Solid waste utility rate increase discussed

The Borough Assembly will soon be deliberating on an increase of solid waste utility rates – an increase that is much needed, according to several assembly members.

“We haven’t increased the fees in several years…and we’re below the average for all around Southeast,” Assembly Member Tim Cochran said at a Sept. 21 assembly meeting. The matter had made its way a Finance Committee meeting earlier the same day, after the Solid Waste Advisory Committee voted on Sept. 12 to recommend the rate increase as well.

The recommendation is to increase rates by 9.5 percent beginning January 2018.

Assembly Member Steve Burnham Jr. said the 9.5 percent increase is “nowhere near” what the city needs.

Burnham said in 2015, 2016 and 2017, the municipality should have increased rates by 9.5 percent each year.
“We haven’t been doing that,” Burnham said.

During the Finance Committee meeting, Cochran agreed that the increase is necessary.

The resolution that would adopt the rate change will come before the assembly at its next meeting on Oct. 5.


Opioid awareness movie scheduled, clinic receives telemedicine grant

Following the Skagway School Open House on Oct. 12, the school and Opioid Task Force will hold an event aimed at raising awareness and answering concerns related to the statewide opioid epidemic.

The movie “Chasing the Dragon,” a documentary made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation detailing the hardships of opioid abuse, will be shown. Following that, a question and answer session will be held with the Opioid Task Force and community members. “Chasing the Dragon” contains some graphic content, so viewer discretion is advised.

In related news, the Dahl Memorial Clinic was awarded a grant that could help with opioid addiction management.

The Access Increases in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (AIMS) grant is in the amount of $140,682.

It will pay for two telemedicine carts – one for medical staff, and one for behavioral health staff. It will also fund a psychiatrist to provide telemedicine visits and quarterly in-clinic visits for mental health services, substance abuse services and psychiatric medications management and fund trainings for providers in addiction medicine, opioid addiction management and training for all staff on telemedicine.


Panhandling banned in entire municipality

Following an amendment to, and second reading of, an ordinance on Sept. 21, the Borough Assembly approved banning panhandling throughout the entire Municipality of Skagway.

Panhandling is defined in the ordinance as any solicitation made in person upon any street, sidewalk, public place or park within the borough, in which a person requests an immediate donation of money or other gratuity from another person, and includes – but is not limited to – seeking donations.

The ordinance had originally prohibited panhandling in the Historic District, within 20-feet of a bank or ATM and within ten feet of any entrance to a building, among a few other restrictions.

Assembly Member Monica Carlson said during discussion that Borough Attorney Bob Blasco had reviewed the proposed ordinance, and that Blasco had concerns that a total ban on panhandling would be too far-reaching.

“These people have rights, freedom of speech,” Carlson said. “And it’s one thing to do it on private property, it’s another thing to do it on municipal property.”

Assembly Member Tim Cochran was in favor of prohibiting panhandling in the entire municipality.

“There’s no reason for someone to be unemployed in Skagway in the summer especially,” Cochran said.

Near the end of deliberation on the topic, Assembly Member Orion Hanson made the motion to make panhandling unlawful when either the panhandler or person solicited is located in the Municipality of Skagway.

The amendment passed 4-2, and the ordinance passed on second reading on 4-2.

Planned power outage

The Alaska Power and Telephone Company in Skagway is planning to conduct a maintenance-based power outage from midnight on Monday, Oct. 2, to 3:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 3. This outage will only affect the town of Skagway proper. Customers along the west side of the Skagway River – Klondike Highway, Dairy Drive, Dyea, Liarsville and U.S. Customs – should not be affected.

The work being done to upgrade AP&T’s command and control systems in its power plant requires the complete shutdown of the energy system serving Skagway proper in order to accomplish work safely and efficiently.

“We apologize for any inconvenience you may experience as a result,” AP&T stated in a release. “Be assured our commitment to provide the best possible product to those whom we serve is at the forefront of the work to be accomplished during this short outage.”


NPS rolls out virtual reality tours for historic buildings

The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park has launched new virtual reality tours of its park buildings. Making use of 360 degree photography and laser scanning technology, the virtual tours are mobile-friendly and compatible with virtual reality goggles. Audio-described guided tours are included with the new feature.
“We are committed to ensuring that everyone has access to the great resources and stories of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park,” Superintendent Mike Tranel said in a release. “Now people from all over the world can experience this unique place and those traveling to Skagway have even more options to help plan their trip.”
Virtual tours are currently available for the visitor center and museum, the Jeff. Smiths Parlor Museum, the Moore House and the Moore Cabin, with the expectation that more tours will be added later in the year.