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By Dan Rudy 

Port Commission keen to clean up harbors

 


Closely mirroring the mood of the last Wrangell Borough Assembly meeting, dogs were on the mind of the Port Commission as it met for its first meeting of the season Thursday.

Wayne Kaer came to the meeting bearing several grievances, the most urgent of which were the harbors’ uncontrolled canines.

Kaer had not been able to speak his mind at the last Borough Assembly meeting because he had arrived after the time for public comment had already passed.

He told commissioners that dogs’ rubbish was routinely left unclaimed on the floats by their owners, and “savage” dogs run loose around the harbors.

Kaer asked the commission whether a story he’d heard about somebody being bitten by an unattended dog recently at Heritage Harbor was true. Harbor Master Greg Meissner confirmed that it was.

“Something needs to change,” Kaer said. “There’s eight dogs over there, and that’s just on my float.”

“This is one of the worst summers for dogs,” Meissner told the commission. He said his department was already taking steps to address the issue, first by issuing letters notifying known dog owners about the harbor rules and city leash ordinances. Next, they plan to put up signage.

Finally, Meissner said harbor department personnel will be provided with chokers and leads with which to secure unaccounted-for dogs and hand them over to the police.

“I don’t know what else to do with them,” Meissner said.

He had hoped police fines would be an encouragement of last resort for dog owners to keep a closer eye on their pets. At last month’s Borough Assembly meeting, Police Chief Doug McCloskey had made clear that the police department intended to be more proactive in dealing with dog complaints.

Dogs weren’t the only complaint Kaer had. He also pointed out the messy state of the harbors’ floats. He cited routinely seeing garbage, abandoned or left-out equipment, waste material, empty fuel cylinders and even a worm-ridden vessel. Kaer said that a lack of harbor department presence was the root of both issues.

“There’s a problem there,” he told the commission. “Nobody walks the docks…You guys need to devise something.”

Kaer suggested having a punch clock system at the end of every float, which would require harbor personnel to walk each one on a regular basis.

Commission chair Brennon Eagle agreed that there was a problem.

“I think we need to look at it as a safety concern,” he said.

Eagle wanted cleanup of the harbor floats made a point of emphasis for department staff, starting with clearly abandoned materials. These would be impounded and likely taken to the landfill for disposal.

It would not be an easy task, to begin with.

“Everybody’s definition of junk is different,” Eagle conceded, but “every float has something (on it).”

Commissioner Clay Hammer offered the idea to have personnel tag apparently unclaimed items as they walk the docks. If after a period of time, such as “24 or 48 hours,” the items remained untouched, Hammer recommended that the items then be impounded.

Meissner also updated the board on a number of abandoned cars and trucks left in harbor parking lots. Some of the vehicles have sat there for years, but the island lacks a tow truck with which to move them. He said the police were working on a solution.

“There are details to work out yet,” he said.

The commission also discussed the paving work continuing at the marine center.

“They’ll be pouring concrete shortly,” Meissner promised, before the onset of winter. He explained delays had occurred as the result of late delivery of materials. “It’s all here and it’s going to happen.”

The design for the Mariner’s Memorial is also coming along, Meissner reported. He told the commission he would have something for them to review at next month’s meeting.

Commissioners will also consider some rate increases for harbor and marine service center facilities.

“We need to look at a few rates,” Meissner told the commission. “On the one hand you don’t want to chase people away,” but he explained that work zone rates in particular were well below average.

“It’s not about us making money,” Eagle agreed. “It’s about getting boats moving in and out.”

The hope is that the raised rates on work zones will incentivize crews to complete their work projects in a more timely fashion with the potential benefit of bringing in more business in the process.

The Port Commission’s next meeting will be held Oct. 2 at 6:30 p.m. in the Assembly Chambers.

 

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