December 10, 2010 • Vol. XXXIII, No. 22
Christmas Cookies & Choo Choos
Arlo Viehe-Cline, Yonder Anderson and Emily Willis watch the Lego trains roll by at the AB Hall open house during the first weekend of Skagway’s month-long Yuletide Celebration. See many more photos on pages 6 and 7 or our print edition.
Photo by Andrew Cremata
Assembly attempts to kick-start tidelands lease negotiations
White Pass given until March 1 to engage in lease talks, make ‘substantial progress’
By JEFF BRADY
After an hour-long executive session with its attorney, the Skagway Borough Assembly on Dec. 2 directed the borough manager to send a letter to White Pass, telling the company that the tidelands lease with the municipality will be “over” at its end date in 2023 unless the company “renegotiates with the municipality by March 1, 2011.”
Along with that action, members voted to introduce a $100,000 budget amendment at the next assembly meeting to cover legal expenses associated with the tidelands lease negotiations. Borough Manager Tom Smith also was directed to notify White Pass that the municipality may audit company books, according to state statute, as White Pass is a common carrier.
Municipal Attorney Robert Blasco was present for this discussion and also to confer with assembly members in executive session about its ongoing dispute with the state over land entitlements. Blasco was given authority to file for an extension of a legal brief with the state in an effort to get the borough more land, but he did not comment publicly on either issue.
The assembly also supported sending a letter to the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, which subleases land from White Pass for its ore terminal, that they may “immediately start negotiating with the municipality on an extension of their lease beyond 2023.”
It also will send letters to sublessees Alaska Marine Lines, TEMSCO, and Petro Marine that the municipality also would be willing to negotiate extensions of their leases past 2023.
AIDEA has been encouraging an extended lease. In an Aug. 11 resolution by its board, one of its conditions for supporting a federal TIGER II grant for port improvements was that “all required ground leases needed for construction of improvements to the authority’s concentrate storage building and related facilities are extended to 2040 by either the municipality and/or the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad.”
In a memorandum attached to the resolution, AIDEA executive director Ted Leonard explained how a lease extension was “an essential component of the project economics.” He wrote that if the authority were to construct improvements, there could be real loss of interest income on the project dollars while waiting for a new mine (presumably Selwyn) to go into production in 2015. But projecting the income from the existing facility past 2023 until 2040 “provides a very strong positive net present value after deducting the ‘loss’ of unrealized interest income, based on the lease extension.” This would provide “a revenue stream” over 20 years that would offset any losses while waiting for new tenants to fill an expanded facility.
AIDEA had not received the borough’s letter by press time, but authority spokesperson Karsten Rodvik commented via e-mail: “AIDEA has for some time been partnering with the Municipality in efforts to expand the operation to better serve as the Gateway to the Yukon, and thereby grow Skagway’s economy. We realize that in order for AIDEA to undertake substantial capital investment in the terminal, we have to extend our lease, and we are working with the Municipality on this.”
AIDEA and White Pass are working to resolve a dispute over a proposed tenfold hike in wharfage fees by White Pass for ore shipped over the company’s Ore Dock. White Pass still controls the dock, but AIDEA and its sole customer for the ore storage terminal, Minto Mines, have objected to the hike in fees.
Rodvik said AIDEA is continuing “to work with parties with the goal of arriving at a solution.”
Reached by phone on Tuesday, White Pass president Eugene Hretzay would not comment on the wharfage issue, citing a confidentiality agreement with AIDEA, but he said he had spoken with the mayor about the assembly’s recent action.
“I think both parties know where we are coming from,” Hretzay said. “We want it to come along as soon as possible. We want to work with them on port development. We’re not adversaries, we’re partners.”
He said he had discussed the March 1 deadline with the mayor but referred further questions about the deadline to Cochran.
