December 24, 2013 • Vol. XXXVI, No. 23
Electric Yuletide Ballroom
Coop Briody of the local band Gnat King Kong plays a guitar solo during the annual Yuletide Ball. See more photos on the back page or our print edition from the second half of the Yule season.
Photo by Andrew Cremata
Eagle mine proposes temporary fabric shed at ore terminal
Temporary building must meet all regulations
By KATIE EMMETS
Though Eagle Industrial Minerals owner Chuck Eaton is in the midst of litigation with two Yukon businesses, the Skagway Borough Assembly unanimously voted to approve Eaton’s temporary ore storage building plans with the caveat that it meets all environmental, municipal and state requirements.
The idea for a temporary building on the Skagway Ore Terminal site comes after a difference in opinion on how Eaton would repay Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority for constructing a permanent building for Eagle to store its iron ore at the waterfront.
According to a letter from Eaton to Skagway Mayor Mark Schaefer, the structure would be constructed at the north end of the ore terminal’s concrete slab and would be about 20 feet taller than the existing building. It would be steel frames with either fabric or metal covering and would be designed for all the same wind, snow and seismic loads as a permanent building. It would be 110 feet wide and would not span the full width of the slab, so it would not affect the reclaim belt shed.
“Our building will use the existing 7-foot walls as foundations and we will build a removable 7-foot wall on the slab as our eastern wall,” Eaton wrote in a letter to the mayor. “There will still be about 190 feet of open space on the slab in case another user comes along. “
Because ore dust is an issue, the building would be completely enclosed, and Eagle would use the existing ship loader.
In the letter, Eaton told Schaefer that he needed the OK from the Municipality of Skagway before AIDEA could submit the project to its board for approval.
At the December 18 Skagway Port Commission meeting, AIDEA project manager Lori Stender said the reason for getting Skagway’s blessing before marching forward on this project is the building would be different from existing waterfront structures.
“You guys have a big tourist industry and this is going to be something that looks different,” she said. “Having people there is important to us and to you and to the Yukon. Because it is so different and not the same material and it will be higher we wanted to make sure it’s OK with the skyline.”
Stender said the building, if approved by the municipality and AIDEA’s board, would have to be removed at the end of Eaton’s operation and conditions would have to go back to what they were before construction.
She also said the building will have to meet all environmental requirements as well as requirements set by the ore terminal operator regarding runoff and emissions. Eaton will also need to discuss his plans with Capstone Mining Corp., which uses Skagway’s Ore Terminal for its copper ore from the Minto Mine, and Eaton will be required to adhere to the same rules, regulations and procedures Capstone does.
He would also need the building approved by the State Fire Marshal.
Stender said Eaton will be required to have money set aside that would allow him to remove it if something were to happene in which he could not longer operate as planned.
Unless another operator comes in after Eaton is finished and wants to use pieces of his building, it will be gone at the end of his operation. If another company does want to use parts of the building or the entire building, that company would have to go through the same approval process with the municipality.
Assemblyman Tim Cochran said he is curious about what would happen to a temporary building in regard to Southeast Alaska weather, especially if it were made with vinyl.
“With our winds, that could be a very big concern,” Cochran said.
Cochran said he saw 55 mph wind gusts tear through a shelter located near the water and added that he’s seen wind at speeds of up to 83 mph on the waterfront.
Port Commission Chair Tim Bourcy asked if AIDEA could design the temporary building to withstand winds up to 100 mph.
“That has been part of our concern as well,” Stender said. “Once we get this plan approved, our engineer might be able to figure out how to answer that question.”
Assemblyman Gary Hanson said it was up to the assembly to approve the building in principle and trust that AIDEA will go through it in detail.
“There’s a lot of things I think are good about this project,” Hanson said. “The fact that it’s only six years is good because we have an opportunity to experience what its like to have 30-40 ore trucks per day coming through town.”
Hanson also said he likes the fact that the building would be temporary and would be removed after Eagle is done exporting its iron ore.
Assemblyman Steve Burnham Jr. said he has questions about using vinyl for the building.
“It shouldn’t be a tent,” he said. ‘Temporary or not, it’s going to cost money and I don’t think we should allow them to use any sort of fabric or vinyl to cover that thing.”
Burnham said temporary buildings are often built to last longer than they’re needed.
