BIG RED COMES TO TOWN

The Skagway Volunteer Fire Department’s brand new fire engine arrived on the barge at 2:30 a.m. Sept. 21. The Pierce engine came from Wisconsin and cost $350,000. The city saved more than $20,000 on the cost of the engine by locking into a price and paying for it before it was manufactured. “It’s got all the bells and whistles,” said Fire Chief Martin Beckner. “Our old one has lasted 30 years and this one should too.” Photo by Dimitra Lavrakas

Clinic in Crisis?

Administrator resigns citing health reasons

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
After just about a year on the job, Cindie Law, the Skagway Medical Clinic administrator, has resigned. A meeting of the Skagway Medical Board of Directors at the Skagway Police Department Sept. 9 accepted her resignation with a 90-day notice, 4-1, but effective immediately.
Law cited health problems relating to stress from the job as one reason she quit.
“I felt like I did my best to get the clinic on ground, but that stuff is just too deep,” she said. “I don’t know if they’ll ever find their way out.”
Exactly why the situation at the clinic is difficult, is something the public may never know. Frank Wasmer, president of the board, and board member John Mielke declined to speak, saying they could not comment on personnel matters.
“It’s a temporary crisis,” said Wasmer. “As with most things in the past I’ve worked with that are negative, you just keep at it working it through. It’s not the most difficult thing I have ever seen.”
Law was due to go out to an Alaska Housing Finance Affordable Housing Workshop for senior and special needs housing pre-development funding Sept. 20. Not going possibly put senior housing funding in peril because she is listed as the administrator of the grant, she said. But Wasmer said administrators change and the grants still go on.
Among the accomplishments Law said she achieved while in the job: retrieval of $600,000 from the Rural Health Network Grant that was due to be returned because the money had not been used; a $100,000 Denali grant for the “campus” project involving the Senior Center, the clinic and the Rec. Center; a Code Blue grant for $7,800 for new examination tables and lights; On the Job Training grant for $23,000; a Wells Fargo grant for $500; wrote a Tobacco Education grant for $650,000 which will be decided on in October; regained Medicare and Medicaid rights so the clinic could collect fees form those entities; contracted billing and saved half the cost of having in-house billing; refunded errors in billing that could have had the clinic’s license pulled; corrected the tax code used for payroll that had occurred for four years; extended clinic hours for convenience and more revenue; saved $1,200 a month by having the labs bill clients; got a doctor to visit every month at their expense instead of paying $300 for one to come; clinic was in the black for three months; got the Railroad Retirement Injury Board to allow the clinic to do disability evaluations at $550 each.
When asked why the meeting was held at the Police Station, Wasmer said it was a meeting place they had used “from time to time.”
Clinic by-laws, adopted in 1997, state that meetings have to be “posted no less than three days in advance in at least two public places within the city limits, and otherwise announced as can best be determined to reach the maximum number of members as possible.” However, the by-laws go on to say that “no irregularity in giving notice of a meeting shall invalidate such meeting.”
It also reads: “Notice of any meeting of the Board of Directors may be waived in writing signed by the Director entitled to such notice, whether before or after the time of such meeting, and shall be equivalent to the giving of such notice. Attendance of a Director at such meeting shall constitute a waiver of notice thereof, except when a director attends a meeting for the express purpose of objecting to the transaction of any business, because such meeting is not lawfully convened. Neither the business to be transacted at, nor the purpose of, any meeting of the board of Directors need to be specified in the notice, waiver of notice, of such meeting.”
Essentially, this means the board does not have to inform the public of what it does or when it does it. There is nothing in the by-laws that call for regular board meetings.
The annual election of directors is set for mid-October, and ballots should be in the mail soon for Skagway Medical Corp. members, Wasmer said.

White proposal put off until Oct. 3

Plans now show a museum on 7th Ave.

