After widespread public criticism, the Haines Borough’s Government Affairs and Services Committee agreed this week to dissect a draft ordinance outlining fines for minor violations.

The group recommended that the assembly authorize the committee to comb through the 14-page minor offenses list subject by subject – vehicle and traffic violations, animal violations, land use violations, etc. – and identify superfluous and unnecessary items.

The first meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4., will tackle harbor violations.

Since the ordinance’s introduction at the June 9 assembly meeting, residents have called the list “completely ridiculous,” “a mess,” and reminiscent of a “police state.”

As of May 31, the borough has spent more than $13,000 on attorney fees for work on the minor offenses issue, said chief fiscal officer Jila Stuart. The borough doesn’t have figures yet for June and July.

The ordinance compiles existing borough violations, but does not put any new ones on the books, said borough attorney Patrick Munson. “The goal of this ordinance is to facilitate enforcement through the court system of laws that are already on the books, not to outlaw activities that are currently legal,” Munson said.

The ordinance, though, has brought to light existing laws that some residents think should be stricken.

Munson said one of the goals of the ordinance is to streamline enforcement. “These changes should decrease, not increase, the time borough employees and officers spend on enforcement,” Munson said, because the court will be handling the citations, not the borough administration.

The ordinance also allows fine revenue for minor offenses to go to the borough instead of the state.   

When asked how the Haines Borough’s list of minor offenses compares to those of other communities he has worked for, Munson said Haines’ is “definitely the longest one.”

Munson also clarified there is no deadline or time limit on passing the minor offenses ordinance, if the assembly chooses to pass it at all. The worst-case scenario, he said, is that some tickets may get kicked back by the court system.  

About a half-dozen residents turned out at Monday’s GAS committee meeting to urge the group to scrap the ordinance, or at least take out the more onerous items, like the $25 fine for walking on the wrong side of the road.

Resident Gina St. Clair said the ordinance would cause neighbors to turn on each other, calling in every tiny violation. “This is not why we live in Haines,” St. Clair said. “Everything about (this ordinance) is negative.”

Committee member George Campbell agreed that the ordinance, and the codes it draws from, needs some serious work.   

“We have inherited codes that are inappropriate, poorly done, done in a hurry, passed imperfectly and this has come from that,” Campbell said. “So what needs to happen is we need to take the bull by the horns and go, ‘We don’t like these codes and we need to change the codes to make it appropriate for what our citizens want.’”

Though the GAS committee agreed to work through the ordinance and identify excesses, it didn’t address another major concern raised by residents: the ordinance allows designated borough employees to write citations. The harbormaster, assessor, planning and zoning technician, full-time fire department personnel, and “others as deemed necessary by the borough manager” would be authorized to write citations under the current ordinance.