The Juneau Assembly has declined to take a stand on the proposed road from Juneau to Skagway.
At its Monday meeting, the Assembly voted 5-4 to indefinitely table a resolution supporting the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities' preferred alternative to an east Lynn Canal highway and Katzehin terminal.
Mayor Bruce Botelho and Assembly members Jeff Bush, Daniel Peterson, Stan Ridgeway and Marc Wheeler voted to table the resolution.
Assembly members Johan Dybdahl, Merrill Sanford, David Stone and Randy Wanamaker spoke in favor of building a road.
"The Assembly has the obligation to express its preference to the citizens of the state and the agency," said Wanamaker, who proposed the resolution.
The chamber was packed with people who wanted to comment on the resolution.
The 33 people who testified at the meeting were divided on the issue. Some traveled from Skagway to speak against the road.
"We want to protect Skagway's historic position as the gateway to the Yukon and the northern port facility for goods going to the Interior," said Jan Wrentmore, owner of Red Onion Saloon in Skagway and chairwoman of the Skagway Marine Access Committee. "If the road is built, it will send goods directly to Juneau."
Wrentmore said it is time for Juneau to support Skagway just as Skagway has supported Juneau's efforts to keep the capital.
Some from Juneau said a road would make it harder to find solitude, as they do in Berners Bay along the road route.
"Berners Bay is a haven for people who want to get away from the impact of industrial tourism," said John Hudson, member of Friends of Burners Bay.
Sandy Williams, a 46-year Juneau resident, said a road would benefit Juneau's economy.
"With a road, the fishing industry could get fresh fish to the heartland of America in two days," said Williams, 68. "It's going to provide an economic boom to all the northern part of Southeast Alaska."
Bush and Wheeler said the resolution was politically motivated.
"I don't really know why we're doing this tonight. Why didn't we comment on this during the comment period?" Wheeler said.
Wanamaker said the resolution was a statement to other Alaskans that Juneau is improving access to the capital.
Several people said Wanamaker should refrain from voting on the issue because he works as a consultant for Coeur Alaska, developer of the proposed Kensington Mine near the projected road.
"That's a clear conflict of interest," Juneau resident Karla Hart said.
City Attorney John Hartle said Wanamaker should be allowed to vote on the resolution.
"This is just a resolution expressing the view of the Assembly," Hartle said. "It doesn't appropriate any money or make any decision. The action would have an insignificant impact."
I-Chun Che can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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