September 9, 2011 • Vol. XXXIV, No. 16
Kids On The Line
Maggie Burnham joins her dad Hank on the informational picket line set up by Teamsters Local 959 on Aug. 30 to protest the rail workers’ lack of a contract after 18 months. Two days later a tentative deal was reached before a federal mediator. See story below.
Photo by Jeff Brady
Smokers, bars adjusting to new no smoking law
Learning to take cigs outside working so far but bars, customers worry about winter
By KATIE EMMETS
Although there was initial confusion about the effective date of the new secondhand smoke control law, all establishments that previously allowed smoking have pulled their ashtrays and are now abiding by the law, which passed a special public referendum on Aug. 25.
The final count was 343 to 131 in favor of ratifying the borough’s secondhand smoke control ordinance. By state law, a ballot measure on a matter that had previously passed its original effective date – in this case 90 days after the borough assembly approved the ordinance in January – becomes law immediately after the election is certified. That occurred on the evening of Aug. 26, but the municipality didn’t send out notices until the following Monday that the law was in effect and would be enforced (see No Smoking Public Notice).
Skagway Pizza Station Manager Josh Downs said business has not changed.
“People still smoke,” he said. “They just smoke outside.”
Since the ban went into effect, a couple of his customers have tried to light cigarettes while sitting at the bar, he said, and he told them to either put it out, or take it outside.
So far, Downs’s customers are OK with going outside to smoke cigarettes, even in the rain, but he said he doesn’t know what people are going to do in the winter with cold temperatures and wind – but he has a few ideas to combat this potential problem.
“I might turn my van into a smoking lounge for the Station,” Downs said of his broken down Ford Club Wagon. “I’ll just pull it up to the sidewalk and people can sit in it to get out of the wind.”
Dan Zieman, Bonanza Bar and Grill manager, said the ban has had only positive effects on business.
“It doesn’t seem to affect us much,” he said. “But overall, we’ve gained some people.”
The first few days after the ban went into effect, Zieman said, patrons would try to walk in from the street while smoking their cigarettes.
“They just didn’t know or they forgot,” he said. “It’s not like they were doing it in defiance of the law.”
The only issue the smoking ban has brought to the Bonanza is an increase of cigarette butts outside the entrance.
“We just need to clean the sidewalk more often than we used to,” he said. “We need to get an ashtray out there.”
Though there have been no measurable issues thus far, newly appointed Eagles Bar Manager Ken Mayo said business has dropped slightly.
“But the loss is not as great as we were thinking it would be,” Mayo said.
Before the public vote, Eagles employees researched business of bars and taverns in areas that went from smoking to nonsmoking, and studies showed that in the first two years of the ban, the establishments lost 20 percent of their business, Mayo said.
“Right now, smoking and drinking go hand-in-hand for them,” he said of his patrons. “They are saying that they can get a bottle of liquor at the liquor store and go home to smoke cigarettes.”
Mayo said the studies show that smokers will stop going to bars when they can’t smoke in them, but will return after about two years when they realize they miss the social atmosphere.
Although most Eagles smoking customers are OK with going outside to smoke now, Mayo said he worries about the winter, and thinks they will continue to complain until a smoking area, possibly a canvas tent, is constructed.
“We know we have to do something like that for our smokers,” he said.
Above, Station bartender Josh Downs, right, steps outside the bar on Fourth for a smoke with Leah Rappaport and Dave Stocker. Katie Emmets
White Pass Teamsters hold informational picket, make ground on new contract
By KATIE EMMETS
A federal mediation between the railroad and one of its labor unions ended August 31 with a tentative agreement, but not before union employees held an informational picket near the Railroad Dock.
On Aug 30 and 31, members of the Teamsters Local 959 held blue, yellow and white signs that read “TEAMSTER RAIL WORKERS DESERVE A FAIR CONTRACT,” and passed out letters to both community members and tourists explaining their predicament.
The 52 railroad employees, who are comprised of shops workers, track workers and train car cleaners, have been without a contract for more than 18 months, the letter states, and because of this, workers have not had a raise since 2009.
