By Heidi Zemach for SCN
Monday’s Seward City Council meeting began and ended in much the same way as it had at the previous meeting—with Tim McDonald at the podium during Citizens Comments, strongly urging the city to fund a comprehensive study of all the possible waterfront sites that could be developed to enable a safe harbor for ships—not just focus its development efforts on Seward Municipal Industrial Center, or SMIC. Again, he repeated that the city was focusing its harbor design solely on the Coastal Villages CDQ fishing vessels—to the exclusion of all others who might be interested in coming here. McDonald predicted that with global shipping through the Arctic, and stepped up oil and gas exploration, there wouldn’t be enough space to provide dock space for all the vessels. The cost of continual dredging that would be needed there would be more than currently predicted, he said.
McDonald’s family members own the “Mount Alice Beach” property off Nash Road, and the partners are hoping to sell it to a developer. The beach is currently the most popular red salmon snagging areas in the region, and every summer, during the various salmon runs, visitors pay $5 per person to park and camp on the property, which has easy access to the beach.
Seward Assistant City Manager Ron Long took the opportunity to testily rebut McDonald’s comments at the end of the meeting. Repeating the same thing over and over at council meetings doesn’t make his statements any truer, he said. There has been professional engineering done of the SMIC basin, including its dredging needs, and it was deemed the best location to build, Long said. The Coastal Village’s desire to use the SMIC basin for its fleet was the impetus for soliciting bonding state-wide to build a new breakwater there, but earlier development plans have since been expanded to include dock space for a much greater variety of other vessels they expect to see. He told Council member Bob Valdatta there was no need to establish additional buoys for ships to tie to, such as the private buoy now in use by unmanned barges, without staffing needs.
Later, the council also unanimously passed a resolution supporting legislative efforts by House Speaker Mike Chenault and House Rep. Mike Hawker to construct a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to South-Central Alaska, whether it is a stand-along project or in conjunction with the producers and Trans-Canada in a larger project. The council also asked its managers to bring forward a resolution to support Rep. Tammie Wilson’s House Bill 35. That bill provides low 1-percent interest bank loans of up to $15,000 for purchasing more energy-efficient heaters or stoves.
In other council news, a special council meeting was held Monday evening to award a bid to the winning janitorial and gardening contractor. Dependable Janitor and Gardener was awarded a $50,600 contract as the lowest bidder of two deemed responsive to keep the new Seward Community Library and Museum clean and well maintained for the year. Its owners Ron Newcome and Connie Alsup, of Seward, also provide janitorial services at buildings for the Alaska Railroad, including the cruise ship terminal building. It’s a one-year contract involving more than five days of janitorial work, such as monitoring security of the building, which is open six days a week, decorating and preparing the facility for events such as banquets and meetings, and more.
In New Business, the council authorized the City Manager to establish a lease agreement with Alaska Wireless Network, LLC which will succeed Mactel Cellular, for a portion of land within the Seward recording district. Council also passed an ordinance amending portions of the city code regarding downtown parking for new buildings. It asks hospital and group care facilities to provide parking spaces for employees and a space for every two bed. Bunkhouses and dorms must provide one parking space for every four residents, and stores must provide a parking space for every 300 square feet of floor area, but not less than six spaces. It also increases the width of new parking spaces by five inches to nine feet wide and 18 feet in length.
The local staffer and executive director of the Independent Living Center, Melinda Maddox and Joyanna Geisler, each gave power point presentations on their organization’s mission and services, on TRAILS, and on L.E.A.D., a group that advocates on behalf of, and provides services for the area’s handicapped community. Several involved residents attended, but did not speak. The group has met with City Mayor David Seaward over the past few months to express their concerns about damaged and dangerous streets and sidewalks, and other accessibility issues that they felt have not been addressed. But none of their specific concerns were discussed at Monday’s meeting.
Tessa Adelmann also received a special appreciation award from Seward Parks and Recreation Department’s Teen Youth Center, TYC. She has served on the Teen Council for the past six years, and has volunteered for the center and its various events. Parks and Rec also thanked their many business and nonprofit sponsors, without whom their social and sports activities would not be possible.
(for more on the meeting, see earlier article on Obihiro Student Exchange program.)