By Melinda Munson

After just a few minutes and three unanimous votes at the Aug 18 assembly meeting, current leaseholders Alaska Marine Lines (AML), Petro Marine Services and Temsco Helicopters Inc. can now begin negotiations to remain when the municipality regains control of its port in March 2023.

“Given that the 55-year master lease of the waterfront is expiring and Skagway has not been a market participant for decades, it seems entirely reasonable for Skagway to gather and evaluate market information and proposals from market participants through an RFP process as it moves forward,” said Robin Brena, attorney for the borough.

The RFP process, first approved by the assembly in April, was fraught with tension as rumors circulated the community of mass layoffs and the Klondike Highway shutting down. Among other issues, Petro Marine strongly disagreed with the municipality that the tank farm was an improvement that would revert to the city when the lease ended.

There were no other bids for the Freight Waterfront Lease (AML), Fuel Waterfront Lease (Petro Marine) and the General Waterfront Lease (Temsco).

“I’m sure glad that that’s over,” said Assemblymember Reba Hylton. “There was a lot of fear mongering that went on … There was a lot of speculation and unknowns … that got a little out of control. I’m really glad we’re moving forward.”

Tom Cochran, an employee of Petro Marine, also wished the RFP process had been smoother. 

“I think that could have been handled differently,” he said. “I think code could have been changed if necessary to make that a less onerous transition, because you’ve got a new relationship with a new tenant. So now the municipality is a landlord. So you’re going to embark on these new contracts on a fairly acrimonious and toxic foundation, which is unfortunate, and I hope you guys can maybe make the best of that situation and we can have a positive outcome in the future.” 

Up next, the three companies need to negotiate new leases with the borough. Several residents have suggested that the fence surrounding TEMSCO allow for access to the waterfront.

“It would be nice to see some discussion in there on access to those tide lands around the Temsco area,” said Assemblymember Sam Bass. “Just to see if that’s possible. I know there’s flight lines and there’s safety restrictions. But if we could, in some way, find a way to give the public access to that area, I think that’d be important.”