Schematic designs of the Senior Center provided to the Borough Assembly by MRV Architects. PHOTO COURTESY OF MRV

Senior Center project update

Paul Voelckers from MRV Architects spoke to the Borough Assembly at its Dec. 7 meeting, providing an update on the Senior Center project.

Presently, project costs for the Senior Center are proposed at $5,611,500, with $4,305,000 of that going towards construction expenses. The remaining $1,306,500 would go towards furniture, design and engineering costs and administrative expenses. The Senior Center designs propose a two-story, seven apartment facility with a separate kitchen, dining hall and activity hall.

Commenting on the design, Assembly Member Orion Hanson asked Voelckers about the amount of parking provided in the design.

“Parking is always tricky, you don’t want to undersize it, you don’t want to oversize it, otherwise you’re wasting resources on a big bunch of asphalt,” Voelckers said, adding that senior housing is one of the more difficult projects to design parking for.

The designs for Skagway’s facility currently show eight parking spaces – until recently, there were even fewer, Voelckers said, but a tree was removed from the plans and several more parking spots were added.

Voelckers said that the next milestone for the project would be further designs and drawings, which should be finished in late January 2018. A professional cost estimate will also be done, and if all goes well the project could be ready for a bid in April 2018.

Hanson said the designs look more streamlined than an earlier version the assembly perused in the springtime. The original projected costs for the senior center had clocked in at over $6 million, and the assembly had requested at the time for MRV to try and scale the project expenses back.

Commenting on the project as a whole, Assembly Member Steve Burnham Jr. said he feels it’s appropriate that Mayor Monica Carlson review the makeup of the Senior Planning Committee, and additionally assess the progress of tasks assigned to the committee by the assembly.

“One was to assist the planning of the building, and the other was to complete a business plan on how we’re going to administrate the building after it’s constructed,” Burnham said.

“I haven’t seen anything on task two. I feel it’s not appropriate to continue additional planning on this facility without a complete, concise business plan on how we intend to administrate it.”

Burnham also said community members deserve a town hall meeting, where they would be able to comment on the project, so the municipality would be certain it is moving in a direction the citizens want.

First Junior Robotics season concludes

Skagway’s first Junior Robotics program has wrapped up in what co-coaches Danielle McManus and Mary Thole described as “a fantastic first year.”

“There were a lot of kinks that we worked through the first couple of weeks, and by the end, all of the teams were successfully communicating and building and programming, and were really excited about what they were doing,” McManus said.

The season wrapped up just as the kids were hitting their stride, and McManus said she thinks there will be a lot of kids excited for the program again next year.

The Junior Robotics program takes on students too young for the FIRST LEGO League robotics. This year’s Junior Robotics group clocked in at 25 students, split into five groups. Assisting McManus and Thole with the kids were Pete and Michelle Lucchetti, Cory Thole, Kortney Rupprecht, Jaime Lawson and Michaela Stidham.

As with the FLL Robotics, the challenge this year for the younger groups was also focused around solving problems related to water. The groups’ projects ranged from ways to clean dishes and reuse water in a restaurant setting, to ways to automate watering a garden while away from home (partly by using a helicopter).

Some groups focused in on their project quickly, and others took a bit longer to hone in on a specific use for water.

“In the end, they all came up with a water use, they all came up with a creative solution of how to make that use better,” Thole said.

Most of the students’ favorite thing to do was programming, Thole said, and any building done with LEGOs. Teamwork was another aspect of the Junior Robotics program students reportedly enjoyed as well.

“It was really interesting, when you asked them what they really enjoyed, several said the teamwork and working through challenges, which blew me away,” Thole said.

Being able to take part in a club at a younger age was also meaningful for them, Thole said.
“To me as a mom of a second grader and as a teacher, to see the younger kids get to be part of a club and a greater, bigger, meaningful purpose is so important to them, and makes them feel really important,” Thole said.

Town hall over opioid abuse planned for early January

The Opioid Task Force met on Dec. 13 to review talking points and  an itinerary for its Jan. 8 town hall-style meeting over opioid abuse and control.

The Jan. 8 meeting will incorporate a number of presentations from different speakers.

Tammy Webb, a PA from the Dahl Memorial Clinic and Behavioral Health Clinician John Hischer will overview what opiates and opioids are, the different types of opioids, what the drugs do and signs and symptoms of physical dependence.

Police Chief Ray Leggett will, among other things, talk about the department’s new app, which can be used to place tips anonymously. The app was announced on Dec. 4, and can be used through smartphones or on a computer.

Lastly, Task Force members Monica Carlson and Tim Cochran will discuss the positive steps the municipality has been taking to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to the national opioid epidemic.

Leggett said he is hoping to get the police department’s new drug drop-off box installed prior to the town hall.

The drop-off box, not a cheap acquisition, cost over $2,000 – however donations from the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and the American Legion helped to fund the acquisition.

Leggett said he wants to bolt the drop-off box down outside the front doors of the Public Safety Facility, so that drugs can be deposited anonymously.

After the presentations, a portion of the Jan. 8 meeting will be devoted to questions from the public.

Following the town hall, Hischer will be holding a trio of follow-up classes from 6-8 p.m. on Jan. 9, 10 and 11 at the clinic. Topics covered include triggers and cravings, stages of addiction recovery and families in recovery.

Capital improvement projects set

The Borough Assembly has sent its capital improvement project priority list to the state, and requested funding from Commercial Passenger Vehicle Excise Tax for other capital improvement projects.

In order of priority, the projects are: State Street utility installation; ferry float dock with bow loading capacity; Seven Pastures Recreation Area flood dike; solid waste, recycling & Public Works facility utility installation and senior center/housing.

From the CPV taxes, the assembly is requesting funds for Broadway sidewalk improvements ($350,000); odor control at the Waste Water Treatment Plant ($559,000); Molly Walsh restroom ($350,000); solid waste, recycling and Public Works facility ($4,000,000) and Small Boat Harbor North Basin dredging and float extensions ($3,569,954).

“I think these are pretty pragmatic requests for CPV funds,” Assembly Member Orion Hanson said.


Chilkoot Trail recreational fee finalized

The National Park Service and Parks Canada have finalized the overnight recreational fee for the Chilkoot Trail at $61.30 Canadian dollars (CAD) for adults, and $30.60 CAD for youth ages 6-16.

Parks Canada will begin accepting 2018 hiker reservations on Wednesday, Jan. 17.

To reserve, call 1-867-667-3910 or toll free at 1-800-661-0486. To learn more about reserving a Chilkoot Trail hiking permit, visit

The combined fee includes both a Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park fee at $20 U.S. dollars (USD) for adults, $10 USD for youth and a Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site fee at $34.30 CAD for adults and $17.10 CAD for youth. The fees are combined into Canadian dollars and adjusted each year according to the exchange rate.

The hiking experience 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, according to a press release.

“Fee revenue enables the park to improve trail conditions and safety, enhance facilities and provide a more enjoyable back-country experience for the visitor,” stated Klondike Gold Rush Park Superintendent Mike Tranel in the release.

Recreation fee revenue has enabled the park to complete projects such as the replacement of older traditional pit toilets with newly designed and more environmentally sustainable toilet systems and for periodic replacement of warming shelter covers and 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 the Chilkoot Trail hiker has come to expect.