At Tuesday’s Port Commission meeting, Cochran said it was his intention that the process needed to be started by March 1. Assemblyman Dave Hunz said he wanted to see “substantial progress” by that date. Cochran also noted that Hretzay mentioned that any new agreement would have to be approved by his board, and the mayor responded that he has a similar board, the borough assembly, that must approve it as well.
Hunz said the assembly is looking at dealing “directly with AIDEA” after 2023, and there was discussion about the borough getting back control of the tidelands at least out to the ship loader.
In the meantime, the mayor is holding out hope that the state will assist, since the federal government did not support Skagway or any Alaskan project in the latest round of TIGER funding.
In his report to the assembly on Dec. 2, Cochran said he and lobbyist John Walsh recently met with Susan Bell, the new commissioner of the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, seeking support for a $10 million request as part of Governor Parnell’s upcoming budget. Bell also has a seat on AIDEA’s board. Cochran said they also will seek letters of support from the Alaska Cruise Association and the Yukon Government.
In the meantime, the port continues to be promoted. Port Commission chair John Tronrud attended the recent Geoscience Forum in Whitehorse, and a delegation from the borough will be at the Mineral Exploration Roundup in Vancouver, BC next month. A new PowerPoint about Skagway should be ready by then with photos of recent activity at the ore terminal.
“It shows we are in business and hoping for more,” the mayor said.
Selwyn-Chihong has also notified the municipality that it would like to host a community open house in Skagway on Jan. 20. Two Selwyn representatives recently toured the ore terminal, said manager and port commission member Joe Coveno, and are interested in using all of the remaining footprint from the old terminal. There also is interest from the Eagle mine (old Whitehorse Copper) which could be a smaller interim supplier before Selwyn starts up. Both of those mines still need water licenses and permits in the Yukon.
Bellekeno begins shipping through Skagway
Now, the Yukon’s only two producing hard rock mines are shipping ore to the Skagway port.
Last Saturday, the first of two truckloads with bags of silver concentrate arrived at the Alaska Marine Lines terminal, said local AML manager Cory Bricker at Tuesday’s Port Commission meeting.
Alexco Resource Corp. began mining old ground at the Bellekeno site in the Keno district last month.
Bricker said the concentrate will arrive in bags until some trucks with new ore pots are ready to roll. That should happen in March. The bags are currently stored for the weekly AML barge to Seattle. From there, they will be trucked to a smelter in Trail, BC near the US-Canada border, Bricker said.
According to the Yukon Government, the Bellekeno mine will be a 250 metric tons per day operation for years 1 and 2 and increased to a 400 metric tons per day operation for years 3 to 5.
Skagway’s other customer is the Minto Mine, which ships copper concentrate to the ore terminal. – JB
The smoking ban debate is on
After public testimony, ordinance tabled again for HEW rewrite; Committee will allow public comments on rewritten draft ordinance Dec. 30
By GAYLE DEATON
The air was thick with opinions about the pros and cons of a proposed smoking ban ordinance at a Health Education and Welfare committee meeting Nov. 29 held at City Hall.
Like smoke, the opinions traveled all over the place.
Some local business people said a smoking ban could kill business – especially in the winter.
Beth Smith said that for her business, it would not only mean fewer patrons at the Pizza Station but also change plans to open a duplicate bar license proposed for the Morning Wood Hotel located above the Pizza Station.
“In the winter, the nonsmoker, for the bar business, is not who goes out,” Smith said. “It’s the smokers and the dabblers (social smokers) who go out.”
She did note that the Station had gone non-smoking during restaurant hours between 4 and 8 p.m. this winter.
Her husband, Mark Smith questioned the necessity of applying the ordinance to bars.
“In my opinion, it shouldn’t include bars,” he said. “If a person is 21-years-old, he can choose where to go. If you’re worried about the children, you don’t see children in bars.”
Still, others said a smoking ban might improve business.
Carol Bourcy said statistics from Smokefree Alaska indicate most businesses actually attract more customers once they go smoke-free.
