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Five former Alaska Territorial Guard members received their official U.S. Army honorable discharge papers Tuesday. One of those honored is about to turn 101 years old.
Nearly 70 years after their World War II-era service, former ATG members Henry Neligan, Victor Klose, brothers John and Willard Reese, and Ralph Devenny received their service medals and honorable discharge certificates.
Neligan will celebrate his 101st birthday in May. According to the Army, he is the oldest living Alaska Territorial Guard veteran to receive his honorable discharge. Here he is just a few moments before the ceremony began.
“It makes me feel good, is all I can say,” he said. “I’m glad that people think that was about
me. It makes me feel proud. It’s all right.”
John Reese says he didn’t expect to get his discharge so many years after his service ended.
“I didn’t think anybody would pay any attention to us,” he said. “It’s a big surprise.”
Maj. Gen. Thomas Katkus, adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard, and Verdie Bowen, director of the Alaska Office of Veterans Affairs, presided over the ceremony.
“Back in 1942, what did we have, we had the territory of Alaska, as big as it was, and we also had the threat of a foreign country, that had already landed on our soil, and there was no way to put in perspective the magnitude of the threat,” Katkus said. “And yet, the United States asked for the men and women of Alaska to step forward and provide a service to our nation.”
From 1942 to 1947, more than 6,400 Alaskans volunteered for the territorial guard, many of them Alaska Natives. They served in their assigned territories with little equipment and no pay until the ATG disbanded in 1947.
“So what did they get for five years of service? They didn’t even get a handshake,” Katkus said. “They didn’t get any recognition. They basically got told the war’s over, go home. Most people in the U.S., in the Lower 48, had no realization that anything had ever been accomplished or done by these members.”
About 13 years ago, through an effort spearheaded by Alaska’s late Sen. Ted Stevens, service in the Alaska Territorial Guard was given federal recognition. That allowed former ATG members to receive benefits as veterans who served on active duty.
Since then, Katkus said, they’ve been tracking down as many of the remaining territorial guard members as possible, to give them their official honorable discharge papers.
Bowen said that hasn’t been easy.
“You have to imagine this, in 1947, when the Alaska Territorial Guard was released, most of the records were released too,” he said. “And you guys know, especially some of the military guys, you understand that a lot of times it’s really easy for the government to lose those records in some box somewhere in some warehouse. We’ve had to reconstruct that time. It’s been a real difficult effort, but it’s been a real wonderful effort.”
Neligan served in the ATG unit in Craig; Klose and the Reese brothers served in Ketchikan; and Devenny served in Wrangell.
Ketchikan Indian Community’s training center was the setting for the special ceremony.
Borough Assembly chambers were packed Monday night, and many of those in attendance approached the lectern to speak in favor of school funding.
The Assembly has told the Ketchikan School District to expect up to $600,000 less this coming budget cycle. The reason for the cut is an expected $2 million reduction in federal Secure Rural Schools funding.
Seventeen of the 25 people speaking to the Assembly on Monday were there to object to the proposed cut. Tension rose early, with an exchange between Becky King, the first speaker, and Assembly Member Agnes Moran, who was participating by phone.
“As a voter, I want to know, if you do not give the School Board what they feel they need to fund schools, what in the borough budget is more important that you’re funding instead of that?” King asked.
Moran later responded, “It’s not that we’re out-prioritizing the school district. We’ve been cut, federal funds, for schools.”
The exchange continued for a while, with neither speaker giving ground. Borough Mayor Dave Kiffer eventually cut off that back-and-forth argument, stating that the time was meant for public comment, and Assembly members would have a chance to speak later.
School Board Member Colleen Scanlon also spoke. She said the Assembly has cut local education funding regularly over the last few years. Assembly Member Mike Painter asked her whether she understood that the economy has been on the decline.
“I would definitely agree that these are tough economic times, but I also think that the borough cut a mill rate continually for several years in a row, and I think it was on the back of the schools,” Scanlon responded.
School funding was not on the Assembly agenda Monday, but the School Board is in the middle of drafting next year’s budget. The completed district budget must be submitted to the Assembly for approval, and it’s up to the Assembly to decide how much beyond the minimum local contribution it will provide for education.
There is a maximum contribution, as well, which is commonly called “the cap.”
In response to Monday’s public comment, the Assembly rejected a proposal to establish a sales-tax holiday on Oct. 12th. It was a split vote, with Assembly Members Agnes Moran, Todd Phillips, Glen Thompson and Mike Painter supporting the motion.
