April 13, 2012 • Vol. XXXV, No. 6
Kicking Up a Snowy Record
More than 100 skiers kick up snow at the start of the 10K race of the Buckwheat Ski Classic. In all, 381 registered for all races, making it the biggest BSC ever. See this year's BSC Feature by first timer Katie Emmets and more photos in our Skagway Snowfest Gallery.
Photo by Andrew Cremata
Municipality now dealing with new AIDEA proposal for tidelands
Assembly will also take up next step with White Pass at meeting on April 19
By JEFF BRADY
The Skagway Borough Assembly is still working through not only its most recent proposal to White Pass for a surrender of unimproved lands within the large tidelands lease, but a new lease proposal from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.
The AIDEA proposal was sent to the municipal attorney recently and has not yet been released to the public. The Port Commission has been forwarded a copy and was meeting in executive session Wednesday afternoon to look it over, and then was going to pass on any recommendations to the assembly for its April 19 meeting.
That’s also a date when a full assembly will discuss the next step regarding White Pass. The company, which holds the tidelands lease for the western side of the port until 2023, has tentatively agreed to a surrender of lands that the borough would like to have control of to be able to improve port facilities with public dollars. The size has diminished through negotiations into just the unimproved lands within the lease, and the next step is for the borough to draw up legal descriptions of those lands.
Although a full assembly was present on April 5, members elected to not take up the two issues in executive session until the 19th. However they did pass a motion to have the borough attorney notify both White Pass and AIDEA that they were moving forward on the proposals.
In an interview the next day on April 6, Mayor Stan Selmer said the AIDEA proposal is a draft lease for post-2023. The state development agency currently holds a sub-lease with White Pass for the ore terminal, but agency officials in the past have stated that in order to bond up to $65 million in improvements, they need a long-term lease agreement as a guarantee for potential customers.
Several new Yukon mines, including Selwyn-Chihong, want to ship to Skagway, and Selwyn has even floated conceptual plans for a new ore dock southwest of the current TEMSCO heliport. Selmer said such a project “could be facilitated by the surrender of unimproved lands that White Pass has tentatively agreed to.” He noted that they have their engineer working on some drawings.
Selmer acknowledged that the original Gateway Project concept – improving the current Ore Dock and uplands – has basically been ignored since November, as White Pass and the municipality tried to reach some kind of agreement. The borough at one time had wanted back control of the entire tract west of the Broadway Dock, but in exchange White Pass wanted to remain cruise terminal operator at the Ore Dock for many years after 2023. The assembly said no, agreeing only to a lease extension for the more central Broadway Dock.
Also mixed into the White Pass negotiations is a commitment by the company to build a floating dock for about $4 million at the Railroad Dock for larger Solstice class cruise ships that Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines will bring to Alaska in 2013. At one time, the floating dock was to be on the Ore Dock side, and White Pass had a permit for a $2.5 million facility there as its contribution to the Gateway Project. But when negotiations stalled over cruise terminal operator extensions, White Pass offered to let the borough buy the floating dock after it was installed. The borough put a request into the legislature for those funds from the cruise passenger excise account. But even though White Pass has now shifted the floating dock to its privately held Railroad Dock side, the municipality has not pulled the legislative request.
The issue came before the Port Commission last week.
“We could end up with two floating docks,” said chair John Tronrud. Then, when asked if that would be a bad thing, he said, “No.”
Tronrud had been to Juneau recently lobbying with the mayor and borough manager. They also worked up a funding list for Sen. Albert Kookesh to add to a proposed general obligations bond proposal for transportation projects. A total of $13.5 million was added for the Skagway port, incorporating elements from the failed federal TIGER grant requests.
“The chance of getting those transportation funds are not all that good, but there’s no reason we should not be in on it,” Tronrud said.
But this and other port development matters caught some off guard.
Member Gary Hanson cautioned that better communication was needed, and that the commission needs to meet more regularly to address port issues.
This week’s special meeting was scheduled to deal with the AIDEA proposal and review an updated review of a sediments report on the ore basin by the Department of Environmental Conservation. In an April 2 letter, Bruce Wanstall, remedial project manager for the contaminated sites program, said that while lead and zinc levels from past activities exceed threshold effect levels, DEC would support a cleanup remedy involving dredging and disposing of the contaminated material in an uplands facility.
