MOON FACE

A full moon sinks below the brow of snow-covered Face Mountain as Skagway wakes up on a November morning. The snow line moved all the way down to town a couple times this week. Winter is here. Jeff Brady

Monica Carlson appointed to vacant City Council seat
Bounds seeks more answers on post-election decisions

By JEFF BRADY
Mayor Tim Bourcy appointed Monica Carlson to the vacant City Council seat at the Nov. 6 meeting, saying his hope to resolve the controversy with a special election to fill the seat was not possible.
Bourcy also offered the name of Beth Cline for consideration, after Cline had informed him that she had changed her mind and could serve. However, at the meeting, Cline said she would be out of town through March, only able to return for council meetings. She apologized and said she would be comfortable with any decision the council made. After listening to public comment, Bourcy recommended Carlson, and the council had no objection.
Carlson was sworn in Monday by City Clerk Marj Harris. The nine-year Skagway resident is operations manager for the Skagway Street Car Co. and has served previously on the Historic District Commission and Skagway Child Care Council. She said that although she has never run for office, she was considered a couple years ago when another council seat was vacated.
“I’m level-headed and fair, not in one camp or the other,” Carlson said. “I will listen to the people and make my own decisions.”
No one filed for the two-year seat for the Oct. 7 election, but Cline ran a write-in campaign and was the apparent winner with 154 votes. But, as a declared candidate, she failed to file her Public Official Financial Disclosure statement in time and could not be seated.
The city attorney advised the city to declare the seat vacant. and for the mayor to appoint a person to fill the seat until the Oct. 2004 election, and the council took that action when it certified the election on Oct. 9. Bourcy had 30 days to make the appointment, and it was added to the agenda at the Nov. 6 meeting.
Bert Bounds, who finished second with 37 write-in votes, continues to question the process and whether his rights were violated.
At last week’s meeting, audience members were split on seating Cline by appointment. Cindy Gaddis said she voted for Cline, but did not know she would be out of town for the winter, and that might have changed her opinion.
Ed Fairbanks was opposed to any appointment, saying the seat was not vacated by any provision allowed in city or state code, such as illness or resignation. He said the seat should have gone to the next in line.

Monica Carlson, left, is sworn in by City Clerk Marj Harris.

City Clerk Marj Harris has maintained that the city has no provision for seating the next highest vote getter, and to date the state Department of Community and Economic Development has agreed with that interpretation, and the decision to declare the seat vacant.
However, Bounds most recently has cited an Oct. 28 Alaska Public Offices Commission letter, which questioned why Harris did not inform Bounds of his status as a declared candidate once he knew someone had voted for him. Bounds did not file papers and did not file a protest prior to canvassing.
In the letter to Bounds’ office manager, Candice Wallace, the assistant director of APOC, Christina Ellingson, wrote:
“Staff’s best answer is once the person is aware they were written in for an office, they should contact the certifying authority, in your case, the city clerk of Skagway, to determine what, if any, filing obligations they might have. In addition, once the clerk knows that there is a write-in candidate, common sense would dictate that the clerk notify the write-in candidate of their status and request a POFD statement to be filed.”
Ellingson prefaced her letter as being “informal advice” and suggested further interpretation by DCED and the clerk.
Bounds sent a letter to Harris on Nov. 5 asking for a response to the APOC interpretation.
“I have been informed that applying a different set of standards to my candidacy and the continued refusal to validate my standing (by any public official) is a violation of my constitutional rights (by law),” Bounds wrote. “It has also been brought to my attention that the appointment of any person to this position does not in any way eradicate my rights to pursue this matter, but only compounds the transgressions.”
At the council meeting, Bounds came forward and said he had no comment other than he was waiting for a response.
When Mayor Bourcy asked Harris if there would be a response, she replied that she was not prepared to respond at that moment.
When questioned this week, Harris said her position has been that there were no other declared write-in candidates, and said Bounds’ letter is “under advisement and being reviewed.”
For now at least, a woman will be back at the council table for the first time in two years.
Carlson said she is anxious to read the mountain of paper work and tackle issues like borough formation and flood control. She has an interest in the fire department, having been a secretary and financial officer for a volunteer department for six years in Washington before moving to Skagway.
“I’m looking forward to serving,” she said. “I appreciate Tim and the rest of the council having the faith in me.”

