Climate Change Conference planned during Fall Festival

The Skagway School Climate Change Project is organizing and running a Climate Change Conference from Oct. 19-22, with a number of different events, talks and activities focused around the topic of the changing world.

“Essentially, it is a call to action for the town,” said Micah Cook, one of the students in the Climate Change Project. “We traveled off to the Marshall Islands as most people know, and we just want to bring back and share with the community – who basically paid for us to go – we just want to tell them what we learned in a way.”

The event will feature several speakers and presentations; Cook said he is looking most forward to hearing Marshallese poet and climate change activist Kathy Jetnil-Kiljiner speak.

The conference is dedicated to the life and work of Tony deBrum, climate change ambassador for the Marshall Islands, who passed away in August. deBrum had met with the students of the Climate Change Project during the group’s trip to the Marshall Islands, and by their own account had been especially impactful on the Skagway students.

“Not just on us, he’s had impacts on people all over the globe,” Danny Brady said.

Steaven McKnight said one of the things that impressed him about deBrum and the Marshallese was their determination to do everything they can to combat climate change.

“Tony was really, really verbal on how strong the Marshallese people are for being able to do that…I’m willing to bet they will be fighting for it whether their islands stay or not, they will continue to fight and will continue to hold that culture really strong,” McKnight said.

For a full schedule of events, click this link: CVB Oct 13

 

Solid waste disposal rates to increase January 2018

Skagway’s Borough Assembly has approved a resolution detailing a 9.5 percent increase to solid waste disposal rates, which will go into effect in January 2018. Both the Solid Waste Advisory Committee and Finance Committee supported the resolution.

“The rates have not been increased since 2005, so it’s the recommendation of the Finance Committee to the assembly to adopt the Resolution 17-27,” Assembly Member Tim Cochran said at an Oct. 5 meeting.

Under the resolution, residential pickup of one can, once per week would increase from $69.36 to $75.95 per quarter; twice per week would jump from $108.96 to $119.31.

Quarterly costs for the Dyea Dumpster will go from $27.60 to $30.22.

Outgoing Assembly Member Spencer Morgan said he hopes the public realizes the increase is needed, and that the rates need to be revisited in following years.

“Those of you that paid attention to the budget process realize that water, sewer, solid waste is all pretty heavily subsidized right now by the municipality, and this is a necessity to be done,” Morgan said. “I just want to reiterate that we do need to make sure that this is something we attack just about every year to try to bring it more in line with where it ought to be, and then once we get to that point, we need to adjust it kind of like the Small Boat Harbor does, with annual adjustments.”

The vote to approve passed 6-0

Frustration voiced at assembly table during MOU discussion

Some members of Skagway’s Borough Assembly vocalized concerns over the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad’s latest response in the ongoing creation of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) covering 1968 lease amendments and a new Tidelands lease.

White Pass’s reply came after the assembly adopted wording penned by Borough Attorney Bob Blasco, wording assembly members have said adds additional protections for the municipality.

At an Oct. 5 meeting, Assembly Member Orion Hanson said the most recent response from White Pass was “regressing” from where it needed to be.

“I think at a certain point we’re going to go back and forth, and White Pass’s lawyers are going to make comments and our lawyer is going to make a comment, it’s going to go back and forth and back and forth, and that’s not really a ‘memorandum of understanding,’” Hanson said. “That’s kind of battling over language, [which] isn’t really what we’re trying to do here as an assembly.”

Hanson called it “frustrating,” and said that the assembly is “wordsmithing this document to death.”

If the assembly isn’t going to make an action, then it needs to move forward in a different direction, Hanson said.

Outgoing Assembly Member Spencer Morgan said he doesn’t see it as “wordsmithing,” and said what White Pass sent back to the assembly takes out some protections that the municipality had asked for.

Morgan said he was concerned, adding that in September, the assembly had gotten the MOU to a point that was “probably the best we could possibly get language-wise to protect this community.”

“I’m kind of at a loss at this point for where to go from here, because it just doesn’t seem like we’re getting too much further on where we should be,” Morgan said.

Hanson said he agreed with Morgan.

“At a certain point, as a municipality, as an assembly we vote on what we’re comfortable with, and if White Pass doesn’t like it, then it doesn’t go any further,” Hanson said. “If they’re not good with the MOU that we approve, then why even have a vote for the voters?”

Assembly Member Steve Burnham Jr. said he’s had an issue with the fact the assembly has not formally voted on an actual counterproposal to send to White Pass.

Burmham said having so many different documents, proposals, responses and lawyer comments out there is “muddying the water.”

“I don’t think our process isn’t working, but I think it’s taking longer because it’s confusing, publicly confusing,” Burnham said.

The assembly took no further action on the MOU on Oct. 5.

Assembly prepares request for proposals for “Option 3B” engineering

A request for proposals (RFP) on engineering services for a floating expansion to the Ore Dock has been approved by the Borough Assembly. The municipality will hold the document ready if and when it comes to an agreement with the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, or otherwise gets access to the property.

The RFP is to seek services and expertise from a professional engineering firm to design and develop construction-ready documents for a floating dock, specifically the “3B” option proposed by Port Consultant Moffatt & Nichol.

According to cost estimates by Moffatt & Nichol, Option 3B would have an almost $15 million price tag.

Moffatt & Nichol, as well as representatives from the Cruise Lines International Association, have told the municipality that larger classes of cruise ships are heading to Alaska, and that some manner of facility capable of accommodating multiples of those big vessels should be in place by 2019. The RFP originally included a request for an analysis report for Option 3B, as well as one for 3A – another proposed option for Ore Dock expansion provided by Moffatt & Nichol. The assembly struck the language relating to Option 3A, however, with Assembly Member Orion Hanson saying that in order to achieve the 2019 timeline, the municipality needs to put out an RFP that is not “confusing or muddled.”

“I think we’ve got to choose what we’re doing,” Hanson said.

At the Oct. 5 meeting, the assembly took out the portions of the RFP referencing the 3A option, and adopted the attorney’s suggestions. Then, the assembly voted to approve the RFP, but not to publish it.

Prior to the vote there was talk about whether or not to release the RFP immediately, but Borough Manager Scott Hahn said he had reservations about doing that, given the municipality does not currently have access to the land.

“I’m really concerned about going out to bid before having a fairly good idea we can get in there,” Hahn said.

Assembly members Steve Burnham Jr. and Tim Cochran agreed with Hahn; Burnham commented on the work being done on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between White Pass and the municipality, and how that process is progressing.

“Ultimately, if everything was firing on all cylinders, and we had a clear MOU and we were negotiating a lease that we were certain benefited the community, and we were also confident that the community was going to back our play, we could put out this RFP,” Burnham said.

Outgoing Assembly Member Spencer Morgan said he looks at the RFP as both a Plan A and Plan B option.

“To me, this is pretty much our Plan B also, it’s something we need to get done right away, and if the lease fails we’ve got to figure out a way to get it done,” Morgan said.

– DAN FOX