August 12, 2011 • Vol. XXXIV, No. 14
Listen To Me!
A bald eagle assails its mate for not paying attention to the latest Dyea fish tale. See more birdlife photos from the August pink salmon run on this issue's Heard on the Wind page.
Photo by Jeff Brady
Tidelands lease breakthrough
Letter of intent outlines potential agreement that would have WP&YR surrender ore terminal tract
By MARK ABADI and JEFF BRADY
Months of negotiations to determine the future of Skagway’s ore terminal finally produced a tangible result Tuesday.
In a letter of intent dated Aug. 9 and released Wednesday, Skagway Mayor Tom Cochran outlined a compromise between the municipality and White Pass & Yukon Route president Eugene Hretzay that calls on the railway to relinquish control of the tidelands tract on which Skagway’s ore terminal stands.
The letter was released following a series of meetings in recent days by the Borough Assembly, all which addressed the details of the tidelands lease negotiations in executive session. The letter of intent was a response to a July 27 letter from the railway outlining some of the details the company could agree to.
Under the letter of intent, White Pass would still be in charge of cruise operations on the Ore Dock, and also maintain control of the Broadway Dock portion of the 1968 tidelands lease. For relinquishing the western portion of the lease and its various subleases, it would receive a reduction of $48,000 a year on tidelands lease payments until 2023, when the current lease expires. White Pass also has asked for an extension beyond 2023 on the Broadway Dock portion, and the municipality has offered 20 years with two five-year extensions.
“I think their main concern overall is the ability to keep that revenue stream and have a place where the (cruise) ships dock. So they can continue their tour and their train operation. That only makes sense,” said Cochran.
The railway’s parent company, ClubLink Enterprises Ltd., has 60 days to agree with the terms of the letter. Should Hretzay sign the letter of intent, White Pass would need to present a surrender of its lease and work on a final
agreement with the municipality.
The proposed expansion of Skagway’s ore terminal was the catalyst for negotiations, which began last winter as the municipality sought approval of $10 million in Gov. Sean Parnell’s budget from the state legislature for improving the Ore Dock. It passed, despite concerns by legislators who wanted the municipality to get control of the site from White Pass.
Earlier this summer, the legislature, at the governor’s request, also authorized the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority to bond up to $65 million toward expanding the terminal in a bid to attract Yukon mining companies.
Selwyn Chihong Mining would be the terminal’s main client, but took issue with White Pass’s docking fees, leading it to present multiple plans for an ore terminal of its own and adding pressure on the negotiating team to come up with an agreement with White Pass to use the current facilities.
The compromise with White Pass may be vital in stimulating economic development throughout Skagway, Cochran said.
“I just hope people understand that,” he said. “We need to work together and really it shouldn’t be an adversarial type of relationship.”
Smoking ban goes to vote Aug. 25
By KATIE EMMETS
After two postponed readings and two Health Education and Welfare Committee planning sessions, a passing of the ordinance in January and a petition to stop the ordinance from being enacted in April, Skagway residents will finally vote on Ordinance 10-17 on August 25.
If enacted, the ordinance would prevent smoking in all enclosed public places of employment.
Instead of waiting until the October regularly scheduled election, a special election will take place August 25 and will cost the municipality about $2,600 for election workers and publicity.
The proposed ordinance will ban smoking:
- In all enclosed public places within the municipality of Skagway
- In all enclosed areas that are places of employment
- In all Municipal facilities, and within 10 feet of all municipal facility entrances
- Within five feet of the entrance to a premises licensed to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises
- In childcare facilities
- Within 10 feet of the entrances, windows or ventilation systems of any area in which smoking is prohibited
People will still be able to smoke in designated hotel rooms, private clubs with no employees, such as the Masonic Lodge, private residences, and single-person worksites, such as bookkeepers who work out of their houses.
After the original passing of the ordinance in January, Michelle Carlson, Fraternal Order of the Eagles bar manager, created a petition and got 120 of the 98 signatures needed to put a wrench in the ban’s enactment, said Borough Clerk Emily Deach.
The ordinance passed its second reading January 20, and would have been enacted 90 days later if it hadn’t been for the petition.
