Posted: Tuesday, April 18, 2000

Haines votes on tour taxes

JUNEAU - Haines Borough voters went to the polls today to decide on two tourism-related taxes.

They are deciding whether to impose a 4 percent tax on accommodations and tours sold in the Haines Borough. The tour tax would become effective Jan. 1 of next year. The bed/lodging tax would be phased in at 2 percent beginning May 1 of this year.

The taxes were proposed by the Haines Borough Assembly a year ago to bridge a $300,000 borough budget deficit. Both taxes were approved in October, but the results were invalidated on legal technicalities.

``In October, we voted on a 5 percent tax on accommodations and a 5 percent bed tax,'' said real estate broker Peter Enticknap. The issues were put back on today's ballot in slightly different form, he said.

``They reduced that to 4 percent, and phased in the taxes,'' he said. He believes these changes were ``concessions to the visitor industry to make it easier for them to handle.''

Should the taxes not pass, Enticknap said, Haines residents will feel the pinch.

``If there are no other new sources of revenue identified, they will raise our mill rate two or three mills. If they raise it two mills, we are looking at a 44 percent increase in property taxes for many borough residents. And, in the city, it would mean a 19 percent property tax increase,'' Enticknap said.

There is good reason to tax tourists, said Debra Schnabel, owner of The Weeping Trout Sports Resort. ``We are talking about a consumer tax on a luxury,'' she said. ``The community has whipped itself into a frenzy trying to decide if these taxes will support or defeat tourism, but I don't see them as the beginning of the end'' of tourism, Schnabel said.

Plane smoke caused by battery

JUNEAU - Alaska Airlines says an overheated battery was the source of acrid smoke that filled the cabin of a flight from Juneau to Petersburg on Saturday.

Flight 64 had 78 people on board, Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Jan Fisher said today. ``They reported smoke in the cabin going into Petersburg. They turned off the air conditioning and the smoke dissipated,'' Fisher said. Wet towels were given to passengers to breathe through, but ``there was no emergency declared, and there were no medical problems,'' Fisher said.

Alaska Airlines transferred the passengers to another plane, which took them to Ketchikan and then flew on to Seattle.

The plane that had experienced smoke was diagnosed with an overheated battery. It was grounded while mechanics brought in parts to repair it. It was ferried out of Petersburg to Ketchikan, Fisher said, and left Ketchikan on Sunday as Flight 65.

Staff at Petersburg's fire and police departments said they were not alerted to the problem. Federal Aviation Administration staff also said they were not notified.

``We in the flight standards area are not required to be notified of every in-flight emergency,'' said Boyce Bingham of FAA in Juneau. ``If they had a problem and took care of it and landed safely, we aren't necessarily involved.''

Alaska Airlines' maintenance practices have been under close scrutiny since the February crash of Flight 261 from Mexico off the coast of California, killing all 88 people aboard.

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