“The fact is it should be built like it’s going to be there for a while,” he said, adding that a building needed for six years should be built to last 12 or 20 years.
Burnham said as long as it’s clear the assembly is approving the structure in its preliminary stages, and it will be brought to the table again before construction, he is fine with approving it.
Though his port plans are moving along, Eaton is facing a double lawsuit in the Yukon.
Excavating contractor Coyne and Sons holds the claim to the open pit Eagle was licensed to dump its mine waste in.
According to the CBC, Coyne and Sons allege the Yukon Government illegally licensed Eagle to dump its waste on their land.
In addition Access Consulting, the company that helped lead Eagle Industrial Minerals through the permitting process in 2010, is saying that Eaton refused to pay for its work. The consulting firm is suing Eagle for $600,000 in services and also filing liens against all of Eagle’s mineral claims.
According to the CBC, Eaton says he's making good progress on his mining plans, but won't comment about the lawsuits.
Automotive conservators Brian Howard, left, and Derek Moore take a look at the old Skagway Street Car for the first time. Katie Emmets
Auto conservators travel to Skagway to assess Martin Itjen's 1920s street car
By KATIE EMMETS
Legendary early tourism promoter Martin Itjen’s famous Skagway Street Car has logged yet another mile, but this one is on the road to recovery.
Earlier this month, objects conservator Brian Howard of BR Howard and Associates and private transportation conservator Derek Moore came to Skagway to assess the condition of Itjen’s street car.
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park hired conservators and not restorers for the assessment, because the main goal in this project is not to fix up the car, but preserve it in the condition it’s in and protect its history.
The conservation duo was able to debunk the myth that the streetcar was one complete vehicle. It is, in fact, constructed from two separate vehicles and also contains parts from two additional cars.
The back half of the street car is part of a horse-drawn carriage known as an omnibus, which has the words “Pullen House” on it. The front half is constructed from a Packard truck chassis and hood fenders. The windshield and cab enclosure, Moore said, were homemade.
Itjen implanted the engine from what appears to be a 1920s Dodge, and Moore also noticed a Ford Model T pedal in it.
“We don’t know what it was for,” Moore said. “But we think it was attached to something. Our best guess is that it controlled something placed on the vehicle.”
And that’s a good guess.
Located on the front of the street car was a bear created from plumbing pipes and covered in bear fur and an automaton of a man that nodded his head, waved a flag, rang a bell, and puffed exhaust smoke through a phony cigarette.
KGRNHP Curator Samantha Richert said the park received the street car in 2007 along with the rest of the George and Edna Rapuzzi Collection and immediately put in a request for restoration funding.
“When receiving a large collection like that you know you’re going to need restoration,” she said.
Richert said the park was fortunate to have Howard and Moore doing the conservation reports on the street car, adding that there are a lot of automotive restorers but not automotive conservators.
The restorers don’t look at historical vehicles for the artifacts they are, she said, but something that needs to get back into showroom condition. The street car was never in showroom condition because it was never in a showroom; it was in limited use up until going into permanent storage in the mid-1990s.
Though it was not specifically stated in the scope of the conservators’ task, there was a desire to determine if the vehicle could be driven again in Skagway’s Fourth of July Parade, as it was for many years.
“We’ve had a lot of requests from the community to bring it back,” Richert said. “A lot of people remember the street car in the parade.”
Found in a coffee can nailed in place in the coach of the car was the 1984 Fourth of July parade route on a piece of paper.
The team of conservators said there are a lot of factors that would determine whether the streetcar would be in good enough condition to participate in the parade again.
Moore found evidence of metal in the oil pan, which could be problematic. Though he couldn’t definitively tell where it came from, if the metal came from the engine, it could prevent the street car from running again. Moore said there is a chance, however, that the metal entered through the wide oil pan hole over time, and added that it needed further investigation.
Moore did report that both the electrical and mechanical condition of the car has given him indication that it would be OK to run again, but in order for that to happen it might need to be fixed in a way that would change its historical integrity, in which case Moore and Howard would not recommend it being driven.
More important than getting the street car into parade condition is deciding where it will be displayed.
“We think it’s nationally significant,” Richert said. “It’s more important for people to see it than for it to be used for the Fourth of July.”
Richert said Itjen was instrumental in bringing people to Alaska through tourism.
“He had so much to do with creating the myth of the Last Frontier,” she said. “He crafted awareness in the imagination of Alaska.”