After the Juneau branch of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles appealed the smoking ban in the City and Borough of Juneau to the Alaska Supreme Court and were turned down on July 1, Carlson contacted the branch’s attorney, Paul Grant, in order to receive some tips.
Grant suggested she try to get the Skagway Borough Assembly to rework some of the language of the ordinance to make it fairer to those who smoke tobacco.
“I smoke,” Carlson said. “But I would not smoke in a building if there was another option, even in 40-below.”
Carson said she thinks the ban will pass, and if this happens, she thinks tips will go down drastically in current smoking establishments.
“I tried to go smoke-free,” she said. “But every one just went to the liquor store and went home.”
After re-implementing smoking at the Eagles, it took Carlson three years to recover from the loss of patrons, she said.
Carlson said she is pushing to keep smoking in businesses because it is what the customers of her bar want.
“If it was the other way around, I would push for non-smoking,” she said.
Carlson said she is tired of the Skagway Borough Assembly not taking into consideration what Skagway residents want, just as, she said, it did with Skagway School funding in 2010.
“Instead of listening to the majority, they just listen to themselves,” she said.
But former Borough Assemblywoman Colette Hisman said she championed this ordinance because her constituents asked her to, not because of any personal agendas.
In August Skagway resident Andrew Cremata asked Hisman why no one had gone through with an attempt to ban smoking in Skagway buildings, she said, adding he was not the first to approach her about the issue.
“It wasn’t me doing it, it was my constituents,” she said about bringing the ordinance idea to the assembly. “Others were saying the same thing, so it was like, OK, time to do something.”
Hisman said she has spent over a hundred hours doing research for this ordinance and preparing for the upcoming vote.
In the months following Cremata’s comment, Hisman studied ordinances dealing with smoking bans of areas such as Juneau, Haines, Anchorage, Minneapolis, and Chicago.
The Sweet Tooth, Hisman’s business, was the first restaurant to go smokeless.
About 10 years ago, patrons were complaining about wanting to enjoy their meal without people smoking at the next table, Hisman said.
“We were there to serve food, not to give people a place to smoke,” she said.
Although she was apprehensive at first, Hisman said her decision was met with thank yous, flowers and Godiva chocolates that were flown in from Seattle.
“People went out of their way to show their appreciation,” she said.
Hisman said she is not against those who enjoy smoking.
“I’m against smoking when smoke is captured in a place where people don’t have a choice,” she said.
Because she is hearing a lot of residents saying the ordinance is going to pass, Hisman is worried people won’t vote because they think it’s a shoo-in.
Unlike the previous passing, which called for enactment 90 days after its passing in January, the ordinance would take effect immediately after the vote. If it dies, then it would be up to the assembly to take up the issue again.
Editor’s note: Because the special election is on the Thursday when we normally would be printing the next issue, we will hold the printing of the paper until Friday morning to give readers the results of the election. The Aug. 26 issue will hit the streets in the early afternoon instead of first thing in the morning.
Ken Nalan thanks the crowd for coming to his daughter’s memorial. Jeff Brady
Mozelle Nalan remembered at memorial
By KATIE EMMETS
The only time the sun broke through the clouds that day was for 30 minutes when those who knew her gathered in Seven Pastures for her memorial.
On July 30, about 50 people sat in white folding chairs and listened to pastors speak comforting words while facing a table with flowers and photographic memories of Mozelle Nalan. The former Skagway resident died July 17 after being shot in Anchorage on June 30.
Between the table and the sentimental items lay a tie-dye tablecloth, which Samantha Welch said was “so Mozelle.”
Welch described her best friend of almost 20 years as a free-spirited, plaid skirt and tie-dye shirt-wearing, kind-hearted girl.
“She was put down a lot and didn’t have many friends, but she was always the first to help anyone,” Welch said, holding back tears.
Welch said until recently, Mozelle had a life filled with mental and physical health problems in addition to family issues.
Even though Mozelle always had a lot to deal with, the two friends still found time to catch up.
“The last time we spoke was June 19,” she said while looking up the date in her phone. “She was telling me about her boyfriend Josh and how happy she was. She said they were excited because they moved into an apartment down the street from a park that shared Josh’s last name of Nichols. He was the best thing that’s ever happened to her.”
