Pooch Smooch

The Southeast Alaska Veterinary Clinic came to tow for two days the week of Feb. 26. Lilliy, one local resident, shows her appreciation as DVM Barb Deyell checks her heart. Dimitra Lavrakas

Gas line meeting raises questions

In the end, voters will decide whether to pay for improved docks

A rather raucous town meeting led one member of the Gas Pipeline Committee to flee from the discord and others to batter public officials over the four concepts to expand dock space to serve the proposed North Slope pipeline project and future freight movement.
About 30 Skagwayans attended Tuesday night’s town meeting and gave officials a piece of their minds.
Paul Taylor of R & M Engineering in Juneau presented the four alternatives for the city, ranging in cost from $14 million to $29 million, that would modify existing docks or the creation of new docks. Three of the four would involve some negotiation with White Pass for work on the existing tidelands lease the company has with the city.
“The plans are presented with ‘do no harm’ – not hurting cruise ships in any way or the present activities on the docks,” said Taylor. “We propose a very aggressive schedule. We’ll try to have a dock available in three years.”
White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad President Fred McCorriston said there seemed to be a conflict with what Taylor was saying about the urgency of the project, and what Economic Development Commission director Candice Wallace said earlier in the meeting about moving ahead slowly.
McCorriston said spending up to $60 million of the city’s money (over the length of a bonding period) on a proposal of “build it and they will come,” was “insane.”
“A four cruise ship day is a real killer that’s a concept from City Council members,” said McCorriston. “Are you being honest with the community and saying that would mean a fifth cruise ship (would be needed to pay for a new facility)?"
City Manager Bob Ward stepped in and said that McCorriston was asking Taylor to defend more than what he was asked by the commission to do.
McCorriston said that the 40,000 pieces of pipe envisioned to come through Skagway could be brought in on the existing facilities in fall, winter and spring.
“I’m just stunned at this carefree spending of funds...you’ll break this town,” he said.
Ed Fairbanks cautioned the committee that the first step of any project is determining where the need is.
“The City of Skagway never runs any numbers,” said Fairbanks, referring to the incinerator and the McCabe Building renovation and addition.
“Paul does not make the city’s decision,” said Sharon Bolton, a member of the committee. “Questions should be addressed to Bob (Ward).”
However, the Gas Pipeline Committee is a subcommittee of the Economic Development Commission, has three City Councilmembers on it – Dave Hunz, Stan Selmer and Colette Hisman – and makes recommendations to the City Council directly.
At this point, Fairbanks and Taylor began to talk over each other, and Hisman asked that they speak one at a time. Later, after another interruption by Fairbanks, she left the meeting shaking her head.
Councilmember Tim Bourcy said, from the audience, that he commended Taylor for the work he had done on the project. Bourcy added that he has been a skeptic all along about the pipeline project, and has concerns about the cost.
“The route for this gas pipeline has not been studied. Politics don’t matter, economics do matter,” he said. “Can we generate $29 million out of this project within two years, and the answer is ‘no.’”
Bourcy said he wasn’t sure if building new facilities to deal with future mineral shipments from Canada would make sense either.
In order to pay for the project, voters would have to approve a bond issue, and Ward said “you know how that goes.” He said the end result could be “just two new bollards on the ferry dock.”
Barbara Kalen had concerns about flood control if a new dock was built at the mouth of the Skagway River west of the ore terminal.
Candice Wallace, EDC coordinator, said the reason to have public meetings about the project was to base a decision on factual data and what’s good for the community.
“Candi, fact is a good word, but I don’t see any facts here in this document (prepared for the meeting),” said Bourcy. “It seems more like speculation.”
“These may be grandiose ideas,” added Mike O’Daniel. “In politics things usually move like a glacier, but this is going MACH I.”
Taylor pointed out that building in water needs more of a lead time for planning and construction than something built on land.
Ward said that all parties that use the waterfront would need to be a partner in any project to enhance the waterfront.
Alvin Gordon suggested the existing docks could be used at night when cruise ships aren’t tied up.
The debate continued for nearly two hours, with Mayor John Mielke sounding off toward the end in support of a continuing dialog.
“The last big issue in Skagway was when (mining interests) wanted to build another ore dock and move the Small Boat Harbor to Long Bay,” said the mayor from the audience. “The people in Skagway make the right choices...This project is not decided, the voters will decide that...”
Throughout the meeting, one theme seemed to be the question of why didn’t Taylor or the city meet first with White Pass & Yukon Route principals and other dock users like Alaska Marine Lines. Under the timeline proposed by Taylor, meeting with White Pass on the tidelands lease is the next step.
McCorriston invited city officials to come down to his office to discuss port issues, and even told Ward later that the company had some of their own drawings to look at.
However, it was reiterated by White Pass and city officials that tidelands lease questions raised recently are a separate issue.
After the meeting, McCorriston said White Pass has been in contact with Foothills Pipeline Co., which holds the right-of-way through the Yukon for the proposed Alaska Highway Pipeline route.
“When anything happens, they’ll talk to us,” McCorriston said. “They know the harbor and know where to direct the inquiries.”
The council has directed R&M to develop negotiating points with White Pass, and a flow chart with various options to help the council decide where to proceed if the negotiations succeed or fail.