This is what the municipality envisioned for the original Gateway Project. The DEC letter said it would not approve of moving the contaminated material to a deep water disposal site.
Recycling Committee to come up with concrete plan of action
By KATIE EMMETS
Three years ago, a better recycling program was the number one thing Skagway residents said they wanted.
“The project with the highest level of support is improving the Skagway recycling program, with 49 percent of residents strongly supportive and another 41 percent supportive,” stated the Skagway’s 2020 Comprehensive Plan, which was created in 2009.
A few months ago, Skagway Mayor Stan Selmer appointed five community members to an ad hoc Recycling Committee in order to improve Skagway’s recycling.
Because the committee is new and unsure of current municipality practices, it is working on putting together a checklist of issues in which more information is needed.
The first thing on the list, which chair Steve Burnham Jr. said the committee has all agreed on, is finding out what exactly the Municipality of Skagway does with its recycling and waste and then putting a dollar amount to each effort.
The only items currently recycled are aluminum and scrap metal.
There are a lot of monetary factors that must be considered when calculating costs: manpower for labor, electricity at the incinerator, fuel for the burns, cost of shipping aluminum and cardboard, and repair costs of the incinerator.
Right now, the incinerator needs immediate repair to one of its walls and its chimney.
In an April 11 special borough assembly meeting, the assembly voted to award $483,051 to Jaffa Construction Inc. for incinerator refractory repairs. Ordinance No. 12-08, which passed its second reading in the special meeting, amended the FY12 budget from allocating $167,000 toward incinerator refractory repairs to the necessary $483,051 required – $316,051 more that its original amount.
Skagway Public Works Director Grant Lawson said the fix would hopefully last seven years before it needs to be repaired again, but there are no guarantees. The incinerator is 13 years old, and with three burns per week in the summer and one in the winter, Burnham said if more things were recycled in Skagway the incinerator wouldn’t be used as many times as it is, therefore saving money in fuel costs and extending its life expectancy.
“It would save the environment but also save on wear and tear of the incinerator,” Burnham said. “There’s no way we wouldn’t save money by not using the incinerator as much as we do.”
Burnham also added that the money saved could be put into other areas throughout the municipality.
Another area the committee wants to look into is cardboard recycling.
Since 2002, Tom Hall, president of Community Waste Solution in Haines, has composted and was recently using Skagway’s cardboard toward the process. But in a December article in the Chilkat Valley News, Hall said he would not be accepting the sludge he uses to compost anymore.
Hall was quoted as saying he would no longer be composting “due to high operational costs given [Haines’s] lower waste volume and revenue." The sludge was also reported to be leaking black water.
As of now, Burnham said the cardboard is not being composted.
According to a release from the municipality, for the half year from July to January 2011, Skagway sent 86,270 pounds to Haines, spending a total of $3,940 in shipping costs. This number did not include the cardboard waste generated from the beginning of the cruise ship season.
Burnham said he calculated that for about $3,000 more per year, Skagway could ship its cardboard to Seattle via Alaska Marine Lines to be recycled back into cardboard instead of composted to make dirt, which is not happening at this time.
Burnham said the committee hopes to have a concrete plan together to present to the Skagway Borough Assembly members as soon as possible because they are entering the FY13 budget cycle.
A few months ago, the assembly decided it would put a $100,000 number toward the Recycling Committee’s efforts.
Burnham said the municipality will be asking the state for $70,000 from its cruise passenger excise tax fund, and if it is received, the municipality will match the funds with $30,000.
Burnham said it was calculated that 30 percent of the total amount of waste in Skagway comes from its year-round residents with 70 percent coming from the tourism industry, which is why it is asking for a 70/30 matching contribution.
In the early stages of committee meetings over the past month, members discussed using some of the money to hire an outside consultant to help with drafting a plan, but Burnham said while he doesn’t know if it would be as efficient, the committee will most likely try to come up with a plan on their own because it would be cheaper.
Burnham said his immediate goals are to increase aluminum recycling in town, figure out what exactly happens to the town’s cardboard, and decide how to recycle plastics and glass. He will be discussing these goals with the rest of the committee.