Those picketing wanted to ensure the community knew the picket was an informational exercise only, and added a paragraph in the letter that read, “We…wanted to inform you that our pickets and flyer distribution are not designed to disrupt Skagway’s day-to-day business, but instead bring light to White Pass Railroad and the daunting task of negotiation with our employer.”
The picket was organized after White Pass “refused to once again find common ground on the remaining open issues,” stated the letter, which went on to ask readers to contact (White Pass president Eugene) Hretzay and express their support of the workers.”
The White Pass Teamsters held a similar picket in 2007 after working without a contract for 19 months.
Derek Musto, Local 959 organizer from Anchorage, said workers stopped picketing late on Aug. 31 when all parties reached a tentative agreement in mediation, which was held in Austin, Texas.
“Federal mediation doesn’t happen very often, and parties usually come to an agreement after a few months at the table,” he said. “But 18 months is not a normal amount of time to go without a contract.”
Musto said the terms of the agreement couldn’t be discussed until the employees meet and vote on whether to accept the new contract.
“I can’t discuss the details, but I feel as though the tentative agreement is good,” Musto said. “I am happy to report where we’re at.”
Hretzay, upon returning to Skagway this wee, said he also could not comment until the membership has had a chance to look over and vote on the agreement.
That membership meeting had not occurred as of this issue’s Wednesday deadline.
Above, heavy equipment operator Brad Thoe carries his sign along the seawalk amongst visitors on a busy cruise ship day. Jeff Brady
Still some issues to resolve before lease deal proceeds; Selwyn Chihong closely monitoring developments
By JEFF BRADY
Skagway Borough Assembly members met with White Pass & Yukon Route officials behind closed doors Tuesday night to discuss some outstanding issues in a letter of intent that would set the parameters for a new tidelands lease agreement on the Skagway waterfront.
WP&YR president Eugene Hretzay, rail superintendent Ed Hanousek Jr., and controller Heather Rodig met with the assembly for about an hour. When they emerged, they declined comment.
“We can’t say anything, sorry,” Hretzay said.
The assembly met for another 20 minutes before allowing the public back into the meeting. Then Mayor Tom Cochran asked for a motion, and Assemblyman Dan Henry moved that the municipality draft “a new letter of intent pending additional information from White Pass regarding sublease revenue.” It passed on a 5-0 vote (Tim Cochran was absent).
The new letter will be discussed in open session under old business at the next regular meeting on Sept. 15.
The original Aug. 9 letter of intent sent to the company outlined several principles that would be part of a new tidelands lease agreement. It resulted from negotiations over the past few months, which would have White Pass agreeing to surrender the western portion of the tidelands lease that 2includes the ore dock and terminal, as well as several subleases. White Pass would keep the Broadway Dock section of the current lease, and still be the port operator for cruise ships using the Ore Dock.
Cochran and Henry met with Hretzay following the Aug. 9 letter, and the mayor said the term lengths of the Broadway Dock lease extension and the cruise operation at the Ore Dock were still at issue, as well as what the municipality would pay White Pass to make up for lost revenues from the subleases on the surrendered portion. The original letter had set that figure at $48,000.
After Tuesday’s meeting, Cochran said the municipality would be sticking with the term lengths it set in the original letter: a new Broadway Dock lease that would continue after the current lease expires in 2023 for 20 more years with two possible 5-year extensions. The cruise operation by White Pass at the Ore Dock would be allowed until 2023. White Pass had sought longer terms, but the mayor said he did not think the public would accept anything longer.
On the issue of compensation for lost revenue from the subleases, the mayor said the assembly had asked for more information on the revenue they generate for the company. As landowner, the municipality has a right to that information, he said. Then the assembly can decide whether to change the compensation figure. The subleases include TEMSCO Helicopters, Petro Marine Services, and Alaska Marine Lines.
“I don’t see any other major changes other than revenue,” Cochran said.
White Pass was given 60 days to agree to the original letter of intent. It’s not certain if that deadline would change under a new or amended letter of intent, assuming it passes on Sept. 15.
Hretzay had said earlier that “while there are still some issues to be resolved, they are thinking about it, and the intent on both sides is to move forward.”
The municipality entered into negotiations with White Pass over the winter to resolve a site control issue at the Ore Dock so it may qualify for $10 million in state funds to improve the docking facilities.
