July 9, 2010 • Vol. XXXIII, No. 12
Cruising for Parade Candy
These two girls beg with their eyes and patriotic hats for members of the Skagway Fire Department to please toss them some more candy during the Indpendence Day parade. See more Fourth of July 2010 color on the back page and three pages of photos of Skagway’s greatest day of the year inside our print edition.
Photo by Jeff Brady
Budget amendment ordinance to fund school to cap passes first reading
By KATIE EMMETS
An amended version of the Skagway School budget, which will allow for municipal funding to the cap allowed by the state, passed its first reading on June 28. A second reading has been scheduled for the July 15 Borough Assembly meeting.
In a special meeting called by Mayor Tom Cochran, ordinance No. 10-12 was amended to allow for the school to be funded to an operating budget of $1,251,780 with outside funds totaling $250,000.
The budget that passed on June 17 allowed for an operational budget of 1.1 million with outside funding of $353,054. If the ordinance passes in the July 15 meeting as written, the new budget amendment will give the school an additional $48,726 that wasn’t included in the passing of the budget in June.
“It’s safe to say the public process is alive and well in Skagway,” Cochran said in regards to the petition that reached 398 signatures as of the June 28 meeting.
After hearing 53 Skagway residents speak in favor of amending the budget to fund to the cap, the assembly brought the discussion back to the table. Mayor Tom Cochran and Assemblymen Dan Henry and Paul Reichert said they supported funding the school to the cap and the original proposed funding of $409,054 outside of the cap to help fund programs such as music, pre-school and technology.
Although he said he has seen very debatable issues throughout the year, Reichert said school funding has been the most contentious to go before the assembly.
“I don’t know how we can just chop money from the school without any sort of plan for them,” he said. “We have the money and the will of the people and we’re obligated to make a plan.”
Assemblyman Mark Schaefer, along with Assemblypersons Dave Hunz, Tim Cochran and Colette Hisman, do not agree with funding $409,054 outside the cap, and take a more cost-per-student approach.
“I am not going to support this resolution,” Schaefer said. “There is a big population that has thanked me to stand my ground.”
When members of the crowd asked him who was included in that population and why they weren’t present at the meetings, Schaefer said it was because they didn’t want to go before a room of people who were speaking out of order. He then compared voicing opposing opinions during hear citizens present to trembling in fright during a Catholic confession.
Henry said that although he respects Schaefer, his math isn’t computing.
The 398-signature petition makes up 96.6 percent of 412 Skagway residents who voted in the last election.
“Unless we are still under the time of Stalin, this is the will of the people,” Henry said referring to funding the school to the cap.
Because they won’t have a history teacher next year, Henry told the students in the audience to pay attention to the Skagway Borough Assembly because it’s an example of how democracy doesn’t work.
Although Skagway graduated a class of only 10 last year, 12 additional students have left the school, which Henry considers to be a “mass exodus.” He expects that number to grow if the school isn’t funded properly.
After each member of the assembly had the chance to speak, Assemblywoman Hisman moved to fund the school to the cap of $1,251780 and to fund $250,000 outside the cap because “it’s going to make people feel better and right.”
“Right now I’m all about making people feel good,” Hisman said.
The motion passed with a 4-2 vote.
New superintendent Jeff Theilbar said the only thing the school will be able to do from before is use that additional money from the cap funds to pay the only teacher whose position is not currently inside the operational budget. He added that it would not even put a dent in funding programs such as music, art, technology or the preschool.
After the amendment passed, Henry attempted to bring up the amount of outside the cap funding by motioning that it be taken to the previously approved amount of $353,054. When the motion failed with a 2-4 vote, he started at $350,000 and each time the motion failed he would knock $100 off and motion again.
Mayor Cochran told Henry that the four assembly members who did not support full funding had already spoken, and that Henry was being childish.
The first reading of the ordinance then passed on a 3-3 vote, with Reichert, Cochran and Hisman voting for, and Henry, Hunz and Schaefer voting against. Mayor Cochran broke the tie with a vote in favor of passing the first reading.
