By DAN FOX
A recent development befalling the Garden City RV Park adds a new wrinkle to the ongoing housing shortage problem in Skagway – a wrinkle that requires smoothing if the facility is to be fully usable in the oncoming summer season.
The Borough Assembly received a letter from the Alaska Power & Telephone Company on Dec. 21, 2017, which stated that the wiring to each power pedestal in the RV park is deteriorating, and needs to be brought up to code. This would mean around 37 trailers could go without power unless improvements are made to Garden City’s infrastructure.
The letter said the electrical system has deteriorated to the point that AP&T has received several reports per summer by residents regarding voltage problems.
At the Jan. 4 assembly meeting, Public Works Director Tyson Ames said Boreal Controls Inc. had been in town around when the municipality had received the notification from AP&T. Ames had asked Boreal Controls for a proposal covering the work needed on the site.
“It’s Jan. 4, and people are going to be showing up in about three months,” Ames said. “So if we want the power back on then we need to move fast.”
Boreal Controls said it could have the engineering done in roughly two to three weeks, then the project could be put out to bid for the work on the electrical system itself, according to Ames.
“I think there’s a lot of seasonal people that depend on that [Garden City] for their housing through the summer, and I think we have a seasonal housing problem right now with one of the RV parks recently getting purchased,” Ames said.
Alaska Excursions recently purchased the Mountain View RV Park, with plans to use the space for company housing.
The cost proposal from Boreal Controls for the design and estimate would be a total of $22,396. Costs for the work itself will be determined during the survey phase.
Assembly Member Orion Hanson said the cost of the repairs is unfortunate, but that there isn’t really an option on the matter.
“This is pretty much a crisis stage that we can’t afford to lose that seasonal housing, and the space for the caravans,” Hanson said. “I don’t think there is any choice but to do it.”
Hanson motioned to approve the contract from Boreal Controls. The motion passed 6-0.
Looking at the big picture, Borough Manager Scott Hahn said the municipality is going to make an effort to be more involved in the management of its RV Parks, both Garden City and Pullen Creek RV.
The housing shortage is a reoccurring issue for Skagway, with few easy or cheap solutions available.
Hahn said there are two different demands within the housing situation: year round housing and seasonal housing.
“Most people who want to be here year round probably want a little more space and a little more of a place to live, whereas seasonal, you’re not going to have the same kind of demands,” Hahn said.
Finding out the exact demand is important to solving the problem, Hahn and Mayor Monica Carlson said.
“People want to live here year-round, but it’s very hard to make a mortgage on five months of income,” Carlson said. “We found out at Nahku, we developed that, everybody wanted more land out at Nahku Point, but when they were developed they were very expensive, and a lot of them didn’t sell.”
Hahn said the majority of comments he gets on the issue say to create year-round housing where Garden City currently is, but that would require moving the RV park first. The municipality has 15 acres available across the bridge along the Klondike Highway, but the prospect of putting water and sewer utilities across the bridge is not cheap. Hahn said it would take several million dollars to run the utilities out there, plus the not-insignificant expenses of building a new RV park on the property.
For the immediate future, Hahn said the municipality needs to fix up Garden City, adding that investments made to the RV park aren’t going to be wasted if a new facility would be raised in the future.
“I think most of the investments we have to do in the short term, maybe a couple years, are not a loss, they are something that can be picked up and probably moved and used at a new RV park,” Hahn said.