While it’s been talked about at length in assembly meetings past, on July 21, assembly members finally agreed to officially reengage with the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad regarding the future of Skagway’s port.
The resolution was intended to bring transparency to the process, so as to be clear about the municipality’s actions and discussions, and to give the public a chance to comment on the prospect of reengagement.
“If we move forward with new lease discussion with the railroad, it’s a decision that needs to be much different than past histories of discussions regarding leases,” Assemblyman Steve Burnham Jr. said.
Burnham referenced the lease failure last October, and said it’s something the municipality cannot ignore. In the same vein, Burnham said he was surprised there wasn’t more public comment, considering the passion seen last fall.
Assemblyman Tim Cochran was absent from the meeting due to a personal emergency, and without a full assembly Burnham suggested the resolution be postponed.
“I just feel like we’ve waited this long. Again, what is the rush?” he said.
Assemblyman Jay Burnham said he didn’t see a reason to put it off another two weeks, as it’s simply the assembly’s intention to reengage, with no real action taking place.
Assemblyman Spencer Morgan agreed, and said given the current situation, reengaging with White Pass would be in the municipality’s best interest.
Steve Burnham’s motion to postpone the ordinance failed.
“Even if we find a way to come to another deal, it’s still going back to the public to decide. It’s not a decision we’re going to make here. We’re simply making a decision to send something to the public,” Mayor Mark Schaefer said.
At a loss as to the need for more transparency, Assemblyman Dan Henry said regardless of what is discussed, the final decision is always brought to the public.
“Whatever we discuss is going to be brought to the table for the public to comment on and then eventually brought to a ballot to where everybody can vote yes or no,” he said.
He said the assembly was elected to watch over and take care of the city’s business.
“At the appropriate time and appropriate manner, everyone’s voice will be heard,” he said.
He added that he cares most about installing a floating dock by May 1 so as to not lose Skagway’s significant position in the marketplace.
The assembly unanimously agreed to pass the resolution, with the intent to reengage with White Pass.
“This is the MOS’s intention to reengage White Pass,” Henry said. “So again, it only puts us on a calendar to where we have to make sure we’re darn ready to put forth our best effort, information, outline, whatever you want to call it at the very next meeting. And then develop whatever approach you feel is best then to figure that out.”