to the north.
Hurlen Construction, based in Juneau is the company tackling the job. One of Hurlen’s employees, who calls himself simply Dave (he gave no last name), explains the process while working under one of the large cranes.
“The sheet pile basically holds back the dirt,” he said, describing the function of the large pieces of steel that can be heard all over town being driven into the ground. Once they are in place, the bottom of the ocean floor near shore can be dug out to a deeper level. This will make it possible for the larger ships to pull all the way in close to the shore, where there used to be an angled rock slope preventing such access.
With the weather cooperating, construction is on schedule and Danielson said the project should be completed by early spring 2006. – AC

Boundary Commission bounding Skagway’s mission?

By ANDREW CREMATA
“They are well set against Skagway becoming a borough,” said City Manager Bob Ward concerning the latest effort by the Local Boundary Commission to thwart Skagway’s ongoing quest for borough status.
The LBC’s motion for reconsideration in Superior Court concerning the court’s initial order to the commission to reconsider Skagway’s petition was denied on Oct. 17.
Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins ruled on Sept. 20 that the LBC adopted its own regulation, without public input, when it denied Skagway’s application to be a borough in 2002 by saying the city needed to be larger than 443.1 square miles. In its motion for reconsideration filed on Sept. 30, Assistant Attorney General Michael Mitchell said the court “overlooked the facts” regarding the LBC’s statement of decision, citing evidence before them that Skagway failed to meet the common interest standard.
The Commission was prepared to reopen the petition, even before the Oct. 17 denial of the reconsideration by Collins. But they obviously wanted to move fast on it.
In a letter to the City of Skagway dated Oct. 24, Darroll Hargraves of the LBC wrote, “... I hereby order that any supplemental updated brief by the Petitioner (Skagway) must be filed with the Commission no later than Nov. 20, 2005.”
This has drawn confusion and anger from the city.
“It is their intent to deny us a fair hearing,” said a frustrated Ward at the Nov. 3 City Council meeting.
The “unrealistic” deadline, coupled with the lack of detailed supplemental information from the LBC concerning how Skagway could better respond to the petition, has left the city wondering why the commission is so “hostile” toward Skagway.
In a letter of response to the LBC’s “order,” Ward cites three things the Commission must do to fall in line with the judge’s initial ruling.
The first would be for the LBC to void their original decision denying Skagway borough status, the second would require the commission to prepare a supplemental briefing first so that the city can determine the criteria being set forth by the commission, and third, more time for the city to work on its supplemental briefing.
The council agreed that the 30-day timeline is unrealistic as the holidays are approaching, and the city’s attorney, Robert Blasco, is getting married leaving very little time to review the “thousands of pages” of material necessary for the city to prepare a supplemental brief.
In his strongly worded letter, Ward appealed to the commission by saying that “...Skagway is a model for economically efficient and service oriented government.”
If the LBC fails to respond to the letter in a favorable way, Ward foresees the city will end up back in court.

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

CAT SHELTER – A feral cat from Haines awaits adoption in Skagway. Read more about the improvements at the Paws and Claws Animal Shelter in features. Andrew Cremata

ONLINE FEATURES THIS ISSUE

• PAWS & CLAWS: Shelter welcomes animals, vets, volunteers

SPORTS & REC. ROUNDUP: Wrestling in Wrangell; Path to better trails

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