Council says ‘yes’ to fish tax, winter crab fishery

Eagle Contracting, Wilson Construction urge council to support Adams Avenue upgrades

A couple of feet of snow gave a fresh winter blanket to Cordova last week, as seen in this Feb. 12 shot of the town, boat harbor and Mt. Eyak Skill Hill. Then of Feb. 13 most of the snow was gone, succumbing to heavy rain and high winds. Photo by Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson/The Cordova Times

An equal split of shared state fisheries business taxes and a resolution in support of reinstating a winter crab fishery in Cordova have been approved by the Cordova City Council, along with a license for a new drive-through coffee business.

The action came during the Feb. 15 meeting of the council, which also approved city election board appointments and heard testimony in favor of upgrades to sidewalks on Adams Avenue.

Fish tax

A resolution adopting an equal split of the FY17 shared fisheries business taxes between Cordova, Valdez and Whittier passed unanimously.

The three-way split of raw fish taxes collected during the 2015 Prince William Sound commercial salmon fishery will be divvied up later this year, with Cordova’s share to total $39,559.49.

Equal shares of the payout for Prince William Sound Fisheries Management Area 15 from the Shared Fisheries Business Tax Program will go to Valdez and Whittier.  The funds are distributed by the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development.

Fisheries Development Committee

A resolution was passed in support of the reinstatement of a Prince William Sound crab and other historical fisheries, and the development of new fisheries and mariculture, which would emphasize benefits to fishermen, processors, and local economies, while sustaining the resource for future yield.

“I attended the first meeting of the newly formed Cordova Fisheries Development Committee where they discussed developing new fisheries and reviving former fisheries in Prince William Sound,” said Cordova Mayor Clay Koplin.

FDC members Warren Chappell, Andy Craig, Bobby Linville, Gus Linville, Tommy Sheridan, and Bob Smith held their first meeting Feb. 7.

“The purpose of the Fisheries Development Committee is to develop fisheries and mariculture, and advise council on related issues in the Prince William Sound area,” Koplin said.

Bailer appointed to PWSAC board

Councilman Tom Bailer accepted an appointment by Koplin to be the city’s representative to the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp.’s board of directors, with council’s concurrence. The former city representative, Bret Bradford, is no longer eligible, as he recently obtained a Prince William Sound commercial gillnet permit.

“That precludes him from remaining on as the city representative to the board,” Bourgeois said.

Bailer’s council seat expires in March. His appointment to the PWSAC board will expire in September 2018.

Mobile restaurant license approved

Prospective business owner Stephanie Rusinski addressed the city council, requesting approval of a mobile restaurant license for a drive-through coffee business that will also provide food for sale.  “My plan is to provide an establishment that will fill everyone’s needs,” Rusinski said.

Bourgeois told the council that the new business startup  “would contribute to sales tax revenue as well as enhance the food choices for citizens of, and visitors to, Cordova. A land use permit for the location being requested would also bring income to the city.”

Council approved the license for one year.

Election board appointed

Koplin appointed the election board for the March 7 city elections, with Diana Rubio as chair. Seawan Gehlbach, Cathy Pegau, Ann Schultz, Sue Shellhorn, Ruth Steele, Tina Hammer and Susan Bourgeois were appointed as board members.

“Many of the names put forward are experienced in election management, often running the state elections for Division of Elections, as well. These individuals have served in this capacity for several years and continually act professionally, and ensure successful elections for the city clerk’s office and the city of Cordova,” Susan Bourgeois wrote in a memo to the council Feb. 3.

Liquor license right to protest waived

The council approved a motion to waive its right to protest a liquor license renewal for the Loyal Order of the Moose 1266.

“No issues here,” said Police Chief Mike Hicks. “They always try to do the right thing, i.e., asking council’s permission to open outside of normal hours.”

Adams Avenue project support

The council also heard testimony in support of proceeding with sidewalk upgrades.

Letters were received by the city clerk Feb. 7, from business owners Don Sjostedt, of Eagle Contracting, and John Baenen and Tammy Altermott, of Wilson Construction, in support of a project which would provide upgrades to the sidewalks on Adams Avenue.

“This project provides ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) sidewalks on Adams Avenue from Second Street to Main Street; these improvements are long-term investments with a lifespan of 30-plus years,” Sjostedt wrote in his letter to council. He cited numerous reasons in support of the project, including improvement to the existing road.

“The design is already complete; staff time and engineer time have already been expended; less future maintenance and better drainage; safer pedestrian and vehicle traffic; connects the grade school to Main Street and provides a safer walking route for the children,” Sjostedt said.

An Alaska Department of Transportation grant of $411,000 was previously awarded to the city. The total cost for upgrades came in at $541,870.

“Use it while we have it – this is in excess of a three-to-one match,” Sjostedt testified before the council. “(The) city match of $130,000 was allocated in 2016, but pulled during the recent budget process. There will be an asphalt plant in town during the 2017 season, making this project more practical and affordable. (There’s) not many other construction projects going on in 2017, this should make very competitive bids.”

An added benefit, he said, would be that money generated through wages and local purchases stays local, and circulates several times, an economic benefit for Cordova.

“The ideal time to bid this job is now, so this project can start at the prime road conditions season, mid-April to early May,” he said.

The owners of Wilson Construction echoed Sjostedt’s sentiments.

“The city’s contribution of $130,000 will get us a $500,000 job. That seems like a no-brainer, for the amount that will go back into our community,” Altermott and Baenen said in their letter to council.

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Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson is a staff writer and photographer for The Cordova Times. She has been writing in one form or another for 30-plus years and has had a longstanding relationship with The Cordova Times starting in 1989. She's been an Alaskan since 1976 and first moved to Cordova in 1978. She's lived in various West Texas towns; in Denver, Colorado; in McGrath, Cordova, Galena, Kodiak, Wasilla, Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska and in Bangalore, India. She has two children and three grandchildren. She can be reached at cgibbens-stimson@thecordovatimes.com or follow her on Instagram @alaskatoindia.