UPDATE: The assembly passed second reading of the budget amendment on July 15 on a 4-2 vote. See story in July 23 issue.
AIDEA, Yukon join port discussion
By KATIE EMMETS
Nineteen interested parties are discussing the proposal for a federal grant that could award up to $43 million to renovate Skagway’s ore dock.
At the June 25 Skagway Port Commission meeting, representatives from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, Yukon Economic Development, PND Engineers, Inc. and WP&YR brain stormed options for the federal TIGER II grant application.
According to the American Association of Port Authorities website, $600 million available will be “awarded on a competitive basis for projects that will have a significant impact on the Nation, a metropolitan area or a region.”
Commission chair John Tronrud said that attaining funding from the grant wouldn’t be as easy as the group originally thought.
Skagway Borough Manager Tom Smith said they need a consensus on scoping, budget and the required 20 percent match. Because the average US grant has been $20 million in year’s past, Smith said the match would be $4 million. Smith he thinks they would have the best shot at applying for Option 3 of the TIGER II grant, but the amount of funding is larger and comes in at $43 million.
“There is a lot competition for TIGER,” Smith said, that getting a grant is definitely a long shot.
Juneau was the only Alaska city to be awarded money last year, and they received only $3.64 million out of about half of a billion dollars for its Auke Bay loading facility.
Consultant Kells Boland of Whitehorse, who worked on the recent Alaska-Canada Rail Link study, has researched projects that were awarded grant money and thinks they need to work on the points they know have worked in the past.
Because the last round of grants went to energy efficient projects, Boland suggested the WP&YR’s potential business partnership with the ore dock be included in the proposal.
“Trains are more energy efficient and produce less greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.
Eugene Hretzay, president of WP&YR, said his capital cost for the railroad would be very low and that the train would ship as much freight and ore as it could handle. He said he is hoping for a large no-cost loan from the Yukon government to rebuild and extend the train tracks to Carmacks.
Hretzay said there used to be 50 ore cars running on the train and former president Paul Taylor added that a possibility of four million tons per year could be shipped by using the railroad system. Hretzay also said that he could get the train running to Whitehorse in one year if needed.
The other issue Boland suggests including in the grant proposal is the replacement of the ship loader.
The ship loader is the only thing standing in the way of the dock becoming multi-use and being able to accommodate both large cruise ships and an ore ship at the same time.
In order to maximize the use of the port by shipping gas pipe and other freight and attracting volume so that the railway is a viable option, Boland said the ship loader must be replaced.
Jim Hemsmith, Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority deputy director of business development, said AIDEA’s projections don’t have a problem with the loading capacity of the current ship loader, which is about 1,200 tons per hour. A typical ore ship takes 20 hours to load. In order to consider replacement, AIDEA would have to see a strong business proposal.
At this stage in the WP&YR planning, Hemsmith doesn’t see the railway as a truly integrated business case, adding that he was concerned that the Skagway Ore Terminal can’t handle the amount of ore that Hretzay expects to ship.
But Harvey Brooks, deputy minister of Yukon Economic Development, said Hertzay’s proposed project is something that the Yukon government could absolutely embrace. Brooks said that coming up with a plan that is going to meet all the needs of future port users is as important right now as the financial issues.
The main problems of the current ship loader is that it gets in the way of berthing two cruise ships at the ore dock, said Commissioner Joe Coveno of terminal operator Mineral Services, adding that because of its extensions, it would come into contact with the larger boat’s bridge wings.
Commissioner Steve Hites said a new and more modern ship loader might be something that would interest the tourists getting off ships at the ore dock.
“If anything it will give the tour operators something else to talk about,” he said.
When conversation shifted to cruise ships and tourism, Todd Nottingham, principal engineer at PND Engineers, Inc. discussed the preliminary design that his company thinks would be the best option for extending the ore dock. There must be a concrete dock, Nottingham said, because not all cruise ships would use a floating dock to load and unload passengers. He said a concrete dock would be especially crucial when there are two cruise ships berthing at the ore dock.