Each of the committee’s five members brings something important to the table, Burnham said.
Eric Moseley works for the Skagway Public Works department and has experience in recycling heavy metals; Julene Fairbanks runs the Skagway Public Library, a municipal building, and has a background in Sustainable Skagway; Mike Healy owns two businesses that are part of the Green Restaurant Association; Rick Bannerman has experience with recycling and was on the board of an organic co-op in Seattle; and Burnham was involved with recycling in Skagway at a very young age in Boy Scouts and has also taken a 16-credit course on recycling.
The committee’s next meeting is today at 4 p.m. at the Skagway Library, and it will come up with its plan of action.
BUCKWHEAT SKI CLASSIC FEATURE: First time discovers core of BSC
Borough manager contract shortened, treasurer resigns
Borough manager Tom Smith’s contract has been shortened from its original 18-month extension to the end of this year.
Skagway Borough Assembly members on Feb. 2 originally voted to extend Smith’s contract through Nov. 2013, but after an executive session on April 5, they shortened it to December 31, 2012.
The change cuts more than 11 months off the contract. Skagway Mayor Stan Selmer said the assembly had reservations about extending Smith’s contract for 18 months and wanted to award a shorter one. Selmer said he could not discuss the reasons for the shortened contract because they are protected under executive session rules.
Smith said he accepted the offer: “The assembly voted to make an offer, and the offer has been put into an agreement, and I signed it,”
In another personnel move, Treasurer Randy Wiley has resigned after one year of holding that position. Smith said Wiley would be taking a job with the City and Borough of Juneau.
Wiley gave his two-weeks notice on April 2, and though that is what was required in his contract, Selmer said he would like to see that extended to a 30-days notice. Selmer said he wishes it would have already been a 30-days notice, because in two weeks they will be into FY13 budget discussions and left without a treasurer.
Selmer said Wiley is leaving on good terms and did everything that was required of him leading up to his resignation. The municipality has already begun advertising the position.
Wiley said he had no comment on his resignation. – KE
March co-organizer Ashley Bowman, Nick Ackerman and Dan Rossi carry the Choose Respect banner as more than 100 adults and children follow behind them on a beautiful spring day. Below, Rori Leaverton and Amanda Hoover tell participants that Skagway middle school and high school students choose respect. Katie Emmets
More than 100 residents walk in local 'Choose Respect' march
By KATIE EMMETS
More than 120 Alaska communities participated in the third annual Choose Respect March, and on March 27, more than 100 Skagwegians walked from the National Park Service building on the corner of Broadway and 2nd to the Elks at 6th and State.
Ashley Bowman, who co-organized the march with Kathy Hosford, said the Choose Respect March was one of the first things she heard about its creator, Gov. Sean Parnell.
“I think it’s great that the governor initiated this,” she said. “After Sarah Palin resigned, this was the first thing I heard about him and it made a great impression.”
According to the Choose Respect website, Alaska consistently leads the United States in rape, domestic violence, and sexual assault; and 75 percent of Alaskans have experienced or know someone who has experienced these crimes.
And Bowman is one of them.
In front of 62 people, Bowman gave her personal testimony.
“On December 29th of 2008 the police were called to respond to my allegations that my former domestic partner had committed acts of sexual violence against me,” she said. “I don’t know what made that evening different. It wasn’t the first time, but it was the last.”
While this occurrence affected her life physically and financially, the worst ramifications were the social and emotional ones.
“I’m here today talking as a former victim of domestic violence and sexual assault in hopes that it will accomplish a handful of goals,” she said. “To show skeptics that yes, this does happen in our town and it is a real problem; to shed light on what a person might experience going through it in Skagway; and mostly, to show people who may be going through it right now that there is hope.”
Bowman said there are many resources that she took advantage of and encouraged others to take advantage of them if they are going through similar situations.
”We have a support system in Skagway,” she said. “The police station, the clinic, even the DA in Juneau and his paralegals. Beyond all that, we have a lot of supportive people here.”
Bowman said another way Skagway could choose respect is by respecting others’ personal situations and not repeat it or gossip about it.
