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Southeast Alaska News
ANCHORAGE — A new grassroots group is launching a campaign to get Alaska political leaders and candidates to sign a pledge declaring that only people have rights, and not corporations and unions.
The We the People Alaska coalition was beginning its effort Monday in 11 communities, including Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and Kenai, Anchorage Daily News reported.
“It’s really about influence,” said Gershon Cohen, who backed a successful ballot initiative in Haines last year that took a stand against “corporate personhood.”
FAIRBANKS — A Boston-based company was preparing to test a flying wind turbine that it hopes could lower power costs to Alaska villages and other remote locations.
Altaeros Energies said the Buoyant Airborne Turbine aims to take advantage of high-altitude winds that are stronger and more consistent than those at lower levels.
JUNEAU — House Speaker Mike Chenault on Monday said he plans to propose allowing out-of-state residents to serve on the board of directors of a corporation that could play a key role in a major liquefied natural gas project in Alaska.
“We’re at a point now in Sitka where we are really starting to have turnover with some of our more seasoned veteran teachers. Being able to bring in young teachers who can still get some mentoring and learn from some of those older teachers is important, too.”
Demmert, along with Blatchley Principal Ben White, and special education Director Mandy Evans, attended two different job fairs. The first was a large event in Tacoma open to districts across the Northwest, and the second was a smaller event only for Alaska districts.
That second event was put on by Alaska Teacher Placement, which is a program run by the University of Alaska system. It acts as a gateway for applicants hoping to work in the state. Toni McFadden is manages the teacher placement program. She says districts DO look inside Alaska for people to teach Alaskan children…
“…The problem is, we have a greater need for teachers than what our state is producing. We have a need for teachers to go to our rural communities. We might have teachers very willing to stay in Fairbanks if they went to UAF, or to stay in Anchorage if they went to UAA, finding people willing and excited to go to our rural communities is really more of a challenge.”
Sitka was among 17 Alaska school districts participating in Saturday’s job fair. The state as a whole has about 55 school districts, employing more than 8,100 teachers. Information on teaching jobs in Alaska is available at Alaska Teacher Dot Org.
Work starts April 1st on one of the two roadways spanning Hammer Slough in Petersburg. The borough will begin replacing aging wooden decking and supports on the Rasmus Enge bridge.
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Over the next few months the borough’s public works department will be replacing rotten wooden deck planks on the bridge. “What we are doing is a partial rehabilitation so that we can keep the bridge safe to use and put it back to it’s regular load rating,” the borough’s assistant public works director Chris Cotta explained, adding, “It was recently de-rated by DOT just because of the deteriorated condition of some of the portions.”
The state’s Department of Transportation lowered the maximum weight limit for vehicles driving over the wooden structure this winter. Surveys done by the DOT and an engineering firm contracted by the borough found problems with both the decking and some of its support.
Cotta said the local government typically replaces the decking and railings every decade. “So what we’re doing for this project is we’re gonna replace the deck, bull railings, the hand railings, which is typically what the borough would do every 10 years or so. But with this project we’re going into it a little bit more. We’re gonna replace some of the stringers, pile caps, and we’re actually gonna be repairing some of the piles and replacing some of the pile bracing so it’s more involved and it’s gonna take a little bit longer than it has in the past.”
Public works employees will be doing the rehab work and it’s expected to take eight weeks. Cotta said this is typically a busy time of year for the public works department and it will be a challenge to complete the bridge and other projects. “There’s a lot of little projects that folks want to get done. There’s definitely a group that wants us to do some landscaping over by the whale observatory where pump station five just was redone. So there’s going to be a lot of irons in the fire and I think that’s going to be our primary challenge is just, keeping momentum on the project and making sure we do get it done this seasion in some kind of timely fashion.”
Timing is an issue since the other bridge over Hammer Slough could see some closures later this year. The Louis Miller bridge on South Nordic Drive will see also rehab work as part of a state project. However the borough plans to have the wooden Rasmus Enge bridge work completed before the state contracted South Nordic projects gets underway.
The local government has budgeted just over 200,000 dollars for the Enge bridge work. That money is mostly from local coffers, except for a $63,000 dollar grant from the Denali Commission.