The ore terminal, which is owned by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, would be expanded for new Yukon customers like Selwyn Chihong Mining Ltd. AIDEA received legislative approval to bond up to $65 million for terminal improvements, including a new ship loader for an expanded storage building for Selwyn Chihong.
Reached late last month, Selwyn Chihong president Dr. Harlan Meade was asked if the tidelands lease developments would mean the mine would abandon its plans for a possible second ore dock or terminal. He replied that they still view Skagway as a strong candidate for shipping its lead and zinc product from western Yukon.
“Our goal is to ensure a reliable and commercially viable transportation route for the delivery of SCML’s products to our customers,” he wrote in an e-mail. “With these objectives in mind, SCML is in frequent contact with AIDEA and the Municipality of Skagway, and has paid close attention to recent developments related to the port facilities, including the negotiations between the municipality and White Pass for the renewal of the tidelands lease.”
He added that the company expects to complete a bankable feasibility study by the end of this year.
“The overall plan for concentrate shipment is a key part of that study,” he noted. “The transportation arrangements that the company expects to establish will therefore be included in any public disclosure of the results of the feasibility study.
He said they would continue to meet with AIDEA and the municipality to obtain the information they need before making a final decision.
This week, Selwyn Chihong announced that the first drill test results in the XY Deposit at the mine site were positive, showing up to 26.54 percent zinc and 12.79 percent lead. Details on the test holes can be found at www.selwynresources.com.
“The extension of high-grade mineralization in the XY West deposit provides an attractive early development opportunity,” Meade said in a Sept. 6 press release. “The high-grade mineralization, proximity to the XY Central deposit, and low-cost access for development make the XY West deposit very appealing for inclusion in the initial production plan at Selwyn Project.”
Cruise ships tie up at the Broadway Dock, left, and the Ore Dock right. In the right foreground on the Alaska Marine Lines subleased tract are stacks of ore pots used for the Bellekeno Mine ore haul. Jeff Brady
Alexco finds new silver streak at Keno; shipments to Skagway on increase from Bellekeno mine
Alexco Resources Corp. has discovered more silver deposits in the Keno Hill Silver District in the Yukon, adding to its prospects for more shipments through Skagway.
Results of its 2011 drilling program at the recently discovered Flame and Moth prospect were released this week. Drilling there intersected 6.04 meters of material that netted 31.5 ounces of silver per ton.
“Our continuing positive results from Flame & Moth once again demonstrate the extent and potential of this large silver district,” said Clynt Nauman, Alexco president and chief executive officer. “The Flame & Moth deposit represents a new discovery very close to our existing infrastructure, and continues to add to our understanding of the geology of the district. Our success at Flame & Moth justifies continued drilling at this discovery for the next two to three months to further define the deposit. We have therefore now brought an additional exploration drill rig on site to help accelerate our work elsewhere in the District, especially the Bermingham property.”
Alexco has been shipping lead and zinc from the Bellekeno mine at Keno to Skagway for a year. The ore pots are loaded onto the weekly Alaska Marine Lines barge in Skagway and sent to Seattle, where they are trucked to a smelter at Trail, British Columbia.
Cory Bricker, manager of the Skagway AML terminal, said they had shipped 24.3 million pounds out of Skagway this year through July. Most of that is ore, but they also ship outbound and inbound freight for the mine.
On average, one to two trucks a day are coming down the highway on Lynden trucks with the ore pots from Bellekeno, Bricker said.
The shipments started about a year ago, with just 1 million tons outbound to date a year ago. Intially the minerals came down in bags, but Lynden ordered the steel pots which have been used for the past six months.
Bricker said there are 180 pots in the system, and about two-thirds of them are in use now. When the mine hits its peak with three truck shipments a day, most of the pots will be in use and fewer empties will be stacked at the terminal.
When filled, each outbound pot can carry 34,760 pounds of lead, or 30,800 pounds of zinc. – JB
Taiya River bridge rehab due to start on Oct. 1
The long-awaited Taiya River bridge rehabilitation project in Dyea will begin in October and is expected to take up to two months to complete. There will be no vehicle traffic allowed over the bridge during construction, and pedestrian access will be limited to certain times of day.
