White Pass and Yukon Route sign in Skagway.

White Pass and Yukon Route sign in Skagway. (Greta Mart)

Four months after Skagway voters rejected a proposed lease extension between the municipality and White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad, talks between the borough assembly and White Pass have started up again. The first discussion took place behind closed doors.

On Monday, the assembly held a special meeting to talk with White Pass President John Finlayson and local White Pass Director Tyler Rose. Finlayson approached the assembly earlier this month. He requested a meeting to discuss port planning in executive session.

“I think it’s worth preserving a cooperative relationship as opposed to entering into a competitive relationship,” Finlayson said. “If we compete, you’re not just competing with the company but the 200 people that work with us. I just from everything I’ve seen and looked at I think it’s far more productive for both parties to work together.”

The reasoning given for the executive session Monday was that the discussion involved “potential borough funding and proprietary financial information of White Pass.”

The closed-door meeting lasted about two and half hours. When the assembly reconvened in open session, Mayor Mark Schaefer said the next step is this:

“We’ll continue a conversation with White Pass in the public realm and we’ll continue working on the other things we discussed, which are whatever the other options are.”

The municipality has about 16 months to use $7 million in state grant funds for city port improvements. That money was originally slated for the Gateway Project, which includes contamination clean-up in the ore basin, and improvements to industrial and cruise ship dock facilities.

White Pass leases much of the port tidelands from the municipality. The October rejection of the lease extension led to uncertainty about whether White Pass would cooperate on the port developments.

Mayor Schaefer plans to give an update about the assembly’s conversation with White Pass at Thursday’s borough assembly meeting. The assembly is also holding another special meeting Monday, Feb. 22 to put together a proposal for how to proceed with port improvements. That meeting will not be held in executive session.