There have been two previous sales-tax holidays in the fall. According to the borough, during each event, more than $800,000 worth of goods was sold in the community. That would have meant about $50,000 in local taxes each year, split between the city and the borough.
The Assembly also decided Monday to move $50,000 from the borough’s general fund into education.
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Former Sitka middle school principal charged with sexual assault. One dead, two injured in Haines ski accident. Blue Lake dam construction crane up and running, tours available. Author to speak on National Disability Awareness Month. Human skull found in Wrangell carbon dated at over 1,000 years.
The fast ferry Fairweather is returning to Southeast service a little later than expected. It had been scheduled to make its first 2013 sailing Feb. 28th. Instead, the Juneau-based ship will resume runs to Sitka, Haines and Skagway on March 14.
Marine Highway General Manager John Falvey says the Fairweather and its sister ship the Chenega needed detailed inspections before they could return to service this year.
“We had actually lost the operating certificates because of questions about the cylinders and the engines and whatnot,” he says.
Inspections are conducted by an international risk-management firm called DNV.
Engines on both ships had shown premature damage. (Scroll down for links to earlier reports.)
“We provided DNV-Oslo, Norway, with a lot of data regarding the current condition of the cylinders. We did a lot of ultrasound testing and DNV came to the conclusion that, for this season anyhow, both vessels would be safe to operate, and we’re going to go ahead and do so,” Falvey says.
Repair crews have bored out engine cylinders and inserted sleeves to keep them operating.
Falvey says too many repairs can weaken the lightweight engines.
“You need to be very careful that there is still enough metal and steel in those cylinder blocks so that you won’t have an accident with a piston potentially coming out the side of the engine,” he says.
“And we’re very confident that that will not happen, and DNV is very confident of that and so am I.”
The Chenega, a younger ship, returned to Prince William Sound service on schedule last month. It sails from Cordova to Valdez and Whittier.
The Fairweather was delayed because one engine was left unassembled. Falvey says that’s because the inspectors might have wanted additional testing. Reassembly and other work slowed the return to service.
The state last week announced a legal settlement with the manufacturers giving each ship a complete set of new engines.
The Fairweather will sail four days a week through June, splitting its time between the Juneau-Sitka run and the Juneau-Haines-Skagway sailing. In July, it increases service to seven days a week. It runs to Sitka six days a week and Petersburg one day a week.
Both fast ferries carry up to 250 passengers and 36 vehicles.
Hear earlier reports:
An independent ferry based in the Southeast Alaska community of Coffman Cove on Prince of Wales Island will not be starting service this year. It’s another delay for the ferry authority that hoped to offer connections to Wrangell, Petersburg and Ketchikan. The North End Ferry Authority is hoping for additional federal loan money to refit an oil rig supply vessel it purchased last year.
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A year ago, the North End Ferry Authority purchased a 160-foot oil rig supply vessel, using about two million dollars of a three million dollar loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Program. The Coffman Cove-based authority had hoped the remaining loan money would pay for converting the ship for passenger ferry service in southern Southeast. The authority’s manager Kent Miller said this month that overhaul work has not happened and he said he’s disappointed in the delay to the startup of service.
“I should think that potential customers are disappointed as well,” Miller said. “We do get calls and emails everyday from people who have seen our previous advertising, which as you know anticipated a 2013 start. Previously we thought we’d get it going even sooner than that.”
The ferry was supposed to be up and running in 2012 but was delayed until this year and will be delayed again due to a shortfall in funding for the overhaul work. The lowest bid for refit came in at $1.8 million, nearly twice the anticipated cost. So the authority has applied for an additional federal loan of $1.7 million. Miller said the federal agency has asked the independent ferry authority to reduce its latest loan application and they hope to secure the needed money in time for next year.
“We should have ample time to start up in March or April of 2014,” he said. “It does remain to be seen whether the budget cuts and additional information we provide USDA will be satisfactory first and second whether they’ll have additional loan that we’ve applied for.”
The vessel purchased by the authority has been renamed the Rainforest Islander and is docked in Patterson, Louisiana. The authority wants to offer four-day-a-week service between Coffman Cove, Wrangell and South Mitkof Island near Petersburg, and a three-day a week connection to Ketchikan. It’s one of two port authorities formed in the region to improve transportation to Prince of Wales Island. The Hollis-based Inter-Island Ferry Authority used to offer the service between Coffman Cove, Wrangell and South Mitkof but discontinued it in 2009 due to low ridership.