Pioneer road bill passes House

Juneau legislator still wants to see way out of town for pleasure drives

A bill has passed the State House that would establish a Legislative Pioneer Road Development Task Force to look at existing “pioneer” or dirt roads in the state and potential roads to promote future economic development.
It was sponsored by Rep. Norman Rokeberg, R-Anchorage.
“The Representative was on the (legislative) Special Committee on Economic Development and Tourism, and roads were discussed during committee meetings, and (the idea) was suggested by miners and others living out in that area,” said Janet Seitz, Rokeberg’s legislative aide, by phone from Juneau.
On the bill’s list of roads, number 22 is a road from Juneau to Atlin, British Columbia.
“That was at Rep. (Bill) Hudson’s request,” said Seitz. “He worked on the bill last year and this year. Again, that was another road some had suggested. It doesn’t mean it will built, but that it will be looked at.”
Hudson, a proponent of a road from Juneau to Skagway or any possible road out of Juneau, acknowledged it was his idea.
“It was. I was talking to Sen. Torgerson (R-Kasilof) several months ago and he was going to put in a piece of legislation to study the practicability of putting in pioneer or dirt roads in Alaska,” Hudson said by phone from Juneau.
“‘What are you going to look at?’ I asked, and he said ‘Everywhere except Southeast,’ and he named other areas. ‘Do you have anything down in Southeast?’ he asked. ‘Why don’t you put on the list the old road up Taku Inlet,’ I said.”
Hudson said a right-of-way has been set aside for the Taku route for 30 or 40 years. It was the only road option he said he could think of out of Juneau, given the resistance of Skagway and Haines to a road route along Lynn Canal.
Hudson represents District 4 in north Juneau, and he said his district voted in a recent advisory election to approve the road alternative up Lynn Canal to Skagway. However all of Juneau-Douglas voted against it, favoring fast ferries like Skagway and Haines.
“The desire (for a road out of Juneau) is there for my constituents,” he said.
Hudson said the Tulsequah Chiefs Mine in British Columbia, if approved to go into operation, could use the road to transport ore to tidewater.
“I did not put this road on this study with any signal of support for that project (Tulsequah Chiefs Mine),” he said. “If Juneau is ever going to get a road out of here it would have to be out of Taku or nevermore.”
But Hudson still thinks the Juneau Access Environmental Impact Statement, with its preferred alternative of a road to Skagway, should have proceeded.
“It’ll never happen without Gov. Knowles’ release of money for the EIS,” he said. “Many of us last year, felt we were so vested into the EIS that we needed to proceed on, but the governor pretty much put the kibosh on it. That’s why many of us didn’t support it (proposed fast ferry system for Southeast).”
Also, he said, the governor’s GARVEE package would have committed money here for years to come, and that would take away the opportunity of future legislators make decisions on changes in the Southeast transportation situation. GARVEE bonds or grant anticipation revenue vehicle bonds would be sold by the state and would be repaid by federal transportation funds.
As a former head of the Alaska Marine Highway System, he said his heart is with the conventional ferries, and said that was another reason he shied away from supporting Bob Doll’s high-speed ferry concept for the region. Doll is Southeast director for the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and also a former head of the AMHS.
“Our concepts are coming closer,” he said. “Any time you parallel a road with a ship, you’re absorbing costs.”
He wants to see a ferry terminal at Cascade Point up the road from Juneau with public transportation into Juneau.
More than a terminal, Hudson wants a road to alleviate the isolation Juneauites feel.
“We’re really hide-bound here, we can’t move,” he said. “I sit on Saturday mornings with my wife having coffee and say, ‘Wish we could take a little ride.’ It’s the ability to come to other places where there are other attractions.
“Even if it was in the summer alone, it would be worth it to my constituents to have access,” Hudson said.
The bill passed the House 30-6 on Feb. 14, and Hudson voted for it. Among those opposing it were Juneau’s other representative, Beth Kerttula, who told the Juneau Empire that fishermen in her district believe a Taku road would damage a valuable fishery and possibly hamper salmon treaty relations with Canada.
HB8 moved on to the Senate, where it was referred to the Senate Transportation Committee.

Board rehires James Telles

Hosford hired, additional office position put on hold

At a special meeting on March 6, the Skagway School Board announced they would retain James Telles, acting superintendent. His salary and length of contract are still being negotiated.
“It costs close to $3,000 to post this position, and we didn’t want to waste the school’s funding. James is doing an excellent job,” said Dorothy Brady, board member.
The board also decided to put aside a decision on posting the assistant business manager’s position until there is a clear need for the position after Beryl Hosford takes over the business manager position. The school must change its administrative costs in order to fall under the state’s guidelines that 70 percent of school monies goes towards student instruction.

Hosford, the current assistant bookkeeper, was recently hired by the board to take the place of Marsha Berry, who retires on June 30.

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