Wildfire at Windy Arm

A large number of wildfires have recently sprouted up in the Yukon Territory, Canada; closest to Skagway is the one that sparked to life at Windy Arm, on the opposite shore of the lake by the Klondike Highway. The fire was reportedly started by a lightning strike, according to the Whitehorse Star.

The blaze was initially relatively small at .2 hectares (10,000 square meters). Now, burning just over 11 miles east of Carcross, the blaze is estimated at 250 hectares, according to an Aug. 6 Yukon Wildfire Bulletin.

“The fire is burning in the wilderness and is not a threat to any infrastructures,” the bulletin stated. “We are monitoring this fire closely. Wildfire is important for the restoration of ecosystem health. The fire can be seen from the South Klondike Highway and Conrad Campground; however, is not a threat to the area at this time.”

Rec Center expansion heading to public vote

Skagway’s voting public will be asked to weigh in on a Recreation Center expansion project and a pool project during the Oct. 2 election. A resolution approved by the Borough Assembly on Aug. 2 posed a trio of questions to voters:

• Do you support funding of the Recreation Center Expansion?

• Do you support funding of a Recreation Center Expansion Project to include the Aquatic Wellness Center?

• Do you support a one-percent sales tax increase for the purpose of funding the Recreation Center design, engineering and expansion and the retirement of general obligation bonds?

“Basically at the table here, it seems there’s been a need for guidance, or wanting to have the opinion of the community on how to move forward with a Rec Center expansion or not, and whether or not it would just be a Rec Center expansion or have an aquatic wellness facility,” Assembly Member Jay Burnham said.

Burnham said he understands that the assembly’s priority is its port and waterfront, but that the idea for an expansion and aquatic facility had been “kicking around for 40 or 50 years.”

A recent assembly meeting saw the expansion/aquatic center proposal discussed; at the time Assembly Member Orion Hanson had suggested the idea go before the voters before investing money into the engineering. On Aug. 2, Hanson said he had been against putting a $1.4 million line item in the 2019 budget for project engineering because he thinks the assembly needs to get a mandate from the public before approving that large of an endeavor.

“About a year-plus ago, this table turned that opportunity down,” Hanson said. “It was a 2-4 vote…and that did not pass.”

When it was first introduced on Aug. 2, the resolution had specifically been asking about whether the public supports the engineering for the projects. However, while Assembly Member David Brena said he supported putting the question to the public, he didn’t like the idea of only asking about support for engineering, and that he’d rather the “ultimate question” be asked: If voters would support the entire expansion project, not just the engineering for it. While the engineering for the project would cost upwards of $1.4 million, a full expansion with a pool could cost over $17 million, according to figures put forward last year.

Assembly Member Tim Cochran said he doesn’t think the public realizes how much the project will cost and how long it would take.

“A one-percent sales tax increase is not very favorable among a lot of the business people,” Cochran said.

Mayor Monica Carlson asked the assembly – should it get the funding for engineering – if the project would just simply “sit on the bookshelf,” or if it would actually be built.

“We have a lot of plans and we passed a lot of resolutions to build things, and we’ve spent a lot of money, and never gone forward for one reason or another,” Carlson said. Carlson also pointed out that retiring the debt from any general obligation bonds used to build an expansion/pool wouldn’t cover the maintenance and operation of the facility.

Brena made a motion to strike references to engineering and to add the estimated costs of the different projects to the first two questions – essentially giving the public the option to express opinion on the project as whole, rather than simply voting over the engineering portion.

“I agree with the discussion that’s been made that we’re trying to ask a bigger question, and I’m concerned that we’re going to go down the road of possibly supporting the engineering when maybe the community doesn’t actually support the project,” Brena said.

Brena’s motion was approved 6-0. The motion to approve the resolution passed 6-0 as well.

Dyea Restroom approved

The Borough Assembly approved the purchase and installation for a double waterless restroom on the Dyea Flats. The price quote on the restroom is $42,269, with installation costing $22,730. Assembly Member Steve Burnham Jr. said it would be installed as part of the municipality’s existing campground in Dyea.

The assembly approved the expenditure 6-0.

New Yukon liaison to port commission confirmed

Jordan Stackhouse has been appointed as the Yukon Government Liaison to Skagway’s Port Commission; the Borough Assembly approved his appointment at its Aug. 2 meeting 6-0. Stackhouse works as a senior business development advisor with the Yukon Government.


Short-term rental ordinance moves to second reading

Recommendations from both the Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) and the borough attorney have been adopted to Ordinance 18-14, the regulation of short-term rentals. A motion to approve first reading of that legislation has been passed by a 5-1 vote at the Aug. 2 Skagway Borough Assembly meeting.

Assembly members Steve Burnham and Dan Henry felt that the proposed ordinance was cumbersome, however, Henry opted to move into a second reading and Burnham was displeased altogether.

“I am not interested at this time,” Burnham said. “I don’t think it was ready last time and I don’t think it has changed at all.”

Mayor Monica Carlson expressed hope for second reading as a chance to receive public comments. Hanson then moved to adopt P&Z recommendations from July 20 and Borough Attorney Bob Blasco’s recommendations from July 24.  That motion passed 5-1.