The Long View

Long Bay on the way to Dyea is filled with pan ice on a snowy day in February. Dimitra Lavrakas

Snowed under
40 tickets rile residents


In a dramatic gesture at the City Council’s Feb. 8 meeting, Mayor Tim Bourcy ripped up a facsimile of the parking ticket issued to his step-daughter for parking hindering removal of snow.
Bourcy’s step-daughter, Ashley Law, was given the ticket on Jan. 30 and was on her way to school, when she saw Officer Ken Cox writing out the ticket. She told him she couldn’t move her car, and allegedly he said that was too bad, move it, and gave her the ticket.
It was only one of 38 tickets given out that day by the Skagway Police Department after five-and-a-half inches of snow fell. Sixty-seven warnings were issued and 12 letters were sent to certified owners about their vehicles hindering snow removal.
Interviewed the next day, Bourcy said he had decided to fight the ticket and take his step-daughter to court to show her how the legal system worked. He arrived at Skagway District Court at the time on the notice, and found the magistrate’s office closed for the month of February and no Police officers in the court. He wasn’t happy.
He called the tearing of the fake ticket “a symbolic gesture to express my feeling on the whole situation.”
Sgt. Brent Moody, acting chief while Police Chief Dennis Spurrier was away, was in the audience at the Council meeting.
Speaking the next day at the Police Department, Moody said he was disappointed by Bourcy’s action and concerned about Cox’s.
“There are times when our customer isn’t always right,” said Moody. “None of us want that kind of behavior. Officers are human, you don’t have chimpanzees out there in uniform.”
Moody said the impetus for ticketing was watching a mother and her child walking after a snowfall and seeing the potential for an accident.
The Police Department did run a public service announcement in the Skagway News in late December, PSAs on KHNS and posted notices about town, said Moody and Police Chief Dennis Spurrier on his return to town this week.
“The process started Dec. 9 of last year,” Spurrier said about the campaign to make people aware of the problem.
As for not having any officers in the court, Spurrier said they only appear if the person ticketed files a notice with the court about contesting the ticket. Spurrier also said his department didn’t know the magistrate was gone until two days before the court date.
At the meeting, Councilmember Mike Korsmo, said he had reports from people that officers’ approach is “fairly aggressive.”
“If there is so much time on their hands, maybe they can go door-to-door,” Korsmo said. “This is not a high crime area. We need a better plan (for snow removal times) and a better attitude.”
Korsmo said he thought the town should be more like Mayberry in the “Andy Griffith Show,” a TV show about a small town Police force.
Councilmember Dan Henry said perhaps a plowing schedule should be posted.
“Exempt the rest of town except for State Street (a state road) and if you get shoveled in, you have to shovel out,” said Councilmember J. Frey.
Resident Tom Cochran said he was an advocate of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
“Public Works should just plow you in, and you have to dig out,” he said.
He referred to the Police Department as being “over zealous.”
More than attitude or law, the situation ultimately lies with Mother Nature.
Councilmembers agreed, while the state statute is clear, snow falls are not. Where street cleaning can be scheduled, plowing is totally unpredictable.
“No person may stop, park or leave standing a vehicle, whether attended or unattended, upon or within eight feet of a roadway, except where the roadway is of sufficient width and design to allow parking without interfering with the normal flow of traffic or with snow removal or other highway maintenance...,” reads the statue.
“If that’s the law we adopted from the state,” Bourcy said, “it doesn’t translate into our small valley.”
And the whole situation is compounded by the number of vehicles and boat trailers left on the street by seasonal workers as well as those just plain abandoned.
The Council voted unanimously to suspend enforcement of the law dealing with hinderance of snow removal on city streets north of Seventh Avenue to the Skagway Bridge and to forgive the tickets issued. A meeting will be scheduled between the Civic Affairs Committee, Department of Public Works and the Council to look at the snow removal ordinance and translate it into a workable one for town.
The ticketing has caused some to again raise the question of why the city has four officers on duty in the winter – the time when there is the least crime. The same questions were asked by the Council in 1998.
In 1998, the Council was told by City Manager Bob Ward that the overtime paid for fewer officers was more costly than hiring four.
There is also the “burn-out” factor, Moody said.
Moody said four are needed because officers are so busy during the six-month tourist season that they do not take vacation, leave or training time. That all happens in the winter.
“Our work carries on well into winter because of cases left over from the summer,” Moody said, hefting a large file of an investigation he just completed. “We haven’t been a four-person staff since summer.”
“The Chief can’t fix a problem if people don’t tell him about it,” he said.
As for the mass ticketing, Bourcy said he thought it was “pointless, it served no real purpose,” but doesn’t fault the officers for doing their job.
“Although it will devise new policies and that’s a benefit,” Bourcy said.