Richert said the street car, along with other Itjen originals, is classically Alaskan and classified his artistic mindset as “depression era thinking.”
Itjen was known for using items in close proximity to craft his pieces.
Howard said Itjen’s use of materials is typical of an isolated town with limited options.
“It’s a statement to not only that individual, but how life is in Skagway,” he said.
Moore added that Itjen had a “do what you gotta do and use the things that are here” mentality.
Howard said the street car really forces viewers to look at early ideas of tourism and how it documents life at the time of its creation.
“It’s great folk art,” Howard said. “This is actually a rolling folk art piece.”
The street car bear and other Martin Itjen contraptions are on display in an exhibition created by KGRNHP’s Tekla Helgason. Skagway residents can visit the exhibition until early April in the park’s administration building.
Richert said the street car is unique within the National Park Service, and she cannot think of anything else like it.
Howard and Moore completed their proposal filled with their recommendations on how to proceed with preservation. It’s now up to the park to determine what the vehicle needs, and Richert said conservation on the street car would begin as early as 2017.
Left, the Aquabots pose after capturing the SE title. Back row, from left, are Kalie Thomas, Iraida Hisman, coach Greg Clem, Emma Shelton, Jessica Whitehead, and Danny Brady; front row: Shane Sims, Peyton Rodig (with little brother Landon), and Dawson Clem. Right, the Aquabots congratulate each other at the end of their final mission, which scored nearly 200 points and kept them in the running for the overall title. Jeff Brady
Aquabots win Juneau Robot Jamboree again
By ZOE WASSMAN
For the fourth time since the program began in 2008, the Skagway School FLL Robotics team won first place at the regional competition in Juneau and will be going to Anchorage to compete against other Alaska teams.
First Lego League (FLL) competitions have three parts: the robot, the project and the FLL core values presentation. Teams participate in the competition by programming a robot to score points on a themed playing field, developing a solution to a problem they have identified, all guided by the FLL Core Values, which they will create a presentation for to perform in front of a panel of judges.
This year, the theme is natural disasters and the team has been working on a presentation that would reduce flooding impacts in Dyea.
Of all the teams in Southeast that competed at the Juneau tournament, Skagway School’s Aquabots won first place and had perfect scores on its project and core values presentations. The team was called up during the awards ceremony to present its project, a Floating Storage Unit (FSU) that residents can place on their properties to store vehicles and hazardous materials in the event of a flood.
As one of the Aquabots’ senior members, Danny Brady seems confident that his team will achieve a high ranking at the state competition.
“I think we are going to do well at state this year,” Brady said. “We’re working a lot on our robot and new missions and attachments that we’ve added to our robot.”
The new robot’s name is “Quicksilver,” and it is a Lego Mindstorms EV3. According to the FLL website, it offers new and improved hardware and software. There are two different motor sizes, extended on-brick programming and step-by-step tutorials that make it possible for students to build and program a fully functional robot within 45 minutes. The robot has software that allows the instructor to customize and differentiate content, and it also has a digital workbook that makes it possible to capture and assess student work.
The team will have five weeks to get the robot ready and fine-tune its presentations for the Anchorage state tournament on Jan. 25. Skagway is the defending state champ and represented Alaska at the World Festival in St. Louis last year.
‘Grandma’ Ginny Cochran honored with 2013 Helen B. Clark Award
“Grandma” Ginny Cochran was presented the 2013 Helen B. Clark Award for volunteer community service in Skagway at this year’s Yuletide Ball.
Cochran was surrounded by grandchildren as her name was announced by News associate editor Katie Emmets.
“This year’s winner has effortlessly given her time, talents and love to young and old alike,” Emmets said in a speech prepared from the nominating statement for Cochran. “She has cared for the children of this community and continues to do so. For example, her knitted mittens are still treasured by many adults who received them as children.”
Cochran was also recognized for being active on many boards and being instrumental in setting up the Big Dippers senior center, as well as offering companionship and comfort for those in the community who have been ill.
She is also is known for showing up with her homemade cookies at the post office, bank and other places, with a simple “thank you.”
“She raised a fine family, who exemplify their mother’s philosophy of community service through continued endeavors and dedication to the betterment of our community,” Emmets concluded. “We are fortunate that she lives here and enriches our lives.”
