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Southeast Alaska News

Sandra Gelber, 61, dies on Juneau trail

Mon, 2014-05-05 17:07

Sandra Gelber.

A former Sitka resident has died after being found unconscious on a Juneau trail. 61-year old Sandra Gelber was a physical therapist at Bartlett Hospital.

Two hikers found her body Sunday afternoon in a creek along the Salmon Creek Dam Trail behind the hospital. They pulled her out and administered CPR until medics arrived. She was pronounced dead about 30 minutes after being found.
Bartlett spokesman Jim Strader says it isn’t known how long she was on the trail before she was found.

Police are investigating the death.

Gelber was an avid outdoorswoman, and lived in Sitka for many years prior to moving to Juneau.

UAS Ketchikan celebrates graduating Class of 2014

Mon, 2014-05-05 15:09

University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan Campus celebrated 25 graduating students on Saturday, and bestowed an honorary doctorate on a well-known local artist.


Graduation is a joyful celebration, a fact underscored by the beaming smiles on the graduates’ faces as they accepted their diplomas from a lineup of University of Alaska officials, including Campus Director Priscilla Schulte, who emceed the event.

Fifteen graduates attended the ceremony, earning certificates, and associates, bachelors and master’s degrees.

One of those degrees went to Jeremiah Tucker, a working parent and a U.S. Army veteran, who was the student speaker. He talked about the hard work that’s required in the pursuit of knowledge.

“Ten years ago, I would have never even considered putting the words together: ‘Jeremiah Tucker’ and ‘College Student,’” he said. “Through my elementary and junior high years, I struggled with dyslexia. I thought I would never be able to attain a formal education.”

But having children made Tucker change his mind, especially after one of his kids was diagnosed with dyslexia.

“I looked at my children and I thought, ‘I want a better life for them than they could obtain without an education.’ I knew I wasn’t going to be able to tell them the importance of an education unless I put myself out there,” he said.

Tucker said that his bachelor’s degree in liberal arts is not the end of his educational journey. He now plans to pursue a master’s.

The commencement address was given by Ketchikan artist Evon Zerbetz. She also received an honorary doctorate in fine arts for her many and varied contributions to the

Evon Zerbetz, center, receives her honorary doctorate on Saturday.

community. Zerbetz spoke about the importance of curiosity.

“I don’t claim to be an expert in any field, but I’m wildly interested in the natural and often unnatural world around me,” she said. “And my circuitous path to find my career has been driven by my observations of things that I don’t understand, but I want to. And I translate this curiosity into my art.”

Zerbetz said curiosity sets people up to be a lifelong learners, it can lead us to what will make us happy, it can help build stronger relationships and it leads to innovation. She told the story of “Flasher Bill,” a man who lived in nearby Myers Chuck.

Zerbetz said he noticed that fish bit more often when other fish were in the water nearby, scales flashing as they reflect the light.

“Bill set out to replicate this. He saved his food cans, stripped the labels, flattened out all those cans, and he kept at it until he had a bucket full of the shiny strips,” she said. “One day, when the fish were following his gear but not biting, he tested his theory.”

Flasher Bill threw the strips overboard, and as they flashed through the water, the fish bit. Zerbetz said Bill later refined his technique, attaching the strips to the hook, so they could be used repeatedly. And through exploring his curiosity, Bill invented the flasher, now a staple in any fisherman’s gear box.

Zerbetz encouraged the graduates to use their natural curiosity to continue learning and discovering new passions in life.

Petersburg holds Blessing of the Fleet

Mon, 2014-05-05 13:54

Neil and Margaret Newlun bow their heads in prayer during the ceremony. Photo/Angela Denning

Petersburg’s Blessing of the Fleet was held Sunday at the Fishermen’s Memorial next to the Sons of Norway Hall. Angela Denning put together an audio postcard of the ceremony.

The event was sponsored by Petersburg Ministerial Association, Petersburg Vessel Owners and Sons of Norway.

This weekend, Girls on the Run 5k

Mon, 2014-05-05 11:39

Listen to iFriendly audio.

Girls on the Run – a program designed to empower young girls through running – is wrapping up it’s season, culminating in a 5K “fun run.”

Mon May 5, 2014

Mon, 2014-05-05 11:27

Listen to iFriendly audio.
Sitka Assembly proposes 2015 budget. Movoto votes Sitka as the best place to live in Alaska.

Analysis: SB21 working as hoped

Mon, 2014-05-05 00:04

A University of Alaska Anchorage researcher reported SB21 is generating growth and positive results for Alaskans, amid claims by some that the new oil tax system has already failed.

