A stray male Burmese Mountain dog was found on the corner of Small Tracts and Mud Bay Road today...
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Southeast Alaska News
The state ferry Columbia is transporting passengers again this week after being out of commission for nearly nine months. It’s one of the marine highway’s biggest vessels. Jeremy Woodrow, the Alaska Department of Transportation Spokesperson, says the ferry schedule should be back to normal. “The good thing with the Columbia coming back online is that the Malaspina will now return to its day boat status in Lynn Canal so folks who live in those three communities which would be Juneau, Haines, and Skagway will see the Malaspina on a nearly daily basis now,” Woodrow said.
The Columbia was having its engine, propellers, and lifeboat replaced in Portland. The total cost of the repairs was an estimated 30 million dollars. It was slated to be back in service last week. But on its way to Bellingham, the ship encountered some problems: the oil pump wasn’t working correctly. “So they were able to actually identify the problem on the spot and work with getting the part replaced and work on doing the repairs.”
Woodrow said, although late, the ferry is coming back at a good time. “June and July are the busiest months for the ferry system. With one of the largest ferries back in service it helps us accommodate passengers that want to get from community to another.”
To check the ferry schedule visit: http://www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/
Petersburg High School is making a change in calculating grade point average for students who take advanced placement classes next year. The school board heard about that change and other updates Tuesday.
High school advanced placement classes in English, biology and calculus will have a grade point average of one through five next year regardless of how students perform on the AP test. The old system required a score of 3 or higher on the AP test for that 5 point GPA. Students who don’t take AP classes only have a GPA of up to four.
Principal Rick Dormer told the school board the goal was to encourage more students to take AP classes. “And the reason is we really wanna encourage more students to take an AP class. Because we certainly we’ve really every year have kids say well I really wanna take AP calculus but I’ll take math connections or something because that’s going to be easier and it’s gonna be a lot easier and I wanna keep my GPA because I’m gonna be salutatorian or something. That happens every year. This gives them a little bit more room. A B in an AP class is the same as an A in a non AP class. So that’s nice for their grade point average.”
The old system of requiring a 3 or better on the AP test had created a problem with timing. Students sometimes take the test later in the year, and results come back too late to calculate GPA that year. Dormer said staff wanted to use the 5 point GPA for calculating class rank for graduating seniors in time for graduation. “It has also said that we will not use a weighted GPA in determining class rank meaning who would be the valedictorian and the salutatorian and the historian. And we do want to change that and say we are going to use this weighted GPA to determine those because the kids who take the AP classes they’ve earned something and we don’t want to take that away from them.”
Board president Jean Ellis remembered the issue has been under discussion even before she started her latest stint on the board in 2007. “There were some people who felt very strongly that their students hadn’t had enough time to plan ahead for what kind of classes they wanted to take AP classes to get those fives, to be able to compete to be valedictorian. And so at that point in time they didn’t change it. I didn’t take it on once I got on the school board even though I agreed with the idea. I think this is, its an academic reward.”Those changes are part of the high school handbook for the upcoming year.
In other news, Dormer noted the new digital marquis sign has been installed on Haugen Drive. “The money for that came from graduating classes mostly. It was the graduating classes of 10, 11 12 and 13. And we are working on some sign recognition to put up there we’ve told those classes so. The majority of funds came from that, the majority of our piece as well as just a little bit extra from year book ads so the community really gets support. We thought that was a good way to advertise school events by using some of the yearbook ads they’ve been selling. That’s where our financial piece came from from the school district and of course we have such a great relationship with Northern Nights Theater, many of our students work there and they of course split the cost with us as well.”
The sign is used to announce school events and advertise the weekly movie at the student run Northern Nights Theater. It replaces an older sign with lettering that had to be changed by hand.
Marty Susort with Alaska Commercial Contractors gave an update on the elementary school renovation. That company is replacing the windows, walls and insulation at Rae C Stedman this summer. Susort said the work is going well and on schedule.