Nottingham said that to extend the dock as far as envisioned would be risky because they would be reaching water depths of 175 feet at the outermost dolphin while the deepest piles driven for a mooring dolphin are at depths of 140 feet in Ketchikan. Therefore, he proposed a floating dock. He also suggested that the proposed new ship loader be located on the south side of the uplands area created by the proposed bulkhead dock to avoid interference with cargo unloading.
Because Nottingham estimated that the extension would cost $43.9 million, Mayor Tom Cochran suggested that they break down the project into smaller components with the extension and the ship loader being at the top of the list.
As the meeting was coming to a close, the commissioners decided it should stick to the dock extension and a new ship loader when writing the grant, because it fits the TIGER II criteria better.
The federal grant pre-application is due July 15, and the final document must be submitted by Aug. 15.
CEREMONY FOR A HERO – Above, Pat Ross plays the closing hymns behind James Mark Rowan’s new gravestone. Below, Renee Rowan talks about the effort to bring more recognition to the service of her great grandfather, and observers listen to Judge H. Russel Holland talk about the importance of the U.S. Marshal’s Service. Photos by Jeff Brady
James Mark Rowan: A hero gets his tribute
By JEFF BRADY
Growing up in California, Renee Rowan had heard about her great-grandfather dying in Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush, but until two years ago, when she started researching his brief time in Skagway, she never really knew what happened.
Now, through her efforts, James Mark Rowan, a Deputy U.S. Marshal killed in the line of duty, has a dignified memorial over his grave in Skagway’s historic Gold Rush Cemetery.
Rowan’s story is well-known in Skagway: it is told every night during the Days of ’98 Show. Just a few hours before he was killed on January 31, 1898, Rowan was with his wife, Beryl, who was giving birth to their first child, James Mark Rowan Jr.
Across the street, an incident was developing upstairs at the People’s Theatre bar. A bartender there allegedly had short-changed local resident Andy McGrath. Unsatisfied, McGrath sought out Rowan and asked to borrow his gun, according to The Skaguay News. Rowan refused, patted his wife’s hand, and said he would go with McGrath and see what the trouble was about.
“As they entered the People’s Theatre two shots were fired,” reported the News, “McGrath dropping to the floor and dying in a few minutes. Rowan was also shot, but managed to go to Dr. Moore’s office where he soon expired.”
A vigilante committee soon formed to roust out Ed Fay, the alleged assailant, but legendary con man and gang leader Soapy Smith intervened and shouted down mob rule and prevented a lynching. He also started a fund for Mrs. Rowan and her baby. Fay, who was believed to be under Smith’s employ in some capacity, was sent to a jail in Sitka and subsequently charged with murder by a grand jury in May 1898. But the incident, and Soapy’s control of the situation, eventually led to the con man’s own violent demise on July 8, 1898.
Rowan was buried in the Gold Rush Cemetery on Feb. 4, 1898. A small wooden marker was placed above his grave. It listed his age, 33, and date of death, nothing more. Beryl remained in Skagway at least through the 1900 census, but had moved to Seattle by the 1910 census.
Renee began her search on the Internet two years ago. As a young girl she had remembered her mother telling her that her grandpa, “Pom Pom”, was a musician, but that his dad was killed while on “shore patrol” in Alaska. Through her research, she found out that her great grandfather was indeed a Deputy U.S. Marshal killed on duty. The name of Mark James Rowan is now on the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C., and, working with the U.S. Marshal’s Service in Alaska, Rowan helped with a new memorial stone to take the plade of the old wooden marker in Skagway.
“The more I started to dig, the more I decided I knew who I was,” Renee Rowan said, adding that as an educator she conveys the importance of law, patriotism and honor. “I’m proud to say my great grandfather served with the U.S. Marshal’s Service.”