Public works plans to close off the bridge to normal traffic for eight weeks of the project although access to the Sons of Norway hall parking lot may be open for a while longer. Cotta said public works will accommodate people using the Sons of Norway and the businesses and apartments on Sing Lee Alley. “We’ll probably end up just blocking the bridge off at both ends. We’ll allow for local traffic. Cause we’re only gonna be working on a small portion of it at any given time. But yeah, we are gonna start at the South Harbor end and work north.”
Construction is not expected to be finished by the Little Norway festival although Cotta said they plan to shut down work in mid-May to allow access to the Sons of Norway Hall during the festivities. Borough officials say this year’s rehab work will extend the life of the bridge just until a replacement can be built. The department is asking for $160,000 dollars in next year’s budget to design a new bridge. Cotta noted it will be a community discussion what a replacement will look like. “What do the people of Petersburg want for this bridge? Do we want a modern structure that’s gonna have probably a longer service life but a higher cost and it will change the look of it? Or do we want something more traditional?”
Ultimately it will like be an assembly decision what any future replacement bridge will look like and it depend on finding money for a replacement.
Petersburg officials are hoping to put aside hundreds of thousands of dollars next year for future projects or purchases. Increased tax revenue expected in the new borough could make that possible, according to an early draft of the borough’s budget. The borough assembly last week started work sifting through a proposed borough budget.
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A budget work session in late March lasted nearly three hours with assembly members and staff going line by line through the municipality’s general fund and harbor budgets. In the general fund, departments and functions paid for mainly by taxes, spending is expected to reach 10 million dollars. That’s offset by increased revenue in property and sales tax in the upcoming year – both are expected to top three million dollars, due in part to the additional property and purchases within the new expanded boundaries of the borough. The local government is also expecting an increase in money from the state next year.
Borough manager Steve Giesbrecht and his staff outlined the early draft budget for the assembly. “Now is the time to tell us if we have to make substantial changes to this budget before it’s presented to you the first meeting in May, to basically start the voting process on,” Giesbrecht said.
The budget anticipates allocating more raw fish tax money to the harbor department, decreasing a subsidy to the assisted living facility and setting aside 437,000 dollars for the property development fund. That money has been used for land purchases and some infrastructure projects.
Meanwhile, spending in the harbor department is expected to top two point three million dollars, including some small capital projects and money set aside to eventually replace existing harbors and docks. Borough officials have been trying to budget for the cost of depreciation, or replacing older infrastructure.
Harbor master Glorianne Wollen hoped that many of the harbor facilities would not have to be replaced anytime soon. “Brand new float system in 2004 in the South Harbor. The Middle Harbor is brand spankin new as of 2008. The North Harbor brand spanking new as of next month. We’ve gone through and done all of the anode protection in the South Harbor now, all of the anode protection on the crane dock. Things are in pretty good shape.”
The department plans to add a new work float for trollers in the new North Harbor this year, repurpose and old float to be used for kayak storage and upgrade the fish cleaning float at the South Harbor boat ramp. That’s on top of the large grant funded capital projects underway in the harbors this year.
The assembly also went through budgets for departments in the general fund, things like the library, parks and rec, police fire and administration.
The discussion briefly turned to concerns over fire protection outside of downtown Petersburg, in light of the March 4 fire at Crystal Lake hatchery.
Borough manager Giesbrecht noted it was a bigger discussion about police and fire response within the new borough and how to pay for additional equipment and possibly staff. “The question is how big a response do you want? How do you wanna pay for it and what’s the right way to attack that. Is it a service area issue or should it be covered under the four mil (property tax) rate that’s currently being provided. Becomes a pretty big conversation at the assembly level.”
Assemblyman John Havrilek wanted to build up borough reserves for an emergency or projects and also expressed interest in reducing a one point eight million dollar payment to the school district. The assembly got into a discussion about community service payments made to the schools and several other organizations, including KFSK. The overall amount is just under two million dollars – with most going to the school. Other funding goes to the museum, the chamber of commerce and Mountain View manor food service. Several assembly members questioned payments totaling 85,000 dollars to Petersburg mental health services. Assembly member Jeigh Stanton Gregor owns a private mental health counseling business. “From a small business owner, we’re accountable for everything and it’s money,” Stanton Gregor said. “And to not see an accountability for that money’s being spent I do have a problem with, just from an accounting point of view, because it is a lot of money. As opposed to just giving someone money to go hire another staff and that’s more or less the money’s for is to go hire a staff.”
