Summary: Tonight’s Assembly meeting took a couple of unexpected detours. An update on annexation had to do with annexation proposed by the City of Hoonah, and a seemingly simple question of whether to protest a marijuana business with unpaid sales taxes took a while to sort out. The new Assembly was organized and outgoing Assembly member Mary Becker was recognized for almost two decades of public service.
Weldon said two task forces have been created in her mayor’s report. They include a Visitor Industry Task Force and an Eaglecrest Summer Operations Tast Force. Triem will serve as chairwoman of the visitor task force, Gladziszewksi will be the chairwoman of the Eaglecrest task force. Meeting dates were not set for either organization.
Tonight’s annexation update had only a bit to do with CBJ’s ongoing annexation attempt.
Watt said he’s become aware of a technical review filing for a proposed Xunaa Borough boundary, which is an attempt by Hoonah to Boroughize.
The proposed borough stretches far to the west and includes over 35,000 square miles, according to a map provided by CBJ. It includes Elfin Cove and portions of Chichago Island while excluding cities Pelican, Tenakee Springs and Gustavus.
“We have a little bit of an overlap in our boundaries,” Watt said. “I would imagine there’s going to be a lot of questions from our southeast neighbors over their boundaries.”
The proposed boundaries include a portions of the Sitka and Haines boroughs and some land in the area of Funter Bay.
“I would suggest that we just take this under advisement, and I will continue communicating with the City of Hoonah, and perhaps we can come up with a boundary that meets everyone’s intents,” Watt said.
The Assembly is taking a break until 9:30 p.m.
Bryson spoke in favor of the motion.
“As much as it pains me to protest a fellow business,” Bryson said.
He said it’s a business that entered into a confession of judgment last year and continued to accrue sales tax debt.
“They have failed in their compliance of taking city sales tax that’s not theirs, it’s not theirs to keep,” Bryson said.
He said as a business owner, he’s been on the other side of the issue.
“That’s how I knew what a wakeup call it is,” Bryson said.
Weldon said she wished the businessmen who visited tonight success, but a protest seems necessary.
After a 5-2 vote, the licenses will be protested. Hale and Smith voted against it.
Gladziszewski made a motion that the Assembly protest both licenses with the retail license protest being made at the end of the day tomorrow and the cultivation license protest at the end of the day Oct. 17. If the tax balance of more than $34,000 is paid, the protests would be withdrawn.
Smith objected since the retail license seemed to be the license the people present cared about.
“My thought would be to protest both or protest neighter at this point,” Smith said.
Palmer said since an AMCO comment period ends tomorrow, the Assembly needs to reach a protest decision tonight.
Hale said she was displeased there needed to be such quick action.
Watt said he wasn’t sure the protest was a particularly complex matter.
“We have thousands of businesses in the borough that pay their sales tax,” Watt said.
Assembly member Alicia Hughes-Skandijs asked if there was any objection to the information that the tax is owed.
Bean said no.
Michael Scarcelli is now speaking. He seems to be in business with Bean.
“All this debt occurred prior to me ever even standing foot in Juneau,” he said. “We do employ 10 people of Juneau.”
He is also requested executive session, but the Assembly did not go into closed session.
Smith asked if there was a plan yet to submit the sales tax owed.
“We do have a plan moving forward,” Scarcelli said.
Bryson asked if August’s sales tax was filed in a timely fashion.
City Finance Director Jeff Rogers said he did not know the answer.
Scarcelli said his business signed a confession of judgment for a prior debt — nearly $80,000 from 2018— but that was for a prior debt. Additional sales tax debt has since been accrued.
“If we have a confession of judgment, doesn’t a voluntary payment plan normally follow a confession of judgment?” Bryson asked.
Rogers said yes, but that it was for a previous year.
Hale said it might be worth going into executive session for insight into other concerns.
Jones, who is a member of the Marijuana Control Board, is recusing himself from discussion of Rainforest Farms’ licenses.
Watt said the licenses apply to both Rainforest’s cultivation business and retail location. Watt said a balance of $34,808.74 is owed.
“I recommend you protest until the licensee’s tax accounts are in full compliance,” Watt said.
A Sitka resident Aaron Bean is here to speak to the sales tax protest, but he asked that the matter be moved to executive session. He said his business, WCC, is in the process of purchasing Rainforest’s retail license.
He keeps insinutating that there are unknown factors that resulted in the unpaid tax that mean the protest should not happen but refuses to say what in open session.
Attorney Robert Palmer said unpaid sales tax is a “very public” item.