“One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t do it earlier,” said Jan Wrentmore who owns the Red Onion Saloon which is already a non-smoking facility.
Scott Logan pointed out places such as California and New York have some of the strictest smoking bans in place and, “it didn’t cause people there to lose their businesses or move out of town.”
“Non-smoking people came out to enjoy the facilities once they were non-smoking,” he said.
One thing many of those who attended the committee meeting said they agreed on is that the outside distance requirement for smokers of as much as 20 feet from a business should be changed or eliminated.
John Tronrud said he agrees that for Skagway, the distance requirement not reasonable.
“In a small town, I would agree with the others that the reasonable amount of distance at 20 feet is too much,” he said. “The simpler you could keep the distance thing the better off you’d be. Outside is outside.”
Mark Smith pointed out that a 20-foot distance requirement would put some business’s customers completely out of range of the establishment.
“In the summertime, if they have to walk off the sidewalk, they’ll walk into the middle of the street and smoke a cigarette,” Smith said.
Colette Hisman and Beth Smith talk about the proposed ordinance. Photos by Jeff Brady
The first draft of the “Secondhand Smoke Pollution Control” ordinance prohibits smoking inside any enclosed public area such as bars, restaurants, retail stores, businesses, and healthcare or recreational facilities, as well as any borough owned or controlled building or vehicle.
The ordinance as currently drafted also applies to private clubs licensed for the sale of alcoholic beverages such as the Eagles and Elks clubs, however there was a discussion when it was proposed to only ban smoking at public events when held at the private clubs.
However, several people at the HEW committee meeting questioned whether it’s fair to make the smoking ban ordinance apply only to local restaurants and bars while excluding private clubs.
Jan Tronrud said it was important to keep “a level playing field” by creating an ordinance that will include private clubs.
“Skagway is just too small a community to say the clubs are excluded,” said Beth Smith. “I would like to see it straight across the board.”
Wrentmore said she could see how the nonsmoking ordinance could hurt businesses during the winter season if the clubs are not required to go smoke-free as well.
“I understand businesses are afraid of it,” she said. “I do think you would put a business like the Pizza Station at a huge disadvantage in the winter. I think the clubs are a powerful economic influence in the town in the winter.”
But Eagles bar manager Michelle Carlson said the idea that a smoking ban is good for business contradicts the idea that the ordinance needs to be across the board to include the private clubs so businesses don’t suffer unfair competition because of the ban.
“If you slap this nonsmoking ordinance on people in the dead of winter, it’s going to affect business,” Carlson said, adding that, “any public event we have is non-smoking for 24 hours before an event.”
Eagles Club trustee Will Godbey said their membership was prepared to engage in a legal battle to keep the borough from banning smoking at their establishment.
Godbey said he was representing club members and attending the meeting to ask the assembly “to reconsider” any restrictions they might place on smoking in the private clubs.
“I just think you might cause a whole lot of problems,” he said. “We just voted on if we should retain a lawyer and it passed uncapped as far as cost as how far to take it.”
The liability and unfairness of forcing non-smoking employees to work around second-hand smoke was also discussed.
“I don’t think people should have to trade their health for a paycheck,” said Jan Tronrud.
Michael Burnham who works for the railroad said he knows what it’s like to be forced to endure smoking as a non-smoking employee.
“I definitely agree something needs to be done,” Burnham said. “The people who don’t smoke don’t really have a choice at their workplace.”
Some who attended the meeting also claimed Skagway was behind the times and should have already enacted some sort of smoking ban.
“It’s just way, way past due,” said Logan. “Even Haines beat us to this one, for Chris’ sakes.”
Dorene Cooper, who works at Klothes Rush, said she couldn’t believe the downtown historic district didn’t already have a smoking ban.
“I mean, hello, we have boardwalks,” she said. “They’re wooden, they’re flammable.”
Jan Tronrud pointed out that more than 30 states are already smoke-free.
“I think it’s time we got on board,” she said.