Meanwhile Cindi Lagoudakis wondered what kind of reporting the assembly needed. “What does accountability mean to you? What would they need to provide? They do provide us reports and they do provide us some financial information periodically and are we going to hold them to a different standard than we do Clausen Museum, KFSK or anybody else that we have funded in the past?”
Manager Giesbrecht explained how counselors helped police chief Kelly Swihart in responding to people with mental health issues in the community. “You know they’re not necessarily breaking the law. His guys can only do so much, his guys and girls, can only do so much. Petersburg Mental Health fills that little hole in the sense that it allows us to take a sworn officer and kind of hand off and say they now talk to this person. So Kelly’s officers can go back to doing what they’re paid to do. It doesn’t take very many of these folks to be a huge drain on the city’s resources.”
The assembly didn’t make any decisions on the budget. Under the new borough government, the budgeting process takes three readings of an ordinance, instead of one reading of a resolution under the old city government. That process is expected to happen in May and early June. The budget covers the fiscal year that starts in July.
The assembly has another work session Tuesday, April 1 at 8 a.m. on budgets for enterprise funds including local utilities like electric, water and waste water and sanitation departments. Assembly members will be giving staff direction for drafting their budgets during a special session after that work session.
The proposed KSM Mine in British Columbia near Hyder is working through the Canadian permitting system and could start operating in just a couple of years. As more Southeast Alaska residents become aware of this mining project, more concerns have been raised about the potential effects on this side of the border. Some Southeast Native tribal leaders got together last week to discuss those concerns.
Representatives from 11 Southeast Alaska Native tribes came together to talk about transboundary rivers, and the potential harm that Canadian mining projects could have on Alaska’s ecosystem. The meeting took place in Craig, on Prince of Wales Island, and was hosted by the Organized Village of Kasaan.
John Morris of the Douglas Indian Association was among the participants. He says he’s worried about the long-term effects of mining. He mentioned some mines in the Juneau-Douglas area that have been closed for many years.
“One of the projects we decided to take on was water sampling, soil sampling, from the old mine tailings,” he said. “We started several years ago. What we found out from our testing, that a lot of the old tailings, there is still a lot of arsenic and mercury content there.”
Morris said mines have the potential to harm fish, game and flora as soon as they start operating, and there’s no predicting how long the effects will continue.
Among the proposed Canadian mines close to Alaska’s border, the Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell Mine is furthest along in its permitting process. Guy Archibald of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council was traveling with Morris. Archibald compared the KSM Mine to the controversial Pebble Mine, which has been proposed for Alaska’s Bristol Bay area, and says KSM developers themselves have estimated that the effects could last two centuries.
“The projected life span of this mine is 50 years,” he said. “They also project that they’re going to have to have active water treatment for 200 more years. In all likelihood, it will have to be perpetual water treatment – forever.”
Rob Sanderson of Ketchikan attended the summit as one of the Tlingit-Haida Central Council representatives. He said the tribes want to connect with other stakeholders, such as sportfishing groups, and work together to stop the KSM mine.
Even if the mine were operated safely, Sanderson says accidents happen.
“You’re talking two tailing sites, bigger than the Hoover Dam,” he said. “Lord forbid, we live in a seismically active area. We had an earthquake off Craig last winter, over 7-point-something. If one of those tailing sites break open, you can imagine the devastation from those tailings. That would go around Gravina Island. Ketchikan would take a direct hit.”
At the end of the summit, the group came up with a plan of action. Morris said they are forming a committee that will reach out to Alaska and U.S. officials, in hopes that they will intervene with the Canadian government.
The KSM project would extract about 130,000 tons of ore daily from four deposits. Seabridge Gold, the company developing the mine, estimates that the project will operate for about 57 years.
Development plans call for a water treatment facility that will treat all water from mine activity during those 57 years, and for as long as it takes after the mine is closed.
