By Leigh Armstrong

The borough assembly has decided it wants a much more comprehensive review of the future of Skagway’s port — looking at more than just tourism — than the initial work plan submitted by the municipality’s contractor.

The municipality is working with Bermello Ajamil and Partners, a Miami-based consulting firm, to build a comprehensive plan for a municipally run port.  

The assembly talked with Mark Ittel of Bermello Ajamil via phone about the proposed waterfront plan during the July 10 assembly meeting. The company submitted a revised plan at the July 18 assembly meeting.

Mayor Andrew Cremata said assembly members should reach out to Bermello Ajamil individually to get the plan closer to what they want. 

Assemblymember Steve Burnham said the proposed plan looks more like a synopsis of older plans but is lacking an actual work plan for the municipality to use. 

Assemblymember Dave Brena said the assembly should make sure that all areas of its concern are addressed. “I’m anxious to see this starting to produce something, but we need to get it right and there a few things that should be addressed,” he said.  

The municipality has contracted with Bermello Ajamil for assistance in coming up with options for when Skagway has the opportunity to take over the waterfront in 2023 when the lease with White Pass & Yukon Route expires. 

The contractor’s work plan lists five tasks: identifying potential demand on the port, reviewing the existing condition of the port and previous plans, alternatives in development, budgetary concerns and business models for Skagway to implement.

Bermello Ajamil at the July 18 assembly meeting requested $165,840 for the work, up from $146,240 in the draft presented July 10. The project team has increased from six to 12 people. 

During the July 10 meeting, Assemblymember Orion Hanson said the draft plan didn’t include an industrial aspect but rather focused too much on Skagway’s summer tourism.

“We have a very large fuel capacity coming through Skagway,” Hanson said. “Historically, the ore terminal is what sustained Skagway and it still has a large imprint on our waterfront.”

Bermello said the proposal was made with tourism and cruise ships in mind but the company is open to making changes to its work plan. 

Assemblymember Tim Cochran said infrastructure needs to be addressed with the increasing volume of cruise ship passengers coming to Skagway. With the potential mining opportunities coming from the anticipated reopening of the Minto Mine, Cochran said the assessment should take the full economy of Skagway into account, not just the summer season. 

With the timeline for Skagway taking control of the waterfront coming in a few years, Brena said the plan should keep the deadline in mind. 

Along with the industrial aspects, Burnham wants to encourage the firm to work with local groups in finding the best ways to direct tourism to the greenbelt areas of Skagway. Burnham brought up green space planning in the July 10 meeting with Ittel.

The assembly is expected to vote on an updated work plan at the Aug. 1 meeting.