Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Residents question ethics of borough plowing manager's private road


June 13, 2019

On Tuesday, borough manager Debra Schnabel addressed citizens’ complaints on borough road maintenance benefitting her private land.

Schnabel is a major shareholder of the 15-acre property housing a mobile home park, St. James Place. The parcel has never been subdivided, and the borough has never accepted the bisecting road, Fourth Avenue.

Schnabel inherited the property from her father, who had what Schnabel characterized as a long-standing agreement with the city for it to maintain the road.

In a letter dated November 5, 1986, then city manager Erich von Stauffenberg told John Schnabel “Fourth Avenue according to our records, still needs to be taken to a final plat stage and recorded. Due to the years of confusion over the platting of this street, I would suggest the city pay for the preparation of the final plat and its recording of this street. We will continue to maintain it as a city street at this time as we have for many years.”

Don Turner, who raised the issue to the borough, said he believes St. James Place should reimburse the borough for years of maintenance.

Schnabel sought the assembly’s direction whether back charging for road maintenance would be necessary. “I just wanted to bring this to your attention so you were aware I’m not trying to hide behind my manager’s issue,” Schnabel said Tuesday. She said St. James Place is in the process of platting and subdividing, and will go to the planning commission on June 13. If a subdivision is approved, Fourth Avenue would become public.

Borough planner Holly Smith provided the assembly with a list of other roads the borough plows but does not own, including Cathedral View, Bear Trails Lane and Oslund Drive.

Assembly member Tom Morphet asked if the borough charges property owners on the other roads the cost of maintenance. Schnabel said it doesn’t.

“What the hell are we doing giving away borough services?” Morphet asked.

Assembly member Brad Ryan said most of the roads are small sections. “They’re not big sections of roads.

Assembly members directed Schnabel to tell Turner they are satisfied.

I think these things happen and I appreciate Mr.Turner’s due diligence but I think now that we know, we’ll just keep working at these things one at a time,” assembly member Heather Lende said.

Morphet disagreed, and said free plowing needs to be addressed by a committee.

Alaska Municipal League director Nils Andreassen, who was forwarded the complaint by citizen George Campbell, said in an e-mail that Schnabel was being proactive in bringing the issue to the assembly to clear it up.


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