November 9, 2012 • Vol. XXXV, No. 20
Strange Dance Partners
Only in Skagway will you find super heroes dancing with both fairies and witches. Maybe it’s a sign of cooperation in Washington, DC after this week’s election. The annual Halloween Parade at the Skagway School saw many characters, including a victorious president. See more on back page of our print edition.
Photo by Jeff Brady
Ore Dock fix needed
Muni. gives White Pass 30 days to make repairs
By KATIE EMMETS
The Municipality of Skagway is giving White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad 30 days to fix an area of the Skagway Ore Dock that was deemed unsafe for pedestrians and vehicles.
A recent condition survey of the dock performed by Moffat & Nichol Engineers found an area just north of the ship loader to be in poor condition, and the company recommended access to the area be restricted.
After a November 1 executive session, Skagway Borough Assembly members directed interim Borough Manager Tom Healy to send White Pass a letter informing the company of the time limit it has to ensure the dock is safe. The letter was sent after this issue went to print.
In August, White Pass president Eugene Hretzay gave the municipality and Moffatt & Nichol Engineers permission to perform an assessment of the dock in preparation for the Gateway Project.
On October 4, Skagway Mayor Stan Selmer received the results of the study, which included a recommendation to restrict access of an area on the dock to both pedestrians and vehicles.
Former Borough Manager Tom Smith sent a letter to White Pass on October 5 to inform the company of the situation and asked the railroad to fix the safety issue immediately, Selmer said.
After not receiving a response for more than two weeks, Skagway borough attorney Bob Blasco contacted White Pass in regard to the matter on October 22. Two days later, Selmer said, White Pass Director of Contracts and Land Management Jaime Bricker responded by saying White Pass was waiting for its engineering firm to assess the dock and make recommendations for repair.
After not hearing from the railroad for another week and a half, the assembly directed Selmer and Healy to restrict the unfit area of the dock immediately.
“A month’s period of time, in which White Pass has known about the condition our contractors have found, and they’ve done nothing,” Selmer said. “So we had to do something.”
The morning of Friday, November 2, Selmer and Healy roped off the area with yellow police tape in anticipation of the ore ship scheduled to arrive at midnight.
While the ore ship was in port on Saturday, Selmer visited the Ore Dock to ensure the unsafe area was not in use.
“The longshoremen worked around the roped off area, and Mineral Services was able to do the loading without a hitch,” Selmer said.
Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska and tugboat captains have also been informed of the unsafe section of the Ore Dock, Selmer said.
“Other areas of the dock are in bad shape as well,” he said. “But none as serious as the unsafe area that was identified on October 4.”
The municipality is awaiting a response from White Pass.
Selmer said White Pass’s recent decisions might have changed the way the municipality feels about renewing a waterfront lease with the company in 2023.
“The dock condition report has changed things; their unwillingness to haul freight has changed things,” he said. “Will there be a reason the borough wants to cooperate with them when their lease is up – I don’t know.”
UPDATE: ClubLink has responded that it will commence repairs. Details in Nov. 21 issue.
Air ambulance quandary
Insurer will not renew contract with Guardian in May; Dahl clinic searching for new preferred carrier
By KATIE EMMETS
Apollo Medi Trans will no longer cover Guardian Flight as its preferred provider after its five-year contract expires on May 1, 2013.
Apollo MT Chief Financial Officer Robert Bonestroo said Guardian has made the decision to not renew the five-year contract.
Bonestroo said the emergency medical transportation insurance company would be encouraging its policyholders to use other forms of emergency medical transportation, such as Airlift Northwest, before resorting to Guardian. If no other option is available, Apollo will reimburse a Guardian flight at 80 percent of Medicare rates.
“With the price they charge, there is no way we can keep up our membership running without a contract,” he said.
The price of a Guardian flight from Skagway to Juneau, which is where about 85 percent of medevaced Skagway patients travel, can cost anywhere from $25,000 to $30,000, said Carol Borg, Dahl Memorial Clinic medical director. But for about $125 a year, a Skagway family can be insured through Apollo MT to cover most of that bill.
Borg said the clinic last summer found out that Apollo MT would no longer be carrying Guardian Flight starting next May.
“We’re kind of waiting till after the first of the year to really dig into it,” Borg said, adding that planning is already in the works.
The clinic has been in touch with Guardian, she said, and the company is working on getting its own flight insurance, which could be made available for the public to purchase.
Located in Juneau, Airlift Northwest is Skagway’s closest emergency medical transportation company and could be a viable option, but its plane is too big to land at Skagway’s airport.
“Northwest is working on getting a smaller plane, but it’s not a done deal yet,” Borg said.
Another alternative is LifeMed Alaska, which is located in Fairbanks.
Borg said Guardian, which is based in Sitka, is by far the closest form of transportation and most quickly available. It is also the only company that can fit on Skagway’s airfield.
Borg says Skagway residents wanting reliable emergency medical transportation shouldn’t panic.
“We are aware that a solution needs to be put in place by May 1,” she said. “We are confident that something will work out. This shouldn’t cause any major glitches in people being able to receive urgent care here.”