Miller acknowledged uncertainty with future federal financing in light of federal budget cuts. He said the new ferry service still makes financial sense, despite the increase in the cost of the vessel. The total USDA loan could be around four and a half million dollars and the authority will have to show it can repay the loan.
“The amount of debt will go up and so our challenge right now is to demonstrate to the lender that we can provide decent debt service coverage for that additional money,” Miller said. “We thought we had accomplished this last fall, that the results were acceptable but as it turns out they need more information. So we’re furnishing that now.”
If the North End authority is able to secure that additional loan money this year the new ferry could startup in the spring of 2014.
A proposed bounty on sea otters drew some criticism from the public followed by no discussion at all from the Petersburg Borough Assembly during its regular meeting Monday afternoon. The agenda included a resolution in support of Senate Bill 60 which is sponsored by Sitka Senator Bert Stedman. It would require the state pay a hundred dollar bounty for every sea otter that is lawfully killed. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, only Alaska natives may hunt the animals. The measure is aimed encouraging such hunts and, ultimately, at reducing the impacts of a growing otter population on shellfish species on which commercial crabbers and divers depend.
But Kupreanof’s Joan Kautzer, who is a commercial fisherman, was one of a couple of people to speak against the bill.
“While I am extremely sympathetic to crabbers and divers, every commercial fishery has its nuisance animal competition. Trollers have sea lions. Longliners have orcas and gillnetters have humpbacks that rip-up their nets. None of these gear types have bounties on their competing species. Bounties were an archaic, misguided policy in the last century and there’s no place for them in this century. Bounties are not scientific fisheries management tools and legislators are not fisheries biologists. This bill would set a very bad precedent and would smear Alaska’s reputation as cutting-edge fisheries managers.”
Kautzer said the biggest threat facing the crab and dive fisheries is ocean acidification which impedes development of invertebrate shells. It’s caused by too much carbon dioxide in the ocean and Kautzer emphasized that sea otters help counteract that problem by promoting healthy kelp forests. Kelp absorbs CO2 and otters eat sea urchins that kill the kelp.
When it was time for the assembly to consider the bounty issue, no one made a motion to get it on the table. So the matter was, effectively, dropped.
Mayor Mark Jensen, who is also a fisherman, had put the resolution on the agenda but the mayor is not allowed to make motions. Speaking later by phone, Jensen said he supported the measure:
“Just to get it on there for discussion would have been nice. It might not pass as a vote but sea otters are causing a huge impact on our region’s economy, due to lost fishing,” Jensen said.
Senate Bill 60 has been referred to the Senate Finance, Judiciary and Resource Committees.
The Petersburg Borough Assembly will join fishing groups to speak out against proposed cuts to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s budget.
Petersburg Vessel Owners Association Director Brian Lynch told the assembly on Monday that a House Finance Subcommittee had recommended a 550 thousand dollar reduction from the Governor’s proposed budget for the Commercial Fisheries Division in Southeast. At a minimum, he said the decrease would impact port sampling programs which are used to help manage the region’s salmon fisheries. Lynch, who is a retired, state fishery manager, said spring king salmon trolling is especially at risk since it’s highly dependent on port sampling data.
“The department at this time doesn’t really know exactly what the total impacts will be but (they) likely will result in severe reductions in harvests or could eventually result in the complete closure of that fishery depending on how this goes. The spring troll fishery is generally a three to four million dollar fishery in ex-vessel value and about five-and-a-half million in first wholesale value. So, basically the effect on the Southeast economy of these cuts would basically save a dime but would lose a dollar,” said Lynch.
Lynch said the loss of port sampling funds would also directly affect the regions net fisheries and have ripple effects on management of other species. The money had been included in the Governor’s budget to make up for a loss of federal funding. Statewide, the subcommittee is recommending over a million and a half dollars in cuts to the department’s budget. There’s also a proposed reduction of a million dollars to the Alaska Seafood Marketing institute on the table.
Lynch didn’t ask for action, but the Assembly voted unanimously to send a letter to lawmakers and the Governor objecting to the potential cuts.
The House Finance Committee is taking public testimony on the operating Budget at various times this week. Petersburg area residents have an opportunity to comment between three and four on Wednesday.
ANCHORAGE — A 34-year old heli-skiing guide died Sunday in a backcountry incident on a mountain near Haines.
Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said Monday that Christian Arcadio Cabanilla was killed in the incident.
He was a guide for Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures based in Haines, Peters said.
Cabanilla and two clients were traversing an area when snow gave way underneath them, and they fell down the mountain, Peters said.