All together now
Pool, senior housing, new clinic may apply for joint funding

We just might get it all. The pool, a new clinic and senior housing could be funded jointly, says Cindie Law, business manager for the Skagway Medical Clinic.
The Senior Task Force, the Rec. Center Board and the Skagway Medical Corp. met Monday to hear Law present a grant proposal for all entities to be included in a so-called “campus” project.
Because all of the projects could possibly share the Rec. Center site, Law said she can write a grant that would encompass all three projects, and that funding agencies look more favorably on such projects.
But first things first – everyone has to agree.
A meeting was scheduled for Wednesday between the Rec. Board and the Senior Task Force to decide if they were willing to participate. The Skagway News was already on its way to Whitehorse when the meeting was scheduled. A meeting of the Rec. Board is scheduled for today at the Rec. Center at 4 p.m.
Law said the initial funding from the Denali Commission for planning and a survey is not a matching grant, and would be covered 100 percent. In order to apply for it, she has to write it by Feb. 27 – the main reason for the other players to meet as soon as possible.
The Denali Commission is a federal and state partnership established by Congress in 1998 to provide critical utilities in infrastructure and economic support throughout Alaska.
According to information off its Web site, the commission focuses on energy, health care facilities, training, intergovernmental coordination, other infrastructures, economic development, telecommunications, and washeterias.
“It’s fortunate that we picked this time to push for better medical services in Skagway,” said Frank Wasmer, president of the Skagway Medical Corp. board.
Also, Law said, the commission looked more favorably on projects that have widespread community support.
Law said there is a grant application timeline to follow with the Denali Commission for the entire project.
The construction grant is funded on a 60/40 split with the city or another funding source contributing the 40 percent. The land donated by the city would be factored in as part of the city’s contribution.
Margaret Burnham, Senior Task Force member, said they envisioned 14 units – some would be two bedrooms, some one bedrooms, a meeting room and a library. Burnham also suggested Law go for more than the proposed $100,000 because the senior housing project planning alone was estimated at $80-$100,000.
Law said it was good that long-term units were included in the proposal, because the clinic might need one for, say, 10 days of intravenous therapy, and because the clinic has to become a hospital. For one day.
To become the critical access facility they want it to be, the clinic must first become a critical access hospital and hire doctors for at least one day too.
But Law said all the details were getting ahead of what she needed to know – should she write it or not?
Mayor Tim Bourcy reminded people that the city could not take on any more capital projects with sales tax revenues an unknown this coming season. He said he had sat in on a Denali Commission work session recently and said for the commission, one of the big issues was the sustainability of the project.
“This is a massive project, not everything will be done at one time,” said Bourcy. “Don’t get discouraged.”

Investment policy for land fund set at 40 percent
Could rise to 60 percent by 2003
Percentage numbers flew up and down, back and forth across the table in lively debate when the Skagway City Council discussed the ordinance on the Land Fund investment policy at its Feb. 7 meeting.
Residents John Tronrud, Tom Cochran and Bert Bounds rose to caution the Council on the 60 percent equity investment.
“Sixty percent was the number received from the investor groups,” said Mayor Tim Bourcy, referring to the companies that gave presentations on investment strategies for the city. The council can set the yearly goal. I feel confident the way the ordinance is.”
But not Councilmember J. Frey.
Frey remembered the time when a bad investment decision cost the city half a million dollars from junk bonds, and offered an amendment that any investment advisor be licensed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which passed unanimously.
Frey then offered an amendment to raise the investment percentage over the next few years from 20 to 40 to 60 percent.
Several councilmembers said the fund is primarily an investment fund and has not been touched over the years except for specific reasons.
The vote would be the first of two tied votes of the evening.
Councilmembers Frey, Collette Hisman, and Dave Hunz voted yes, and Dan Henry, Mike Korsmo and Stan Selmer voted no.
Bourcy broke the tie by voting no, and the motion failed.
Selmer offered an amendment to start the percentage at 40 percent until July 1, 2003, when it could go up to 60 percent depending on a public hearing and council approval. The amendment passed 5-1, with Henry voting no.
As the council turned to vote on the main motion on the ordinance, it tied once again with Hunz, Hisman and Selmer voting yes, and Frey, Korsmo and Henry, no. Bourcy voted yes and the ordinance passed its third and final reading. –DL

Bounds awarded contract, rejects it
H&H gets award from city manager
The council awarded Bert Bounds, owner of Bounds Electric, the contract for the Fire Hall Bay Four remodel on a bid of $54,498 at the council’s Feb. 7 meeting.
On Tuesday, Bounds said he decided not to accept the contract. Bounds said he was not aware of the liquidated damages of $1,000 a day if he did not complete the job by April 1.
On the advice of his lawyer, he didn’t sign.
“I was going to use all local folks,” he said of the subcontractors he had lined up.
Bounds said he called the manufacturer of the main component for the electrical job and they said it would take four weeks to get here. He said he didn’t think he could have made the deadline.
“It’s the same contract we’ve used for years,” said City Manager Bob Ward. “I talked to Bert earlier in the day and said if he ordered something that didn’t arrive on time, we wouldn’t hold it against him.”
Ward said the bid packets in the future would have information about the liquidated damages.
“That term in the contract doesn’t mean the clock starts ticking right away,” Ward said. “If you look back at our construction projects, we rarely assess damages.”
As the next lowest bidder Hunz & Hunz Enterprises, at $56,499, accepted the contract. Dave Hunz, owner of Hunz & Hunz and city councilmember, said the liquidated damages clause was in previous contracts he’s had with the City.
Bounds said he questioned if Hunz should automatically get the contract without it going back to the council.
“In a perfect world it should go back to the council, but then the April 1 deadline would be moot,” Ward said. “The council has been apprised and if they want to pull the plug, they can.”
But on Wednesday, Bounds said he didn’t refuse the contract “officially,” and that the contract with Hunz was signed before the council was told of Ward’s decision.
“I am, by law, forbidden to poll the council,” said Ward Wednesday morning. “I don’t believe we have to go back to the council for every decision. We are a city manager form of government.
“If Bert didn’t think he could complete the project by April, he shouldn’t have bid.”
Hunz was offered the contact, Ward said, and he called the city attorney who advised him to write a letter to Bounds with the specifics of their conversation in it and send it certified mail.
The other bidders were: Silver Bow Construction of Juneau, $100,360 and Heger Construction, $59,598. – DL


• Alpine Club revival

• New footbridge preferred to widening highway bridge

• SHS basketball at mid-season

• The Senior Season, part two: "The Travelin' Man"

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