Guardian spokesperson Shannon Pollock was contacted with questions by e-mail but had not answered them by this issue’s print deadline. His comments will be added to the online edition if available.
Skagway voters side with Obama/Biden
Rep. Don Young edges Democrat Sharon Cissna here
Skagway was one of the few places in Alaska that supported Democrat President Barack Obama Tuesday with 233 votes, while Republican Mitt Romney garnered 124 votes. Green Party candidate Jill Stein had 26 votes and Libertarian Gary Johnson had 13.
The Romney/Ryan ticket won Alaska with 54.5 percent of the vote, but had lost the presidency to the Obama/Biden ticket about the time polls closed at 8 p.m. in the 49th state.
In the only close race of the night in Skagway, veteran Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young had 175 votes to Democrat Sharon Cissna’s 171. Libertarian Jim McDermott had 38, and Green candidate Ted Gianoutsos 9.
Skagway helped reelect unopposed Democrat Rep. Beth Kertulla of Juneau to her new House District 34 seat with 314 votes. But as of Wednesday’s deadline, the former representatives for Skagway before redistricting were losing. Rep. Bill
Thomas (R-Haines) trailed Sitka Democrat Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins by 44 votes, while Sen. Bert Stedman (R-Sitka) had a large lead on Sen. Albert Kookesh (D-Angoon), 7,187 to 4,011.
Skagway voters followed state trends by supporting the transportation projects bond issue 249 to 107, and rejecting a constitutional convention 222 to 133.
The total number of votes cast in Skagway on Nov. 6 was 404. – JEFF BRADY
Ainsley stabbing case results in hung jury
After five months, multiple hearings and an Alaska Superior Court trial, the criminal case against Matthew Ainsley ended in a hung jury Nov. 4, but it may be reopened.
Ainsley, a 32-year-old Skagway TEMSCO Helicopter, Inc. employee, was charged with two felony counts of assault after allegedly stabbing a co-worker with a butcher-block knife following an altercation in June.
The Skagway Police Department received a call on Nov. 6 from the District Attorney’s office with news of a hung jury, which could result in a new trial.
Four members of the Skagway Police Department were subpoenaed and gave their testimonies in Juneau in front of a jury on November 2.
Ainsley was arrested at TEMSCO housing at 1:13 a.m. on June 23 by Skagway Police Officer Brayton Long and transferred to Lemon Creek Correctional Facility in Juneau a few days later.
According to Courtview, a website for viewing court records online, a “further proceedings” hearing for Ainsley is scheduled for today at 2:45 p.m. in Juneau. – KATIE EMMETS
UPDATE: The DA will retry the case. Details in Nov. 21 issue.
BIG OCTOBER SNOW – Wendy Anderson took to the streets on skis to look for her dog who, along with many residents, went outside to play in the snow Oct. 30-31 as 13 inches fell on the city, the first significant snowfall of winter. Katie Emmets
BOROUGH DIGEST (complete report in print edition)
AIDEA lease still in works, vote postponed again
The Skagway Borough Assembly has again postponed second reading of an ordinance that would put a proposed Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority post-2023 tidelands lease to a public vote.
The parties are still working on a revised agreement.
The ordinance was before the assembly November 1, and this was the third time the second reading was postponed. It will next be brought before the assembly at its December 20 meeting.
According to the ordinance, the lease would begin March 19, 2023 and last 35 years. The initial rent would be 10 percent of fair market value with a possibility of adjustment after the first two years.The proposed lease would also require AIDEA to pay $15.65 to the municipality for each ton of mineral ore that passes through the ore terminal and ship loader to be exported. There would also be a $0.35 per ton charge for an environmental escrow account, which would cover any damage to Skagway’s environment caused by ore haul.If adopted as is, the lease would restrict the amount of Skagway highway traffic by placing a 650,000-ton-per-year limit on truck transportation and allowing trucks to deliver ore only from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. from May 1 to October 1.
Skagway Mayor Stan Selmer said the Municipality has been waiting on a response from AIDEA since September, but he does not consider the authority to be tardy in its response.
Though there were a few items of concern in the original lease document the authority received on August 1, AIDEA’s Deputy Director Jim Hemsath said he feels good about reaching an agreement with the municipality that would benefit both the community and the potential mining companies that want to use Skagway as their shipping port.
Hemsath said he last spoke to assemblyman and negotiator Dan Henry about lease terms and conditions in September, but since Selwyn Chihong Mining Ltd. pushed back its start date, AIDEA took a hiatus from lease discussions to focus on the engineering aspect of ore terminal reconstruction.
The authority has hired an engineer to determine ore terminal building specifications that would provide the maximum amount of business opportunities for Skagway.
Hemsath said AIDEA wants to make Skagway a port all Yukon mining companies want to use to ship ore, but not at the cost of the community.
Though the truck traffic and tonnage limit in the proposed lease is one of the items AIDEA takes issue with, Hemsath said the authority understands the community’s concerns and is examining every single option it can to reach a balance of meeting the needs of Skagway residents and the needs of companies that will use the ore terminal.
