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Southeast Alaska News
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City releases additional information about administrator’s suspension. Small-ship tourism market growing in Southeast. Audio postcard: Chef merges Native traditions and contemporary cuisine in Mt. Edgecumbe cooking class.
ANCHORAGE — Gov. Sean Parnell has ordered state flags to be lowered when memorial services are held for a pilot and trooper killed in a helicopter crash.
The flags will be lowered on the days memorials are held for Trooper Tage Toll and pilot Mel Nading. Neither memorial has yet been scheduled.
They died when the helicopter crashed Saturday near Talkeetna. Also killed was Carl Ober of Talkeetna.
JUNEAU — Alaskans who send their kids to private school might be in line for a tax break if a new bill becomes law.
SB92 grants municipalities the authority to grant their taxpayers a credit for private school tuition paid during the same tax year. The credit would offset one’s property taxes and the bill’s sponsor, Sen. John Coghill, thinks that savings could encourage people to establish education scholarships.
JUNEAU — You can chalk Tuesday up as one bad day for a Fairbanks Democrat.
Rep. Scott Kawasaki found himself profusely apologizing to the House speaker after sticking his tongue out at a live TV camera during a speech, and then riling many in the House by asking to be excused for the next nine months — code for not wanting a special session.
Five Alaska state senators, including Southeast Alaska Sens. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, and Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, released a joint statement Tuesday announcing the formation of a Senate Coastal Caucus.
Egan and Stedman are joining Sens. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak; Donny Olson, D-Golovin; and Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna to constitute the caucus.
Stedman said Alaska’s coastal senators have worked together in the past, but that this move makes that affiliation into a more formal organization within the Senate majority caucus, of which all five senators are members.
Rob Kinneen is a chef from Anchorage and the founder of Fresh49, an organization that raises awareness in Alaska about the benefits of using local foods.
As part of his tour through Southeast earlier this spring, Kinneen stopped in at Sitka’s Mt. Edgecumbe High School and taught a cooking class. Although Kinneen is a Tlingit, with roots in Petersburg, Sitka, and Metlakatla, he is a ready hand with delicacies from other regions, including muktuk sushi.
Mt. Edgecumbe junior Shanelle Afcan is involved with the Fish-to-Schools program. She attended Kinneen’s class and sent this audio postcard.
During nearly an hour of sworn testimony before the borough assembly Monday, a Petersburg builder took the borough to task over the North Harbor Reconstruction bid process.The borough last month announced its intention to award the seven million dollar contract to the low-bidder, Western Dock and Bridge of Ketchikan. In its appeal, Petersburg’s Tamico claimed the borough didn’t follow the proper procedures and should have included a bid preference for local residents, which is part of municipal code. That would have resulted in the contract going to Tamico.
The borough manager maintained that state funding rules did not allow for a local preference in this case and that Petersburg code allowed the borough to drop that local preference if necessary.
After hearing both sides and consulting with the borough attorney, the assembly denied Tamico’s appeal and awarded the contract to the Ketchikan company.
Matt Lichtenstein has more on the story:
For mobile-friendly audio, click here.
Tamico initially protested the borough’s decision in writing last month. The Petersburg firm submitted the second-lowest overall bid, roughly 100-thousand dollars more than Western Dock and Bridge. Petersburg’s Borough Manager issued a written response denying Tamico’s protest. So, Tamico Vice President Jim Martinsen took his appeal to Monday’s borough assembly meeting. Martinsen said protests over contracts of this size were not uncommon. For him, it was part of doing business and the stakes were high.
“Its just the nature of the beast. Its not me stomping my feet or anything like that. It’s just, there’s a limited number of contracts out there. Its like….lets say you got one fish that’s going to make your whole season and one boat is going to catch it. It’s there, its competitive,” he said.
A key factor for both Martinsen and the borough was that state funding requirements for this project call for the contracting process to be consistent with state procurement law. The law requires that contracts be awarded to the lowest bidder, “after an Alaska bidder preference of five percent.”
Martinson argued that requirement did not preclude the local preference in borough code. Therefore, he asserted that the borough should not have taken the local preference off the table.
“There’s nothing in there that says you can’t be more restrictive. It just says you gotta be consistent. So it’s all in how you figure consistent. If you think that is consistence then you are in your legal rights to do it. There’s nothing in there that says if state money is involved you have to use Alaska bidder preference. It just says you have to use preference consistent to state statute,” said Martinsen.
He testified and answered assembly questions for nearly an hour, maintaining that the borough had not followed the proper bid procedures under state and local law.
Among other things, he challenged the borough’s written notice that there would be no local bidder preference. That came out in an addendum four days before the bids were due and Martinsen argued that bidders should have been given more time to protest.