Renee and her husband Gary Moe came to Skagway for the 4th of July and to commemorate the new marker. From Anchorage, U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland and Alaska Chief Deputy Marshal Marc Otte also came to Skagway for the ceremony, as well as Sgt. John Sutherland of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s M Division in Whitehorse. Skagway law enforcement was represented by Police Chief Ray Leggett and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Port Director Boyd Worley. After a brief reception at AB Hall hosted by Buckwheat Donahue of the Skagway Convention and Visitors Bureau, about 20 people drove out to the cemetery.
The new marker is stone, and small enough to fit where the old one was. But it tells so much more about the man, giving dignity to one who gave his life in the service of his country.
At the gravesite, Otte spoke of the importance of deputy marshals, and read an inscription from Proverbs 28:1 on one of the cornerstones of the memorial in the nation’s capital: “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.”
Above the inscription is a sculpture of a lion, and Otte said Deputy Marshal Rowan “did his duty and paid the price.”
Judge Holland said the U.S. Marshal’s Service is the oldest federal military unit, dating back to the 1790s, and that they are known as the “protectors.”
Renee spoke again, thanking the people of Skagway.
“The warmth I’ve felt being here to get people to work with me has been wonderful,” she said. “I really appreciate the acts of kindness.”
Pat Ross, of the Midnight Sun Pipe Band from Whitehorse, then stood behindj the grave and played “Amazing Grace.” Everyone in the cemetery paused to remember “A Hero Not Forgotten.”
HANDS ON BLESSING – Left, Elder Bob Sams of Sitka gives a blessing in Tlingit after the final red hand mark is placed in the corner of the board room (center top) at the new E.A. and Jenny Rasmuson Health Center. Right, Dahl Memorial Clinic Administrator Shelly Moss holds up a gift of a stick from a healing Devil's Club plant, as she welcomes visitors to the open house. Behind here is the Salmon wall of contributors to the funding of the new health center. Photos by Jeff Brady
Rasmuson Health Center opens with fanfare, blessing after years of planning
Tree of life now back in building in 'spirit and blood'
By KATIE EMMETS
Skagway residents gathered to celebrate the long-anticipated grand opening of the E.A. and Jenny Rasmuson Community Health Center and kicked off the celebration with live music, food and a tour of the new building.
On Saturday June 26, those who were involved in the planning spoke to locals about what went into the process before the bright yellow ribbon was cut.
Former mayor Tim Bourcy said that a comprehensive plan for Skagway citizens to get better health care was the first thing he dealt with when he joined the Skagway City Council.
Early in Bourcy’s first term as mayor, the clinic went bankrupt, and the City of Skagway had to step in and take it over.
“We had to go to the clinic and have everyone reapply for their job not knowing if they were going to get it back,” he said. “The staff deserves a lot of credit for the tough transitions.”
In order to bring the old building up to code, Bourcy said it would have required $1 million in renovations, and even then, it still wouldn’t be adequate.
“You couldn’t even get a gurney into the x-ray room,” he said.
At the grand opening, Joel Neimeyer from the Denali Commission said the new health center was the 100th clinic to be funded by the commission. Neimeyer also presented a wooden plaque to the clinic and said the condition was if the building was funded by the clinic, the sign had to be hung. He then joked and said if they didn’t want to hang the plaque, they could give back the $ 2.2 million in federal funds that the commission awarded in grants.
Lile Gibbons, granddaughter of E.A. and Jenny Rasmuson, and her sister-in-law Cathy Rasmuson, cut the ribbon to signify the clinic’s grand opening. Gibbons said her grandfather bought the Bank of Alaska in 1920 and created an establishment that helped other Alaskans. The bank set aside land in Skagway for a future public use. And when E.A. Rasmuson died, he left his entire estate to the Rasmuson Foundation, which contributes to many worthy projects statewide. The land was subsequently donated by Wells Fargo soon after it bought the National Bank of Alaska, and the foundation also contributed money toward the project.
The biggest contributors to the project were the citizens of Skagway, who overwhelmingly passed a $5 million bond issue to help fund it.
For the ceremony, Tlingits were invited from around the region to bring a spiritual presence to the new building.
Libby Watanabe said she spent many summers in Skagway visiting family. She gave the clinic tea that she harvested in Juneau from the devil’s club plant and also sticks from the plant to hang over the door.