North Pacific Erectors of Douglas was awarded the contract in July for $902,564, according to the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities website. The state has $1.6 million budgeted for the project, including design work that pushed the project back a year. It was originally slated to begin last fall.
The steel truss bridge, first brought here in 1948, was placed on a national action list a few years ago. It was de-rated from its original 10 tons per axle limit to 5 tons in 2008, and a subsequent de-rating this past February lowered it to 4 tons for a single axle, 5 tons for a tandem axle group, and no more than 8 tons overall for three-axle trucks.
The lower section of the bridge has been described as “structurally deficient.”
In an Aug. 29 letter to Dyea property owners, NPE described the scope of the upcoming work. It will be removing the timber deck and steel floor framing and replacing them with a new galvanized steel floor system, and a new wooden deck and bull rails. The existing steel framework on the sides will remain, the letter said.
Dyea residents are already beginning to stage things like extra heating fuel and building supplies across the bridge in anticipation of the shutdown, which could last two months.
After Oct. 1, there will just be a three-foot-wide pedestrian gangway open from 7-9 a.m. and from 4-6 p.m. with a shuttle service on the Dyea side of the bridge during those hours. The pedestrian gangway also will be open during off-work hours.
NPE will have designated parking areas on both sides of the bridge. A heated temporary shelter on the Dyea side also will be provided for a fire truck, the letter said. The company also will take over snow removal duties from the state for the 1.5 mile section of road between the Taiya and the West Creek bridge.
A public meeting explaining the project and impacts will be held on Friday, Sept. 16 at 5 p.m. at Skagway City Hall. – JB
BIG DONOR PIE – Dan Henry holds up an apple pie baked by Nola “Mabel G” Cole that fetched two $1300 winning bids by auction aficionado Andrew Cremata during a fundraiser for local guitar master Rev. Neil Down at the Bonanza on Sept. 2. The event raised more than $26,000 for a new hip to get the Rev. back in his groove. Jeff Brady
TOURISM & COMMUNITY NEWS
Volendam donates money to Skagway animal rescue program
By KATIE EMMETS
After successfully raising money for a Southeast Alaska food bank in 2010, the Volendam repeated its fundraiser to give back to port communities, and this year, a local animal shelter was a recipient.
On August 27, Volendam staff presented Paws and Claws a check for $350 after completing an on-board July fundraiser.
By donating loose change lying around their cabins, the ship’s crewmembers and officers raised $417, and seven staff members matched that amount and added an additional $124 for a total of $700. Judee Mettler, secretary of Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska, said she was impressed with the fundraiser and added an additional $150, Volendam Captain Peter Bos wrote in a release.
The release stated that $350 went to Skagway’s Paws & Claws, a local animal shelter, $350 went to the Ketchikan Salvation Army, and $576 went to last season’s fundraiser recipient, Love Inc., Ketchikan’s local food bank.
“This year, we realized there were more coins to be collected than we thought possible,” Bos said. “And that is why we encouraged the coin drive in July.”
Originally, the total amount raised was supposed to go to Love Inc., but when the results were better than expected, the staff looked for charities in other port communities to donate to.
“This is about the only way we can give back to the communities that tolerate and welcome our presence here year after year,” Bos said.
Katherine Moseley, who runs Paws and Claws, said the money will help educate residents about animals and go toward spaying and neutering local rescue pets.
Katherine Moseley, second from right, poses with Volendam Captain Peter Bos, right, and other crew officers after receiving a donation for Paws and Claws. Local dog Lily and her owner Lynn Herbig, a Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska agent, third from right, also got to come onboard for the ceremony. Katie Emmets
Reunion returns to Skagway
The 60th Skagway Reunion will be held in the place where it all began — Skagway, of course.
On May 11, reunion members will make port in Skagway by way of the Carnival Spirit cruise ship.
Leada Ask, who has been organizing the reunion with her husband Chuck for the last 30 years, said the reunion is usually in Washington because of the mutual proximity of a bulk of former Skagway residents who moved to the Lower 48.
“It’s too expensive for all of us to get back up there every year,” she said. “But it’s an important year. It’s the 60th.”
This will be the third time the reunion has come home to Skagway. It was held here once in the late 1970s, and again during the centennial.
Just like other Skagway Reunion members, Ask has many ties to this town.