Also, he said the borough’s bid solicitation should have included the fact that there was an Alaska preference, “In the bid documents, this is going to have to state ‘this is bid under Alaska bid preferences’ It’s not something that the state says is inferred. You can’t infer Alaska bidder preference is going to apply to this job just because the funding is set there. You’ve got to say it in the bid documents and that’s very clear so that outside companies looking at it know there’s Alaska bidder preference on the table.”
Martinson also pointed out that the borough had prematurely awarded the contract to Western Dock and Bridge last month without giving the required seven days notice.
Borough officials acknowledged that problem last month, retracted the award, and put out a notice so that the award could be made this week. Borough Manager Steve Giesbrecht said that mistake had no bearing on the outcome of the award itself.
Giesbrect also gave sworn testimony to the assembly. He maintained that state funding conditions for the project did not allow for the local preference. Muncipal code says that residents shall be given a preference if their bid amount is not more than five percent over a non-resident’s bid. However, Giesbrecht pointed out that the code also allows Petersburg the leeway to drop that preference and contract with, “….whatever source is most advantageous to the city after considering all factors in the public interest.”
Giesbrecht laid out several of the factors he considered beyond the 100 thosuand dollar price difference in the two bids, “First a local bidder preference would have created a substantial liability risk to the Petersburg borough due to the departure from the transfer project agreement with the department of Transportation and Public Facilities. This is the state agency that deeded the harbor to Petersburg. It could have resulted in either a challenge by DOT&PF or by the low bidder resulting in delay of the project including the potential for loosing corps (US Army Corps of Engineers) support, the dredging process and/or the possibility of having to redo the permit procedure for this process.”
Giesbrecht emphasized that Tamico did not file a protest when the addendum about removing the local bid preference came out. He also noted that the local company did not attend a February, pre-bid meeting where city officials had earlier clarified the local bid issue with other contractors.
“Because the bid request went out without protest, it would expose the borough to liability if the award was now made contrary to the terms of the bid request which did not include a local bidder preference,” Giesbrecht told the assembly.
He stressed that awarding to the lowest responsible bidder was a fundamental requirement of the state’s procurement code, “Since both Western and Tamico are Alaska bidders and they were the two lowest bids, the deciding factor continues to be the lowest responsible bidder as outlined in the North Harbor bid specifications. Included in your packet is the bill of sale and the transfer project agreement for the South and Middle Harbor projects that show the same restriction and no local preference that was used in these projects. This is consistent, again, with how the North Harbor bid process was conducted.”
The city has contracted with both Tamico and Western Dock and Bridge in the past and Giesbrecht said he had never heard a complaint about either company’s performance. He said, to his knowledge, they both did quality work.
So, for the Assembly, the issue came down to one of law. Assemblyman John Havrilek asked Giesbrecht about the city’s legal liability on this issue, “Would we be open to litigation if we did not award this to Western dock?”
“That is our feeling. Yes,” Giesbrecht replied.
Havrilek continued, “And I know all of us are totally in favor of supporting our local contractors 100 percent. Is there a way, legally, we can award this to them without having a problem?
“Not that I’m aware of,” said Giesbrecht.
Considering the potential for litigation, the assembly ultimately held a closed-door executive session to consult with the borough attorney by teleconference before making a decision.
Afterwards, with no further comment, they voted unanimously to deny Tamico’s appeal and then to award the contract to Western Dock and Bridge.
Tamico’s Jim Martinsen says he is considering his options at this point.
Work on demolishing the old harbor is slated to get underway in late summer early fall, followed by dredging by the US Army Corps of Engineers.
The City of Sitka released more information Tuesday about the suspension of Municipal Administrator Jim Dinley.
On March 28, the Assembly voted to suspend Dinley for two weeks without pay in response to a city employee’s complaint. The suspension began Monday.
KCAW obtained a copy of the disciplinary letter placed in Dinley’s personnel file, under the city’s open records ordinance.
The letter says Dinley violated the city’s anti-harassment policy on two separate occasions. One involved remarks he made to an arbitrator in September of 2011. Another involved comments at a staff meeting in January. The letter does not elaborate on what he said.
Read the letter: Click for a PDF copy.
It does say Dinley’s conduct has created a potential liability to the City and Borough. And it admonishes him, reading in part: “As the Municipal Administrator, you are a key public official of the Municipality. You set the tone for the Municipality’s working environment, and should lead by example in speaking of and treating all persons in a consistently respectful and professional manner. The Assembly expects you to exercise better judgment in the future in regard to the language you use.”