“We’re doing everything in our power, and we have been working with the municipality,” Bean said. “I would ask for the purposes of forwarding any objection that the two licenses are separate.”
He said the unpaid sales tax were entirely related to the retail side of things as opposed to the cultivation business.
Bean said he is in the process of purchasing the retail license for Rainforest Farms.
Smith asked Bean what sort of impact the protest would have on the license transfer.
The Assembly gaveled out and is on a short break.
I caught up with St. Vincent de Paul General Manager Brad Perkins outside the Assembly Chambers since he seemed to indicate from there is a warming shelter transportation plan in place.
“Part of the bid was a shuttle,” Perkins said. “We’ll run a shuttle at least until 2 in the morning.”
Perkins said the shuttle would start as soon as buses stop and include stops in Lemon Creek, the Mendenhall Valley and downtown.
He said people will not be forced to leave the shelter before buses start to run and based on experience St. Vincent de Paul running the warming shelter last year, he did not expect people will want to leave the shelter early.
If they do want to leave before buses start running at 7 a.m., Perkins said “We’ll take them back wherever they want to go.”
After a unanimous vote, St. Vincent de Paul will operate the city’s emergency warming shelter this year, and the shelter will be in the Mendenhall Valley.
While the vote wasn’t split, it did prompt some discussion.
Assembly member Loren Jones has some questions about a bid to operate the city’s emergency warming shelter for $125,000 from St. Vincent de Paul.
St. Vincent de Paul was the lone bidder on the project.
Jones asked questions about how long the building would be open, how long the bid package was advertised, where the warming shelter will be open and more.
“We expect last year’s staff, which was primarily from St. Vincent’s, is going to be the same this year,” said City Manager Rorie Watt.
He said the facility would be located at St. Vincent’s Teal Street location.
“We have people from all over the borough who need this service,” Watt said. “I believe that transportation to and from downtown is going to have to be worked on.”
He said the facility will be near Capital City Fire/Rescue’s sleep-off center.
“I’d liked to know, is there that many homeless in the Valley?” Jones asked. “I know there might be.”
Assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale said it’s important to figure out how people will be transported from downtown to the Mendenhall Valley.
“It’d just be interesting to find out what that solution looked like,” Hale said.
Watt said a staff report could be provided at the next meeting.
Assembly member Wade Bryson said the warming shelter would operate outside public transportation hours.
“It seems like a formula to either reduce the use or reduce the effectiveness of the help to the citizens,” Bryson said. “We’re going to create a couple of problems because we don’t have answers to transportation.”
Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski was unanimously selected to retain her spot as deputy mayor.
Things are starting with recognition of Becker, who served on the Juneau School Board before serving nine years on the Assembly.
“Mary Becker is the longest serving elected official in Juneau ever,” said Mayor Beth Weldon.
She said Juneau owes Becker its heartfelt gratitude for her many years — 18 — of service.
Weldon presented Becker with a gavel, a card, a vest and flowers
“We normally give the spouse flowers, but we’re giving them to you instead of Jim,” Weldon said.
However, she did give Jim Becker movie giftcards.
“I hope you use them to take your best date, but it’s your choice,” Weldon joked.
Becker said she’s enjoyed her time on the Assembly.
She thanked her fellow Assembly members during relatively brief remarks.
“Keep being supportive of the Assembly because they really need the support of the community,” Becker said.
The Assembly Chambers are fairly crowded tonight. It’s not quite standing room only, but there’s about 25 people here, which is a decent crowd for a fairly dry agenda.
Assembly member Greg Smith is joining this meeting remotely from Egypt. He was previously sworn-in.
Tonight’s City and Borough of Juneau Assembly looks like it will be a long one based on the night’s lengthy agenda.
A few of night’s more interesting discussions are scheduled for the end —an annexation update and a possible protest of marijuana license renewals for Rainforest Farms are two of the last agenda items.
Annexation has been contentions because the lands CBJ is attempting to annex includes a portion of Admiralty Island. Admiralty Island has strong traditional ties to the City of Angoon.
The large island is home to the Admiralty National Monument, and it has the highest density of brown bears in North America.
According to the Assembly meeting packet, the recommended protest of Rainforest Farms’ license renewal is because of unpaid taxes.
The meeting will start on an interesting note since this is the first Assembly meeting since the municipal election Tuesday, Oct. 1. The Assembly will reorganize, which means a new seating arrangement is possible and likely some kind remarks about outgoing Assembly member Mary Becker.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.