She graduated from Skagway School in 1955, her husband attended elementary school here, and her sister is buried in a Skagway cemetery.
“We’re all pioneers, and we like to keep in touch,” she said.
Ask said one of the nice things about the reunion is that it connects more than one generation of Skagwegians.
“There are people from my mother’s generation who are in their 80s and 90s who come to Skagway reunions down here,” she said. “We all gather together and share memories, and even though we’ve been doing this for a long time, we still hear new stories every time.”
Ask said Edith Larson, who most affectionately referred to as “Ma”, started the annual reunion.
Almost 60 years ago, Larson reserved a hotel meeting room in Washington for about 20 to 25 people and invited everyone she knew who used to live in Skagway.
“One hundred people showed up,” Ask said. “It was a large message and an incentive for her to keep it going.”
For information about the Skagway Reunion, e-mail Chuck and Leada Ask at Chuckask@msn.com. – KE
BOROUGH DIGEST (complete digest in print edition)
Assembly holds off on selling AP&T land for microwave tower
The Skagway Borough Assembly voted to table an ordinance that would sell municipal land to Alaska Power & Telephone for its new microwave tower.
The 10,000-square-foot piece of land is located on Dyea Road near the curve closest to Yakutainia Point and was appraised to have a $20,000 market value by Horan & Company, LLC. When the assembly discussed the ordinance in a Sept. 1 meeting, assembly members expressed concerns.
“Back in earlier discussions, we gave directions to lease the land, not sell it,” said Assemblyman Mike Korsmo, adding Ordinance No. 11-20 was the first time he has heard of the possibility of a sale.
Assemblyman Dave Hunz said selling the 10,000 square feet would go against the Residential Classification Zone code, which requires a 40,000-square-foot minimum for all land sales. The Residential Classification Zone encompasses most of Dyea.
Hunz said he doesn’t mind selling the land as long as the assembly abides by the same 40,000 square feet rule it expects residents to follow.
In a February 11 meeting, AP&T Manager Darren Belisle said the company was interested in buying the 100x100 piece of land for the cell phone tower, and both he and Mayor Tom Cochran, who works for AP&T, expressed a need to start the construction quickly.
Borough Manager Tom Smith said after reviewing what was said in the February meeting about AP&T being interested in purchasing the land, he thought it would be best to have it appraised and to draft an ordinance that would sell the 10,000 square-foot-land to AP&T if passed.
The assembly voted 5-0 to table the ordinance in order for more options to be discussed with AP&T.
Assembly gives Taiya Inlet Watershed Council $3,000 for IRS troubles
The assembly voted to give the Taiya Inlet Watershed Council $3,000 after they requested the funds to resolve an issue with the IRS.
Because of the changes made in the way taxes were reported in 2010 in combination with using an old payment system, the TIWC didn’t realize it owed money until the third quarter of 2010.
After the council sent the IRS the money they requested, the IRS sent them a check for the money back, which caused the council to think it was a mistake that they requested money in the first place.
After the council cashed the check, the IRS realized its mistake.
“We were supposed to catch that and send it back,” Larsen said of the check.
Executive Director A.J. Conley said the IRS has since lifted the money out of the council’s account by sending a notice of levy to the bank, and the bank charged the council a fee for the levy.
“Now we’re short and trying to figure how to get back,” she said.
Conley said the council is now working without a reserve and added that she didn’t get paid for her first few months of work on the council because there wasn’t enough funding available.
All assembly members agreed that if they award the money to the council, they would like to see its budget before they cut them a check.
Assemblyman Hunz requested to see a budget because he said he would like to be able to explain exactly why they assembly is giving them $3,000 if members of the community ask.
Conley said the council has been operating without a budget for the last few years, but added that she would be able to put something together for them.
Assemblyman Mike Korsmo said he supports funding the request because the Taiya Inlet Watershed Council is a good organization, has done “phenomenal work in the community,” and written grants for the borough in the past.
Korsmo also said he would like to see a return of the $3,000 and suggested in-kind work such as more grant writing.
Assemblyman Dan Henry made a motion to award TIWC $3,000 in sales tax money and Assemblyman Mark Schaefer seconded it. The motion passed 5-0. Tim Cochran was absent due to illness. – KE