According to the letter, Dinley was given the opportunity to write in response, but declined to do so.
Theresa Hillhouse was municipal attorney when the complaint was filed. Reached Tuesday at her new office in Anchorage, she declined to comment on any specifics. Current Municipal Attorney Robin Koutchak referred KCAW to Sara Heideman, the outside attorney who investigated the complaint for the city. Heideman did not respond in time for this story’s deadline.
The unpaid suspension lasts through April 12th. Dinley is scheduled to appear before the Assembly for his annual evaluation on April 16.
Jim Dinley has been municipal administrator in Sitka since 2008. He received a favorable evaluation in front of the Assembly in 2011, and his initial three-year contract was extended another three. He earns approximately $122,000 a year, and his current contract expires in 2014.
Prior to coming to Sitka, Dinley was city manager of Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., a community of about 9,000 people just south of Chattanooga, Tenn.
Raven Radio’s new mug design is revealed! Big thanks to Rebecca LaGuire, Raven’s own program coordinator, for this year’s design. The mug is just one way we thank you for supporting your public radio which you can do right now.
Citing concerns about safety and added congestion Monday, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly unanimously rejected a request to rezone a parcel in the Herring Cove area from low-density residential to general commercial.
The applicant wanted to offer items for sale to the many tourists who visit the area each summer. Bear viewing is particular popular in Herring Cove, which is home to an active salmon stream.
Planning Director Tom Williams had recommended approving the rezone. He says the borough would study how the small business affects the neighborhood. However, Chris Boyette, a resident of that area, said congestion already affects the neighborhood, and he believes an added business there would make the problem worse.
Boyette, a local attorney, said most people are reluctant to speak out and potentially offend a neighbor.
“Myself, I happen to be engaged in a career where I’m usually offending somebody,” he said. “It’s not what I want to do, but it’s just what I have to do for a living. I know some people are not going to like what I’m doing here, but I also know quite a few residents on Powerhouse Road that really don’t want to see this happen.”
Assembly Member Agnes Moran questioned the wisdom of changing the zoning designation before studying the needs of the area.
“This is an established neighborhood that’s low-density residential,” she said. “They’ve been severely impacted by this increase in tourism here. I think before we add any more complexity to what these folks are facing, we need to know exactly what we’re dealing with.”
Assembly Member Mike Painter agreed, and said Herring Cove residents experience the pains of tourism already, and the tourism industry wasn’t stepping up with any helpful suggestions.
“Property owners are having their property trespassed upon, urinated upon, and so on and so forth,” he said. “You wouldn’t believe what goes on out there in the summertime. It has turned the residential mood of the area upside down.”
Other Assembly members suggested that the Planning Department work with the neighborhood residents to come up with a plan that would improve safety in Herring Cove. Glen Thompson added that the borough could ask the state to make that stretch of South Tongass Highway a no-parking zone, which would keep tour buses from parking right next to the road.
Also Monday, the Assembly introduced an ordinance to appropriate about $6.8 million for school facilities upgrades. The public hearing and final vote is set for the next regular Assembly meeting, which is April 15.
Nearly 5 percent of eligible Alaskans shared a portion of their annual Permanent Fund Dividend with nonprofit agencies throughout the state. According to the Alaska Department of Revenue Permanent Fund Dividend Division, a little more than 26,000 Alaskans pledged about $2.5 million through the Pick Click Give program.
In Ketchikan, 12 nonprofit agencies signed up with Pick Click Give received more than $25,000 through the program. Of those local agencies, Women in Safe Homes received the most, with $5,350 pledged; followed by First City Players, $4,850; and Ketchikan Humane Society, $3,725.
According to the state, total contributions grew 10 percent over last year with almost 3,000 more Alaskans donating through Pick Click Give than in 2012.
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Jeff Budd from the Greater Sitka Arts Council, Doug Osborne from SEARHC Health Promotion, and Willow Moore from Brave Heart Volunteers talk about how they use the Morning Interview to promote their organizations, how it benefits the community, and why listeners should contribute to Raven Radio’s Spring Fund Drive.
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Herring season tapering down, with half of quota still in the water. Rep. Kreiss-Tomkins introduces anti-hazing bill. Interview: IPHC director Bruce Leaman says there are signs of improvement in halibut stocks. Richard Rinehart Jr. appointed to Sealaska board.
JUNEAU — The Alaska Senate on Monday unanimously passed Gov. Sean Parnell’s omnibus crime bill, which is part of the governor’s overall plan to combat domestic violence and sexual assault in the state
SB22 strengthens penalties for criminals convicted of certain sex crimes and gives the state tools to execute strong preventative measures.