“I would petition all of you in that vein to re-evaluate the way you choose respect in your day to day lives,” she said. “When you twist a story a certain way to make it more sensational, there’s a real person at the center of it who may already be as humiliated, ashamed, hurt as they thought they possibly could be.”
Mayor Stan Selmer also spoke at the Elks after the march.
Selmer said in 2010, 58 percent of Alaskan women experienced intimate partner or sexual violence. He also added that 40 percent of Alaskan domestic violence victims are men.
“It’s nice to see an event designed that focuses on these things,” he said. “This is a fantastic way to get people to talk about these issues and work towards diminishing a problem that is so rampant in Alaska.”
In a March 15 Skagway Borough Assembly meeting, Selmer read a document that proclaimed that he, as mayor, supported Choose Respect as a way of life for the citizens of Skagway but actively standing up against domestic violence, sexual assault and child sexual abuse.
But he wasn’t alone in his support of the cause.
“Usually it is just the mayor who makes a proclamation, but when I got done reading this at the meeting, every one of the assembly members wanted to be a part of this,” he said.
Members of Skagway School’s student government, Rori Leaverton and Amanda Hoover, told the marchers about the presentation and round table events student government hosted at their school in February.
Standing in front of everyone in their “Choose Respect” t-shirts, the girls said the discussions in school focused around bullying, suicide, texting while driving, and drunken driving.
They said it was really good for the students because sometimes they forget that things like bullying and suicides happen, as they don’t know anyone in their community who is bullied or who has committed suicide.
Jeff Jones, who is in the natural resources department of the Parnell administration, came to speak to Skagway residents about Choose Respect.
“Skagway is in a unique and strong position to communicate to the world that this state chooses respect,” Jones said.
Jones said Skagway businesses owners could print off posters from the Choose Respect website that tell tourists who travel here via cruise ship that their business chooses respect.
“It would be a great message to send to everyone who visits,” he said.
Jones said in 2010, the first year of Choose Respect, 19 communities participated, and last year there were 64. This year, Jones said, that number nearly doubled with 124 communities participating.
Bowman said she is really happy with the community participation in the march.
“I had a few people come up to me after I gave my testimony and told me they went through something similar and thanked me for talking about my experience,” Bowman said. “They told me they felt better knowing they’re not alone.”
Bowman will be working with other town residents to create a way respect could be a part of everyday life in Skagway and not just brought to light once a year.
SIREN START - A girl runs for the eggs as her brother covers his ears as the fire truck siren sounds the start of the annual Easter Egg Hunt at Seven Pastures Park. Jeff Brady
BOROUGH DIGEST (complete digest in print edition)
Assembly to look at changing the way conditional noise permits are handled
In an April 5 Borough Assembly meeting, resident Tony Kosters addressed members in Hear Citizen’s Present and said he was unhappy with the way the conditional use noise permit was awarded to the Skagway Brewing Company for March 16 and 17, the weekend of Back Country Bash.
Tony Kosters and his brother Kody live across the alley from the Brew Co., and he said they told Police Chief Ray Leggett they did not agree with the granting of the conditional use permit to the bar.
Kody said he was under the impression that if one neighbor said no to awarding the permit, it would not be granted. When he called the police to complain about the noise on the night of the 17th, it came as a surprise to him when the police told him there was nothing they could do because they have a permit, which excused them from the regular noise ordinance rules.
“We wouldn’t have had a problem with them getting a permit if they had events five times out of the year,” Kody said. “But it’s almost every night in the summer.”
The Kosters said they were upset that they didn’t know Brew Co. owner Mike Healy came to the assembly in a March 15 meeting. And if they knew about it, they would have been there to protest.
Assemblyman Tim Cochran said he wasn’t happy with the way the permit was awarded in the March 15 meeting, but didn’t protest at the time. He said all parties involved should be able to give testimony and opinions before a final decision is made on the matter.
Because the assembly cannot hear appeals on conditional use permits, the choice to grant the permit was actually made by Skagway Police Chief Ray Leggett.
Mayor Stan Selmer said he would like to see some language put into the code that would allow the assembly to act as a board of appeals in matters which involve conditional use noise permits, similar to planning and zoning permits.
