The vote to sell Skagway’s community-run medical clinic to the Southeast Alaska Regional Healthcare Consortium may not go ahead, Princess Cruise Lines is attempting to implement its Medallion Pay program in Skagway, and there will be a new, permanent location for one Community garden selected. KHNS’ Mike Swasey spoke to Mayor Andrew Cremata about developments at the last borough council meeting.
Swasey – Thank you for joining us, Mr. Mayor. The last congregational meeting lasted nearly four hours, with much happening from the relocation of public works resources to the Klondike Highway site, to the community’s purchase of a new trash compactor, to 952 service calls answered by police last month. But those aren’t the big stories coming out of the last assembly.
First, SEARHC sent a letter to the congregation saying they did not want to pay the $9.5 million, which is the fair estimate, for the clinic building and land. You want to pay 60% less. What was the reaction of the congregation?
cremata – Well, so the reaction of the congregation, I think, is the wise reaction. And it really is the only logical reaction. On the other hand, they have legitimate concerns. Because, you know, the deal the convention made with the voters for the special election is that they’re going to vote on whether or not to sell the clinic at appraisal.
So SEARHC’s letter seems to indicate that they are not willing to spend that amount, they will spend 66% less. Therefore, the assembly has scheduled a special session for early next week. And at the special session, it will be decided whether the special vote should be abolished in principle or not.
So this will be an opportunity for the community to come out and share their opinions. And from the comments at the meeting table last night, it looks like we’re going in that direction, which is where the vote is being pulled because we can no longer legitimately ask the question on the ballot that we wanted to ask.
Swasey – In addition, Princess Cruise Lines has introduced a Medallion Pay program. Tell us what that is and how the community is reacting to it?
cremata – Well, the Medallion Pay program is basically people wearing a medallion around their neck and it gives them a payment method so they don’t have to carry their cash and credit cards around. Businesses that sign up are required to pay 18% of sales and 6% of tips. And that money goes to Princess and they give cruise passengers 7% off onboard purchases.
So this is obviously problematic for many reasons. We had a letter signed by 67 people, business owners. Billi Clem shared some really good information from some of the people who have left the cruise ship that she spoke to about the Medallion program. One person said they were instructed by the person marketing it on the cruise ship, “Don’t bring your credit cards or money into Skagway because it’s a dangerous place.” Obviously, we hear about things like this and it becomes problematic . The entire Medallion Pay program can be great in other places. But it’s not right for Skagway and we’re strongly against it.
I’ve already fired a letter to Princess Cruise Lines, sharing our disdain for the idea and asking that it be removed from Skagway entirely. And if you ever try to bring it back here in the future, be sure to check it out thoroughly with our community.
Swasey – And finally, the community garden took up the most time and had the most correspondence. It looks like the community will have a new space for a community garden and a permanent community garden. Tell us about it.
cremata – There was a common theme, every single person who wrote a letter (and) every single person who commented said they wanted a community garden out there. And five members of the congregation and I agreed to that. We had one member of the congregation who did not. But the intention of the community is to create this really wonderful space for a community garden, a place where people can retreat, where they can grow food. That’s the direction we’re going.
So now the management details need to be worked out. But luckily it’s moving forward and it’s going to be something really wonderful for this community.
Swasey – And the area used for the community garden is at Seven Pastures on the north side of North Ballfield in an area that Jewell Gardens formerly leased, (but) no longer has that lease, that lease expired a little over ago a year.
Mayor Andrew Cremata, thank you for joining us. I appreciate the summary.
cremata – Yes, thank you, have a nice day.
More information and a recording of the session can be found at skagway.org.