Skagway Borough Assembly incumbent Spencer Morgan has filed last-minute as a write-in candidate to retain his seat. Morgan says he chose to add his name to the running because of the many important decisions the assembly faces in the near future.
Morgan’s spot on the assembly is one of two opening this year. But Morgan did not initially file for re-election. He says at first, he felt it was too much of a time commitment. But after discussions with his family, especially his nine-year-old daughter, Morgan changed his mind.
“She encouraged me to do what I felt was right,” Morgan said. “So I opted to put my name back out there.”
Morgan turned in paperwork to run as a write-in candidate just before the deadline Friday evening. He says Tuesday’s election is ‘extremely important’ because of the pending issue of Skagway’s port development and the list of upcoming capital projects.
“We really have our back against the wall with the port. The fact that we’ve got money available to get some things done and we haven’t been able to get that done yet, the clock is really ticking on that. To me that was something that was really important.”
Skagway came to an impasse with White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad when voters rejected a tidelands lease extension last year. White Pass controls areas of the port the municipality needs to access for port renovations. State funding for the work is set to expire in about eight months.
Morgan thinks the assembly’s decision to hire an independent port consultant to move things along is the right next step.
“Essentially we hit that situation where I feel like there’s been kind of a stalemate down on the port. That’s why I [support] a third party stepping in, helping facilitate negotiations so that we can resolve the financial issue with the money we’ve got sitting on the table for projects.”
The three assembly candidates whose names will appear on the ballot agree that ending the stalemate over the waterfront is the most important task facing Skagway. They include Morgan’s fellow incumbent Tim Cochran and challengers Orion Hanson and David Brena.
Morgan is a small business owner and White Pass engineer who has lived in Skagway for 20 years. He is finishing up his first three-year term on the assembly. Another reason he wants to stay on is to see the recreation center expansion project through. Morgan has served as assembly liaison to the committee working on that effort. It has grown to include not just an expanded rec center, but an aquatic wellness center with a swimming pool.
Morgan says he supports aspects of the expansion. He thinks it should be divided into what is needed and what is wanted.
“I believe the most pressing issues….you have a weight room where you can only have two or three people in there before it becomes dangerous. So that’s why the project was broken into two parts, the rec center portion is the need that we’ve got to attack. As far as the want goes, I think everybody would agree that the pool is a want.”
Morgan wants to stay on the assembly to see the rec center project come before the community.
A different capital project is in the spotlight this election. Residents will vote on a $6 million bond for a proposed senior center and housing facility. Morgan says the community needs a senior center. But like the other assembly candidates, he’s concerned about the municipality’s level of bond debt. If the $6 million bond goes through, the town’s debt level will rise to about $29 million.
“Thirty million dollars puts us at a lot of our bonding capacity. You can’t go too much past that mark before it affects the community and you have to figure out a way to start raising revenue on the city, which ultimately comes down to raising taxes.”
Morgan says he’s not a fan of raising taxes, but if it’s the best way to pay for a project, he’ll support it. He thinks a property tax hike would be the best way to pay for the senior center bond debt, as opposed to a sales tax.
Morgan knows a last-minute write-in campaign doesn’t give him a great chance at winning one of the two open assembly seats. But he says he realized it’s too important an election to sit out.
Skagway residents will also vote for candidates to fill two open seats on the school board. Incumbents Darren Belisle and Mark Smith are running, along with newcomer Jaime Bricker.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Skagway City Hall.
Find out more about the other assembly candidates here.