“Right now, the police department is the sole decider on whether or not a (noise) permit is issued,” Selmer said, adding that the applicant can appeal the decision, but the appeal will go to a court higher than the assembly.
Selmer said it would make sense for the assembly to deal with these matters since it involves things within the municipality.
Brew Co. owner Mike Healy said he agrees with the appeal being heard by the assembly.
“Like everything else, it’s just nice to have a second review process in case something is over or under looked,” he said.
Outdoor Arts Facility Committee holds open house with architect
More than 30 people came to the Outdoor Arts Facility open house on April 5 to look at design plans and hear from designer and former Skagway resident David Moore.
As of now, the committee has narrowed down the site for the proposed structure at Seven Pastures Park.
Moore explained that Seven Pastures has ample parking, electricity, restrooms and several other advantages that made it the most desirable area. Other areas that were under consideration were Nahku Point, Dyea Flats and the old municipality dump site.
The design would be carried out in two phases and in total would cost an estimated $425,875.
The first phase, which includes the stage, ramp, storage rooms overhang and concrete slab for a dancing area, has a total cost of $278,034. Other project costs, including permits, utility connections and construction contingency would amount to $72,000.
The sound equipment would be donated by the Skagway Arts Council and has a price tag of $15,000, and the Margaret Frans Brady Fund will contribute $50,000 to the project cost. Moore has also contributed by doing the preliminary design work for free.
“When it’s done, I will have to come down here and crank my amp up to ten and break some eardrums,” Moore said with a laugh. Moore played guitar in a band in Skagway when he lived here. “I would love to have played on a stage like this when I was here.”
The committee has already asked the municipality for $250,000 in the upcoming budget, and still needs an additional $18,334 in additional corporate and private contributions to complete the first phase. The second phase, which will include an additional picnic pavilion, would cost $75,841.
Moore and the committee are asking Skagway residents to give their input, and they can stop by the McCabe Building to write their opinions and ideas down. – KE
SCHOOL REPORT (complete report in print edition)
Thielbar receives extended contract
In an April 3 special meeting, the Skagway School Board unanimously decided to extend Superintendent Jeff Thielbar’s contract for an additional three years.
As part of the contract, Thielbar will be receiving a three percent pay raise.
Thielbar said he has never worked on a three-year contract before and is happy it was offered to him.
“It’s a little bit of a relief to me because my position is not covered under teacher tenure rules,” he said. “And I’m glad the board has enough confidence to extend my contract for three years.”
Hunz to be first recipient of Don Hather Wall of Fame honor
The Skagway School board has named Bill Hunz as its first Don Hather Wall of Fame recipient.
After Hather’s death last year, the Skagway School created a wall in his name to showcase members of the community who dedicate their time and care to the school.
Andrew Tronrud and Lori Burnham nominated Hunz for his years of service to Skagway School, its students and its board members.
Hunz came to Skagway with his family in the fall of 1959 and was asked to serve on the school board the following year. Since 1960, Hunz served on the board on and off for 25 years.
The letter of nomination written by Tronrud read that Hunz passed out diplomas to both his children and his grandchildren when they graduated from Skagway School.
Tronrud went on to chronicle community members’ testimonies about Hunz’s participation in both the school and in their lives.
“When Carl Rose first moved to town in 1974, Bill and Superintendent Dusty Mills went to his home and talked him in to running as a write-in candidate,” the letter read. “Bill asked ‘Do you have kids?’ At the time, Carl and Francis’ first child was six months old. Bill asked, ‘Don’t you want to be a part of their education?’ Carl Rose is currently the executive director of the Association of Alaska Schools, a position he has held since 1987.”
Hunz went on to mentor Rose when he was elected to the Skagway School Board and still has “pearls of wisdom” for Rose today.
“Bill had the wisdom to step back and let others lead so they could learn and grow,” Rose said.
Tronrud ended his letter by saying that Hunz’s dedication to education and the Skagway community made him an ideal candidate for the wall of fame.
“It should almost be the Don Hather/Bill Hunz Wall of Fame,” board member Darren Belisle said.
Though the nomination guidelines required only 50 signatures for consideration, there were 82 members of the Skagway community who signed a petition in support of Hunz’s nomination. – KE