Ahead of Gov. Bill Walker’s visit to Haines this week, borough assembly members appear divided on one of the major issues bound to come up: the Juneau Access Road. Although in the past, the assembly has advocated for ferry reform over the road, the current assembly was divided on whether they should stick to that stance.
Assembly member Margaret Friedenauer started the conversation at Tuesday’s meeting.
“I just kind of wanted to make sure we were all on the same page with our position,” Friedenauer said.
They weren’t on the same page.
Friedenauer pointed to six previous assembly resolutions that express preference for an improved ferry system rather than Juneau Access.
“Our position was what was in all these previous resolutions which is we support a solid ferry system over a road project at this time, especially in light of the state budget,” she said.
But Assembly members George Campbell and Diana Lapham weren’t fully on board with that stance. Campbell said he’s been against the road for years, but people have to recognize the Alaska Marine Highway ferries are ‘timing out.’
“We need to be considering the ferry system infrastructure is going downhill very quickly,” Campbell said.
Lapham said she wants to hear more from the community before declaring a position.
“‘Haines doesn’t want the road’, there again, broad statements does not truly reflect what Haines wants,” Lapham said. “I know that there are a lot of people here that would like to see the road go through.”
Both Lapham and Campbell are outgoing assembly members. This was their last full meeting.
Campbell proposed the assembly approach Friday’s meeting with Walker with no position on the road. His motion failed to get a second. Friedenauer responded.
“I know we all hear from different people in the community and I understand that,” she said. “And I am more than willing to listen on Friday. But the borough can absolutely –and this assembly should support records of decisions we’ve made, especially in the form of six resolutions. I’m sorry, I’m babbling because I’m shocked.”
Assemblyman Ron Jackson wondered why the assembly was spending this amount of time on the topic when it already has a position.
“We have a position and to say we don’t have one is like trying to do some things under the carpet and trying to hide them from the public and the governor,” Jackson said.
He was backed up by Assemblyman Mike Case. He said if the assembly was going to consider changing its stance, that should’ve been advertised to the public.
“We have to support the positions we’ve had in the past.” Case said.
The meeting with Gov. Walker is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Friday at the Chilkat Center.