Assemblywoman Colette Hisman, who originally proposed the smoking ban ordinance, thanked those who attended the meeting for participating.
“The Dec. 2 date doesn’t allow us enough time to draft another ordinance,” she said. “I would like to table it again to get the proper documentation down the way we want it to read.”
Hisman recommended postponing first reading of the ordinance until the first assembly meeting in January, scheduled for Jan. 6.
Areas she mentioned as needing some refining included the right of employees not to be exposed to secondhand smoke and giving smokers the right to smoke in certain places.
“Outside I would consider the most protective,” she said. “Maybe, if there was a room that was completely airtight, we could put that on the table.”
Hisman also stressed the importance of educating the children and youth about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke.
“It’s never going to be perfect,” she said of the proposed ordinance. “If we put some more work into it, maybe it can be something people can live with.”
Assembly members decided to listen to public input at the HEW meeting to help them decide how far to take the proposed smoking ban in their rewrite of the ordinance.
They have several options when looking at what other cities in Alaska have adopted. On hand, they were looking at ordinances that were passed in Haines and Anchorage.
The “Secondhand Smoke Pollution Control” ordinance would prohibit smoking inside any enclosed public area such as bars, restaurants, retail stores, businesses, and healthcare or recreational facilities, as well as any borough-owned or controlled building or vehicle.
However, other municipalities in Alaska have created ordinances that are different.
For example, according to the website, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, Anchorage, Haines Borough and Klawock are currently the only three in Alaska to ban smoking in all bars, restaurants and workplaces.
Anchorage and Juneau also banned smoking in private clubs but Barrow and Dillingham chose instead to ban smoking in restaurants while excluding bars and private clubs.
Smoking bans at workplaces vary as well with Anchorage and Klawock banning smoking in all workplaces, Sitka banning it in enclosed workplaces, and Barrow and Dillingham not banning it at all unless the workplace happens to be a restaurant.
Fairbanks is unique in that it banned smoking in all workplaces excluding bars and restaurants.
Petersburg bars, restaurants, private clubs and workplaces went smoke-free earlier this month after a public vote on the issue favored the new ban with a two to one margin.
Sitka voters, however, voted down a recent proposal at the ballot that would have banned smoking in private clubs and bars.
Eagles manager Carlson told the assembly at the Dec. 2 meeting that several people wanted her to ask if there was any way the smoking ban issue could be brought to a vote of the people.
“There’s no plan for a special election at this point,” Mayor Tom Cochran told her. Later when asked by Assemblyman Tim Cochran why it wasn’t going to be put up for a vote, Mayor Cochran said that the idea is open for discussion if assembly members decide they become interested in going that route.
Assembly members agreed at the Dec. 2 meeting to push the smoking ban proposal to the back burner until the ordinance can be rewritten.
Health, Education and Welfare committee members plan to rewrite the ordinance to reflect the input received at the Nov. 29 meeting.
Hisman said she would schedule another HEW meeting for 5 p.m. Dec. 30 for those who would like to comment on the revised ordinance before it’s reintroduced for first reading at the Jan. 6 assembly meeting.
Eagles Club members gather for Monday Night Football under two large smoke eaters, which cut down some of the smoke. Jeff Brady
Smoke and mirrors – opinions waft from Station bar and clubs
By GAYLE DEATON
To some, smoking may still represent a nostalgic part of man’s history and freedom of choice, but to others, it’s time to remove it from any shared breathing space.
So the debate about when smoking crosses the line of a private right and becomes a public nuisance can still get heated in places like the Eagles Club and the Pizza Station.
Members inside the Eagles Club following the Health, Education and Welfare committee meeting Nov. 29 voiced concerns on both sides of the issue.
“The vast majority of the people who use the place are smokers,” Will Godbey said. “The nonsmokers, even when we have nonsmoking events, very few show up. They disappoint us, and I don’t know why.”