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
Dr. Bob White of Juneau came before the City Council again with a new plan to beautify Veterans’ Memorial Park across from City Hall. The Council approved entering a Memorandum of Agreement with White last year to partner with White 50/50 in making improvements to the park and maintaining it. The Council listened to White, but deferred a decision on his plan until the Oct. 3 meeting.
At the Sept. 19 meeting, he arrived with a landscape drawing he said was done by two landscape designers who came to Skagway. The drawing showed the Seventh Avenue boardwalk extended around to Spring Street, and then part-way down the alleyway toward Broadway. There is no indication on the plan how the boardwalk will span Pullen Creek.
Last March, White came before the Council with a plan for a museum and a sculpture garden on his property at the corner of Eighth and Spring. This time, that site indicated just a sculpture garden and a gift shop. Another site plan, which was not discussed at the meeting, showed his museum now on Seventh between the old Selmer property and the Brena property. It is called the Alaskan Historical Museum.
Judy Selmer, widow of the late Oscar Selmer, said Tuesday that she has sold the parcel to White for $110,000.
“It just seemed the right thing to do,” Selmer said. “I have a favorite picture of Oscar that I pray to and he has twinkly eyes in it, and when I prayed to him about it he seemed even twinklier.”
She said she had the papers looked at by a fellow Baha’i who is a real estate agent, who said that it was a generous offer and what was most unusual was that the buyer paid for the fees usually assumed by the seller. White has purchased a fifth wheel for her to live in in the summer, she said.
She sold the land, she said, because the rules and regulations on building a house were too complicated, and that this way there might be room for a memorial to Oscar in either the museum or the sculpture park.
In a letter to the Council dated Sept. 12, White said he had walked the stream with Carl Schrader, habitat biologist for the state Department of Fish and Game, to discuss what has to be done to ensure the stream and the fish in it are not disturbed.
When asked about the meeting, Schrader said it occurred six months ago, and that basically what he told White was that he wanted to see as much of the overhanging vegetation left in the stream for fish habitat and the banks replanted with willows. The state doesn’t have a set-back requirement for fish streams, that’s something the city can pass, Schrader said by phone from Douglas.
“I’m still uncomfortable with it (White’s proposal), we just like people to leave the creekside alone” said Schrader by phone. “My impression is there isn’t enough room back there to do diddly.”
White’s plan is to aerate, level and re-seed the park, and create tree wells around all established trees; add the boardwalk; add benches along the boardwalk so people can watch the salmon spawn; create a sculpted, raised bed in the middle of the park and add a triangular flower box in the back corner of the park; prune and trim existing trees, remove trash from the stream, and place a bear-proof receptacle next to the bench at the south corner.
White also proposes to enlarge the Seventh Avenue culvert and restore the stream along the park. All work would be done in accordance with ADF&G regulations – although this is contingent on getting a permit, White wrote.
White told the Council that “everything I propose you’d have to approve.”
White has presented plans to the City since 1996 when he first proposed moving the Mollie Walsh sculpture from Mollie Walsh Park and move the Quonset Hut and memorial stone. In 1999, he proposed that Mollie Walsh Park be the site of his sculpture garden. That proposal was dropped in October 2000 with White citing the City’s lack of interest in the project at the time.
At the Council meeting, White said the Quonset hut and the memorial stone would be the sole responsibility of the City Museum, and White would have responsibility of the grounds.
In his written proposal to the City, White wrote that the Museum Board’s proposal to create a 10-foot buffer zone around the hut and the stone and erect a six-foot fence across the front of his property on Eighth would effectively “‘landlock’ my property and destroy its commercial value and create a ‘restraint of trade issue.’ I am completely confident the City would never consider such a misguided action.”
White’s plans for the sculpture garden and gift shop on Eighth indicate a 12-foot high metal wall around his property.
He writes that the board objects because his museum and sculpture garden would impact attendance at the City Museum. White disagrees, saying that attendance will rise for both venues because his properties and the museum will complement each other.
“It is unfortunate that the Museum doesn’t comprehend this fundamental principle of marketing,” wrote White.

Fire Department awarded large grant
Equipment and personnel to train other communities

He was taken by surprise. The announcement by Sen. Ted Stevens’ office went out to the media before grant recipients were notified.
“Ooh, ooh,” said Skagway Fire Chief Martin Beckner. “That’s awesome. I’m so happy. Remember last year when I applied for the grant, I was so disappointed. Well, good. I’m glad.”
With the grant award deadline just four days away, Beckner thought this year was a wash too.
The $261,360 grant will go to firefighter safety and equipment. The money will be used to buy a mobile training trailer and a mobile fire fighting trailer as well as new breathing apparatus for firefighters.
While the mobile units will not be used all the time by Skagway, Beckner said part of the lure of the grant was the units will be used for free by other Southeast communities to train their people, and Skagway firefighters go along as paid instructors. –DL

Security plan served Skagway well
No problems encountered, say officials

The dock security plan hammered out with the U.S. Coast Guard Office of Marine Safety this spring worked well, said Drew Green, port manager for Cruise Lines Agencies of Alaska in Skagway.
“We’ve done lots of things,” Green said of the security preparations.
What things?
“I shouldn’t tell you,” he replied. It would invalidate the plan, if he did, he said.
“There are things that people don’t see that go on to make the port more secure,” he said.
Some things he could point to included buying new equipment like steel barriers, signs, additional staffing, and screening equipment. Some cruise lines had to buy X-ray baggage machines.
“There’s 100 percent ID verification at all the gangways now,” Green said.
The one-year anniversary of Sept. 11 saw the country go to a Code Orange security level for several days, and the port of Skagway right along with it.
“The alert indicated they have the capacity to carry out the plans and go to an increased level,” said Coast Guard Lt. Tyrone Jones, chief of Port Operations, from Juneau. “They met all expectations.”
Gary Danielson, White Pass & Yukon Route vice president, said the company was able to maintain port security at Level I until the Code Orange, and then the port went to Level II.
There were absolutely no problems, said Green.
“We can ramp up rapidly,” he said of the port’s ability to respond to a threat.
In that way, he said, “we’re getting a little more like the big ports.” –DL

OTHER STORIES...

• Final "Heard on the Wind" for 2002

• ELECTION 2002: Skagway Candidate Forum

• SPORTS: Kyle Mulvihill wins Southeast!

• REC. REPORT: New equipment at Rec. Center, pool still being researched

• EDITORIAL: Best preserved facade

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