“I’m pretty pleased with the way the crews are working. Course we all have to do things in order. One group has to do their share before the next ones can get in line. In this case the framers have to get the walls done so I can sheetrock it. Then the plumbers have to get in and hang the heat system and then the carpet layers have to get in. That’s all coming on in the future. We’re looking forward to a smooth system here so.”
The board approved a budget revision for the fiscal year that ends this month and OK’d the purchase of language arts textbooks for all grades.
Board members also bid farewell to superintendent Rob Thomason who retires from the district this month. Thomason praised the students and staff and thanked the board. “Thank you to the board for a great five years, board and staff and community. It’s been a highlight of my career, it truly has. As my wife and I have reminisced and said we only wish we had found this opportunity 10 years sooner.” New superintendent Lisa Stroh starts work in July.
Petersburg voters this fall will decide whether to exempt local elected officials from state financial disclosure requirements. Petersburg’s borough assembly Monday voted to put the issue on the October ballot. If voters approve, people elected or appointed to the borough assembly, planning commission and school board would no longer have to file income information with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.
Elected officials in the old city of Petersburg were exempt from state financial disclosure requirements, but that changed with the formation of the borough in 2013. After that, anyone elected or appointed to the borough assembly, planning commission or school board has had to file a report with the public offices commission. Those reports outline major sources of income for an office holder, a spouse or dependent child along with a person’s loans.
During a radio call-in show Monday, assembly member Jeigh Stanton Gregor said it was a good idea to vote on the issue. “I think this would be a great one to have on the ballot. I understand why that rule is in place but in terms of small government where we have a hard time filling vacancies, I think removing that barrier is a great idea to get more people involved in the democratic process.”
State law on financial disclosure says the requirement is to discourage a public official from acting on a private business interest while serving the public. It also states that public office is a public trust that should be free from the danger of conflict of interest and that the public has a right to know of the financial and business interests of persons who seek or hold public office.
The conflict of interest issue addressed in this law comes up from time to time at the local level – one recent example was this spring. Stanton Gregor owns a counseling business, and he sat out votes on a portion of the borough’s budget that including funding for a competing mental health service in town.
Like Stanton Gregor, vice mayor Cindi Lagoudakis thought the requirement should be removed. “And for most people, it’s probably not, it makes you uncomfortable to provide financial information. I don’t think most people probably go online and seek that out. For some people there’s a business reason why that would compromise them or their clients or the people that they do business with and so, I understand why folks don’t wanna do that. And I agree with Jeigh. I think in a community this size it’s probably not that important to have that financial disclosure.”
Since the formation of the Petersburg borough in 2013, the requirement for financial disclosure has prompted at least one resignation by a local office holder.
The public offices commission maintains the filings by elected officials. However, for municipal official’s annual reports, that public information is not available on the APOC website.
“The policy has been the annual reports for people other than the legislature candidates or the governor and lieutenant governor are available to the public but not electronically,” APOC executive director Paul Dauphinais explained.
That means someone would have to call an APOC office and request those records to be sent. “People would need to call the APOC office, ask us if we have a particular filing, we would ensure we even had it. Then we would be happy to send it to them in a variety of different formats. If there’s like a PDF, we’d be happy to do that. That’s preferable since we could do that electronically, or if they want a paper copy we would print it out and send it to them.”
Daupinais said many municipalities have opted for exemption from the requirement. It’s the first ballot question that borough voters will decide since the election on the borough in late 2012.
Petersburg’s borough assembly Monday approved spending money for heating controls at the community gym but voted against spending to replace a boiler exhaust stack at the hospital. Assembly members were concerned about setting a precedent for project funding at the medical center.
The price tag for new heating and ventilation controls at the community gym is just over 137,000 dollars. The Parks and Recreation department had budgeted for more than half of that to do the work in the upcoming year and says it has little control over the temperature in the building.
Karen Malcom teaches classes in the old racquetball court and urged the assembly to approve the spending. “So we are either freezing or roasting and I’m fortunate because my particular class, I do strength training and yoga, whereas there’s two other teachers that do high intensity aerobics and they are really miserable in there. So if this is anyway possible I would really appreciate your support in that.”