According to the company’s executive summary, the KSM mine will have minor effects on the quality of the river water, minor effects on fish and wildlife, and some lasting effects on surrounding wetlands. The company is supposed to compensate for any negative effects.
Those attending the summit in Craig came from Craig, Kasaan, Klawock, Hydaburg, Ketchikan, Saxman, Metlakatla, Wrangell, Douglas and Central Council Tlingit and Haida. Canadian tribal representatives were supposed to attend, but the flight was canceled due to weather.
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Herring seiners wrap up 2014 sac roe fishery in wild 45-minute opener. Herring Camp a new spring tradition, as kids learn about this fish inside and out. USF&W to review endangered status of Alexander Archipelago wolf. Petersburg hires new school district superintendent.
Our 2014 mug is designed by local artist, Doug Comstock. Make a donation here and get a mug! http://bit.ly/1qqajdV
Doug’s drawing of the Cable House celebrates the completion of the remodeling that has been taking place over the last few years. We couldn’t be happier with the remodel, and we couldn’t be happier with Doug’s Mug!
In January, Ketchikan parents were invited to their children’s schools to try out the lunch menu.
About 130 parents filled out surveys, and the comments were mixed. Some lamented the sogginess of chicken nuggets or the lack of nutrition in the lettuce. Others praised the salad bar and said the entrees were tasty.
Some of the parents who tried the school lunch said they wondered where the meals are prepared and how that affects the food’s freshness. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into Ketchikan school lunches.
Things start early at the Shoenbar Middle School Kitchen. It’s 5 a.m. on a recent Thursday, and a Food Services of America delivery truck is here. The driver unloads boxes of food and brings them into the kitchen.
Madonna Brock is the Food Services Director for Ketchikan schools. She reads a list of what FSA delivers each week.
“Cantaloupe, carrots, cucumber, celery, cheese…”
This food is shipped up on the Alaska Marine Highway from an FSA warehouse in Seattle, Washington. It goes into around 600-650 school lunches made each day here in the Shoenbar kitchen.
Head Cook Jim Lindahl and his assistant, Laurie Morrison, prepare three entrees each day. There’s the main dish, which goes to all the schools, and two alternatives, which go to the high school, Revilla, and Shoenbar in addition to the main dish.
Jim and Laurie are starting out making one of the alternatives: tuna sliders.
Jim and Laurie say they usually sample the dishes they make every day for quality control.
“Oh I think it’s all very nutritious,” Jim said. “It’s just finding what the kids like is the hard part…finding what they’re willing to eat and get the nutrition in there too.”
Madonna sees it similarly. She says the biggest conflict they have to work out is between what kids like and what their parents like.
“Parents don’t really like to see the chicken nuggets on the menu, but that’s when our counts are really high,” she said. “I don’t know what else to do. We’ve been getting more casseroles, and fresh fish twice a month.”
Jim pointed out some of the new, fresher recipes they’ve been trying, including a halibut sandwich and garlic halibut.
The halibut is the only food product that is locally produced. Things like bread, cheese, and bananas come from Food Services of America. The majority of food that make up the entrees – chicken nuggets, hamburgers, pizza, breakfast burrito – that comes pre-made from the federal government. It’s part of the US Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program.
An example of that is today’s main entree for all the schools: enchiladas. Jim and Laurie start making it at about 6 a.m.
The government foods are shipped to Ketchikan about once a month from Fife, Washington.
“It’s really good product,” Madonna said. “I don’t know when they make it, but its frozen and it’s good.”
Jim and Laurie break apart the frozen tortilla wraps and lay them out in rows in the pan, then they pour enchilada sauce on the tortillas, sprinkle cheese on them, add another layer of frozen enchiladas, and so on. They’ll cook about 20 pans of these for the schools.
On the February lunch menu, out of 19 school days, 15 of the lunches had government product entrees. The other four were either FSA product or Cedar’s Lodge fish. On the March menu, out of 14 school days, 11 had government product entrees.
The only school Jim and Laurie do not prepare enchiladas for is Point Higgins Elementary, which is about 15 miles north of Shoenbar.
This month they started cooking the lunches on-site at the Point Higgins kitchen.
Mechelle Orin is the one who does that. She says she heads out there around 9 a.m. and prepared lunch for about 100 kids.