The memorial itself was short.
Parents hugged their kids as Pastor Ray Leggett talked about seeking comfort in God after a difficult loss like Mozelle.
“Talking about the death of a child is tough stuff,” said Pastor Ray Leggett in his sermon. “Everything about the death of a child is just wrong. We’re not supposed to be burying our children.”
In the front row sat Ken Nalan.
Aside from blinking and occasionally bowing his head in prayer, he stayed in the same position — head tilted facing front with his eyes on the speaker.
Ken had not communicated much with his daughter in recent years. In 2007 he and his wife Natasha took their four kids to Washington, but only Ken returned. Although he never saw the children again in Skagway, he was able to connect with Mozelle a few months before she was killed.
In April, Mozelle called Ken and told her she was getting her life back together after going through a program at the North Star Psych Institute in Anchorage.
“It was kind of neat to talk to her again,” he said. “And I told her there was still a big house here for her to come and stay.”
Mozelle told Ken she was living with Nichols whom she planned on marrying; volunteering at the Soteria House, a psychiatric assisted living facility where she lived while attending the institute, in hopes of getting a fulltime job; and planning a trip to Skagway to see her father, who she hadn’t seen in over a year.
The sun comes out during Mozelle Nalan's memorial in Skagway. Brandy Mayo signs Mozelle's book as Samantha Welch talks about the friend they lost. Jeff Brady
But those aspirations never came to fruition.
Mozelle was shot several times in the face and neck on June 30 outside the Soteria House by housemate Michael McEvoy.
Shortly after, friends from Skagway created a “Prayer Chain for Mozelle” Facebook group where members wrote thoughtful words and read updates from Nichols.
On July 18, from her Facebook account, Nichols posted on the group wall, “Mozy just passed. She was loved, She’s at peace. Say some prayers and remember her always.”
Brandy Mayo, childhood best friend, wrote, “Mozelle will be missed and remembered forever. We cannot dwell on her final struggle, but rather the life and joy she brought to everyone she met. God brought her home, and she will be happy there. She will forever touch our hearts and we need to carry that on.”
After the memorial was over, those who attended wrote notes to Mozelle and her family in a bound makeshift photo album and gathered in small groups to tell stories about how Mozelle touched their lives.
Chris Maggio remembered teaching a drafting class to the fourth and fifth grade class at the Skagway School.
Although students were supposed to use their rulers while drawing their assignments, Mozelle did not.
“I asked Mozelle why she wasn’t using her ruler, and she looked at me and said ‘I don’t believe in using rulers or straight lines,’” Maggio said.
Although it didn’t resemble any of her classmates’ projects, she got the assignment done.
Ken said Mozelle had always done things a little differently and that it was a little perplexing to him.
But Ken admitted that he was also a little different.
“I’m a biker, and I had long hair when I was younger when it wasn’t acceptable,” he said, sympathizing with his daughter. “I was my own little rebel in my own way, and in some ways, I still am.”
Ken said he has mixed feelings about the memorial and was happy to see people he didn’t think would come and upset with people he thought should have been there. He also said
it was difficult to talk to those who attended.
“People don’t know what to say, and you don’t know what to say to them,” he said. “Even now, it’s hard. I can feel my voice starting to break.”
While Ken was chatting with memorial guests, others sat at the tables between the softball fields and ate a potluck dinner, still talking about Mozelle, while the sun went back into the clouds.
Mid-season report: Skagway sees more tourists, business slow for some owners
By MARK ABADI
Tourism may be up slightly in Skagway over last year, but business owners aren’t necessarily seeing that translate to more profits.
Despite an increase of about 11,000 cruise passengers so far this summer, several Skagway business owners reported having either equal or less business compared to last summer.
The municipality has received 374,790 cruise passengers through July 20 of this year, up 5 percent from the 363,371 from last year, Tourism Director Buckwheat Donahue reported at a recent Convention and Visitors Bureau meeting.
However, the cruise ships are leaving town earlier in the day this year, said Skagway Mining Company owner Nicholle Chandler.