Assembly members questioned whether the money would fix the 25-year old system. Parks and Recreation director Donnie Hayes said it would. “So number one that’s gonna help us to save money because it’s not going to have to pump as much heat into the building to keep it at a level temperature. And then number two that’ll allow us to be able to say we can actually keep the racquetball court at 65 degrees or the gymnasium at 70 degrees, whereas right now we don’t have that ability at all.”
Meanwhile, school superintendent Rob Thomason wrote a letter supporting the use of $50,000 dollars that had been budgeted in the upcoming year for concrete work in the district. Thomason wrote that money should be should instead go toward the community gym controls and would help the district save heating fuel costs in the long run. The gym building is heated by school district boilers in the adjacent building.
The assembly voted 5-0 to approve the spending for the heating controls. The replacement will be done by one of the companies working on the elementary school project this summer.
Another spending decision was for 21-thousand 900 dollars for the medical center to replace a boiler exhaust stack that is leaking. The hospital board was hoping the borough would fund that work to happen this summer with the completion of the roof replacement project.
John Havrilek wondered about setting a precedent for projects at the hospital. “You know in 50 years I’ve checked with some seniors in town, we haven’t had to pay any building repairs, building upkeep or renovations. So are we going to start doing that now and if we are where are we going to get the money? Are we changing the relationship with the hospital? Because it seems like we are.”
Others on the assembly wanted to support the hospital but were also unclear about the borough’s responsibility for funding upkeep. Medical Center CEO Liz Woodyard noted the borough owns the hospital building and has not been paying for repairs. “So up to this point, the hospital has had to repair and maintain and replace everything. And that’s why there’s many things that are not maintained or repaired. They haven’t had the money for years and years and years and years.”
Woodyard said she’d like to see the borough agree to an annual payment to the medical center for upkeep and though the hospital couldn’t afford the work that was needed. “So of the hospital has to continue to pay all the building requirements, we’re not going to be able to make it on operations. And that’s because you only have one pot of money. And if we pay for something on one end we have to take it out of somewhere else.”
The vote was 4-1 against the hospital project funding with only Jeigh Stanton Gregor voting to support it. Mayor Mark Jensen and assemblyman Bob Lynn were not at the meeting.
You might have noticed posters of National Parks on display in a few places around Petersburg. They’re the work of Kupreanof resident Doug Leen and an artist Leen has employed to reproduce some historic images and create new ones.
Some of Leen’s posters are reproductions of images made under the Works Progress Administration’s federal poster project between 1938 and 1941 – others are new creations done in the same vein. 49 of the works are also now on display until next spring in the Nation’s capital at the Department of Interior museum in Washington D.C.
Leen got started down this road of recreating parks posters when he found one of the originals while working as a seasonal ranger in the Grand Tetons of Wyoming. Joe Viechnicki spoke to Leen about his work.
Some of the posters on display at Lees Clothing and are for sale at Miele Gallery. They’re also online here.
WASHINGTON — Two senators unveiled a bipartisan plan Wednesday to raise federal gasoline and diesel taxes for the first time in more than two decades, pitching the proposal as a solution to Congress’ struggle to pay for highway and transit programs.
Longtime Juneau resident Tom Williams remembers the exact date — and the weather — when he arrived in Juneau just over 37 years ago.
It was June 13, 1977, and the sun was out all week.
“I remember thinking, ‘Why wouldn’t anybody just want to be here forever?’” Williams told the Empire.
WASILLA — A 24-year-old Wasilla man suspected of beating two 14-year-old boys who used obscene hand gestures has been charged with felony assault.
One boy was transported to Mat-Su Regional Hospital with serious injuries that included a possible broken jaw.
Alaska State Troopers said Jonathan Kaalakea was jailed at Mat-Su Pretrial facility. By Wednesday he was released on $3,000 bail. He is not listed in directory assistance and did not have an attorney listed in online court records.
