The Haines Borough will help pay for two private boat charters this month to transport residents between Juneau and Haines.
During a special meeting on Wednesday, the borough assembly decided to take responsibility for organizing trips for the public on Feb. 23 and Feb. 29.
Since state ferry service to the Upper Lynn Canal stopped at the end of January, the Haines Borough School District has struggled to find reliable transportation to sports competitions with other schools.
On Monday, Haines and Skagway schools hired Allen Marine Tours to bring students home from Juneau. They let other residents purchase tickets for the remaining seats on the boat, so they could take advantage of the trip while flights were grounded.
Haines Borough School District Superintendent Roy Getchell said the district cannot continue to provide transportation for the public.
“We’re not going to be in the business of doing this. I think this is a function that belongs to another entity,” Getchell said.
Allen Marine offers a discounted rate for schools to charter boat trips. By opening up Monday’s trip to the public, Haines and Skagway schools had to pay almost twice as much as they would have if the trip were just for students and chaperones.
According to Getchell, the schools were able to recoup a lot of the cost through ticket sales.
“Because of the demand, it is actually really gonna favor us. Things have fallen our way in that regard. But this is not a sustainable long-term solution for our school district or any school district in Southeast Alaska,” Getchell said.
At a meeting on Wednesday, the Haines Borough Assembly discussed whether they should help pay the cost of a marine charter that would be open to the public.
Haines Borough Manager Debra Schnabel explained: “Right now, what we are talking about is the possibility of the borough taking responsibility for the charters that the school district needs to make its commitments. The benefit being that, then members of the public could come onto the boat.”
Schnabel said the idea is to have the school district pay Allen Marine the discounted rate for its students, and the borough would cover the rest of the cost necessary to open the trip up to the general public.
“The school district will pay the price they would have paid if it were only their charter, and the borough assumes the responsibility for the difference, which could be made up by charging people,” Schnabel said.
The Haines Borough Assembly voted unanimously to take on the responsibility of chartering trips for Sunday, Feb. 23 and Saturday, Feb. 29. The school district will be responsible for covering the cost of its students’ transportation.
Details about the charters’ schedules and information about how to reserve a seat are available on the Haines Borough website.