New assembly members Margaret Friedenauer and Tresham Gregg were welcomed to their first assembly meeting with a session that lasted nearly four hours on Tuesday. Among the agenda items was the approval of a contract between the borough and the Haines Animal Rescue Kennel.
HARK and the borough have been in negotiations over which entity will take on animal control services for several weeks now. But they reached a consensus on Oct. 9, and it was made official Tuesday evening. The assembly unanimously passed a resolution authorizing borough manager Dave Sosa to offer HARK $23,784 for a contract running from Sept. 1 of this year through June 30, 2016. Here’s Sosa:
“What we really looked at is what are the services that are essential to have and then who can do what. So, we took a look at what was within HARK’s capability, and not only what was in their capability, but what was in their comfort level in terms of the types of tasks that they can conduct.”
In September, negotiations stalled between HARK and the borough with the police department taking on calls for loose animals after the contract fell into limbo. This came after HARK hadn’t been paid for nearly three months, according to Tracy Mikowski, HARK executive director, who spoke with KHNS at the time.
Tara Bicknell is the president of HARK’s board of directors and said she’s relieved the stalemate was resolved.
“I’m glad we could finally settled on a contract that everyone could agree on,” she said Wednesday. “I think it was obvious that the community had a lot of support for HARK and encouraged the borough to finalize a contract.”
She said the money from the borough is a cut from previous years, but maintained that HARK will continue all the essential services it has in the past.
“It’s the lowest amount that we’ve had in a while but it also passes over some of the new enforcement duties to the police department. So there will be less hours for patrolling from HARK.”
Interim police chief Robert Griffiths said that HARK picks up loose dogs almost daily.
HARK has been contracted by the borough to house loose, stray or homeless dogs, feed them, provide licenses and collect fees, along with a host of other duties, since 2003.
Earlier in the meeting, Friedenauer made a motion, her first as an assembly member, to follow up with the $41,000 helicopter noise study. The study was performed at the request of the borough last spring to measure helicopter noise at a 26-Mile heliport. She moved for the assembly to direct the planning commission to hold a public hearing to get input on whether the borough should regulate the use of commercial recreational helicopters. The purpose of the potential regulation would be to mitigate noise but would take into account specific circumstances and conditions. Here’s Friedenauer:
“I feel like we need to do something with the study results,” she said. “I’m not saying at this point that I support having those regulations or not. I just feel like it’s the assembly’s responsibility to at least look at the results in a concrete way and say yes or no, we want something to come from this. Because if we don’t do something with the study now, it’s going to come up again; the issue of noise.”
The motion prompted resistance from assembly member George Campbell, who said freedoms in the community are being chipped away at as it is, and regulating noise would be another example of that. Plus, he added, there are more pressing issues the assembly should be dealing with.
But Friedenauer’s motion passed 5-1 with Campbell opposed.
The borough also approved the allotment of skier days to three local heliski operations at the meeting. There are 2,600 skier days available to three permit holders for the season. All three appealed for more days than were allotted, so it fell on Sosa to divvy up the days. His original division gave 1,250 to Alaska Heliskiing, 900 to Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures and just 200 to the newest permit holder, Alaska Mountain Guides. Representatives from all three businesses pled their cases for more days.
Sosa said the decision was based on the usage of days over the past three seasons, safety records and other factors. The allowance left 250 days that Sosa had planned to hand out later in the season to the company who could show they had the bookings to back up the days.
“We’d like to request 200 of those days at this time so we can meet the needs of the clients that we have,” said Alaska Mountain Guides’ Sean Gaffney. “If for any reason we don’t use those days, we’ll return them or allow other operators to use them as we have in the past.”
Alaska Heliskiing co-owner Ryan Johnson said he was asking for more days because they have gotten more in the past. Last season, his company was awarded 1,450, 200 more than this year.
In the end, the assembly voted to increase the days for Alaska Mountain Guides to 400 total and add 50 days to Alaska Heliskiing.
Scott ‘Sunny’ Sundberg owns SEABA and said after the decision, that even though his company didn’t get any extra days, if the other two businesses don’t use all theirs, those days are up for grabs. He said his main concern is that three permit holders is just too many.
“If you’re going to award them more days and all of us more days, then let’s see some more area.”
The agenda for Tuesday’s meeting was packed with topics ranging those above, to temporary residence permits, waste water regulations and the summer ferry schedule. A good introduction for the rookies and a sure sign of a busy year ahead.