The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly’s Committee of the Whole voted 6-3 Monday night to leave the Alaska Commercial Fishermen’s Memorial at its current location.
When the Assembly approved the Plan 16B cruise ship dock expansion, it gave a directive to the Docks and Harbors board that it should work with the memorial board to find a mutually agreeable location to move the memorial if it is deemed necessary. The memorial board looked at a list of alternate locations, and said they preferred the memorial remain where it is and 16B not be constructed in front of it. Its next choice, if 16B is to be built, is to move to Marine Park.
Parks and Recreation said it would prefer the memorial not move to Marine Park until the city has had a chance to design the park.
Docks and Harbors met last week and was unable to get a majority vote consensus on a recommendation, but most members were of a personal opinion to not move it, while others took a look at purely a departmental standpoint that said it would be acceptable to leave it or move it to either Marine Park or between Intermediate Vessel Float and the Franklin Dock.
The Assembly turned away from its initial sentiment, but not without some debate.
“I recommend Fishermen’s Memorial remain where it is,” Mayor Bruce Botelho proposed. “I think it’s important we bring some finality to this, that we take some action that puts us on a clear path that doesn’t require another two years of debate. I support leaving the memorial where it is. I understand fairly well the arguments on both sides and there is great merit on both sides. The cost should be a factor as well. Two million (dollars) in the big scheme is not much, but it is a lot of money for a lot of things. It seems to be, there are going to be ways of celebrating even with the new configuration.”
Assemblymembers Mary Becker, Karen Crane, Malcolm Menzies, Johan Dybdahl, David Stone and Botelho voted in favor, with Ruth Danner, Peter Freer and Merrill Sanford opposed.
Sanford opposed the mayor’s motion for merely leaving it be.
“I for one as an Assemblymember made a commitment to the memorial committee to take into consideration their thoughts and their concerns about where the memorial best be placed,” he said. “Right now the letter designates Marine Park as the preferred site if we’re going to build 16B. Whether it works down there or not, I’m not sure. We will be able to see in the next 2-3 years whether or not it will work.”
Assemblywoman Ruth Danner also wanted to see flexibility in the future of the memorial. She wanted to see Marine Park plans include the memorial (and a version that doesn’t) so if the memorial board decides the existing location truly does not work, the memorial could move to the second best place.
“We did pass a motion to support 16B on the condition that the memorial be accommodated in some fashion,” she said. “I don’t feel we are honoring that commitment with this motion. I would be in favor if it preserved the option to move the memorial in the future.”
Assemblyman Peter Freer shared that sentiment, saying the motion closed the door on moving it.
Assemblyman Johan Dybdahl supported the mayor’s motion because he did not want to see it moved.
“I’d like to see it just left there,” he said. “They seem to be, over time, tying of the service of the Blessing of the Fleet to the memorial.”
Dybdahl said he’s participated in other blessings and they are not associated with a memorial or in one case the memorial area is rather crowded and not everyone gets to float by it every year. He felt the important part is that people who come to the memorial as their only connection to a lost loved one have it remain where it is, undisturbed.
“People have been lost all kinds of different places,” he said. “To me I don’t see why the Blessing of the Fleet couldn’t be on that dock. Those boats that can maneuver can go by it. It makes no sense to me that we’re talking about relocation. These people have been lost at sea all over Southeast, maybe even further.”
Assemblywoman Karen Crane said she supported the mayor’s motion because there isn’t an option that will satisfy everyone. She said there are problems with Marine Park — being a recreational area, high traffic, homelessness and public drunkenness issues — and would make it a poor location to move the memorial.
The Assembly Committee of the Whole also heard a presentation by the Association for the Education of Young Children — Southeast Alaska on implementing a child care improvement measure called HEARTS. It would implement an incentive-program to expand and increase quality of child care in Juneau. The Assembly moved it to the Finance Committee.
The Assembly also was scheduled to meet in special session to work on a rezoning issue at the intersection of Atlin Drive and Mendenhall Loop Road. It was also scheduled to address the potential formation of a Petersburg Borough. The Assembly was still meeting at press time. For more information, please visit juneauempire.com or see Wednesday’s Empire.
• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.