The other two skiers suffered injuries that were not considered life-threatening.
JUNEAU — The House Finance Committee unveiled a $9.7 billion operating budget for Alaska on Monday, 2 percent less than Gov. Sean Parnell proposed.
An analysis of the bill shows the proposal is lower than Parnell’s for all agencies, except for corrections, which is the same. The highest percentage change came to the budget for the governor’s office, with the committee recommending that the $1.75 million requested for redistricting costs be considered for inclusion in the supplemental budget for this year.
All games at the BJ McGillis Gym at Mt. Edgecumbe High School. View the live webstream.
Game A – 3:00 PM Thu Mar 7
Game B – 6:30 PM Thu Mar 7
Game F – 8:00 AM Fri Mar 8
Game C – 11:30 AM Fri Mar 8
Game G – 11:30 AM Sat Mar 9
Note: Winner of Game C will be the #1 seed at the state tournament. The Winner of Game G will be the #2 seed at state. There will be no Games D or E in this bracket.
Game A – 4:45 PM Thu Mar 7
Game B – 8:15 PM Thu Mar 7
Game F – 9:45 AM Fri Mar 8
Game C – 1:15 PM Fri Mar 8
Game G – 1:15 PM Sat Mar 9
Note: Winner of Game C will be the #1 seed at the state tournament. The Winner of Game G will be the #2 seed at state. There will be no Games D or E in this bracket.
Game B – 6:30 PM Wed Mar 6
Game E – 11:30 AM Thu Mar 7
Game C – 6:30 PM Fri Mar 8
Game D – 6:30 PM Sat Mar 9 if necessary
Game B – 8:15 PM Wed Mar 6
Game E – 1:15 PM Thu Mar 7
Game C – 8:15 PM Fri Mar 8
Game D – 8:15 PM Sat Mar 9 if necessary
Game B – 3:00 PM Wed Mar 6
Game E – 8:00 AM Thu Mar 7
Game C – 3:00 PM Fri Mar 8
Game D – 3:00 PM Sat Mar 9 if necessary
Game B – 4:45 PM Wed Mar 6
Game E – 9:45 AM Thu Mar 7
Game C – 4:45 PM Fri Mar 8
Game D – 4:45 PM Sat Mar 9 if necessary
Note: “D” games will be played only if a team loses for the first time in the final. Otherwise, “D” games will be crossover contests between the winners of each tournament.
Less than two weeks after Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, addressed the Alaska State Legislature, Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, followed up with his own annual speech on Monday, which saw him both commiserate with and chide state legislators on a host of state and federal issues.
Begich alternated between defending and aligning himself with the Legislature and directly criticizing some of the state’s actions throughout his speech.
March is national developmental disability awareness month. To support the cause, Kathie Snow, author of Disability is Natural, will be giving a talk in Sitka on Tuesday, 3/5/2013 at Keet Gooshi Heen from 6 to 8 pm.
The Alaska Autism Resource Center in Anchorage collaborated with the Sitka School District and the Center for Community to bring the nationally renowned speaker to Sitka.
Snow has a son who was born with cerebral palsy, a condition that’s caused by injuries or abnormalities in the brain, usually as a baby grows in the womb. For the past 20 years, she has given presentations across the U.S. and Canada that teach parents how to raise independent, healthy kids with disabilities.
Cary Reid is the assistant executive director of the Center for Community in Sitka. She says the nonprofit supports people who are affected by disabilities across Alaska.
“It gives power back,” said Reid. “It gives choice. It gives control back to the families. Back to the children, back to the adults and individuals who have disabilities. And it’s really giving the person the tools and assistance to help them live, and allowing them the freedom to dictate what they want to do with their lives to the best of their abilities rather than just focusing on the fact that they’re disabled and making it a limited access situation.”
The Center for Community provides a variety of services for people affected by disabilities. They help people get jobs in the community and teach people how to interact in social situations. They even provide respite to caregivers. Most of the programs are funded by grants from the state.
Alaska state law defines disability as: A person who has a severe chronic disability attributable to a mental or physical impairment that occurs before the age of 22 and is likely to continue indefinitely.
Reid encourages people living with a disability or those providing care for someone with a disability to call the Center for Community at 747.6960, ext. 18. If you don’t qualify for the services the nonprofit provides, they will refer you to another agency.
NOTE: Some of the details of this story might be inappropriate for certain readers and listeners.
The former principal of Blatchley Middle School in Sitka has been indicted on charges of sexual assault.