Two other members of the community were recognized during the presentation. New nominees Wendy Anderson and Andrew Cremata received special recognition certificates from the HBC committee. Anderson has been active in organizing many community events over the years, and Cremata founded the Pat Moore Memorial Game Fish Derby and is an active leader at the Elks.
The late Helen Clark was the first recipient of Skagway’s community service award 27 years ago, and agreed to have it named for her so generations would remember her volunteer spirit. The award recognizes outstanding volunteer deeds in our community. It is sponsored by The Skagway News Co. Every November nomination statements are accepted from the public. Then a selection committee of past winners goes over the nominations from the past few years and chooses a winner. – JEFF BRADY
Ginny Cochran celebrates receiving the Clark award with great-grandson Joshua, left, and grandson Airk at the annual Yuletide Ball on Dec. 14. Andrew Cremata
Municipal mission statement to be used in search for Skagway borough manager
When discussing the borough manager hiring process, it came to the attention of hiring committee members that the municipality didn’t have a mission statement it could include in the manager’s job description.
At its December 19 meeting, assembly members unanimously voted to adopt a statement that read: “The Municipality of Skagway will responsibly provide vital and dynamic services to the residents and visitors of the municipality through application of processional skills, adopted plans, and standards which facilitate the growth of the local economy and protect and enhance the quality of life, while fostering a respectful and successful workplace and preserving our environment and history for current and future generations.”
The vote was 5-0, with Assemblyman Dan Henry absent.
The statement will serve as a common goal for employees, volunteers and the public and it will help create anorganizational culture that is integrated with its overall purpose.
Outdoor Arts Facility gets conditional use permit, not without concern over parking
At a December 12 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, commissioners unanimously voted to give Skagway’s outdoor arts facility a conditional use permit to operate.
Though the vote was 5-0, commissioners raised questions about the parking aspects of the facility.
“I don’t want to hold up the project timeline, but there’s 158 spots presented in the application for a conditional use permit, which is far less than there are right now,” said Commissioner Orion Hanson, adding that the parking lot was already at capacity during events like softball games and the Elk’s Summer Solstice party without a big structure taking away from parking.
Hanson suggested expanding the parking lot for Seven Pastures park to the south to allow for overflow parking if necessary.
“We need to figure this out before there’s a big music event and you have people parking on the Klondike Highway,” he said. “It needs to be reviewed now while we have the time to change it.”
Commissioner Jan Tronrud said she was reluctant to grant the conditional use permit with what appeared to her as a lack of intense planning.
“I don’t know how much involvement the architect put into parking, but parking has been kind of overlooked in other recent projects,” she said. “Parking has been an afterthought.”
Tim Bourcy, who is on the outdoor arts facility committee, said the committee had extensive meetings for a year and a half about the facility, and added that he thinks the parking issue will resolve itself.
“I think when we see the final facility and see how it’s laid out, it’s not going to be a broad empty gavle parking lot, there is going to be a parking structure,” he said. “We’ll see how it plays out, but I don’t think it will be as bad as people think it will be.”
Bourcy suggested using the SMART buses to get from town to Seven Pastures for larger events such as the Summer Solstice Party.
If an overflow parking lot were to be created to the south of the existing lot, piles of concrete, tar, brush and grass that are being staged in the area would have to be relocated.
Bourcy said he didn’t think Seven Pastures is an appropriate place for the disposal of concrete or tar because it is a recreational area.
Assemblyman Spencer Morgan, P&Z Commission ex-officio, said the outdoor arts facility construction was started without all necessary permits, such as the conditional use permit, in place.
“This has been an issue before when the city started and finished projects without everything in place,” he said. “It’d be nice if the city has all its ducks lined up in a row before we start actually building some of these buildings.”
Morgan said he has seen this kind of thing happen before when he was on the planning and zoning commission.
“The city doesn’t necessarily play by its own rules at some times,” he said. “I don’t think we can expect our (residents) to follow the rules if we aren’t doing it all the time.”
Muni. wants input on potential 18 percent power rate increase
Alaska Power Company has proposed a rate increase of 18 percent to Regulatory Commission of Alaska and is asking the commission to impose a six percent increase while it is waiting for a decision.
If the rate increase is not approved, APC which is a subsidiary of Alaska Power and Telephone, would refund the six percent to its ratepayers.
