October 25, 2013 • Vol. XXXVI, No. 19
The Rev. Ryan Mandeville, left, blesses Hector the speckled Sussex rooster of Steve Burnham Jr., right, during the first-ever Animal Blessing at the Rec. Center last Saturday night. See more photos on page 6 of our print edition.
Photo by Katie Emmets
Jim Sager appointed to Schaefer’s assembly seat
Process questioned before appointment approved
By KATIE EMMETS
After one recommendation, two meetings and two times being sworn into office, Jim Sager is officially the newest Skagway Borough Assembly member and will serve a one-year term.
Sager replaces Mark Schaefer at the table after Schaefer was elected mayor, and his appointment was unanimously approved in an October 17 assembly meeting.
Schaefer recommended Sager to fill his seat in an Oct. 15 special meeting, however, in the regularly scheduled Oct. 17 meeting, Schaefer said the appointment of Sager at the special meeting wasn’t official and needed to be redone.
“Skagway’s municipal code states that assembly special meetings are subject specific, and if an item isn’t listed in the notice of a special meeting it cannot be addressed in that special meeting,” Schaefer said. “We have reviewed the situation with our attorney, and he advises we take this item up again at this meeting, including taking action to fill the vacant seat.”
During the Oct. 15 special meeting, the assembly appointed Sager to fill the vacant assembly seat with a 4-1 vote.
During the discussion, Assemblyman Gary Hanson, who cast the no vote, said he didn’t think the assembly should be making the appointment during a special meeting, because it wasn’t on the agenda and there was no public notice.
“I think it should be discussed in a more public forum,” Hanson said. “Maybe since it is such an important decision, there may be some (residents) who want to weigh in on that.”
Assemblyman Dan Henry told Hanson that the appointment usually comes under the mayor’s report because it’s not something the public weighs in on. Henry added that he has never seen an appointment on the agenda.
“It is left up to the mayor to make a suggestion and then the assembly can either object or not object,” Henry said. “It’s not an agenda item that goes through the public process, exhausted through discussion, hearing citizens present and the like.”
Henry added that he had been on the assembly for the last six appointments, which had all been done this way. But Hanson said he still thought the appointment should be on the agenda for the regularly scheduled October 17 meeting. “It just feels like we’re not giving proper notice here,” he said.
Hanson went on to say that he doesn’t object to placing Sager on the assembly, but he thinks the candidate who came in third place in the Oct. 1 election should be considered for the seat.
The Oct. 1 regularly scheduled election was held to elect one mayor and two assembly members. Mark Schaefer ran unopposed winning the mayors seat; Assemblyman Tim Cochran received 215 votes, Assemblyman Spencer Morgan received 195 votes, Christophe “Duppy” Ticarro came in third receiving 156 votes and Tyler Rose came in fourth receiving 104 votes.
“I don’t have any objections, per se, (to) Jim Sager,” Hanson said. “I think I’ve talked to Jim myself and tried to talk him into running for office, and I’m happy to hear he’s interested in taking the job, however we do know that Duppy put himself out there for election and received, I think, about 135 votes.”
Henry told him the election wasn’t to elect the top three candidates; it was to elect the top two.
Morgan said the fact that Ticarro ran for the seat shows a willingness to serve his community.
“I have talked to Duppy on many occasions,” he said. “For the record I think he would be a pretty good member up here. But I understand it doesn’t come down to a vote, there is no third place for an alternate seat.”
But Morgan said he agrees that Sager would make a good assemblyman and added that he worked for Sager for many years.
The appointment of Sager to the assembly passed with only one objection from Hanson.
After the meeting, Morgan wanted to make sure the assembly followed the proper protocol and found in code that the assembly can’t discuss items in a special meeting that aren’t on the agenda.
In the Oct. 17 meeting, Hanson opened the discussion with reiterating his position from two nights before.
Despite the fact that he thinks Sager would make a good assemblyman, Hanson initially said he would vote against appointing him and believes the assembly should select Ticarro.
Henry said the election process in Skagway works much like other communities across the nation work.
“We were not asking for who your three best candidates are. We were not asking, ‘if you could put them in order, how would they rate?’” Henry said.
Henry said each mayor he has sat at the table with has recommended a community member to fill a vacant seat, from Tim Bourcy appointing Tom Cochran, to Cochran appointing Schaefer.
“Stan Selmer back in ’90 recommended Boyd Worley, even though Emily Olson was third high vote getter,” he said. “It’s the way this community has set up the process to work. Every single solitary one I’ve seen in the last 17 years has worked like that.”
Morgan said because Sager didn’t throw his hat in the ring for the election, he didn’t know what his positions are on important municipal issues and didn’t feel comfortable voting for him because of it. Though he thinks Sager would make a good addition to the table, the fact that Ticarro ran for election and answered questions to the News and KHNS means something to him.
Schaefer said neither Ticarro or Rose approached him and asked to be appointed, nor did anyone ask him to appoint Ticarro or Rose. People, however, did ask Schaefer to consider appointing Sager to the assembly.
“He’s been committed to this community, and he’s been committed to civic service for a number of years,” he said. “He’s a reasonable thinker. I think he has a rational thought process, and I thought that he was somebody this table could live with.”
Schaefer said he has received only positive comments about Sager’s potential appointment.