KETCHIKAN — Ketchikan officials have agreed to continue grant funding for a shellfish-seed producer amid questions about OceansAlaska’s financial situation.
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly last year approved a $338,000 grant to be split over two years for operational costs and $50,000 for a business plan and design for the facility’s future operations.
BETHEL — Construction of a skateboarding park is planned this summer in Kwethluk, which will be the only village in the vast Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta to have one.
Materials are being gathered at a Seattle barge company, KYUK-FM reported. The shipment is expected to arrive in July at the Yup’ik Eskimo village of about 780.
The nearby hub town of Bethel has a skate park, but smaller surrounding villages in the region do not.
ANCHORAGE — The remains of about a third of the service members who died when their military transport plane crashed into an Alaska mountain and then were buried for decades in glacier ice have been identified, military officials said Wednesday.
The Department of Defense released the identities of 17 people onboard the C-124 Globemaster, which crashed in 1952, and said the remains will be returned to their families for burial with full military honors.
Before rainshowers prompted a change in venue, the concert was be outdoors at the battle site at Sitka National Historic Park, with an accompanying art installation of violins decorated by local artists suspended from tree branches. Instead, the violins were on horizontal display in Allen Hall, inviting attendees to bid on them in a silent auction as a fundraising effort.
Jeff Budd with the Greater Sitka Arts Council explained that Sitka resident Cynthia Gibson started a tradition of installing artwork at of the Festival’s outdoor concerts, and this year the theme was music in the trees.http://www.kcaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Jeff-Budd-on-violins_01.mp3
When the violins are not on display at Festival concerts, they are hanging and up for auction at Island Artists Gallery and Old Harbor Books. Bidding will close on June 30, and proceeds will benefit both the Arts Council and the Sitka Summer Music Festival.
There are still tickets available for Raven Radio’s Solstice Cruise this Friday, June 20. Enjoy an evening cruising through Sitka Sound aboard an Allen Marine catamaran while grooving with Regal Cheese and Arsenic & Lace. There will tasty food provided by The Pub and a cash bar. We will depart from Crescent Harbor at 6pm and return at 8:30pm. Tickets are $50 per person and available at Old Harbor Books. All proceeds benefit Raven Radio. Cruise provided by Allen Marine.
Andy West, RN Care Coordinator for PeaceHealth’s Prince of Wales Island Clinic speaks about men’s health month and important screenings. Marty West of PHKMC also provides some information. PeaceHealth
The Ketchikan City Council meets Thursday, and an issue related to the city’s source of water will be up for discussion and consideration.
Here’s the good news: Ketchikan’s new chloramine water disinfection system so far has brought down the levels of regulated byproducts. They tested under the limits set by federal regulators, and city officials hope that trend will hold through the warmer months, so the city can continue to avoid building a filtration plant.
Here’s the bad news: The city’s raw water supply – the source prior to treatment – has its own set of problems. And that could prompt the federal government to require an expensive filtration plant, after all.
Environmental Protection Agency requirements for unfiltered surface-water systems are strict. In addition to regulations for the treated water that comes into people’s homes, the EPA has requirements for the source water, before it’s treated.
Ketchikan Lakes is the city’s source, and before 2011 it always tested OK. Since then, though, it has exceeded allowed levels of coliform.
Coliform can come from fecal matter deposited by animals living in the watershed, but it also is formed by the natural decay of wood and other organic material. The city stresses that coliform is destroyed through its water treatment system.
The concern is what could happen if that treatment system fails.
Last year, the city hired consulting firm CH2MHill to study the source water at Ketchikan Lakes. In a recent report, the consultants say that weather pattern changes could be the reason for the increased levels.
According to the report, spikes in coliform levels have been associated with periods of warm, dry weather followed by heavy rains.
Possible ways to fix the problem without resorting to filtration include changing the location of intake pipes to deeper in the water; and controlling the flow of runoff from one area that could be the source of contamination.
CH2MHill recommends continuing the study for another year, and state Department of Environmental Conservation officials have agreed that would be the reasonable next step.
