Election results certified

Official election results were announced at Tuesday’s assembly meeting after 19 absentee, question and special needs ballots were counted. Of the total 2,431 registered voters, 1,176 ballots were cast, a 48% voter turnout. About 60% of voters cast ballots on election day while 32% voted early.

The final tally of votes saw Tom Morphet receive about 100 more votes than opponent Jan Hill for Mayor. Kevin Forster and Craig Loomis will be sworn into three-year assembly terms, while Natalie Dawson will serve a one-year assembly term.

For the first-ever election of the planning commission, Patty Brown, Derek Poinsette, and Erika Merklin will serve three-year terms, while Rachel Saitzyk and Dan Schultz will serve two-year terms, and Brian O’Riley and Eben Sargent will serve one-year terms. The certification of results will happen Oct. 24, when incoming assembly members will be sworn into office. The newly elected planning commission will be sworn in on Nov. 9 and trained the same day.

Parks and Rec committee vote postponed

After receiving public comments from Eben Sargent, Craig Loomis and Tom Morphet, the assembly decided to postpone an ordinance that would have eliminated the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee.

“The time is right to reinvigorate this committee,” said Sargent, who spoke as a board member of Haines Huts and Trails. “We support the continuation of the parks and recreation committee,” he said. Morphet encouraged the assembly to not get rid of the committee “until we can create something better.”

An ordinance that would repeal the Public Safety Commission was amended and set to have a third public hearing on Oct. 24, giving the public an opportunity to comment on the new changes, which include striking the repeal and substituting the commission with an advisory board.

Tourism funding, heliport, boat storage advance

The borough also appropriated additional funding from the budget to the tourism department’s marketing plan. The resolution placing a moratorium on heliports within 10 miles of an existing heliport was referred to the planning commission. And a resolution that allows commercial vessel storage at Portage Cove was passed unanimously.

Property tax assessments continue to draw heat

There continued to be lots of public comments regarding property tax assessments on Tuesday, with resident Brenda Josephson providing the assembly with an open letter that questions the qualifications of accessor Michael Dahle and claims, among other things, that borough manager Annette Kreitzer committed to Dahle without seeking proposals from other contract assessors.

Kreitzer denied the allegation and dismissed claims that because Dahle’s accreditation in the State of Washington is listed as “suspended,” he was unqualified to complete the assessments.

Assemblywoman Debra Schnabel prepared a response to Josephson as well, detailing the technologies used to assess properties in Haines. The Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal (CAMA) system was installed in 2017 and data input began in 2018. However, CAMA does not report values, it only stores data. Marshall & Swift is the cost estimator used by the borough since 2005.

“We are off the rails because during the four or five or more years that the Borough introduced new technology and new software without benefit of additional experienced staff, the scheduled cycle for reappraisal was broken, and many properties were ignored, or perhaps only the land was reappraised, or only the new construction was reviewed. Management – yes, including me – was insufficiently educated to the systems and methodology to ensure that we were on target,” said Schnabel.

Josephson urged the borough to create an ad hoc committee to investigate the assessments.

“We are bound by law, by process, and by procedure,” said assemblywoman Cheryl Stickler. “It’s very frustrating for everybody. I just hope at the end of this we can still be community members that can respect each other.”

By Nakeshia Diop