Lobbying for Good

City of Skagway lobbyist Jan Wrentmore makes a point at the meeting of the Skagway, Haines and Juneau Chambers of Commerce on Jan. 20 at Haines' American Bald Eagle Foundation. Photo by Dimitra Lavrakas

Southeast super powers meet in Haines

Meeting defines concerns and possible solutions

HAINES – “The collective strength of our chambers help shape public policy – the strength comes from you,” said Rick Kaloostian, president of the Haines Chamber of Commerce in his opening remarks at a combined meeting of the Haines, Skagway and Juneau Chamber of Commerces.
If you dragged a net down Lynn Canal you probably couldn’t have come up with a more diverse bunch of people to make the discussion lively and challenging.
What followed was approximately seven hours of questions and discussion about the state of this part of Southeast. From fast ferries to the Yukon – it was discussed.
Although fast ferries got a lot of attention, what really seemed to capture the imagination of attendees was the proposed gas pipeline from the North Slope. Preparing for its possible route down the Alaska Highway and near the three cities, participants discussed the array of opportunities for jobs and actually having natural gas as a possible fuel source in their own homes.
Juneau’s Murray Walsh said he’d like to see reciprocal hunting and fishing licenses between Alaska and British Columbia and the Yukon. He seemed frustrated with the bureaucracy of the border.
“You can’t rent a car in one country and drive it into the next,” Walsh said.
On the upcoming redistricting, City of Skagway lobbyist Jan Wrentmore, said if Skagway was to lose a representative it would be better to put the city in the same district as North Douglas, and not Kodiak as it is now.
“We have a better alliance with North Douglas than with Kodiak,” she said.
Ted Quinn of Juneau brought up the vastness of the state and the need for all Alaskans to know what’s going on in other parts of the state. He pointed to the urban/rural split in the Legislature.
“We need to be one Alaska, we need to know the big issues,” Quinn said.
Win Gruening of the Alaska Committee, an anti-capital move group in Juneau, talked about the introduction of a bill in the Legislature that would move legislative sessions to Anchorage.
“In Juneau, we see the legislative move as a back door capital move,” Gruening said. “We (Juneau) has always enjoyed your support in the past and hope to enjoy it in the future.”
The next meeting will be in Juneau and is tentatively set for March 17.

Haines-based inquiry into annexation of Skagway causes uproar

Skagway files its petition to form a borough

It caused quite a flap, but it may be only a hint of what could come.
Haines Borough Assemblyman Terry Pardee and Borough Mayor Jerry Lapp recently asked their lands manager, Dan Turner, to call the Local Boundary Commission and look into annexing Skagway, Gustavus and Glacier Bay.
As part of its Model Borough Boundaries Act, the state now requires that unorganized areas in the state incorporate to form boroughs for distributing funds and delivering services. A study was done in 1990, and the area considered appropriate geographically and economically for this area consisted of Haines, Skagway, Gustavus and Glacier Bay. But until now, no one has pushed for it, citing the economic and social differences between the communities.
When word of the request blew up the canal to Skagway, there was outrage, followed by a wave of apologies.
“Haines has a struggling economy, and this is sort of the Genghis Khan approach to economic development,” said City Manager Bob Ward at the Jan. 16 Skagway Chamber of Commerce meeting.
Ward attended the Haines Borough Assembly meeting that night and said the discussion about annexation came up at the end of the meeting and was never a formal agenda item. No action was taken by the Assembly. In fact, Pardee was chastised by fellow members for not taking up the issue initially before the full Assembly before making his request, Ward reported to city councilmembers on Jan. 18.
Acting City of Haines Mayor Chip Lende responded with a letter to Mayor John Mielke, who is out of town, saying Haines’ city government wouldn’t take any action, and that now is not the time for the two cities to have anything divisive come up as there are issues they are working on together.
At the joint meeting of the Haines, Skagway and Juneau Chambers of Commerce in Haines last Saturday, the subject never came up in any public discussions. Skagway residents, however, did have Haines people come up to them and apologize for the incident.
Pardee was at the meeting briefly, and when asked why he decided to look into annexation, he said he had no comment.
The City of Skagway had already written a petition to become a borough with Dyea, but was waiting for some updated numbers after the last general election. The petition was at City Hall for residents to sign last year.
It was sent off the to the state Local Boundary Commission at the end of last week with 59 signatures, more than what was required.
The City Council also voted to write a letter to both the City of Haines and Haines Borough asking for their support of Skagway’s petition.
If the commission says there are any insufficiencies in the application, the city will try to address them and resubmit the application. There is a period of public comment for 13 weeks after the city gives notification the petition was filed, and the city could hold an informational public meeting. The Department of Community and Economic Development (the commission comes under this state department) will hold a public meeting, then prepare a draft and a final recommendation, and send the petition to the boundary commission.
A 30-day notice of the a hearing is given, and the commission holds a hearing and makes a decision.
If approved, an election would have to be held within 90 days for registered Skagway voters to approve the borough formation.
A copy of the 50-paper petition can be viewed at City Hall or the library.
Ward told councilmembers there is risk in Skagway petitioning to become a borough, but it is worth a shot.
“If we are unsuccessful, then the gloves are off for the Legislature to follow up with incorporating us in the Haines Borough as part of the Model Borough Boundaries act,” he said. “But we may as well take our best shot to prevent that action from happening.”