Fast ferry will base in Juneau
Separate runs to Skagway, Haines raise objections

JUNEAU - Alaska’s new fast ferry will be based in Juneau instead of Sitka, according to the state Department of Transportation.
The home port for the 235-foot Fairweather originally was to be Sitka. The vessel was to make daily trips to Juneau starting in May. But DOT Commissioner Mike Barton, following a recommendation from the agency’s Marine Transportation Advisory Board, announced recently that the Fairweather will be based in Juneau and will make runs to Haines and Skagway five days a week and to Sitka two days a week.
The ferry will carry 250 passengers and up to 35 vehicles, and travel at speeds of up to 32 knots, or about 36 mph.
Basing the ferry in Juneau will save the state $5 million annually in operating costs and as much as $2 million in one-time capital costs, according to the DOT.
Sitka Mayor Fred Reeder acknowledged that the Alaska Marine Highway System, as well as the rest of state government, is facing tough financial times but said Sitka has lacked adequate ferry service for decades.
“We had been promised that ferry,” Reeder said. “It would have helped our community immensely. We’ve been fighting this battle since 1962 and we lost another one.”
Last year more than 38,000 people traveled between Juneau and Sitka by airplane, proving a need for enhanced ferry service between the two cities, he said.
“That’s a lot of people going back and forth between Juneau and Sitka,” he said. “There’s a huge connection between the communities, and the ferry isn’t meeting that need.”
Cost is the primary reason for basing the ferry in Juneau, said Gary Cuscia, DOT Southeast Region administrative manager. Using the Fairweather in Upper Lynn Canal five days a week will allow DOT to lay up the state ferry Taku, he said.
“To operate the Taku for a week is approximately $166,000,” Cuscia said. “In contrast, to operate the Fairweather is approximately $90,000.”
Walt Sheridan, a DOT spokesman, said the $2 million in capital savings comes from a cost difference between building dock facilities in Juneau and Sitka. Establishing a port facility in Sitka would require a complete overhaul of existing dock space, he said.
“It would be difficult to continue our existing operations (in Sitka) while making those major modifications,” he said.
Juneau will simply require construction of a stern berth facility south of the existing state ferry terminal at Auke Bay, Sheridan said.
The marine highway system has not released a 2004 summer ferry schedule, but a draft version has been sent out to Southeast mayors, economic councils and other entities for comment.
The draft has the Fairweather making trips to Sitka on Wednesdays and Sundays, said ferry general manager George Capacci.
The rest of the week the Fairweather would make daily trips straight to Haines and back and then straight to Skagway and back.
Capacci said DOT is considering hiring a private ferry to provide shuttle service between Haines and Skagway.
Following a public meeting on the proposed summer schedule last week, the City of Skagway Civic Affiars Committee raised some concerns in a letter to the department.
Skagway would have 12 days next summer with no ferry service, wrote committee chair Mike Catsi, and there would be no service between Haines and Skagway on Tuesdays and Fridays.
“From an economic development perspective this is lost revenue for the communities of Haines and Skagway and of the AMHS,” Catsi wrote. “Regular service between Skagway and Haines is a must for any AMHS schedule.”
The letter also criticized the laying up of the Taku at a time when it has “the greatest potential for creating revenue,” suggesting it should remain in Lynn Canal.
It also suggested the Fairweather, which is due to be christened in Connecticut this weekend, could be home-ported in Haines or Skagway to save money and provide better service.
Haines officials also have criticized the cutback in Haines-Skagway traffic. – Associated Press & Skagway News

Skagway Segway: Somehow? Some way? No way?

By ANDREW CREMATA
Segways may be coming to Skagway. At a public meeting in council chambers on Oct 23 this idea was discussed by Mike Windred of Alaska Travel Adventures and 13 members of the community. The plan was to talk about the idea and its effect on already congested Skagway streets. A demonstration of the self-balancing vehicles took place two days later at the small boat harbor and downtown.
A Segway is a two-wheeled machine that uses your own balance to control its propulsion while the left hand operates a small dial on the left handlebar for steering. Its speed can be set from 6 to 12 mph by the person who holds the key.
“People are intimidated by the machine at first, but intrigued,” said Windred.
Windred’s idea is to have two groups of 12 on the tour, which would possibly run at staggered times. A 24-passenger tour van would pick up groups on the dock and take them to Mountain View RV Park where they would receive a 5-minute orientation and training for the one-hour tour. Windred explains, “The tour will criss-cross back and forth through town. The first stop would be the McCabe building.”
Councilman Mike Catsi asked exactly where the tour would go. Windred answered that it would be a “historical tour of downtown. However, the biggest interest will be riding the Segway, not the history of Skagway.”
Many at the meeting had concerns about safety. Police officer Brent Moody stated, “I have some safety concerns. We have so much traffic down there (downtown). Visiting people check their commonsense when they come here.”
Barb Kalen agreed. “We have so much traffic, this is foolhardy. I am not in favor of this, period. People on foot pay no attention”
Kalen then mimicked a tourist staring into space and said, “They stand in the street and hope no one hits them.”
Windred stated that the safety concerns were unwarranted. “There is trepidation because they are unknown,” he said. “Segways are safe. We already have a pretty good learning curve behind us.”

The tourism director takes a spin. AC

He explained that riders would have to be successful during the orientation and they would be required to wear helmets. There would also be a 16-year-old age limit and a 100-250 lb. weight limit. He did admit that a route had not been planned.
Stuart Brown, who operates the city’s SMART shuttle stated, “We’re trying to help congestion. This will make it worse. If you stop, crowds will gather to see them. You don’t have a route planned. I’m going to lobby to restrict this type of vehicle on Broadway.”
Mayor Tim Bourcy seemed to support Brown’s statement: “The amount of congestion is a major concern. Even crossing Broadway is dangerous. It is a bad idea and does not fit the historical aspects of this town.”
Former councilman Stan Selmer addressed the entire assembly: “Are we going to have a plan for congestion in Skagway? If we eliminate pedicabs and horse carriages, then I would favor Segways.”
There were also concerns over the training and orientation that the tour would provide. Catsi pointed out, “Unless you train them on a moving obstacle course they are unprepared for Broadway.”
Windred reassured the crowd by pointing out it was not worth the risk to push people who aren’t ready and that precautions would be taken. He continued, “There is not a city that doesn’t have congestion problems. We are familiar with what happens in Skagway.” He then pointed out that ATA has been operating tours in Skagway since 1984.
Moody then said that while he was at first opposed to ATA’s popular Jeep tour he is now impressed with the operation. He said of the new tour idea, “If they’re downtown I can see a big headache coming. I’m not opposed if it is off Broadway.”
Catsi agreed, “The issue is not Segways, but driving them in downtown Skagway.”
Windred said that foregoing the downtown area might be a possibility as well as renting them for personal use.
The test ride of the machine took place on Saturday. A small crowd gathered to give the machines, which seem to defy gravity, a trial run. Most of those who tried the Segway seemed to grasp the basics in a few minutes. Tourism Director Buckwheat Donahue got the hang of it right away.
With a big grin he said, “Ain’t it cool!”

UPDATE: A resolution is on the agenda for the Nov. 20 City Council meeting which would establish a moratorium on Segways.

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