Madonna hopes cooking the lunches at Point Higgins will make them taste fresher to the students. She says her goal is to make it possible to cook the lunches on location at each school.
That might help with one of the main complaints on the parents’ survey. A lot of the parents could tell that the food had been sitting in a heater or cooler for a number of hours between when it was made and when it was served.
Throughout the rest of the morning, Jim and Laurie continue with the enchiladas and make the other alternate entrée: chicken fajita salad.
In another section of the kitchen, Nancy Johnson prepares veggies for the salad bar, which is a new addition this school year.
The parents’ surveys were mixed on the pizza and chicken nuggets, but most were positive about the salad bar.
Another new addition in the schools is the fruit and vegetable program, which is also sponsored by the USDA. Each day, students at Houghtaling, Fawn Mountain, Tongass, and Charter get a snack that is usually a fruit, sometimes a vegetable, ordered from Tatsuda’s, a local grocery store. Today is a special day.
“Today is raspberries,” said Susie McKitrick. “It’s my favorite, it’s their favorite too.”
McKitrick has been working here for two years. She helps serve lunch at Fawn Mountain, and says the kids love their fruit. But she also hears complaints about the lunches.
“I don’t know if we can improve it here, they do a lot, they work really hard, we can only work with what we get,” she said. “I think there’s too much processed food still.”
At around 9 a.m., Glenn Brown, a bus and delivery driver for First Student, arrives.
“There are carts, the hot food is on the top half of the cart, and the bottom is cold for salads, vegetables, etcetera,” he explained.
Glenn rolls three carts full of lunch onto a truck. One each for Tongass, Charter, and Fawn Mountain.
He rolls the first cart into the Charter school around 9:15. And then the second into Tongass school, which is in the same building.
Then, the cart sits there for a while. Plugged into an outlet in the wall, keeping the enchiladas hot and the salad and veggies cold.
After a few more hours, at 1 p.m., it’s lunch time at Tongass.
The first and second graders give today’s lunch good reviews. Some don’t know exactly what the enchiladas are, but they seem to enjoy them.
Lichia Kelly-King talks to KRBD about the activities for seniors at Rendezvous Senior Day Services.
We all know former KCAW reporter, Ed Ronco is multi-talented: journalist, actor, director, and all-around great guy. But did you know he’s also a poet? Listen to Ed’s Haiku, and then follow his lead and make a donation to support Raven Radio here:http://bit.ly/1qqajdV
JUNEAU — Bob Lynn is spry for a man of 81. He easily — and daily during the session — scales the five flights of steps at the state Capitol.
“I don’t feel old,” said Lynn, a former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot in the 1950s who also served in the Vietnam War at a radar installation. “I don’t know what happened.”
The Republican legislator from Anchorage’s lower Hillside is the oldest legislator in Alaska statehood history, according to Legislative Research.
ANCHORAGE — A new study says four Alaska cities have the costliest health care prices in the nation.
Juneau was the costliest city for health care that was listed in the report released last week by the Council for Community and Economic Research, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Second on the list was Fairbanks, followed by Kodiak. Anchorage was fourth on the list, followed by Everett, Wash., and Boston.
The national research council measured 300 cities based on average 2013 prices for visits with physicians, dentists and optometrists.
JUNEAU — The redistricting process has a greater impact on state legislative races in Alaska than it does congressional races.
Alaska, with an estimated population of about 735,000 people, has just one congressman, and Republican Rep. Don Young has held the seat since winning a special election in 1973. He is seeking re-election later this year.
SITKA — With seiners on the verge of wrapping up this year’s sac roe herring fishery, attention is shifting back to the traditional importance of the Sitka Sound herring spawn: herring eggs.
Members of the Kiksadi clan gathered in front of the Sheet’ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi Tuesday morning for the Blessing of the Herring Rock, marking the ceremonial start of the subsistence harvest season for herring eggs.
FAIRBANKS — A generation of Americans, now adults, grew up playing in sandboxes.
The structures, which fostered the creative energy of thousands of future architects, geologists and geographers have fallen out of popularity in the past few decades, largely disappearing from playgrounds around the nation. The playground structure might be making a resurgence with the help of 21st century technology, however.