YULETIDE DUET

Gavin Murphy gets a smile from his dad, Robert, during the children's music portion of the annual Yuletide Ball, which was a big hit this year at the Skagway Rec. Center, complete with rock wall background for the bands. See more picutes on the Yuletide Page and the Helen B. Clark Award winner. Jeff Brady

Group wants change in city’s stand against road
Mayor, Council to review issue in January

By JEFF BRADY
Flanked by about a dozen supporters at the Dec. 19 City Council meeting, local resident Kathy Hosford asked for a repeal or significant amendments to Resolution 03-8R, which passed earlier this year in support of improved ferry service over a road to Juneau.
In her remarks, Hosford said there is “remarkable and growing support for the Juneau Access Road” and requested that the Council decline any further comment and remain “neutral on the justification of impartial representation.”
She cited Mayor Tim Bourcy’s comments at a Dec. 4 meeting about how Juneau Access was a divided issue, and that when he had represented the community, he had stated that the town supported Juneau Access. At the same meeting, council members Mike Catsi and Mike Korsmo spoke up for improved ferry service, and a summary of mayor and council comments was forwarded to planners working on the revised Southeast Alaska Transportation Plan.
The letter, which due to the city manager’s recent bout with pneumonia, did not got out until late last week, stated: “The draft plan assumes a highway connection between Juneau and Skagway in advance of the release of the EIS that will be reviewing multiple options. We would like for the draft plan to simply refer to “Juneau Access” until a preferred alternative has been identified. It should also be noted that the City of Skagway is on record supporting enhanced ferry service in the Lynn Canal as our preferred approach to Juneau Access. In the short term, ferry service between Haines and Skagway will suffer. It is at this point anecdotal, but there appears to currently be greater link volume between Haines and Skagway than there is between Juneau and Skagway. This needs to be a consideration in all planning.”
At last week’s meeting, Hosford said she concurred with the mayor’s statements, but “most disturbing to me is that the efforts presented by council members, city officials and employees vehemently opposing a road and only supporting improved ferry service creates a tremendous sad unrest in this community, making many feel lack of representation.
“I can agree there are clearly different opinions, but through research I have found most people I have made contact with, have never really been asked their opinion and many lack factual information. I urge you to always be confident of your information before passing legislation in any form.”
Hosford then went through Resolution 03-8R in detail, asking that any section about road opposition be deleted, including references to public safety concerns, construction and maintenance costs, and possible negative impacts on the local economy, cruise ship patterns, and the environment. And the resolution should conclude by saying: “Skagway City Council urges Governor Murkowski to support improved ferry service between Juneau and the Upper Lynn Canal until such time that Juneau Access as approved is completed.”
No one else spoke, but there were several nods in agreement from the group gathered behind Hosford. During Council discussion, member Monica Carlson said she agreed with some of Hosford’s points, and Korsmo said the resolution could be reviewed at the next meeting on Jan. 15.
Bourcy said the resolution as written did have a lot of merits and helped Skagway secure the fast ferry Fairweather for next summer, but he said it could be amended. Member Jay Frey said amending it would be the same as getting rid of it, and Korsmo added that they also have the option of not changing a thing.
The following day, it was discovered that the Dec. 5 letter on the SATP had not gone out while City Manager Bob Ward was sick, and Mayor Bourcy sent it as written.
When asked if he felt council members should be muzzled on the Juneau Access issue, the mayor said they “should have the ability to speak their minds” since they represent different elements of the community and respond to what they hear from constituents.
“My position is different from council members...” Bourcy said. “I choose to recognize it’s divided – all surveys indicate that.”
Those surveys, including one commissioned last August by the McDowell Group for the updated Juneau Access Environmental Impact Statement, have shown Skagway leaning toward better ferry service over a road.
Hosford and others have said the survey would have been more accurate if taken in the winter months. Since the meeting, she said she has received a lot of good responses to her amended resolution.

Fire Chief Beckner resigns to take new Juneau chief position
City meets with SVFD first before seeking replacement

Skagway Fire Chief Martin Beckner tendered his resignation Dec. 17, a week after it had been announced in Juneau that he had been selected as the new Capital City Fire and Rescue division chief.
Beckner was struggling all week with whether to accept the position, saying he had mixed feelings about leaving.
“It was a tough decision,” he said. “I enjoyed being in the community of Skagway and working with the fine people in the fire department, and I’ve been supported by the community at large.”
His new job starts Jan. 5, and his last day of work in Skagway will be Jan. 2. Beckner said his family will stay in Skagway until the end of the school year, and he’ll come up on weekends for a while.
Beckner said it’ll work out that he held the Skagway job for four years, four months and four days. He came from a department in California, and the Juneau job will be similar to his previous work. In Skagway, he supervised a largely volunteer department. In Juneau, he will supervise a paid staff of about 30, and another division chief will supervise the volunteers.
As Skagway’s first paid chief, there were many challenges to the job, he said, but he felt honored to have worked with the town’s volunteer firefighters.
At the Dec. 18 City Council meeting, Mayor Tim Bourcy asked the Public Safety Committee to meet with fire captains to discuss what went well and what didn’t work so well with the first chief before they advertise for a new one. That meeting will be held on Jan. 6 at 5 p.m. at City Hall.
Beckner said his successor should keep people trained and continue to upgrade equipment. He said there are several trained volunteers at the Firefighter 1 level who are ready to progress to Firefighter 2, and that they need to keep people coming in at the entry level as well.
One of his final tasks was securing a Emergency Medical Response Unit, a completely outfitted trailer unit for a mass-casualty incident on the highway, train or a cruise ship. The trailer, which new can cost up to $25,000, was obtained from the Anchorage airport for about $5,850. It can be pulled by the department’s new pickup, unloaded, and then serve as a command center. It also could be placed on a flat car and taken up the railroad line. – JB