Perhaps a great notion

Gas pipeline committee meets and considers new dock

The proposed North Slope gas pipeline project has sprung Skagway’s Economic Development Commission into action. At the first meeting of its Gas Pipeline Committee on Jan. 17, EDC Director Candice Wallace urged members to be proactive in reaping as much benefit for Skagway as possible from the anticipated boom.
One route may be to make Skagway a free trade zone in order to deal with trans-boundary questions about employment and shipping.
“We’re losing a lot of freight to Edmonton,” she said.
I think Skagway can compete for 300 miles of the pipeline,” said Paul Taylor, who is now the city’s engineer for capital projects. He said he thought Skagway could handle shipping of the pipe needed for that amount of pipeline.

REMEMBER WHEN - A White Pass and Yukon Route train carries a test section of pipe across the bridge near Glacier Station in April 1981. Foothills Pipeline Co., which still has the right-of-way permit for a natural gas pipeline through the Yukon along the Alaska Highway, came here in the early 1980s to test the railroad for use as a pipe hauler. The WP&YR hauled freight full-time until it shut down in October 1982. It reopened as a tourist railroad in 1988. File photo by Jeff Brady

Aside from the number of questions needing to be answered about housing, public and private services to serve the number of people expected, the really big question is what to do about the dock situation if the gas is shipped from Skagway, or if dock space is needed to supply the pipeline.
With the City Council’s $25,000 nod to the engineer position (see city digest), Taylor was able to show a drawing of the existing dock facilities with additional dock space figured in.
After looking at potential room for growth, one possibility is to extend the Ore Dock or another dock to be built out onto the tidelands to the west of the Ore Dock, alongside the Skagway River.
Committeemember Tom Cochran, a former cruise line agent, said the cruise ships don’t want any other ships docking near the Broadway Dock.
“The cruise ships are using that whole (ore) terminal dock three days out of the week,” said committe member Sharon Bolton.
Wallace said that the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority told her the ore facility is falling apart, and it’s thinking of either tearing it down or replacing it.
“Look at how it would affect Skagway, tourism, ore shipments” said Taylor. “If we can move expeditiously by the time the boom hits, we’ll have money to pay for improvements.”
“This is a legacy project, so we’ll have something to show for this project,” said City Manager Bob Ward.
No decision was made about the dock situation, and any proposal would have to meet with City Council approval.

Baby Jesus returned, but left at wrong church

“I once was lost, but now I’m found.” - hymn “Amazing Grace”

A lot of people went looking for Jesus after the front-page article appeared Jan. 12 with the picture of the empty manger in front of the Skagway Assembly of God Church.
Last week, He was found - along the alley behind another church in town.
On Jan. 18, Robb Johnson saw the doll just off the alley, on the lawn between the Mormon Church and the clinic, four blocks north of the Assembly of God.
Johnson, a former police officer, lives across the alley and also attends the Mormon Church.
“Someone chucked it over there,” Johnson said. “It probably got put there that day. It was the first time I noticed it and I drive that alley 10 times a day.”
Johnson’s wife, Mindy, took the Baby Jesus to work with her at Klothes Rush Gifts, and they called Assembly of God minister Steve Smith.
Rev. Smith picked the doll up, and said it wasn’t damaged. By early this week he had the manger set up again with Baby Jesus back in His usual spot.
“I think someone picked Him up and just took Him to the wrong address,” Rev. Smith said.
Smith thanked the community, adding a little message.
“A lot of people went looking for Baby Jesus, and I hope everyone in town found Him.” – JEFF BRADY

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