Godbey estimated that about 20 percent of the Eagles membership are nonsmokers and more than half are smokers with the remaining percentage either being okay with the smoke or indulging some of the time.
Eagles Club member Josh Holmes is one nonsmoker who said he is completely against the smoking ban.
“Smoking should be allowed 100 percent because it’s a club, number 1, and number 2, because it’s a small town,” he said. “The City of Skagway should have absolutely no say on whether there’s smoking in the clubs. It would hurt business along with charitable contributions to the community, because that’s what clubs do, raise money for charities.”
Holmes also said he believes banning smoking in bars would be rough on businesses such as the Pizza Station.
“Let’s not hurt the economy of Skagway all at once,” he said. “It would be better to take small steps.”
Eagles Club members and nonsmokers Judy and Howard Mallory who were inside the bar area watching a football game hold a completely different opinion.
“It should be nonsmoking all the way,” she said. “It has to be because it’s dangerous to our health. I’m only here tonight because I’m a 49ers fan. Howard’s here all the time but I don’t come very often because of the smoke.”
Howard Mallory said he believes more people would come to the club if it went nonsmoking.
“It’ll take about two weeks at the most for the smokers to come back,” he said. “And you’ll have more business in here than you’ve ever had.”
Both said they don’t believe the smoke-eaters and fans do much to alleviate the heavy smoke in the bar area of the Eagles Club and that smokers will eventually be required to go outside as at other private clubs in places such as Juneau and Anchorage.
“Smoking outside – that’s how they do it everywhere else,” Howard Mallory said. “I would be for a gazebo outside with some heat so they’re not standing outside in the snow and rain. But I consider smoking an infringement. If you violate the rights of anyone else, you forfeit your own.”
Another Eagles member sitting at the bar who would only identify himself as a former mayor of Liarsville pointed out that Alaska is the land of the individual where there’s kind of a ‘live free or die’ attitude.
Clint Smith, also an Eagles member watching the football game at the bar, is a smoker and is against the idea of the assembly passing a smoking ban ordinance.
“Government should not interfere with any private business whatsoever,” Smith said. “We don’t need more big brother and more laws. I would hate to see them enact an ordinance that doesn’t allow private establishments to decide for themselves. There are certainly businesses that have gone nonsmoking but that was their decision. They didn’t do it because the government said they had to, they did it because their clients want it.”
Elks Club President John Thomas said he’s taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the proposed smoking ban ordinance.
“We’re not going to have any changes right now,” Thomas said. “We’ve talked about it. Some members would like to see it stay the way it is, and quite a few would like to see it go non-smoking. We’re kind of split right now.”
Several days before the Nov. 29 HEW committee meeting, anti-government interference views were echoed at the bar at the Pizza Station – the main public smoking arena in the winter.
A volunteer firefighter and Skagway resident for the past four years, Chris Nohrenberg does not smoke but said it should be up to business owners to decide if they want to be smoke free – or not.
“I don’t believe there should be any mandate that the city or government should say, ‘You can’t do that,’” he said. “I don’t smoke, and I don’t like smoking, but I don’t like infringement on the rights of businesses and private places.”
He said a smoking ban violates the rights of property owners and business owners.
“It’s not my property,” Nohrenberg said. “I just come into the property to enjoy some beer and television. You’ve got your choices.”
Will Gaily, a Skagway resident for the past three years and a smoker playing pool at the Pizza Station, said he “disagrees completely” with the idea of a smoking ban in Skagway.
“There’s plenty of non-smoking places I don’t go already,” he said. “I don’t go to the Sweet Tooth at all.”
Skagway native Lee Holbn, also a smoker and Gaily’s pool partner, said he believes a smoking ban “is taking the freedom away from the people.”
Holbn also said he believes if a smoking ban is instituted, the municipality ought to be required to provide smoking shelters.
“I would appreciate a warm and heated smoking space for Alaskans,” he said. “It’s cold outside, and all of us are concerned about our health, even smokers. It works both ways.”