Skagway hunter OK after wet night on island, assist from SEADOGS

By JEFF BRADY
Two Skagway hunters were separated on Sullivan Island on Dec. 15, and while one of them got back to his boat before dark to notify Coast Guard that his friend was missing, the other had set up camp and had some deer meat over a fire while he waited for daylight.
Shaun McKnight said he was never in any danger, despite the call for Coast Guard assistance and a search by SEADOGS.
Explaining the events, McKnight said he accompanied Monte Mitchell on Mitchell’s boat “Spindrift” to the large island south of Haines for a day hunt. They anchored in Rescue Bay, named because of its protection from north winds, and went ashore at daybreak.
“Monte got hot on the trail of a deer, and I just tried to keep up,” McKnight said.
The hiking was difficult in knee and thigh-deep snow, he said, and he eventually caught up to Mitchell’s kill on a plateau near the island’s peak. The deer was gutted and hanging up, but it appeared Mitchell had tried to backtrack to find him, McKnight said.
The two friends then made loops in a meadow but their paths never crossed, and Mitchell eventually went back to the boat.
“Had I been slower or he had been faster, we would have caught up to each other,” McKnight said.
But by the time McKnight got back to the deer, it was getting dark and he knew he would not be able to make it back to the boat. It was raining and a south wind had started to blow. His head lamp had water in it and wasn’t working, and his cell phone was dead – it didn’t work on that side of the island anyway. He made a shelter from branches, and started a fire with a flint magnesium bar, which can light even wet wood.
After firing off some rounds and sounding his foghorn with no response, Mitchell notified Coast Guard and moved the boat to the other side of the island. Rescue Bay is open to south winds, and the boat was getting bounced around in the waves.
At around 9 p.m., the USCG launched its 47-ft. rescue vessel from Auke Bay with two members of SEADOGS on board and dropped them off on the island around midnight.
McKnight said Mitchell did not know the extent of his survival gear. He hadn’t eaten since morning, and barbecued a hunk of deer leg over the fire.
“I knew I couldn’t make it back, so I’d just wait for the moon or big old heli the next morning,” he said.
He spent all night keeping the fire going, as the moon only came out long enough for him to find some more wood to cut. Between 1 and 2 a.m. he saw about four flares, and originally thought they came from Mitchell, so he decided to make his way down to the beach in the deep snow.
“It took me three hours to go three-quarters of a mile,” McKnight said. “I had to go slow, keep up the pace to keep warm but not too fast or I’d overheat and my glasses would fog up.”
When he reached the beach about 4:30 a.m. he started heading to a spot where they had agreed to meet if they got separated. He then saw lights about a half mile behind him, and fired off a couple rounds. The lights started moving toward him real fast. He was glad to see them.
“By that point I was thirsty and hungry again,” McKnight said. They hiked to Rescue Bay and Mitchell came around and met them there. They made three trips in an inflatable raft to the boat, which continued to bounce in the waves, its anchor sliding along the sandy bottom. McKnight said that was the most dangerous part of the episode. When they were all loaded, they got out of there and went on to Haines.
McKnight said he had a lot of respect for the two SEADOGS crews, which hiked all over the island looking for him in the deep snow. On his way back he realized that he had crossed their trail on the way down to the beach.
“I was never missing - that was a bit of a stretch,” McKnight said. “Those guys followed most of my trail. They did not have an easy task. Wherever a deer goes that’s where Monte goes.”
But the next time McKnight goes hunting, he said he’ll pack more waterproof gear, and a portable marine radio. His wife wasn’t even aware he had been “missing” until he walked in the door.

OTHER FEATURES THIS ISSUE...

• SPORTS: Stan Bush suit up for Syracuse football team; Wang gets win at State

• TOP VOLUNTEERS: AARP award to Connie Conard, Helen B. Clark Award to Lynn Herbig

• YULETIDE: The event of the season, including the Santa Train!

To read all the stories in the News, including city and school digests, letters and commentary, police and court reports, and view our many advertisers for Skagway products and services, you must subscribe to the real thing. Out of town subscriptions cost $35 per year for second class mail, $45 for first class mail. Send a check to Skagway News, Box 498, Skagway, AK 99840 or call us at 907-983-2354 with a credit card number.