CLAA releases preliminary 2019 ship calendar

Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska has released a draft of the summer 2019 cruise ship schedule, which shows the Royal Caribbean International Ovation of the Seas docking every Monday in Skagway. The Ovation is in RCI’s Quantum Class of cruise ships, with a passenger capacity of well over 4,000 people. Skagway recently saw its biggest ship ever land in port for the first time, when the Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Bliss docked on June 6. The Bliss spans 1,094 feet long, with a crew of 2,100 and a guest capacity of 4,004; she will be returning to Skagway in 2019 every Wednesday.

Sales Tax Holiday expanded to a full quarter

Skagway’s sales tax holiday has been expanded to run Oct. 1-Dec. 31 for 2018. It had been dropped to just the months of November and December in 2017, but discussion by the Borough Assembly on June 21 saw it increase to span a full quarter of the year.

Before the final votes were cast on the resolution, Assembly Member Dan Henry moved to make the holiday span two full quarters – the months of October through March.

“For the simple that if we as a city government can afford to give any benefit at all to the local citizens of Skagway, I think we should never miss the opportunity to do exactly that,” Henry said.

Assembly Member Orion Hanson commented on the amendment, saying that consistency would perhaps be cleaner and less of a “yo-yo fiscally.”

“I feel we sometimes oscillate back and forth,” Hanson said.

Henry’s motion failed 3-4, with Mayor Monica Carlson making the deciding vote against. Following that, Hanson moved to expand the tax holiday for the period of Oct. 1-Dec. 31. That amendment passed 4-2, with Henry and Assembly Member Steve Burnham Jr. against, and the resolution to put the sales tax holiday into place was next passed 6-0.

Business owner Beth Smith commented at that June 21 meeting that she was in favor of the tax holiday, and that it’s a benefit for both year-round businesses and residents.

Yukon Chamber interested in extending border crossing hours

Mayor Monica Carlson received a letter on June 13 from the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, which expressed interest in exploring the available avenues to extend the hours of the Canadian and American borders on the Klondike Highway for freight transport. The letter said Yukon’s Chamber has heard interest on the topic from both the tourism industry and from trucking companies transporting goods to and from the Port of Skagway.

“The freight companies have cited both potential improvements to [safety] along the road, as well as the reduction of truck traffic impact on tourism traffic,” wrote Peter Turner, Yukon Chamber president, in the letter. “The trucking companies believe that extending border crossing hours would allow them to operate in non-daytime hours, reducing the potential for interaction with/interference to tour bus and RV traffic that take place almost exclusively during the daytime hours.”

Carlson addressed the letter at the June 21 Borough Assembly meeting, and said she had asked the Skagway Chamber of Commerce to respond and work in conjunction with the Yukon Chamber. Carlson also asked Assembly Member Tim Cochran to brief the Skagway Chamber director on the situation and the municipality’s position.

Cochran said the US Customs and Border Control office has already agreed to open a half-hour early, and that an attempt is being made to open both borders up for a full extra hour.

Street closed for block party

Skagway’s Borough Assembly approved a request from The Station Bar and Grill to close part of Fourth Street from 2 p.m. on July 3 to 9 a.m. on July 5, as well as to close it from 2 p.m.-midnight on Sept. 26.

The street will be closed directly in front of the Morning Wood Hotel and the Station, for the business’s annual Fourth of July festivities, and its Last Ship Day party on Sept. 26. The motion to approve the request passed 6-0.

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Municipality pushes SDC memorandum agreement to July meeting

After some collaboration the Municipality of Skagway and the Skagway Development Corporation (SDC) have nearly reached a compromise for a memorandum of agreement (MOA). Funds of $87,400 will not be released to the SDC until the Borough Assembly approves the MOA.

Following discussion at the June 19 finance meeting, and then again at an assembly meeting that same night, Mayor Monica Carlson opted to push finalizing MOA business to July 5.

“I’d like to clean it up, get rid of all of the red and bring it back to the table,” Carlson said.

Before this, a motion was passed for several key revisions.

The first revision makes certain that the SDC executive director must take a certified grant-writing course within the first 90 days upon signing the MOA.

The assembly explored potential financial constraints of this, but ultimately seemed to agree that finding an affordable online grant-writing course is possible.

The second revision reads that the agreement may be extended for two additional one-year periods, as opposed to previous language allowing two additional five-year periods, provided a request be made by the SDC and Skagway approves the request.

“I think it [the MOA] covers a lot of the things we talked about as far as public meetings go, settling representatives and our ex-officios, meeting minutes that are publicly available,” said Steve Burnham Jr., assembly member and chair of the Finance Committee.

“I think it goes a long way toward explaining the way grant work works.”

According to SDC Executive Director Kaitlyn Jared, she feels the MOA is a really good base that will help the SDC “assist Skagway in its development economically and for the community.”

Jared hopes to find a middle ground with the new addition to terms of agreement because she feels that one-year contracts can make it hard to plan for the long-term.

Jared had yet to talk with the SDC’s Board of Directors before speaking with The Skagway News, however, she believes it is likely the board will be coming into the July meeting with a few alternative solutions at-the-ready.

“We are going to build a strong relationship with the city that will take us into the future and so we don’t have to keep every year, keep going back and forth over this,” Jared said.

Prior to negotiating terms for 2018, the MOA was last revised in 2013.

Other major changes to the MOA that have been approved by the SDC Board of Directors include a town mandate for public meetings and for meeting minutes to be documented promptly on a website.

Another approved change designates Skagway’s borough manager as the sole point of contact for general communication between the SDC and the Skagway, which includes copying the borough clerk for each interaction.

In addition, Skagway’s mayor will serve as an ex-officio member of the SDC and has the power to nominate a second ex-officio member with confirmation by the assembly.

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