All three men expressed shock at the idea of smokers being required to move a certain number of feet away from the deck, patio or entrance of a restaurant or bar.
“To hell with that,” Gaily said. “That’s ridiculous.”
Library to apply for expansion grant
By GAYLE DEATON
Expanding the Skagway Library drew a number of supporters along with some questions about the potential cost at the Dec. 2 assembly meeting.
Librarian Julene Fairbanks told assembly members about the library’s current involvement in the predevelopment process with the Foraker Group, a consultant for non-profits. She also described the importance of seeking a 50 percent matching grant from the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development under the Library Construction and Major Expansion Matching Grant Program.
Fairbanks reminded assembly members that the comprehensive plan calls for a library expansion and that the conceptual plans have been completed. She encouraged them to pass resolution 10-34R authorizing participation in the grant program that has a January deadline.
Skagway School Superintendent Jeff Thielbar spoke in support of the assembly authorizing the 50 percent matching grant application.
“I encourage it as a representative of the schools,” Thielbar said. “It’s about the only resource for students for quiet study in the summertime. I hope you give it serious consideration.”
School board and library board member Joanne Korsmo also spoke in support of seeking the 50 percent matching grant in support of the library.
However, Mavis Henricksen addressed the assembly about what she said were some questionable aspects of the project.
“I feel this resolution says you’re going to go ahead with the project as it’s outlined which is close to a million dollar project,” Henricksen said. “I’m not saying the library couldn’t use an expansion. I just feel like it’s another Cadillac.”
Henricksen went on to explain that she believes Skagway has financed other “Cadillac” projects such as the school and the clinic that have come with high consumer tax price tags attached.
“I’m not saying we shouldn’t support it but at a million dollars, I think it’s really time to stop for a minute and think about things.”
John Tronrud also told the assembly he had a few reservations about the proposed library expansion.
“As a neighbor to the library, I’ve noticed there are some parking issues,” he said. “So, if we’re going to look at increasing the footprint of the library, we need to look at parking. With the vaulted ceilings, maybe it’s something that can be built up rather than out.”
Tronrud said he also wondered about the wisdom of spending a million dollars or more for the expansion.
“We’ve only got so many residents, and we’re doing okay as a community, but where does it all end?”
Assemblymen Tim Cochran and Dave Hunz agreed the cost per square foot of the expansion currently seems too high and suggested negotiating with the architect to bring some costs down before the project actually breaks ground in the future.
Mayor Tom Cochran said there was no reason why the library couldn’t go back to the architects and cut some costs. Assemblywoman Colette Hisman pointed out that the deadline for applying for the 50 percent matching grant was in January and asked Fairbanks if it would be possible to consider scaling back costs later in the project.
“We’re not locked into that design,” Fairbanks said, noting the architect was scheduled to make a public presentation of the expansion plans on Thursday, Dec. 9 at the library.
Assemblyman Mike Korsmo said projects such as the library expansion help keep the Skagway economy afloat in the winter.
“I kind of like the Cadillac projects,” Korsmo said. “Personally, I wish we had a few more. It might make this town more lively.”
Assemblyman Paul Reichert said he thought it was important to go ahead with the grant application.
“Right now, I think we need to go after this money,” he said.
The resolution authorizing participation in the matching grant program for the library construction and expansion passed with a 6-0 vote.
With approval to move forward with the grant applications, raising money for the expansion project will be critical to its success.
Librarian Julene Fairbanks and several board members learned some techniques involved in the correct way to raise funds for the building expansion project at a Nov. 30 teleconference presented by the Foraker Group.
The Foraker Group is a consulting agency for non-profit agencies and the Skagway Library is participating in its pre-development program at no cost.
Tips such as starting from inside your support group rather than immediately starting with community events aimed at raising funds from the public along with not breaking ground on the project until 90 percent of the necessary funds have been raised or pledged.