A Sitka grand jury on Friday charged 54-year-old Joseph Robidou on six counts of felony sexual assault. He also faces an additional five misdemeanor charges for incidents that allegedly happened beginning last May and as recently as January. All of them involve other adults, and prosecutors say students at the school were not involved.
Three people are listed by their initials in the indictment, but are not named directly. All three are adult women who, during the times of the alleged incidents, worked at Blatchley Middle School. District officials said two are teachers and the third was a substitute teacher who no longer lives in Alaska.
Court documents lay out a variety of charges. They include separate incidents in which Robidou allegedly exposed himself, touched one woman’s breasts or forced others to touch his genitals. He’s also accused of masturbating in front of two women in their empty classrooms, and on separate occasions, doing the same thing at their homes.
In one case, at one of the women’s homes, the court documents state he put his hands around her neck and told her “this would be a lot easier if you were passed out.”
The first accusation came to light one week after Robidou moved from his job at Blatchley to the district office, where he had just been hired as business manager.
Schools Superintendent Steve Bradshaw was in Juneau on Monday, but listened in by phone as KCAW interviewed Mary Wegner, the assistant superintendent of schools.
“There are a lot of rumors saying that he was promoted because of this,” she said, “and we found out afterward. It’s important that the public know that immediately when we found out, we took action to protect our staff, and make sure he did not have access to the schools anymore.”
Robidou became principal at Blatchley in 2008. He left that job on Friday, Jan. 11. He began as business manager the following Monday, Jan. 14. Wegner says at the end of that week, on Jan. 18, one staff member came forward with allegations.
“It was the police investigation that uncovered the second staff member and the substitute teacher,” Wegner said. “We as a district don’t even have a lot of the details. We only know what the one person chose to disclose to me. With the evidence that was presented through her sharing, we immediately turned it over to the police for their investigation, and then stopped our investigation so we weren’t stepping on the police’s toes.”
Wegner and Bradshaw both say Robidou was placed on administrative leave as soon as the allegations were made. He tendered his resignation sometime during that leave, and it was effective March 1.
Sitka attorney Jim McGowan represented Robidou at his arraignment on Friday. He said his client would not comment to reporters on the allegations. Robidou will be represented by Juneau attorney Julie Willoughby for further proceedings. She also declined comment.
Officials from the school district and Assistant District Attorney Jean Seaton all say that as far as they know, students did not witness any of the alleged incidents.
“I know that with the one staff that did disclose to me, she said there were no students that were present, and that her door was locked,” said Wegner, the assistant superintendent. “Her classroom door was locked, but students were in the building.”
The district did not officially say anything to parents, or even most staff members, before Friday’s indictment. Wegner says they told police they wouldn’t go public until the police had concluded their investigation.
Bradshaw says he expects a message will go home to parents soon from current Blatchley Principal Ben White. Wegner says parents with questions should call the district office and talk to her or Bradshaw.
“We would be happy to talk to anybody with the information we have, but at this point, we don’t have a lot of the information either,” she said. “We are working hard to make sure the students and the staff are safe at all times. As soon as we heard about this, within hours, we took action. He was not around staff or students as a result of our knowledge, as soon as we found out.”
Robidou appeared in court Friday for arraignment. He is free on $7,500 bond. His next court appearance is scheduled for April 11.
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A new show at the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council’s Main Street Gallery always is a reason for the community to celebrate, but the March show took celebrating to new levels this past weekend.
The three-day celebration for “Passages, the Art of Being a Woman” kicked off Friday with the gallery show opening, continued Saturday with a musical gala performance at Creekside Cabaret, and wrapped up on Sunday with a poetry reading at O’Brien’s Pub.
Here’s an audio postcard from the Saturday night performance:
The organizers of the show and celebration weekend are Diane Naab, Laurie Thomas, Amanda Painter and Maggie Freitag. The exhibit remains on display at Main Street Gallery through the end of the month.
JUNEAU — U.S. Sen. Mark Begich on Monday called out the Parnell administration and state lawmakers to make strong commitments to education, give greater support for children’s health insurance and eliminate any obstacles to voting.
The Democrat, in a joint address to the Alaska Legislature, said he knows it’s popular to “bemoan” federal overreach and “file a lawsuit weekly” over perceived overstepping and that he too has engaged in fed-bashing, “when it gets results.”
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Cary Reid, asst. executive director of the Center for Community, Dwight Payton (training specialist), Rick Rivard (case manager), and Gail Trijulo (early learning program coordinator) discuss the large number of services offered by the center for residents with developmental disabilities.