“Although we practice contemporary medicine today, this is a symbol from our rich culture,” she explained adding that they are to be hung over the entryway to ward off evil spirits.
While people were touring the building, Dahl Memorial Clinic board members and Tlingits gathered in the meeting room. A special Tlingit ceremony was performed, in which four members of the tribe dipped a latex gloved hand in red paint and each one placed a hand print in one of the four corners.
Bob Sam, the officiator of the ceremony was dressed in Native garb.
He said the color red symbolizes the tree’s spirit and blood that went into the building of the structure. He said that the word Tlingit means human being and that the human spirit, represented by the hand, and the plant spirit in the trees are both connected to the earth. Sam added that the trees in the building are holding each other up just as the doctors and nurses do for the patients of the clinic.
The clinic, which is just more than 14,000 sq. ft., has nine exam rooms, three urgent care rooms, one dentist suite and a wing for Lynn Canal Counseling. The ground breaking was August 12, 2008 and Livingston Slone Inc., a design firm from Anchorage, did the planning while Dawson Construction built it. The art on display was created by a committee headed by Jan Wrentmore, and historic pictures were donated by Karl Gurcke of the National Park Service and local historian Carl Mulvihill.
To add to the décor of the building, Buckwheat Donahue, who walked from Miami to Skagway in 2005-06 to raise money for the new building, donated the shoes he walked into town with, and they are bronzed and hanging on a wall near the entrance.
Although the clinic’s first day of operation was on March 19, administrator Shelly Moss said the gap between the first day and the grand opening was due to scheduling conflicts between the Denali Commission and the Rasmuson Foundation.
Moss said the land, six lots originally held by the Rasmusons, has allowed for the clinic to be four times the size of the original building in a more central location.
“We outgrew the (old) building years ago,” she said. “This move was long overdue.”
During the summer season, there was not enough waiting room space for everyone who needed attention to be in the clinic.
Just recently, the clinic had its first multiple urgent care situation in the new building, and Moss said everything went smoothly.
Captions: Rasmuson family members cut the ribbon; Buckwheat Donahue talks with medical assistant Brian Jones about the bronzing of his shoes that now grace the clinic entrance; medical director Carol Borg talks with former Dahl Memorial Clinic Board chair John Warder; grillmasters Tim Bourcy and Mike Korsmo; - Jeff Brady
BOROUGH DIGEST (complete digest in print edition)
Emily Deach gets clerk job after all
The Skagway Borough Assembly in a special meeting on June 28 voted to hire Emily Deach as the new municipal clerk, after first choice Heidi Blaine declined the offer.
The assembly voted to hire Blaine, of Eugene, Oregon, in a special meeting on June 21 after interviewing four candidates, including Deach.
Assemblyman Dan Henry said Deach was his first recommendation, and he still feels the same support and confidence in Deach’s abilities. Because she is currently the accounts payable/accounts receivable clerk for the municipality, it will be easy to bring her up to speed, he said.
Current borough clerk Marj Harris was scheduled to retire June 30 but has agreed to stay on until July 30 to train Deach.
Municipality seeks new state grant for small boat harbor improvements
At its July 1 regular meeting, the assembly unanimously passed Resolution 10-19R to pursue a grant from the State of Alaska for $5 million to improve the Skagway Small Boat Harbor.
The grant requires the Municipality of Skagway to match funds dollar-for-dollar and be able to complete the project in an 18-month timeframe.
Mayor Tom Cochran stated that Skagway’s small boat harbor project was second in the running for this grant last year, and that the municipality would have been awarded the grant this year had the state budget not been slashed. The mayor continued, stating that Skagway has a chance of getting the grant for next year. Cochran noted that it may have been for the best that Skagway did not get this grant for the current year due to budget constraints, saying that they would have been forced to do some creative funding.
As for pursuing the grant for next year, the assembly was in agreement.
“I’m all for this,” said Assemblyman Paul Reichert. – KATIE EMMETS