Chandler said last year, her store could depend on two surges in traffic, coinciding with the White Pass and Yukon Route railway schedule.
“We used to have a huge afternoon rush,” she said. “When boats leave at 5, 4, 3 o’clock, we don’t see that rush anymore. Shopping is cut short.”
Other business owners, like Precious Kollections owner Pradeep Chhabria, said cruise directors are partially to blame for their decrease in sales. On the ships, cruise directors are advertising Juneau and Ketchikan – the two other Alaskan ports for most cruises – as better shopping destinations, and encouraging tourists to do other activities in Skagway, he claimed.
“A lot of people are saying that the cruise ships push more Juneau and Ketchikan. That’s the worst thing,” Chhabria said. “Quite a few people have told us, ‘Oh, we should have waited.’”
Omni Jewelers employee Kris Chugh said the store often sees the most traffic when it is raining, a signal that tours and other excursions have been canceled. But business has “slowed drastically” on other days, especially in the late afternoons when some ships are pulling out of Skagway. Chugh said on one day, the jewelry store saw just four customers all day.
“People don’t have time to look around,” Chugh said. “It’s kind of shocking.”
White Pass director of marketing Cody Jennings reported a slight increase in passenger numbers for the railway.
Cruise passenger numbers only reflect the figures reported by the Holland America and Princess cruise lines. Donahue said he is expecting numbers from Celebrity and Royal Caribbean lines this week.
Tourists arriving to Skagway by road increased slightly through June, while tourists arriving by ferry and train slightly decreased.
Chemical residue almost gone from ore basin
Dredging could become a reality in Skagway's harbor thanks to a piece of uplifting news.
The lead and zinc contaminating the bottom of the harbor has gradually washed away over the past two decades, Dr. Chad Gubala told Skagway's Port Commission at a meeting Aug. 5.
In a presentation, the Yukon geochemist said only minute quantities of lead and zinc ore residue in the harbor from operations in the mid-1980s.
"What we've seen in the harbor is that the current operation is having absolutely no impact on the environment," Gubala said in an interview. "The harbor still has some residual contamination from the old days, but the lead and zinc that came from the previous operation, a lot of that's gone away."
Dredging, which involves heavy machinery deepening or widening an underwater area, could help mitigate whatever minimal contamination remains, Gubala said.
Skagway's Gateway Project aims to improve the municipality's ore facilities in an effort to attract Yukon mining companies. — MA
Skagway Borough Manager Tom Smith gives the history of the municipality’s small boat harbor to members of the state Economic Development, Trade and Tourism committee. The legislators were participating in a three-day tour of Skagway and Whitehorse earlier this month. Mark Abadi
State lawmakers get glimpse of Skagway, Whitehorse during tour
By MARK ABADI
A group of Alaska legislators took a firsthand look at the communities that could play a role in state policy in the coming months.
Seven members of Alaska’s House of Representatives’ Economic Development, Trade and Tourism special committee spent three days in early August shuttling between Skagway and Whitehorse, analyzing the needs of what local policymakers are hoping will be a future hub of northwestern mining.
In Skagway, the committee members toured the ore terminal, owned by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA).
Earlier this summer, Gov. Sean Parnell signed a bill authorizing AIDEA to bond up to $65 million to expand the terminal and replace its ship loader. The legislature also approved the governor’s request for $10 million for improvements to the Ore Dock.
Skagway officials are hoping the potential expansion will attract more Yukon mining companies to use Skagway as a port.
More ore coming through Skagway could mean 20 more local jobs, Skagway Mayor Tom Cochran told the EDT committee members in a meeting Aug. 7.
“And 20 jobs in a community this size is huge,” he said.
The committee members also took a brief tour of Skagway’s small boat harbor, where Borough Manager Tom Smith lobbied for Tier 1 funding for Skagway. As a Tier 1 Harbor, Skagway is eligible for a $5 million grant from the Department of Transportation, but the funding is on hold in state legislature.
The tour provided committee members with a closer look at Skagway, and for some, the chance to put the pieces together.
“I didn’t understand Skagway was a deepwater port,” said Rep. Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage). “That’s critical – a deepwater port with railroad access.”
