Rec. Center Fuel Spill

A stain shows where 84 gallons of heating fuel leaked out of the Rec. Center on Nov. 24. The spill was quickly contained, and the contaminated soil will be burned in the incinerator. See story below. Photo by Dimitra Lavarakas

Flood control gravel source debate begins
Residents' concerns: blasting, wells and view

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
Five Dyea Road residents turned out for the first in what will certainly be several hearings on finding a rock source for the planned flood control project.
The city’s Public Works Committee assembled Tuesday night to hear from residents of nearby city lots 18A and 19A approximately a mile up the Dyea Road.
The amount of rock needed for the project includes 33,000 cubic yards of Class III riprap, 18,000 cubic yards of inorganic fill, and 3,000 cubic yards of riprap bedding.
“My concern is with my well,” said Dyea Road resident Bob Carlson. “When they made the road, the Lindfors lost their well.”
Neighbor Dave Herbig agreed with Carlson’s concern.
“In winter there’s not a problem with tourists,” Carlson said about the rock hauling. “My concern is that our water comes through there.”
The hole on the hillside that will be left after the rock is quarried will create an ugly scar on the hillside visible from town and especially the dock area, said Herbig.
As for residents Glory and Peter Jepsen, their new house will overlook the new pit, and they were not thrilled about that prospect.
In a letter to the city, Jeff Hamilton, owner of Hamilton Construction Co., offered his quarry on the Klondike Highway to the city for $60,000.
His reasoning is that any bidder on the project will have to spend upwards of $100,000 just to open a quarry and put in roads to remove the material.
However, Councilmember Dave Hunz who’s on the committee and who owns Hunz & Hunz Construction, still thought the city should develop its own source, and said the city should keep the process “competitive.”
“The source would be secured by the city,” said Hamilton at the meeting. “Whoever got the bid would go in and drill it and bring it out.”
Hamilton said the amount of money he was offering the city was “not a big deal” to him and that it was not a substantial amount for all the effort he put into opening the quarry.
“It’s up to the contractor to decide if it’s more cost effective to develop a source or use Jeff’s,” said Hunz.
But Councilmember Colette Hisman wondered if this would all be ironed out in the bidding process.
“I think this project will have a lot more public input than what we have tonight,” said Councilmember J. Frey.
Dyea Road resident Jan Wrentmore asked what the city quarry site would look like after the rock is removed.
Hunz said it would be storage for the city’s sand and gravel. He also suggested a treed buffer zone on the site next to the road.
Ward said the city lots could not be used for development because of an agreement with the state which owns the gunpowder shed next to the lots.
Hamilton said his site would double in size after the rock is extracted.
“There’s already a hole in that mountain, it just gets a little bigger, a little more unattractive,” said Hamilton.

Rec. Center plan gets a once over

More meetings will hammer out details

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
While a stormy game of rollerblade hockey raged in the background, a joint meeting of the city’s Parks and Recreation and the Recreation Board on Nov. 20 at the Rec. Center began to look at the plan for renovation and expansion of the city’s center.
To kick off the board’s initial terms of office, members drew slips of paper with their terms on them, some were pleased, some not: Denny Bousson, one year; Keith Knorr, two year; Nan Saldi, two year; Bruce Weber, three-year; and Dorothy Brady, one-year. Once the members serve their terms, the terms will become three-year, but they start out staggering terms, said Bousson, who chairs the board.
Presented with the plan from DeMars International consultants, those in attendance began to pick it apart with their dreams and wants.
“It gives you something to kick the tires on,” said Bousson later.
But there was a fiscal caution from City Manager Bob Ward.
“2004 is the earliest we can budget for long-term,” Ward said, referring to the long-term plan for the facility. “That’s assuming everything goes just perfectly. A lot of discussion needs to be done before that...
“We have a $2 million flood control project coming up,” Ward said. “We have to look at filling up our tax revenue reserves. There’s the clinic project. We’ve done $2 million-plus projects for two years. I’m not sure if, with the visitor industry, we can continue to afford that.”
Ward said he thought the clinic and the recreation center project may come head-to-head. There is some talk about moving the clinic over to the Rec. Center site where the Senior Center was planned and the Senior Center over to the clinic site at Eleventh and Broadway.
The plan, as envisioned by DeMars, would move the Rec. Center’s entrance to the southwest corner, and move the locker rooms over to where the kitchen and weight rooms are now. The pool would extend off the west side, and the playground would be relocated. Each locker room would have a whirpool bath and sauna.
The upstairs, while it would be open to some areas below, would contain a handball court, teen room, crafts room, fitness testing, multipurpose rooms and aerobics room.
But those at the meeting pretty much nixed a handball court and expressed more interest in a climbing wall.
As for the existing facility, Donald DeMars was blunt.
“The existing facility, in my opinion and by California standards, is a real eyesore. It has no sense of fun and excitement, and in fact, it looks exactly like a machine shop on the exterior. The grounds are used for dumping dirt; the building coloration and painting has not kept pace with various remodeling programs over the years; in effect, it appears to be an industrial site that has no need or interest in selling itself.”
This is Alaska though and it’s not unusual for rural centers to look industrial or “no-nonsense.”
At a meeting of the Recreation Board on Tuesday night, the body decided to break into subcommitees to take on pool plans and trail work. Voters in October endorsed the concept of studying a pool project. The first pool work session is Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. at the library.