The report, by economist Scott Goldsmith of the Institute of Social and Economic Research at UAA, attributes only 4 percent of the state’s decline in revenue to the new oil tax structure.

Anchorage Republican Sen. Cathy Giessel chairs the Senate Resources Committee, and said the Goldsmith report is evidence that the new tax structure is the right way forward for the state.

read more

Senate candidates weigh in on same-sex marriage

Mon, 2014-05-05 00:04

JUNEAU — In the lead-up to this year’s elections, The Associated Press plans to publish an occasional list featuring the positions of the highest-profile Alaska U.S. Senate candidates on different issues.

All the campaigns contacted — Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and Republicans Joe Miller, Dan Sullivan and Mead Treadwell — agreed to participate.

The subject this time is same-sex marriage.

read more

Girdwood students learn about wildlife careers

Mon, 2014-05-05 00:03

ANCHORAGE — A man stood in the bucket of a green front-loader truck at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center on Wednesday afternoon. He gripped the leg of a moose, holding it over three bears who paced below.

“The deceased is ready to go into the pen,” he announced.

read more

Salvation Army eyes Bethel

Mon, 2014-05-05 00:02

BETHEL— When officials from the Salvation Army Alaska Division came to visit Bethel last month, they came with the intention to merely explore how they might help.

“We think it’s time to reach out and see what can be done,” said Salvation Army Major George Baker. “We’re hoping after our visit here we can go back and do some brainstorming and crunch some numbers and hopefully in six months or so we can start a program out here. When we come we come to be a part of the community, not to tell the community what to do.”

read more

HEA debuts Nikiski energy facility

Mon, 2014-05-05 00:02

“It’s humming!” Rick Roeske, shouted over the deep vibrations emitting from the maze of whirring turbines and endless pipes crisscrossing within the new Nikiski Combined Cycle facility, where the majority of the Kenai Peninsula’s power is now produced.

The facility is considered the cornerstone of Homer Electric Association’s Independent Light program, which provides locally produced power the Kenai Peninsula.

read more

Republican candidates rally party support

Sun, 2014-05-04 00:09

Alaska’s largest political party and its candidates for major offices are bracing for a fight this fall when the nation’s eyes turn to the 49th state’s U.S. Senate race.

The state Republican Party travelled to Juneau over the weekend for its biennial state convention, and delegates representing districts statewide seized the opportunity to learn more about the party’s candidates vying for state and federal office.

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Republicans take up platform, rules at convention

Sun, 2014-05-04 00:09

JUNEAU — Alaska Republicans on Saturday approved changes in how future party leaders are selected and adopted a platform that officials considered clearer and more concise, ending a state convention that was downright muted compared with two years ago.

The consistent theme of the three-day convention was unity, with many in the party eager to move on from the divisive 2010 U.S. Senate race and the upheaval in party leadership that followed the 2012 convention.

read more

GOP Lt. Gov. candidates appear at forum

Sun, 2014-05-04 00:08

JUNEAU— The Republican candidates for lieutenant governor sought to make distinctions between themselves during a candidate forum at the state GOP convention Saturday.

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan and Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, are vying to be Gov. Sean Parnell’s running mate later this year. Parnell is not expected to face any real primary challenge.

The state’s current lieutenant governor, Mead Treadwell, is seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.

read more

Couple holds out hope for missing bounce house

Sun, 2014-05-04 00:07

ANCHORAGE — Michelle Appel is hoping to solve a big Alaska mystery with a colorful past.

She’s hoping someone will help her track down the Anchorage customer who rented a king-size, kids-only bounce house from her in 2012 — and then bounced with it.

Appel and her husband, Adam, own For Fun Alaska, an inflatable games rental business. Two years ago, they spent $4,000 for a “Big Big Bouncer,” an inflatable structure 25 feet wide, 20 feet deep and about 15 feet high, Appel said, decked out in primary colors.

“It was just a monster,” she said Thursday.

read more

Sitka officer retires after 27 years

Sun, 2014-05-04 00:07

SITKA — The longest-serving sworn officer in the Sitka Police Department has worked under five different police chiefs and alongside some 150 different employees in the department.

On Monday, Lt. Barry Allen looked ready for retirement, dressed uncharacteristically in a sweatshirt and Carhartts for his final day on the job, handling mostly paperwork.

“After 25-plus years in, I’m looking for a change of pace in life,” Allen said. He turned in his uniform Friday morning.

