Future of the fire hall

A line of emergency vehicles, recently migrated to the new Public Safety Facility. PHOTO BY DAN FOX

Skagway’s new Public Safety Facility is filling up with fire engines, police equipment and the personnel to man it all. As the old fire hall empties of its occupants, the question has been raised on what that building’s future holds.

The Borough Assembly briefly discussed the disposition of the old fire hall at its April 20 meeting, before asking the borough clerk to place it on the next meeting agenda.

“I think we should have sold it a long time ago,” Mayor Mark Schaefer said. “Whatever we do with this building is going to cost us money.

“You’re going to have to start prioritizing what you want to spend money on, and what actual needs are versus what would be nice to do.”
At the April 20 meeting, city staff estimated the fire department still had a few more weeks left in the old building.

In the public comments portion of the meeting, prior to the assembly’s brief discussion, local historian Carl Mulvihill made the suggestion to turn the old fire hall into a museum for historic vehicles.

“You have them scattered all around town in storage buildings, a few are in containers, the containers are not very well vented,” Mulvihill said.

Mulvihill added that the location of the old fire station is quite good for attracting visitors.

The assembly concluded its discussion without any action, resolving to pick up the conversation at a later meeting.

[Editor’s note: Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Superintendent Mike Tranel wrote a commentary on this issue. Click HERE to read it.]

Supporting local ivory artists

At the behest of resident mammoth ivory carver Bruce Schindler, the Skagway Borough Assembly recently discussed drafting a letter in support of Senate Joint Resolution No. 4.

SJR4 urges the Alaska Congressional delegation to introduce bills to provide an exception for legally acquired walrus, mammoth and mastodon ivory from laws that ban the sale, use and possession of ivory. Schindler’s letter mentions a push for a total ivory ban, which would protect elephants, rhinos and other endangered animals.

“The problem: it proposes to totally ban all ivory regardless of origin, including the fossil walrus and mammoth ivories that so many of us in Skagway depend on,” Schindler says in his letter. “This does nothing to protect elephants and rhinos!” In the letter, Schindler notes Skagway’s “long history of carving and restoring mammoth tusks going all the way back to Herman Kirmse.”

“Today fossil ivory is the life blood for many families, individuals and retailers in Skagway, throughout the US and the world,” Schindler letter states.

Assembly Member Angela Grieser made a motion to have the borough clerk draft a letter in support of SJR4. Assembly Member Steve Burnham Jr. was the lone “nay” vote against the movement.

“After diving into issues such as trapping I’ve realized that there’s some things the assembly shouldn’t weigh in on, and I think this is one of them,” Burnham said. “I don’t think it has much to do with the assembly at all.”

Local tutoring options available for GED exam

After her move to Skagway in July 2016, Mary Hansen contacted the library to see if the municipality had a General Education Development (GED) program.

“They had opportunities for students to work online, but there was no official tutor,” Hansen said.

This has since changed. Hansen contacted the Southeast Regional Resource Center, which has an adult basic education department that hires local tutors. SERRC pays these tutors to work with students on any adult basic education needs, including the GED.

This tutoring is available at no cost to the students.

Since Skagway did not have a tutor at the time, Hansen applied for the job.

Now SERRC pays Hansen to help students accomplish their educational goals.

So far, all those goals have been to conquer the GED. The GED is a series of tests that, when passed, certify the taker has met high school level academic skills.

One of these students was Nathaniel Leggett, who recently completed his GED exam. The Skagway News spoke with Leggett in March, after he had completed the test.

When Leggett took the test, Skagway’s school was not set up to be a testing facility, necessitating Leggett travel to Juneau in order to take the exam.

The school is now available as a year-round testing center, making the endeavor easier for those following Leggett’s footsteps.

Working with Hansen was a factor in his success at passing the test, according to Leggett.

“Definitely would not have been able to pass it, I actually thought I would have been able to, but definitely would not have, had I not gone through the program,” Leggett said.

The program is designed to help people no matter where they are in their education, Leggett said.

“The teachers are there for them, to help them,” Leggett said. “And any kind of help you need or anything like that, they have the resources to give you, to help work on the areas that you need.”

Hansen said each student is different, but the process begins the same way every time: she gets a handle on the person’s school history and walks them through pre-assessments that provide insight into their academic strengths and weaknesses.

“Classically, most students’ weakest area is math,” Hansen said. “And I’m a math teacher and so that’s a strength I bring to the table. That [math] is usually the scariest part of the GED for most students.”

Hansen said for anyone wanting to complete the GED, it is a worthy and achievable goal.

“The GED opens doors that are closed if a person doesn’t have a high school diploma,” Hansen said.

To connect with Hansen, call (907) 586-5718 or contact learn@serrc.org.


NPS to hold town hall meeting on Chilkoot recreation fee increase

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park plans to hold a town hall meeting at 5 p.m. on May 15 at the Skagway Traditional Council building to discuss a potential fee increase for 2018.

Currently, the Chilkoot overnight recreation fee is $15 for an adult, and $7.50 for a youth. The proposed increase would be $20 for an adult, and $10 for a youth. According to a National Parks Service press release, the revenue generated from the overnight permit fees is used to improve trail conditions and safety, enhance facilities and provide a “more enjoyable back-country experience for the visitor.”

The U.S. portion of the Chilkoot trail has not seen an increase in permit fees since 2008.

“We are committed to keeping the Chilkoot hiker experience affordable, and we also want to provide visitors with the best possible experience,” said park Superintendent Mike Tranel. The press release states that the hiking experience on the Chilkoot has improved over the last decade, thanks to projects funded by fees.

“The declining number of visitor injuries and costly medical evacuations from the back-country can be in part attributed to the high quality of trail construction and maintenance over the last several years,” the release states.

Projects funded by the fees include the replacement of older traditional pit toilets with newly-designed and more environmentally sound toilet systems, periodic replacement of warming shelter covers and replacement of deteriorating camp amenities such as wood stoves and bear-proof food lockers.

Additional revenue generated by a fee increase will help ensure facilities and services continue at a level Chilkoot Trail hikers have come to expect, the release said.