A veto from the mayor, controversial changes to port commission code, and floating dock talks with the state were just a few of the items on the agenda at Thursday’s Skagway Borough Assembly meeting.
Mayor Mark Schaefer’s veto is related to a contract for construction oversight on the public safety facility project. Borough Manager Scott Hahn recommended they hire Whitehorse consultant Chad Gubala for the oversight work.
Hahn suggested Gubala because he is independent from the construction and architectural companies involved in the project. He said Gubala could be an objective observer the municipality could trust to uphold local interests. In a 5-1 vote, the assembly approved the contract with Gubala and work started on the public safety facility.
Then, on April 1, Mayor Schaefer penned a veto letter. He said Skagway municipal code indicates that the contract should have gone out to competitive bid. Assemblyman Spencer Morgan voted against awarding Gubala the contract at an earlier meeting. He said the consultant’s involvement in other Skagway projects, such as the StreamWalk, presented a potential conflict of interest.
“I’ve become increasingly concerned about that potential conflict of interest with this specific contract with Chad Gubala,” Morgan said.
But Assemblyman Jay Burnham said it seemed unfair to revoke the contract: “I just don’t see why we need to just keep making drama and problems for this project.”
The assembly ultimately voted 4-2 to send the oversight contract out to bid. Jay Burnham and Angela Grieser were opposed. Then, the assembly voted 4-2 again to keep Gubala on the project on a week-to-week basis in the meantime, since construction already started. Morgan and Dan Henry were opposed.
The assembly delayed action on controversial proposed changes to port commission code. The amendments were recommended by Borough Attorney Bob Blasco. They reinforce the commission’s role as an advisory group under the authority of the borough manager and assembly.
“We don’t feel that this ordinance needs to be passed,” said port commissioner chair Tim Bourcy.
He and the rest of the commission offered suggested changes to the proposed amendments. Bourcy said one part they strongly objected to was giving the assembly power to dissolve the commission at any time with a majority vote and adoption of an ordinance. Assemblyman Tim Cochran agreed.
“It just seems like there needs to be a public process. We can’t just say, ‘hey they ticked us off so we’re getting rid of them,'” Cochran said.
“It would be a public process,” replied Grieser. “It’s an ordiance. It would be two readings with public input.”
“I just don’ think it’s necessary,” Cochran responded.
Assemblyman Steve Burnham Jr. eventually put an end to the debate by proposing they table the ordinance until the next meeting. Burnham said he has changes he would like to send to the port commission and then bring to assembly. The motion to postpone passed 5-1, with Grieser opposed.
Finally, the assembly discussed the possibility of a new floating dock to accommodate cruise ships and other marine traffic in Skagway’s port. Hahn asked if the assembly would support applying to the federal government for a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant, also called a TIGER grant.
There was some hesitation, because assembly members said the TIGER grants are for ‘shovel-ready’ projects.
“The potential to suggest that we’re gonna be able to provide a shovel-ready engineered project for the ore dock is completely unrealistic,” said port commissioner Bourcy.
But Hahn said the possibility of a combined cruise ship/ ferry dock looks hopeful. Instead of siting the floating dock at the ore terminal, it would be on the Alaska Marine Highway property.
“I have had meetings with the Alaska Marine Highway DOT guys and they are very excited about something like this,” Hahn said.
The assembly members encouraged Hahn to talk to DOT about the TIGER grant and to continue pursuing collaboration. They agreed that even though applying for TIGER is a ‘hail Mary’ pass, it’s worth trying.
In other Skagway boro ugh news, budget meetings are starting this week. The first assembly committee of the whole meeting to talk about the FY17 budget is Wednesday at 5 p.m.