By Heidi Zemach for SCN -
The Seward City Council has awarded First Student, the local school bus company, another two-year contract to provide shuttle bus services during the busy tourist season that runs from mid-May to mid-September. It did so during Monday’s April 14th City Council Meeting. The service is paid from cruise ship head taxes, and primarily serves tourists on route between the Dale Lindsey Cruise Ship Terminal, Alaska Railroad Depot, Small Boat Harbor, and historical downtown Seward, although anyone going to those areas may use it free of charge. First Student, the only applicant, will receive $245,415 for the two seasons. There were no significant changes to the scope of work.
Sandie Roach, who runs First Student in the area, also received a Gold Pan Award from the City of Seward, and many thanks for her ten years of volunteer service on the Planning and Zoning Commission. Roach recently retired from P&Z, and the commission is seeking two new applicants. There also were proclamations read of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Bear Awareness Month, and one for Dallas Seavey, winner of the 2014 Iditarod Sled Dog Race.
The council unanimously amended the Harbor Tariff by establishing rates for those using the new vessel wash down pad adjacent to the city boatyard at Seward Marine Industrial Center, (SMIC). The pad was completed last October.
Mid-size vessel owners/operators already rent the city’s 250-ton Travelift to move their vessel from land or water, at a minimum fee of $346 for the first hour for those less than 55 feet, and another $21 for every additional foot. Now, they’ll also be charged $2.50 per foot per hour, with a one-hour minimum to use the wash down pad, which has two drainage holes in it, and pipes running to separate areas beneath the ground designed to contain, treat and recycle potential chemical contaminants, and keep them from returning to the bay. If they need extra time, they’ll be billed in 15-minute increments of their hourly rate.
The fee does not include the charge of labor for the city’s unique mobile cart-based pressure washing system, which will be used on vessels propped up above the large concrete wash-down pad. Customers and private contractors will perform the washing in most cases. Because the fees are so low, folks will probably take the time needed to wash their vessels properly, said Harbormaster Mack Funk.
The harbormaster or his designee has the authority to waive the mandatory hauling out, and hanging in boat slings for shore in-and-out jobs such as prop repair, shaft work, stuffing box and inspections. Use of the pad may be postponed if, for whatever reason, the wash down system is not usable.
The council unanimously approved the introduction of two ordinances, which will be discussed further, both by council following public hearings at the April 28th council meeting.
The first one amends the City Code relating to the payment of Transient (Guest) Moorage. Currently the harbor requires people to pay monthly moorage rates for transient vessels on a calendar month basis, with no payments in arrears—resulting in higher payments for vessels arriving after the first day of the month. But last April, the harbor acquired new computer software that allows monthly moorage to be calculated and paid on a monthly basis from any date. The changes will create rates that are more fair to certain boaters, such as those staying less than four hours, or those arriving after the beginning of the month, and should also eliminate some harbor staff time devoted to sending letters and issuing account credits on the subject. The Port and Commerce Advisory Board helped with updating the ordinance, and stands behind it.
The second ordinance amends parts of the city code regarding its definitions of storage containers and temporary structures, and were altered after the P&Z commission felt the current Conditional Use permit requirements for these uses were excessive when they are already required to have building permits. The changes therefore do away with the CU permit requirement. City Code still says that containers such as semi-tractor vans, shipping containers and conex containers originally designed to transport goods and materials, placed on land and used for covered storage, are considered a structure and must comply with current building codes. They also must have their wheel assemblies removed, and be located from any setbacks. Temporary structures are any structures without foundations or footings allowed by the building code. They must be completely moved from the parcel they are on when the temporary permit for the structure or its use expires.
Councilmember Rissie Casagranda voiced concerns she still has about how these containers, in frequent use in industrial areas, would be perceived and treated as if they are buildings, when they’re not being used as such. On the flip side, because of a lack of affordable housing for temporary seasonal workers, and storage space, conex containers are more often being used locally as fish processing plant worker housing, temporary offices, and so forth.
The complicated status of maintenance needed at the aging Seward waste disposal lagoon at Lowell Point also was discussed at length. Basically, residents don’t want to see dredging occur during their busy season, which begins soon, but they will be keeping a keen nose out for odors that may mean cancellations to their waterfront businesses. Meanwhile, city officials have no clear plan for how to address the need for dredging, as they still have not found a place to send newly dredged lagoon sludge to. But they do have a few ideas on how to possibly create better oxygen levels in the lagoon, which could help minimize odors this summer.