After much discussion at the borough meeting on July 7, the assembly voted to put a bond measure on the ballot for voters to decide if they want to fund the construction of Water Well No. 4 and a corresponding water tank with a low-interest rate loan from the state and to pay the debt payments with money from the Commercial Passenger Vessel excise tax revenues.
Members of the assembly went around the table discussing the necessity of adding another water well to the community and whether or not the addition would be worth the cost.
“For a town of 1,000 people, we have everything we need,” Skagway Borough Manager Scott Hahn said, “but when the cruise ships show up, the tank level drops from full to below 40 percent, and that’s dangerously low.”
Assemblyman Dan Henry echoed his sentiments.
“I think it’s fairly simple,” Henry said. “I think it’s a must-do project, and I think if we agree that at a level of 40 percent is past everybody’s comfort zone during the summer. So if we agree on that, we agree on doing the project.”
As the need for the well appears to be tied to the cruise ship industry, Hahn proposed paying for a large portion of the project with money from the municipality’s share of the CPV funds.
In order to do so, the municipality would need to reasonably prove that the cruise ship industry was the cause of the water shortage.
“To me this seems like more of a clear cut ‘yes, this is a CPV fund project.’ It’s directly related to the cruise ships,” Assemblyman Spencer Morgan said. “If we get down to a 40 percent level, and god forbid we have a fire at the same time that’s going on. We know what happened with the Westmark fire, it almost drained this town.”
Hahn expressed concern over moving forward with an RFP for a construction firm to build the projects until a source of funding for them has been decided upon.
“Before we do anything we need to realize that we can’t do everything, and we have so many more projects that want funding,” Hahn said. “I’m going to be harping the same thing by saying ‘how are we going to pay for this?’ ahead of time before we get ourselves into trouble.”
If the bond measure were to fail, the assembly would have to consider alternative means of funding the projects.
“The difference would be if they voted it down, and then it’s a crisis, then we write a check for it or quit selling [the cruise ships] water,” Henry said.
All members of the assembly voted in favor of putting a bond initiative on the ballot for voters except for Steve Burnham Jr.
In addition to using CPV money to fund the project, the assembly expressed an interest in raising utility rates to fund a part of the project.
“We should definitely be looking at that, by the way, period,” Schaefer said. “It’s a separate subject really. We should be making those adjustments because those rates are way deficient, they have been for a long time.”