Parnell, in a news release, called it “crucial legislation” that “better protects Alaskans from domestic violence and sex trafficking — something we desperately need here.”
KENAI — A two-ton block of ice was lowered onto the Kenai River just below the Soldotna Bridge as part of a test run for a potential Kenai River Ice Classic.
If all goes according to plan, participants will be able to buy guesses as to what time the block of ice will fall into the river signaling a breakup of winter ice and impending spring.
Proceeds from the classic will be split among the winners and the Kenai and Soldotna Rotary clubs, which are sponsoring the project.
JUNEAU — The state is constitutionally required to consider cumulative effects of oil and gas projects after leasing, the Alaska Supreme Court has ruled.
JUNEAU — More than 25,000 Alaska voters may also be registered in other states, and 14 may have voted in two states during the November general election, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell’s office said Monday.
ANCHORAGE — A veteran pilot whose name was synonymous with Alaska State Trooper wilderness rescues was at the controls of a helicopter that crashed Saturday night near Talkeetna, killing three people.
Mel Nading, 55, the primary pilot for more than 12 years of Alaska State Trooper Helo-1, died in the crash of that aircraft. Also killed were Alaska State Trooper Tage Toll, 40, and an injured man they had just rescued, snowmobiler Carl Ober, 56, of Talkeetna.
Sitkans successfully survived a terrorist bombing earlier this week, and didn’t lose a minute’s sleep over it. They also dealt with a suspected poisoning of the food supply, a hospital patient with a gun, and a dangerous meth lab. All these scenarios – though realistic – were not real. They were created by an organization whose job is to test the resources of communities to deal with real-world threats. Here’s the story about one of Sitka’s largest-ever emergency response drills.
On Tuesday morning, a mysterious bag was left at the airport in Sitka.
Al Stevens is the assistant fire chief at the Sitka fire department. “And what had happened was one of the Alaska Airlines employees kicked the bag and it exploded,” he said.
“Did it really explode?” I asked.
“Well, it did,” said Stevens. “There was an alarm in there and like, powder stuff.”
So the airport staff evacuated the building and called the police. After the police arrived however, the employees were told it was only a drill.
Sitka hosted an emergency preparedness simulation that has been a year in the making. “The scenario is that this radical group came into Sitka,” said Stevens. “They were really against the wild salmon aquaculture. They wanted to do farm fishing. So they wanted to dispose of the farm fishing. They wanted to really disrupt things around Sitka.”
Although there was no real threat in the drill, Stevens wants to be clear that every situation in the drill was as real as possible.
“What if you just simulated it and everyone just lollygagged around?” he asked. “And said, okay, this is meth…what is the difference if you actually walked into the scene and woof, you actually smelled the ammonia?”
The people in charge of creating these so-called threats is the Emergency Response Training Institute (ERTI), a Seattle organization that puts on training drills.
“The grow things, make things,” said Stevens. “They’re the ones who put together all this real stuff. So, they’re replicating what the bad people would do. They’re the bad people.”
For the drill in Sitka, ERTI created a list of scenarios. Early morning explosions, planted bags with fake bombs, poisoned food, a hospital patient with a weapon, a 17-person crew stranded on an island – scenarios that challenged the fire hall to involve all of Sitka’s resources, and the resources of organizations from around the region who flew in to participate in the drill.
“We can’t just do it by ourselves. We have state parks, Sitka trail works, Allen marine, forest service, national weather service, tsa, lapc, us coast guard, raven radio, public health, dept of homeland security.”
As we talk, Stevens gets a radio call about a meth lab in town. It’s out Sawmill Creek Road at an abandoned shack. A fire crew has discovered a chemical lab in a shed. Police drive over to check out the scene.
The firefighters are suited up in full-body gear and masks covering their faces. They took some photos of the inside of the shed to show police.
Police now have to secure a warrant, so they can search and seize evidence. After it’s tested and the substance is determined, they’ll evacuate the area depending on what they find.
And now, everyone waits. It will take hours – the rest of the day – to deal with the issue. Actual problems take time to handle.
“What if this really happened?” asked Stevens. “What are the chances of this happening in Sitka? Slim to none. But this is unfortunately the world we live in now. This is not just a response for Sitka, it’s role playing for responses anywhere.”
And he says, it only cost the city about $200. The Dept. of Homeland Security footed most of the bill, along with the state of Alaska.
Legislators cut tens of millions of dollars from Gov. Sean Parnell’s state operating budget proposal and have expressed their desire to keep the capital budget small compared to previous years.
But public testimony Monday suggested that in order to constrain the size of the capital budget, which allocates state funding for projects around Alaska, lawmakers will have to say “no” to a lot of people.