Laurie Wolf with the Foraker Group, said she’s seen many projects fail to raise enough funds to get off the ground because they approached fundraising in a haphazard manner.
“We’d be happy to connect the dots for you,” she said, “and serve as a reference point.” However, Wolf noted that the consulting group does not participate in the actual fundraising process or in the contacting of potential donors. The consultant’s role is to help with direction and advice on ideas and the best way for the board to manage the process.
Board members agreed to discuss some of the techniques Wolf presented in the teleconference and get back with her regarding their preferences on how to proceed.
FIRST SNOW, FIRST BLOW – Municipal worker Greg Kollasch blows snow off the boardwalks and onto the street for plows to move later after Skagway saw its first significant snowfall of the winter on Nov. 28. Alas, it stuck around for only a week. Jeff Brady
BOROUGH DIGEST (complete digest in print edition)
Appeal set for dog sled, bear tour facility
Charlotte Jewell requested that assembly members grant her request for an appeal of the recent approval of a second conditional use permit for Robert Murphy’s proposed sled dog demonstration and bear viewing habitat. The assembly, sitting as the Board of Adjustment, overturned his first application.
Jewell owns Jewell Gardens and is one of the three neighboring residents of the proposed bear-viewing habitat who filed an appeal after the Planning and Zoning Commission approved Murphy’s first application.
Murphy is the owner of Alaska Excursions and the chairman of the Planning and Zoning Committee although he recused himself from voting on both his original and revised proposals.
Neighbors had cited concerns such as noise, safety and water and sewer issues in their original appeals.
The Borough Assembly acting as Board of Adjustment at an Oct. 20 meeting overturned approval of the application in a 3-1 vote citing a lack of detailed information on Murphy’s original application.
Matt Deach, acting chairman of P & Z, said Murphy’s second application contained more details and answered many of the earlier concerns.
However, Jewell told assembly members she was out of town when the second P&Z meeting occurred where Murphy’s revised application received approval. She said that she had not been able to obtain a copy of the minutes from the meeting so she felt she had no choice but to appeal pending knowledge of what additional information Murphy may have offered to resolve her concerns about noise, water and soil safety, as well as safety of summer residents.
“Competition had nothing to do with it,” she explained after the meeting while the assembly was in executive session. “I welcome anyone wanting to open a restaurant out there.”
Jewell also said she believes the industrial zoning for the area should be reconsidered given the wide variety of uses of the property in the area which ranges from residential to commercial to industrial. She said she had to obtain five or six conditional use permits for Jewell Gardens and she knows of other businesses in the area that have had to do the same thing.
Murphy’s property is zoned industrial but his conditional use permit will allow for his proposed bear-viewing habitat to be located north of Jewell Gardens.
Municipal Clerk Emily Deach explained to the assembly that Permitting Officer Dave Van Dorn’s absence (stemming from an out of town training session coupled with an illness) has led to a delay in the minutes of the Nov. 4 P& Z meeting being transcribed and made available to the public.
The assembly agreed to hear Jewell’s appeal at its Jan 6 meeting as an agenda item. – GD
Amended standby pay resolution passes
The assembly passed an amended Resolution 10-32R, which sets a new rate for standby and on-call pay at $2 per hour. The new rate was needed for medical assistants at the clinic. One medical assistant at a time is on-call after hours to come in and assist medical providers in emergencies.
Previously, under the personnel policy, the medical assistants would have been paid minimum wage, the same as police officers who are on-call, but the clinic board and staff had recognized this would have been cost prohibitive.
The personnel policy committee had recommended that. in addition to the $2 per hour, any on-call shifts that extended beyond 8 hours would be paid a flat $25 or $35 per shift. However, clinic administrator Shelly Moss explained that, during a recent meeting of department heads, it was recommended to strike the extra-time flat rates as it would mean employees would be getting paid less an hour.
The assembly struck the extra-time flat rates from the resolution.
“I think it is fair,” said Mayor Tom Cochran. “I believe it was the consensus of department heads at that time.”
