By Leigh Armstrong
The borough assembly in a 4-2 vote on May 16 renewed for another year municipal funding for the Skagway Development Corp. The economic development nonprofit has requested $87,400. The assembly will make the appropriation when it considers the borough’s budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
The 17-year-old SDC works with the municipality on economic development initiatives, while also providing assistance to existing and potential business owners.
Assemblymember Orion Hanson said the SDC was taking the lead in multiple projects, including designing and developing ideas for the Garden City RV Park. “We’re really getting consultant-level work out of the SDC,” Hanson said.
Assemblymember Steve Burnham said direct funding for the SDC contradicts plans to set up a municipal grant program for organizations like the SDC and Chamber of Commerce. The assembly March 21 approved the grant program.
“(The grant program) is not a request and you shall receive,” Burnham said. With direct funding as requested by the SDC, the municipality lacks sufficient oversight, he said.
The municipality shouldn’t fully fund the SDC because it doesn’t have to follow any specific direction from the municipality, Burnham said. He voted against extending the memorandum of understanding and direct municipal funding another year. Assemblymember Dave Brena also voted no.
“The debate last year was we don’t have enough oversight and we don’t what the funds are being used for,” Burnham said.
Hanson, who serves as the assembly liaison to the SDC and attends its quarterly meetings, said the municipality does have oversight over the organization. The funding agreement requires the SDC to assist the municipality in grant writing for economic development and community funds.
Operating the SDC costs less than it did to run the municipality’s economic development office before it closed. “(SDC) is a very valuable program that has helped a lot of people,” Hanson said.
Hanson mentioned business owners, such as Mike Healy of Skagway Brewing Co., who had reached out to him to compliment SDC.