The Ketchikan City Council will consider authorizing a $31,000 contract with CH2MHill to continue the work.
The Council meeting starts at 7 p.m. Thursday in City Council chambers. Public comment will be heard at the start of the meeting.
Graduate students from the University of Michigan and Sitka Conservation Society’s Marjorie Hennessy discuss their current fieldwork on Kruzof Island. The students are working on a group thesis project looking at resource management and social dynamics on the island, and are creating a monitoring plan for a section of Shelikof Creek. At Mud Bay, the students will be surveying Kruzof visitors on recreation priorities.http://www.kcaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/140618_interview.mp3
We’ve heard a lot about mines planned for northwest British Columbia, just across Alaska’s border.
Southeast tribal, fishing and environmental groups have blasted those plans. Critics say they’ll pollute rivers that cross the border, damaging or destroying salmon and other fish runs.
But we haven’t heard a lot from mine advocates. Now, we have.http://www.ktoo.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/16MineSide.mp3
The site, which also includes copper, is roughly 80 miles east of Wrangell.
Critics say it could damage the Unuk River, which flows into the ocean northeast of Ketchikan.
Seabridge says that’s not the case. Brent Murphy is the corporation’s vice president of environmental affairs
“The concern with minimizing downstream environmental impacts has been the guiding principal behind the whole design of the mining project,” Murphy says.
Critics say the KSM could be about the same size as the proposed Pebble Prospect, a controversial mine proposed for Southwest Alaska.
They worry about plans for huge, dammed tailing lakes that could leak or break, sending acidic water into nearby streams and rivers.
Murphy says they’ll be built in a valley that drains into Canadian, not Alaskan, waters.
“The dams will be of a design which has been utilized worldwide. And these dams are extremely stable over the long term,” he says.
And what is the estimated life of those dams?
“They have to last for the 52 years of operations. And then we will reclaim that and they will last into perpetuity.”
Seabridge Gold has been working on the project since 2008. Murphy says even if everything goes its way, operations won’t begin until the 2020.
“You don’t build a mine overnight,” says Karina Brino, president of the Mining Association of British Columbia.
“There are a series of authorizations and permits from different levels of government that are required. And other than the Red Chris Mine, in the northwest, all the other projects are in exploration stages,” she says.
The Red Chris Mine is in the upper watershed of the Stikine River, which ends near Petersburg and Wrangell. It’s owned by Imperial Metals.
Another project of concern is the long-closed Tulsequah Chief Mine, which Chieftain Metals Corp is trying to reopen. It’s on a tributary of the Taku River, which ends near Juneau.
Critics, including the group Rivers Without Borders, are concerned about silt, acid discharge and dangerous metals.
The Mining Association’s Brino says the same is true for her industry.
“Our objective is to minimize impact. Our objective is to be stewards of the environment as much as anybody else would want us to be,” she says.
So, does the industry care about concerns from this side of the border?
“Absolutely,” Brino says. “My expectation would be that there is participation, hopefully meaningful participation, from your side of the border in the review of these projects.”
Seabridge Gold official Murphy says his company has consulted with Alaska officials once or twice a year since the project began. They’ve also been brought to the KSM mine site.
He says the project needs about 150 permits from the provincial and federal governments.
“We will have to do a lot of work in order to gather the information that will be needed to satisfy the … questions from our regulatory authorities,” Murphy says.
Seabridge just began a season of exploratory drilling at the site. That will help better define where the minerals are, and how much may be there.
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Another advertisement from the Republican-supporting Super PAC American Crossroads is on the Alaska airwaves attacking U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, and there doesn’t seem to be any end to the Outside-funded advertising, five months before the November U.S. Senate election.
The latest ad is focused on Begich’s support of Obamacare, and it’s the second anti-Begich ad from American Crossroads to air since Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan proposed the “Alaska Agreement” designed to stop ads like this one, which are funded by third parties to support a particular candidate.
JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell announced Tuesday that the state and TransCanada Corp. have formally ended their relationship under terms of the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, clearing the way for a new partnership to pursue a major gas project.