March 12, 2020
Two new tours approved
The Chilkat River Adventures new tour, “Explore Haines ‘On Your Own,’” will coordinate travel for visitors coming over from Skagway on the fast ferry and take them on short tours of Fort Seward and the American Bald Eagle Foundation, with roughly two and a half hours allotted for shopping in between. Chilkat River Adventures will run a maximum of two “Explore Haines” tours per day, each serving up to 24 guests.
“The main goal is to have people come over to Haines from Skagway to shop, company owner Karen Hess said. It gives people the chance to explore Haines on their own and encourages visitors who might be intimidated by making travel arrangements to get from Skagway to Haines to spend time in town. She said a finalized list of shopping stops is still being worked out, along with reaching agreements with various local shops to create a coupon book for those on the tour.
Karen said she was mindful of the recent loss of Holland America sailings in Haines and thought her tour could be a creative way to attract more downtown shoppers this summer.
The Alaska Mountain Guides tour titled “Haines Distillery Tour” includes visits to Port Chilkoot Distillery and other sites including Fort Seward, Picture Point, Tanani Point and the fairgrounds.
The tour will support local businesses, said AMGA owner Sean Gaffney. The company will run a maximum of four distillery tours per day, each serving a maximum of 30 guests.
No community members testified about either proposal. The assembly unanimously approved both. The assembly also approved a new restaurant liquor license application for Sarah Bishop’s Old Field Kitchen on the Fort Seward Parade Grounds.
Assembly casts wide net for Lutak Dock funding sources
The assembly voted unanimously to authorize borough staff to apply for a federal TIGER grant to fund Lutak Dock renovations. The renovations, which cost roughly $30 million, are a heavy lift for the borough, but would be more feasible with the help of a grant.
Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Discretionary Grants, now called Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grants, are administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation to fund road, rail, transit and port projects “that promise to achieve national objectives.” According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s website, through these grants, “Congress has dedicated nearly $7.9 billion over the course of eleven years to fund a total of 609 projects nationwide. In 2010, Juneau received a TIGER Grant to fund Auke Bay’s loading facility.
“This will be the third attempt that we have made to get federal funding for the dock,” borough manager Debra Schnabel said. Unlike past grants the borough applied for, the TIGER grant comes with a match requirement, Schnabel said. If Haines is selected from what is likely to be a pool of several thousand applicants, the borough will be on the hook for $5 million in order to receive the roughly $27 million grant for, she said.
“It doesn’t cost us anything to apply” and requires very little staff time since the borough has already completed several similar applications, Schnabel said. Even though the application is a long shot, she said the borough can use the knowledge to refine future grant applications. She said projects that get funded usually go through seven to 10 application cycles before being selected.
Schnabel said Mayor Jan Hill met with the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) during Southeast Conference to discuss Lutak Dock repair needs. AIDEA is a state-funded entity with a stated mission of diversifying the Alaska economy and creating jobs “by facilitating the financing of industrial, manufacturing and energy facilities, infrastructure, commercial real estate and equipment within the state.” In the past, AIDEA has supported projects ranging from renovations at the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation’s medical campus in Bethel to a road and port project supporting the Red Dog Mine.
Haines Borough presented AIDEA with the most up-to-date options for Lutak Dock rehabilitation, and last week, AIDEA expressed interest in setting up a time to talk about a potential partnership, Schnabel said. Right now, the borough is working to set a date to talk about how collaboration might work, but it is too soon to say what the outcome will be, she said.
Schnabel said harbormaster Shawn Bell recently conducted his quarterly inspection of the dock and said it isn’t showing any additional signs of deterioration since Oct. 10.
At Tuesday’s assembly meeting, members voted to take action on the Port and Harbor Advisory Committee’s recommendation that the borough assess the value of properties in Lutak Inlet, between Lutak and Lapeyri’s dock, and the willingness of landowners to sell with an eye toward future land acquisition.
“We have lost a lot of industrial-zoned land that has not been replaced,” Josephson said. The area in Lutak Inlet is zoned for waterfront industrial uses, which is very unique, she said.
Disposal of personal property ordinance rejected
The assembly declined to introduce an ordinance that would change the way the borough disposes of borough-owned surplus goods and day-to-day items.
In current code, “the manager may authorize the abandonment, destruction, sale, or recycling of borough personal property which has no commercial value in excess of $1,000.” The ordinance proposed increasing this threshold to $2,500 to keep pace with inflation, borough clerk Alekka Fullerton said.
Right now, for borough property valued above the current $1,000 limit and under $25,000, the assembly must, through resolution, direct how the borough disposes of the property. These methods include public outcry auction, public sealed bid auction, a request for proposals, and sale or transfer to a nonprofit, charitable organization or other government agency.
“(Going before the assembly) is not an efficient use of assembly/administration time. Since the manager is empowered to spend up to $25,000 without assembly resolution, it seems the manager should also be able to decide which public process is most appropriate to dispose of surplus goods valued (up to) $25,000 without assembly resolution,” borough administration wrote in a statement summarizing the ordinance.
“When I read this, I didn’t like it. I like the way the code is,” assembly member Brenda Josephson said. She said the requirement of going before the assembly increased government transparency.
In addition to declining to introduce the ordinance, the assembly took action on several other ordinances including: adopting the Alaska Remote Sellers Sales Tax Code and amending line items in the budget for the current fiscal year, requiring a net $142,000 be taken out of savings to cover costs associated with a tractor purchase and expenditures during last summer’s water shortage.
The assembly also amended language in an ordinance related to service area boards and scheduled the ordinance for its second hearing. The amendments specify that boards with fewer than three members consist of members from different households and parcels to avoid a single household representing an entire area. The ordinance also specifies that board members be “either a person who maintains their primary residence within the service area (regardless of ownership) or persons who own real property located within the service area,” who are registered to vote in Haines.