In Whitehorse, the committee members met with representatives from Selwyn Chihong Mining, the company that would likely be Skagway’s main client at an expanded ore terminal. They also met with representatives from Whitehorse and the Yukon’s chambers of commerce.
“The committee came away impressed with one, the organization of the Yukon government as they’re trying to understand what resources they can develop, and they came away with an impression that there’s an opportunity for real partnerships between Alaska and Canada,” said Jim Hesmath, the AIDEA deputy director who accompanied the lawmakers throughout the weekend.
Steve Hites, one of Skagway’s port commissioners who joined the committee for part of the local tour, said he was impressed with the legislators’ commitment to learning about the harbor municipality and bringing their knowledge back to Juneau.
“We’ve seen people from the state House of Representatives who all were looking at Skagway and looking at the terminal and looking at the Yukon and trying to understand what the opportunity is going to be for Alaska employment,” Hites said.
“There will be a group down there now who knows what we’re talking about when we go and visit them.”
FAIR FROLIC – A belly dancer takes the stage with the Arizona band Traveler at the SE Alaska State Fair in Haines. The alpacas were the stars of the petting zoo. Mark Abadi
BOROUGH DIGEST (complete digest in print edition)
Residents speak out against RV code
Two weeks after Skagway began publicizing its effort to crack down on recreational vehicle violations, residents spoke to local officials in protest.
At a Skagway Borough Assembly meeting Aug. 4, multiple residents spoke in opposition to a section of municipal code that requires habitants of RVs to use a designated RV park.
In what has been a fairly common practice for years in Skagway, some residents live in RVs on property they have rented from other residents.
Cris Siegel, who lives with his family in an RV on 21st Avenue, said he was unaware of the code violation until Skagway Planning and Zoning Commission member Rocky Outcalt knocked on his door and told his wife they “shouldn’t be living there.”
Siegel told the assembly members the RV issue can be attributed to Skagway’s housing shortage
“I live in an RV because I have to,” Siegel said. “There’s people in Skagway living in an RV next to their home that they rent out to people for the summer as an income source.”
Since April, the city has received six formal complaints filed against five different illegally parked RVs.
At the meeting, resident Elise Decker said she worried municipal code would be enforced selectively.
Skagway permitting official David Van Horn has said the municipality’s enforcement will begin with the investigation of RVs that are the subjects of formal complaints. Siegel’s is not one of them.
Resident Abby Kramer, landowner of Siegel’s property, asked the assembly to regulate RVs on a case-by-case basis. Before Siegel’s family moved in at the beginning of the summer, Kramer had water, sewer and electric hook-ups installed, the same services provided by RV parks.
Van Horn said this week he would send letters explaining the code to RV owners with complaints against them.
If after seven to 10 days of nonaction from the RV owners, he said he would send them letters of non-compliance. Further nonaction would result in police citation. — MA
No action on Yakutatnia road project
No plans have been made for the continuing restoration of Smuggler’s Cove and Yakatania Point roads.
In a July 28 meeting, Skagway Parks and Recreation Committee Chair Paul Reichert, Parks and Recreation Committee Member Mike Korsmo and Public Works chair Dave Hunz met with Skagway Public Works Manager Grant Lawson to discuss plans for the roads.
Reichert said there was a lot of discussion on bettering the communication between Parks and Recreation and Public works so Skagway residents could be better informed during future restoration endeavors of public parks.
Reichert said he wants to make sure residents know the beach area of Smuggler’s Cove will not be touched, adding that he has heard talk about this misconception.
Although no concrete plans are in the works, Reichert said there would be a small area created near the Smuggler’s Cove outhouse for a vehicle to make a three-point turn.
So far, no work has been done on the roads since the project was halted following complaints at a July 21 Borough Assembly meeting, however, Reichert said brush is continuing to be cleared out, which is a necessity.
Because there was no public notice before the project started, this meeting was open to the public and was publicized, Reichert said, but no Skagway residents were present.
“I don’t think that people will be too upset in the end when they see the final product,” Reichert said at an Aug. 4 Assembly meeting.
But resident Dave Schirokauer told the Assembly he was upset by what he perceived as a lack of public notification concerning the restoration process. — KE