By Melinda Munson

STC, MOS continue talks over mission school site 

When Assemblymember Sam Bass put forth a resolution to sell Block 95 and 102 (Garden City RV Park) for housing, Skagway Traditional Council reminded the community that the land once housed St. Pius X Mission, a Catholic boarding school mainly for Native Alaskans, in operation from 1933-1959.

STC requested the land undergo an archeological survey and a portion of it be gifted to the sovereign government in acknowledgment of the “loss of traditional languages, cultural practices, familial connections and traditions.”

In response, Bass proposed Resolution 21-30R, directing the municipality to work with STC to begin the archeological process.

The assembly passed the legislation unanimously.

“I do understand it’s been dug up many times but that doesn’t mean we can’t be certain of what’s there,” said Assemblymember Orion Hanson.

“Whether it was the best boarding school ever, the fact it was in existence for cultural genocide is what’s important to me, and that we acknowledge that that happened…” said Assemblymember Reba Hylton.

STC further clarified that they “would like to be sure we are part of the entirety of the process from election of contractors as well have the option to house a staff onsite during the study.”

They also asked that shovel testing be used along with ground penetrating radar and that a formal agreement with the municipality be enacted regarding data sharing and clarifying “what happens if something is discovered.”

The STC offered to contribute funds to the assessment.

“With regards to donation of the land and size, we feel that the details of this discussion should wait until the completion of the study…” said an Oct. 1 letter to the assembly from tribal administrator Sara Kinjo-Hischer.

“My intention … is to immediately reach out to the STC and follow their lead through this process as staff,” said Borough Manager Brad Ryan.

Assembly votes to offer up to $2M for Hamilton property

The Assembly voted unanimously to offer up to $2 million, as-is, for the 4.35 acre 

Hamilton property at 535 Klondike Highway. The land includes a four bay warehouse, office space, covered parking structure and a large shop.

The municipality hopes to move Public Works across the Skagway River bridge, eventually selling in-town Public Works property for private development.

“There is no piece of equipment the city owns, or I could ever envision the city owning, that you could not park inside of that shop,” said Assemblymember Orion Hanson, describing the Hamilton property.

Orion said another party had put in an offer above the $1,7000,000 asking price.

“As a municipality, we have to be transparent about what we do … it’s not a great bargaining position,” he said, but noted it was necessary.

(Editor’s Note: After presstime, The Skagway News learned that Hamilton selected another buyer.)

Paid family leave for municipality employees passes

Assemblymember Jay Burnham first attempted to pass paid family leave benefits for municipality employees five years ago. That legislation was unsuccessful. He reintroduced a pared down program, Resolution 21-31R, which passed unanimously on Oct. 7. 

The resolution allows a paid family leave benefit, up to 10 working days for a maximum of 80 hours.

According to the document, “Accrued sick leave and vacation leave must be fully used by the employee prior to utilizing the Paid Family Leave Benefit.” 

Burnham’s son, Benjamin Burnham, a Skagway School highschool student, has been attending finance meetings and following the legislation. He testified to the assembly in support of the resolution.

“I support this resolution. I think it provides numerous benefits to municipal employees. It eliminates the choice of having to choose between bonding with a newborn or caring for a sick family member and ensuring coverage of basic living expenses…” Benjamin said.