Rec. Center oil spill dug up; at least 84 gallons spilled
A post-Thanksgiving fuel oil spill at the city’s Recreation Center resulted in about 84 gallons spilled, said Grant Lawson, director of the Public Works Department.
On Nov. 24, Dan Rossi, who was looking after the center while director Chelsea Nilsen was on vacation, arrived about 8:30 a.m. to find an outside pipe on the east corner spewing fuel. He placed a garbage can under the spill to catch it.
“A morning dog walk turned into a toxic nightmare,” said Rossi last week. “The dog ran up to it, and I went after it and smelled the fuel oil.”
Rossi called the Fire Department, and Fire Chief Martin Beckner responded and turned the valve off.
“Good thing Dan came along,” said Lawson. “The whole tank could have been on the ground.”
The tank was dipped and measured on Nov. 23 by Fossil Fuels, the city’s fuel oil company, and it registered at 709 gallons.
The spill was calculated by the amount collected and emptied from the garbage can – approximately 79 gallons. Taking into consideration the estimated 126 gallons used to heat the building since the measurement, the level in the tank after the spill was 474 gallons.
The additional five gallons Lawson recovered by hand after scraping up the absorbent material put down to soak up the initial overflow.
In his report to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Lawson said the reason for the spill was the “float switch on the fuel transfer system malfunctioned causing the day tank to overflow to the building exterior.”
He also noted that about 25 gallons went unaccounted after all the calculations were done.
Lawson said it was lucky the ground was hard so the oil didn’t have a chance to soak in.
The approximately 21 cubic yards of contaminated soil dug up and all the absorbent materials were put into heavy “super sacks” and hauled to the city incinerator where they’ll be burned, one yard at a time, along with the city’s collected solid waste.
Rossi said the Rec. Center now has new trash cans because the old ones were “trashed” after the incident.

Princess and RCCL merge
Some locals say no effect, others disagree
By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
P&O Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. on Nov. 20 announced a merger that will create the largest cruise ship company in the world.
Princess will retain 50.7 percent of the equity value of the combined group, and RCCL, 49.3 percent, with its base of operations in Miami. Combined assets will total $6 billion, including 41 ships with 75,000 berths and 14 new ships on order.
The merger, set for the second quarter of 2002, is still subject to shareholder and regulatory approval.
“Demographic changes and consumer appetite for leisure activities, coupled with high levels of customer satisfaction support a positive long-term outlook for the cruise industry. Through the combination, both RCCL and Princess believe they will able to benefit from this long-term growth trend and create value for all the combined group’s shareholders,” was the rationale according to a press release from Princess.
As for Skagway, while some key players in the tour industry indicated it would not have much of an effect, others disagreed.
“I think it bodes well for Southeast Alaska and Alaska,” said Buckwheat Donahue, Skagway Convention and Visitors Bureau director. “Both of them are great companies, combining assets make sense. I don’t think it will have a negative effect on us.”
Donahue said both companies had extensive, successful marketing programs, and that Alaska has proved to be very profitable for them.
“I think that it strengthens the viability of both companies,” said Mayor Tim Bourcy, who also owns Packer Expeditions and The Mountain Shop. “The are both very active in Alaska destinations and hopefully that will strengthen the Alaska market. Some tour vendors have expressed concerns, but it’s a little early to tell”
Mike Coller, co-owner of M&M Brokerage that brokers independent tours, said he didn’t think the merger would impact Skagway at all.
Neither did Dave Gonzalez of Frontier Excursions.
“I don’t think anything will change,” Gonzalez said. “We’re basically sitting back and watching to see what happens with the economy.”
“I don’t think it will affect us at all” added Gary Danielson, vice president of marketing and corporate planning for the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, Skagway’s largest shore excursion.
“Seamless,” was the word he used.
But John Mielke, general manager for rail operations for WP&YR and former mayor has reservations.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” he said. “What concerns me is you get so big you kind of lose touch with individual communities, businesses and governments.
“What concerns me is all through the four years I was mayor, the only company that made the extra effort to come up and inform us of what they were doing was RCCL.
“I don’t have a scientific basis, but I think it may be easier for the Legislature to pass a head tax,” Mielke said.
“I think it’s always better, whether you’re a community like Skagway or a business, to have five companies rather than one or two,” said Jan Wrentmore, owner of the Red Onion Saloon and Liarsville Trail Camp. “A few years ago you had several cruise lines, now it’ll be one or two huge cruise lines.”
Both companies had planned additional ships for Alaska before and after Sept. 11. Celebrity Cruises, which is owned by RCCL, will divert one ship from Europe to Alaska as will Princess.
John Hansen, president of the North West CruiseShip Association in Vancouver, B.C., said he would have better idea of how bookings on the ships are doing in late January, the traditional time when people start thinking about summer vacations.
Celebrity, Princess and RCCL all have strong name recognition, he said, and they market Alaska as a destination heavily.
The merged companies will have a new name, which hasn’t been decided.

OTHER STORIES:

• FEATURES: Construction boom continues

• OBITUARY: Goldie Hanousek Hukill

• SPORTS: J-high teams victorious

• EVENTS: Yuletide Schedule

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