Assemblyman Dave Hunz also proposed striking other parts of the resolution relating to the availability of employees and sign-up sheets, saying it would be difficult to enforce. Those amendments also passed, but Hunz and assemblyman Tim Cochran said they had problems with the overall resolution being written for one department.
Assemblyman Mike Korsmo and the mayor said a lot of work had gone into making the resolution something all departments supported.
The resolution passed on a 4-2 vote. – JB
SCHOOL REPORT (complete digest in print edition)
O’Daniel named school business services director
At its Nov. 30 meeting, school board members voted unanimously to approve former Municipal Treasurer Cindy O’Daniel as the new director of school business services.
Superintendent Jeff Thielbar said there were two local applicants – both good applicants – but O’Daniel’s credentials prevailed.
She will replace Kathy Pierce who held the position for eight and a half years before submitting her resignation in October.
O’Daniel said she is looking forward to working at the school.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity to work there,” she said. “I do a lot of volunteer work with the youth in the community and I work with the volleyball team. My husband I have worked with the little league for a number of years. Basically, what it boils down to is I love to work with kids so the opportunity to work for the kids was very appealing to me.”
O’Daniel worked as treasurer for the city/borough for 10 and a half years before applying for the position of director of business services for Skagway School. She resigned the borough position as soon as she received word that she was top choice for the school job.
She said she believes the duties of her new position will be a lot like those she had as treasurer.
“The business manager job will have a few things that will be different such as dealing with contracts, but it will be similar,” she said.
Her first day will be Dec. 14 following a trek with the volleyball team to the regional and state tournaments.
Pierce’s last day will be Dec. 31.
New reading assessment test approved
Skagway students will soon have their reading ability measured three times a year in a new assessment test unanimously approved by the Skagway School Board at its Nov. 30 meeting. Superintendent Jeff Thielbar proposed implementing the new testing “to enhance academic achievement” of Skagway students.
The Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) assessment test was selected to obtain reading RIT scores three times a year making it possible to monitor student academic growth as well as the reading grade level of each student.
Thielbar pointed out in a presentation to the board that NWEA research indicates most students are actively learning to read through the third grade. After third grade, students should be “reading to learn” and essentially done with “learning how to read.”
A reading level score chart presented to the board from NWEA showed if a student has not mastered reading at grade level by third grade, he or she can still improve but will never catch up to the level of other graduating seniors who were reading at grade level by third grade.
“Reading is the most important education skill for success in college or the workplace,” Thielbar said. “We need to find a way to assess our kids to know where they are in reading and in math. It’s the difference between being a good school and a great school.”
NWEA states its mission as striving “to be a catalyst to create a world in which education adapts to the child, not vice versa. We believe in the power of accurate and comprehensive data to inform each child’s optimal learning path, and that educators armed with this information will do amazing things with it.”
Board members voted unanimously in favor of using the new assessment tests.
New ‘Wall of Fame’ named for Don Hather
Skagway parents, teachers and students want to honor Don Hather for his many years of service to the school and its students.
Hather, a retired teacher and former board member, has been active in volunteering his time in assisting students in activities for many years. A high school basketball tournament held each January is named in his honor.
Activities Director Becky Jensen told the board at the Nov. 30 meeting that several school personnel and community members had approached her asking her to suggest something be done to honor Hather at the upcoming tournament that bears his name.
Board members discussed ideas for honoring Hather that ranged from naming the gymnasium or parts of the gym for him to presenting him with an honorary plaque. Board members voted to go with Superintendent Theilbar’s suggestion of creating a “Wall of Fame” in Hather’s honor. The location of the “Hather Wall of Fame” will be near the gym.
Designing the criteria for establishing a method to honor individuals with plaques on the Don Hather Wall of Fame will be discussed at the next school board meeting set for Jan. 19.
In the meantime, Hather will be the first honoree inducted at the tourney scheduled for Jan. 7-9. – GD