Though Skagway Mayor Mark Schaefer, who attended the December 19 assembly meeting via teleconference, proposed the municipality send a letter in an attempt to defer the increase and allow for a longer comment period, acting borough manager Emily Deach said borough attorney Bob Blasco didn’t think the letter would have the effects the municipality is looking for.
Borough lobbyist John Walsh, who called the Regulatory Commission of Alaska to ask questions on this matter, said the commission is encouraging its ratepayers to call and ask questions about the proposed tariff.
There is a public comment period on the proposed tariff, which ends December 27.
Walsh said the public can either e-mail or mail in comments for or against the tariff.
There is a 45-day window for a tariff request, which includes acceptance of the request, a public comment period and a decision-making period by the RCA. Once the public comment period ends, the commission will have another 20 days to make its decision.
Walsh said the RCA could either accept or reject the tariff, and if they don’t accept it, it will open up a docket, which would provide for a 180-day appeal process and a longer public comment period.
Walsh said the municipality has two choices: it could file a formal complaint, or it could send a letter pleading in hopes of opening a docket.
The assembly gave no objection for Schaefer and Deach to send a letter to the RCA to address concerns.
“I have no objection,” said Assemblyman Spencer Morgan. “They’ve been raising rates since 2009. Energy charges have gone up 20 percent, electric rates have gone up six or seven percent.” – KE
HARDWARE HAUL – Jake Sager gets a laugh from some of the adults as he shows off his trophies from the annual Elks Hoop Shoot at the school on December 20. Andrew Cremata
GED testing to be available in Skagway
The Skagway School is in the process of becoming a Pierson GED administering center, so those living in Skagway can earn their high school diplomas without traveling to take the test.
According to its website, Pierson VUE (Viral User Environment) is the leading provider of global computer-based testing solutions for information technology academic, government and professional testing programs.
“There was a demonstrated need in the community for it,” Skagway School Superintendent Josh Coughran said of the testing center.
Coughran said people were going to the Skagway Public Library and inquiring about taking the GED there.
“The library can provide the study materials, but you can’t actually take the test at the library, or anywhere else in Skagway, for that matter,” he said, adding that the closest testing centers are located in Haines and Juneau. “We decided we wanted to be a testing center because it is a community need and we don’t think people should need to travel for that.”
Coughran has selected school guidance counselor Courtney Mason to be the test administrator.
In order to become a certified Pierson Organization GED testing center, the school had to go through a rigorous application process that included documenting tactical, security and bandwidth information as well as attaching photos.
Coughran said the school has submitted its completed application to Pierson VUE (viral user environment) and hopes to hear back soon.
Pierson VUE not only administers the GED, but a variety of other professional tests including practice tests for teachers and company tests for nurses.
“Now that we are a Pierson Center, we might be able to administer tests locally for those who want to be teachers or nurses,” Coughran said.
School stops community automotive repairs
The school will no longer be offering automotive services to Skagway community members after its school board realized the program was keeping business from local mechanics.
At the December 17 meeting, local mechanic Richard Vandries told the board that he hasn’t had a single patron this winter, but he didn’t know why until a friend called from Las Vegas to ask him how the school shop class was affecting his business.
“What would happen to Petro Marine if a company came into town and gave free oil away,” Vandries asked.
Vandries said he understands the school is trying to resurrect an old program by having the shop class this year, and he agrees that it is a valuable program that should be offered to students. Vandries also said he just got a new tire machine, which he could teach the students how to use.
“It’s not anyone’s fault or anything,” he said at the meeting. “I don’t want to take anything away from anyone. I just want to make it.”
Vandries said he was nervous about approaching the board and thought they weren’t going to understand his point of view, but the board didn’t need any convincing to change the scope of the program.
Students could work on family cars or project cars that need extensive work, he suggested, adding that he has a few the school could use.
Even though there was a waiting list of Skagway residents’ cars for the shop class, board President Darren Belisle said he was going to halt the program from working on them.
“No money has changed hands at this point,” he said. “We will just let them know we’re sorry, but we can’t work on their cars.”
Board member Andy Miller suggested the shop class work only on cars owned by the students in the class or vehicles owned by the school so the class wouldn’t be taking away from Vandries’ business.
“It’s certainly not about putting anyone out of business, its solely instructional,” said Superintendent Coughran said, adding that if the shop class could coexist with Vandries’ business it would be the best possible outcome. – KE