After hearing Schaefer’s reasons for recommending Sager, the assembly voted with no objection to appoint Sager to the assembly. He was sworn in immediately afterward during a break.
“I am grateful and honored to be given an opportunity to serve the community in a new capacity,” Sager said. “The position of borough assemblyman is one I have long considered an area I would like to throw my hat into the ring but was reluctant to pull the trigger because of family.”
At this point, however, Sager said he and his family decided he has the time to commit to this level of community involvement without adversely affecting his family. Though he has given some thought to running in the next election, he said he would reserve judgment for a later date to make sure he’s not overdoing and leaving himself out there.
Sager was most recently the chair of the Convention and Visitors Bureau board, of which he has been a member of since 2000. Sager has also been an active member of the Skagway community through the Elks lodge, a volunteer with soccer and hoop shoot contests, annual veterans dinners and the Chamber of Commerce Clean Sweep.
Sager has lived in Skagway for the last 22 years, which he says gives him a good understanding of the community’s wants and needs. He has a degree in accounting and is well versed in finance at the corporate and city level.
“The love and passion for my home gives me the perspective of wanting to see this city develop and prosper.
Borough sends Dan Henry to Florida to negotiate
By KATIE EMMETS
The Skagway Borough Assembly on Oct. 17 voted without objection to send Assemblyman Dan Henry to Florida to negotiate with White Pass and Yukon Route railway President John Finlayson and ClubLink Enterprises Ltd. CEO and Chairman Rai Sahi to come up with terms to allow the municipality access to the Skagway Ore Dock for the construction of its Gateway Project.
Henry, the municipality’s negotiator, said he, Finlayson and Sahi are going to sit down face-to-face and discuss what the parameters would be for an agreement that allows the Municipality of Skagway access to the ore terminal to further the Gateway Project.
Henry will be traveling to Coral Springs, Fla., by himself, which the municipality will be paying for.
“We don’t need an entourage to go there as we sent in January,” he said of a trip earlier this year that had the mayor, borough manager, borough attorney and himself traveling to Florida to meet with Sahi, Finlayson and former White Pass President Eugene Hretzay. “It’s a waste of resources.”
Henry said it is typical of negotiations for single representatives to meet and bring their findings back to a third party, which for Henry is the assembly.
“I’m going to go down and try to hammer out a deal that would be the best possible deal for the Municipality of Skagway within the scope of what White Pass would like to see that would be advantageous for them to make the deal to let us have access for the Gateway Project,” he said. “I will come back to the assembly at the first meeting in November and say ‘ok, this is what we can get done.’ We can tweak it and bring it back to them, or say yes or no.”
No matter what he negotiates in Florida, Henry said, the assembly will be voting on the terms.
Henry said he is traveling to Florida for the discussion, because it is where Finlayson manages several ClubLink Enterprises Limited golf properties in the winter.
“Mr. Finlayson had been here all summer right down on 2nd Ave. at the White Pass Depot, and we were unable to make any movement happen on the negotiations,” Henry said. “For 150 days in a row, we did nothing. That’s as accurate as I can put it.”
Henry said the negotiating team didn’t have any substantial conversations with Finlayson while he was in town and used ineffective approaches.
“He was sitting here willing and able to hash it out,” Henry said. “But our position in the past has been ‘we get everything and you get nothing.’ It needs to be both sides getting some, both sides giving some, and both sides coming out winning.”
Henry said he plans to ask Finlayson and Sahi what conditions they are flexible on and what their must-haves are, tell them what conditions the municipality could be flexible on and what its must-haves are, and seeing if the three of them can meld them together.
“We know White Pass wants to be in a good position with their future,” he said. “And we need to make progress.”
Henry said while the municipality isn’t at its final deadline for the Gateway Project, the deadline is getting closer.
“We are looking at the timetables and the design, RFP, award, getting the financing in line,” he said. “There are a lot of moving parts and we are getting close to the 11th hour in my mind.”
Henry said there is no way to know if they are getting close to wrapping the close to two-year long negotiations up until after his visit to Florida next week.
‘Reward School’ honors from state for Skagway
The Alaska Department of Education & Early Development has named Skagway School a 2013 Reward School to honor its student achievement from the 2012-13 academic year.
According to an Oct. 22 ADE&ED release, the Reward Schools designation, which is in its first year, is part of the new Alaska School Performance Index that replaced the No Child Left Behind Act this year.
Of Alaska’s 503 public schools, which include home school organizations and charter schools, 49 were recognized in some capacity as Reward Schools.
Skagway School was one of 19 public learning institutions statewide to qualify as both a highest-performing school and a high-progress school.
“I’m extremely excited that we are recognized on the state stage,” said Skagway School Superintendent Joshua Coughran. “For Skagway School to have achieved Reward status in both of those categories is incredible.
To qualify for reward status as a highest-performing school, the school must be in the top 10 percent of schools in its grade span based on its score under the ASPI. Over the two most recent years, the school must have a graduation rate that averaged at least 85 percent and it must have met its goal for increasing the percentage of students who are proficient in reading, writing and math.
To qualify for reward status as a high-progress school, the school must be in the highest 10 percent of all schools in the Growth and Proficiency Index, which measures whether a student population in a school is increasing, remaining stable, or declining in achievement in reading, w