While there is no set date for their next meeting, Hemsath said he plans to meet with Henry during the holiday season.
Assembly shoots down Seven Pastures area proposal, approves planning for West Creek
In a November 1 Skagway Borough Assembly meeting, members decided against proceding with a Seven Pastures master plan, but unanimously voted in favor to approve contracting for a West Creek master plan.
Sheinberg Associates of Juneau submitted both proposals, each of which totaled more than $20,000.
The assembly agreed that Sheinberg Associates should be the company to create the proposed plans because it worked on the 2009 Skagway Comprehensive Plan.
A Seven Pastures master plan was discussed at the assembly level during a September 14 meeting.
With plans and proposals for an outdoor arts facility, a potential recycling drop-off point and a dike to protect the recreational area against flooding, the assembly decided it would be a good idea to create a master plan for Seven Pastures.
Assemblyman Mike Korsmo said he originally supported going forward with the plan, but after reading the proposal and comments from Sheinberg Associates he changed his mind.
Korsmo said he doesn’t think the municipality needs to spend more than $20,000 in the planning process to move forward with the projects it has already decided on.
A planning study performed by Sheinberg Associates would duplicate many planning processes already completed and implemented, he said.
Assemblyman Mark Schaeffer said he agreed with Korsmo’s comments.
“The area is fairly well exploited now,” he said. “We’ve planned it, and there’s actually not a whole lot left to develop.”
Schaefer said Skagway is already planning to build a dike on the west side of the Skagway River to protect the Seven Pastures area in case of a flood, and it doesn’t need to pay for a study to go forward with the construction.
Now that the Alaska Department of Transportation has taken the potential ore haul bypass road upon itself, Schaefer said there is no longer a need for the study.
“If the state ever wants to do a road, that’s something they’re going to do themselves,” he said. “We’ll have input, but it won’t matter if that’s in our plan or not, so why spend the money.”
Skagway Mayor Stan Selmer said the idea for a bypass road was first mentioned by Alaska DOT representatives at the January Mineral Exploration Roundup in Vancouver.
The less invasive option of a covered conveyor belt from a storage site north of town to the ore terminal has also been discussed, Selmer said.
Assemblyman Steve Burnham Jr. recommended the municipality utilize the Planning and Zoning Commission for planning.
He said a P&Z work session would give the public the time to voice concerns with proposed plans, such as a road or a conveyor belt ore transfer option.
A West Creek master plan was unanimously approved and was awarded to Sheinberg Associates for no more than $23,400.
The plan will take into consideration a potential hydroelectric project, timber and firewood harvest, and the connection of trails in the area.
The idea for a West Creek master plan has been discussed over the last couple years, but was brought to the assembly by Korsmo in the October 4 meeting.– KE
SCHOOL REPORT (complete report in print edition)
Board approves four extra-duty school contracts
The Skagway School Board unanimously approved four extra-duty contracts at an October 30 meeting.
Contracts for Junior High Basketball co-coaches were awarded to Reid Lawson and Jim Cook.
The band/choir/stage manager contract was awarded to Jonathan Baldwin, and the drama coach contract was awarded to Jo Trozzo.
Trozzo will be directing Skagway High School students in “Final Dress Rehearsal: A Farce in One Act.” The premise of the performance is circled around an amateur theatrical group's final dress rehearsal of Cinderella, which is a disaster. There will be two performances at the school on Nov. 28-29 at 6:30 p.m.
School looking to community for on-the-job training for students
In an Oct. 30 meeting, the Skagway School Board created a subcommittee under curriculum to research on-the-job experience opportunities for high school students within the Skagway community.
Board member John Hischer said he spoke to a high school student considering a career in radio after graduating. After doing some research, Hischer found that KHNS radio of Haines, Skagway and Klukwan offers a program that gives on-the-job training for interested students in the area.
Hischer said similar programs might be available for students in Skagway, but he didn’t know if students or staff members were looking.
Board member Andy Miller said he agrees with giving students hands-on experience with careers they are considering.
Miller said he was interested in the medical health field when he was in high school. After taking a class that cycled students through several medical health professions, Miller realized the profession wasn’t for him.
“It’s important for students to figure out what they want to do,” Miller said. “And it will also get the community more involved in the school.”
Board member Cara Cosgrove said the school attempted something in a similar vein with last year’s projects class, but it was not as successful as the school hoped it would be.
High school senior Amanda Hoover said despite advertising around town, there were only two community members who volunteered their time for the class.
If a hands-on program or a projects class is going to be implemented, Cosgrove said, marketing would be the key.
It will be important to get the support of community businesses and let the students know of opportunities, she said.
“We need to get the word out there to the community that we are looking for businesses or skilled professionals,” Cosgrove said.
The board will research options and discuss which direction to take these ideas.
Hischer and Cosgrove will meet before the Dec. 5 regularly scheduled meeting and will bring their findings to the meeting for a discussion with other board members. – KE