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First LNG ship since 2012 arrives at ConocoPhillips plant near Kenai

Sun, 2014-05-04 00:06

The first liquefied natural gas tanker arrived Friday morning at the ConocoPhillips LNG plant at Nikiski, near Kenai, following the company’s reactivation of the plant this spring.

The plant has been in a suspended status since late 2012.

The Excel is owned and operated by the Belgium-based Exmar shipping group. ConocoPhillips spokeswoman Amy Burnett could not say how long it will take to load the vessel or the destination of the cargo, although presumably it is heading for Asia.

read more

Man, 19, shot troopers from behind

Sun, 2014-05-04 00:06

ANCHORAGE — As two state troopers struggled to arrest his father, a 19-year-old man armed himself with an assault rifle and shot them seven times, killing them outside his home in a remote Alaska village, authorities said in charges filed Saturday.

Nathanial Lee Kangas appeared in a Fairbanks court two days after Trooper Gabriel “Gabe” Rich and 45-year-old Sgt. Patrick “Scott” Johnson were shot to death. He was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and a count of third-degree assault. Bail was set at $2 million.

read more

Sitka budget calls for utility rate increases

Fri, 2014-05-02 16:20

The City and Borough of Sitka’s 2015 draft budget. (KCAW photo/Rachel Waldholz)

It’s budget season in Sitka. On Thursday night (5-1-14) the Sitka Assembly held a work session to hash out the proposed 2015 budget drawn up by city staff. KCAW’s Rachel Waldholz was there, and she spoke with Robert Woolsey about what’s coming down the pike.



The next budget work session will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 8, at Harrigan Centennial Hall; it is open to the public. The assembly will vote on the budget at its regular meeting on May 27.


Megan Litster appointed to Petersburg School Board

Fri, 2014-05-02 16:08

Megan Lister smiles after being appointed to the Petersburg School Board. Photo/Angela Denning

The Petersburg School Board appointed Megan Litster today to fill a vacancy until the regular borough election this fall. There were two vacancies on the school board and Litster is filling one of them.

Board Chair, Jean Ellis, took the vote which was unanimous in support of Litster.

“Motion passes, congratulations,” Ellis said.

At the meeting, Litster took the oath and talked about how she has wanted to serve on the school board for several years. She said part of the reason is because she has four young children who will be in the school system until the year 2030.

“I’m very interested in ensuring their quality education and supporting our schools,” Litster said. “So, I’m happy to that the opportunity to serve on the board so I can do those things.”

Besides her own four children, Litster is particularly interested in students with special needs. She works as a Family Services Coordinator for REACH, Inc. an agency that supports people of all ages with intellectual disabilities. She is also a Guardian ad Litem for Petersburg and Wrangell where she advocates for children in court through the Office of Public Advocacy.

“I have a big interest in the special education system and how to keep that strong, how to meet the needs of kids with special needs, particularly in Rural Alaska,” Litster said. “So, I’m excited to get to see the other side of it and hopefully learn more and hopefully can better support them at work and maybe offer something to the school as well.”

At the meeting High School Principal Rick Dormer said the school has worked with Litster through the REACH program and said it’s been a positive experience.

“It’s been a very good relationship, it’s continued to get stronger and we really appreciate that and her skills are very professional,” Dormer said. “So we really appreciate working with her for several years now.”

Petersburg resident, Jay Lister, has also applied to be a board member until the borough election. He was unable to attend the meeting. The board is tentatively set to meet with him May 9.

North Tongass forests at risk of fire

Fri, 2014-05-02 15:49

Warm, dry, windy weather is putting parts of northern Southeast at risk of fire. (Map courtesy PBS.org)

Southeast Alaskans are not used to hearing this, but parts of the region are a fire hazard.

The U.S. Forest Service says the danger is in the north, mostly between Tenakee Inlet and Yakutat. Tenakee is about 50 miles west of Juneau and Yakutat is more than 200 miles to the northwest. Other areas may also be affected.

Warm, dry and windy weather is the reason for the warning.

Forest Fire Management Officer Seth Ross says hunters, hikers, boaters and campers should be careful.

“We just wanted to talk to folks who are coming back into the woods and just make a gentle reminder to be careful. The conditions certainly are right for some fire activity,” he says.

He says fires should be attended at all times and thoroughly extinguished when no longer needed.

Forest fires are uncommon in Southeast’s Tongass rainforest.

But Ross says an average of 17 happen each year. Some years have as many as 40.

“They’re not big . They don’t spread out very far. They do go deep in the right conditions. We do have fires that burn down a few layers in, underground. But nothing gets too, too big,” he says.

The warning is for the weekend, though it could last longer.