William Seward listens to assembly members during an interview Saturday. (Emily Files)

Bill Seward takes over as Haines Borough Manager on Monday.  (Emily Files)

Bill Seward hasn’t officially taken the helm as Haines’ new permanent borough manager, but that hasn’t stopped him from sitting in on meetings and getting acquainted with his new town. He observed the Haines Borough Assembly meeting on Tuesday, and said afterward that the frank discussions were “refreshing.”

“Bill (Seward) scared me, I thought he was going to say after this meeting he changed his mind.”

That’s Assemblyman Mike Case at the tail end of a two-and-a-half hour assembly meeting this week. The borough’s new manager sat in for its entirety and spoke during the public comment period.

“It’s an absolute honor to be selected as your borough manager and I echo your accolades in regards to Mr. Ryan and I look forward to working with you as we do the handoff,” Seward said.

Seward said he signed off on the contract and is scheduled to start at $95,000 a year. One of his first priorities is to finalize the contract with the new police chief, Heath Scott. He said he was planning to take care of that on his first office day in office, June 20.

As for the meeting, Seward said the banter between assembly members was enlightening.

“I think they were healthy discussions. I was very impressed by what I saw tonight.”

The Portage Cove Small Boat Harbor Expansion Project is one of the big issues that he said he’s looking forward to diving into. A few residents spoke out against the current 95 percent design at Tuesday’s meeting, mostly citing issue with the proposed steel wave barrier. Seward said he still has a lot to learn about the project, but doesn’t want to hold up progress.

“I’m anxious to learn about the details. Even more so because, being a former member of the Coast Guard, I understand a lot of the dynamics that go with trying to maintain a port,” he said. “I heard a lot of the comments this evening about this, and I definitely want to make sure that we move forward to facilitate commerce. We definitely need to take a good look at the issues that were raised tonight to make sure we’re on the right path.”

Seward said he and his wife have been welcomed with open arms since they arrived a few days ago.

“I’m happy. I officially start the job on Monday, but it’s neat to participate as a new member to the Haines community. In every business that we’ve dropped into, every person that we’ve met on the sidewalk, it’s just nice to see folks saying ‘hello.’”

One of interim manager Brad Ryan’s final big tasks was approved at the meeting. The $12 million, FY17 borough budget passed 5-1. Assemblyman George Campbell said he wasn’t going to waste the assembly’s time trying to make amendments, but he wanted to voice his disapproval.

“The state government is going to be paying less money out, the federal government is paying less money out, our schools are looking at one more year maybe, before their budget surplus is up,” Campbell said by phone. “We’re in budget deficit spending treating as business as usual and I think this is the time when we should be buckling down.”

The assembly also passed the Minor Offenses Ordinance in a 5-1 vote. Again, Campbell was opposed. He said for the assembly to pass the 300-violation list as it is, with many redundant and “silly” rules, is “taking the easy way out.” Assemblymember Diana Lapham responded.

“I take acceptation to the verbiage from Mr. Campbell as far as past assemblies passing silly ordinances,” she said. “Our ordinances, our code is based on cause and effect. There was a cause and the code is the effect of that.”

Any decision on the proposed code review commission, a group that would go over the borough’s code and make recommendations to change or modify some regulations, was postponed until the next meeting. The Minor Offenses Ordinance and the Code Review Commission go hand in hand because local rules exist in both documents. And while the minor ordinance was spruced up and mellowed out, none of the violations were removed or changed because they still exist in code.

The next borough assembly meeting is June 28.