By Suzanne Ashe
It took a historic recount to confirm a narrow victory for supporters of Senior Center in Skagway.
The Canvass Board met on Monday to recount the ballots for Proposition 1, which would approve a $6 million in general obligation bonds for the Senior Center and Apartments project, using a property tax increase to pay off the bonds.
After voting at the polls on Tuesday, Oct. 4, the proposition was failing by six votes, but a wave of absentee ballots were added before the Canvass Board’s regular count two days later, which pushed the measure ahead 227 for and 223 against.
The Borough Assembly that evening then asked for the due to the closeness of the vote.
After the recount on Monday, one more ballot was added to the “for” column, making the uncertified results of the vote 228 for, and 223 against.
The Borough Assembly will consider final certification of the recounted results at its next regular meeting on Thursday, October 20.
Borough Clerk Emily Deach said this was the first ballot recount requested, at least in the electronic voting age. Deach said electronic certification goes back to 1991, and there has not been a recount until now.
But, now that the Bond Measure has passed, members of the Senior Ad Hoc Committee will have a change of role.
Michael Baish, chair of the committee and Carl Mulvihill, member, said their new role is to keep the project fresh in everyone’s mind, but also to fundraise from different sources while the Borough takes on the heavy lifting of moving the project forward.
“We will need to raise as much money as we can through grants and we are going to have a ‘forest wall,’ like the fish wall at the medical center. The biggest trees will go to donors of $10,000,” Mulvihill said. “There needs to an RFP for an architect, a Geo tech and, an arborist needs to check out our trees–make sure our trees are healthy.”
“It’s out of our hands now. We are changing direction. We are an advisory group now,” Baish said, adding that he put off his vacation this year to make certain the bond proposal not only got on the ballot, but also passed.
“This is really a 50-year project, the building will be there for at least 50 years,” Baish said. “And this is for the people of Skagway to have a community center – a place to meet.
The Senior Ad Hoc Committee has discussed plans with the Skagway Tribal Council and also the Rec Center to realize a space that would meet the community needs best.
The five, one bedroom apartments and two efficiency apartments would be available to year-round senior residents.
“When I came here in the 1980s, this was the first time I felt like I was at home,” Baish sad. “But it’s so hard for to find year-round employment. Also, many folks don’t retire here in Skagway because there isn’t a place for them to live.”
Who will live in the completed Senior Center? What it will be called? What will rent be? All of these details and more will be the responsibility of the Borough.
The plans so far include a commercial kitchen and a community gathering area large enough to host public events.
Having the bond measure pass was just one needful step toward financing of the project. The more grants and donations the center receives, the less the bond money will need to be used, however it was necessary to know that the community felt the project was important enough for the community for the bond measure to pass.
“[The project] wouldn’t be available without the bond, without the guarantee that it was going to happen,” Baish said.
The next meeting of the Senior Ad Hoc Committee will be Monday, Oct. 17 at 10 a.m. in Assembly Chambers.