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Southeast Alaska News
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Mollie Kabler and Kitty LaBounty, hosts (for over 20 years!) of KCAW’s Garden Show, discuss how to prepare our gardens for winter.
New preschool aims to close achievement gap. Stanford’s SoCo comes to Sitka. Pink fishing closes after record-breaking year.
Our One Day Drive is Friday, October 4th. Not long ago we spent up to a week in “marathon mode” every fall. If you like our time and effort going into news and music shows instead, please help erase the need for extended on air drives by taking a moment right now to contribute towards our $55,000 Fall Drive goal. We need everyone, including you, to make it. Thank You!
Sitka sends funding to nonprofit orgs. Electric rate increase moves forward. SE residents testify on ferry schedule. Alaskans oppose military strike on Syria.
Raven Radio News Reporter Ed Ronco is moving to Seattle to become Morning Edition producer at KPLU in Seattle. He starts in October.
Ed came to KCAW in September, 2009, from Indiana, where he covered business, politics and government at the South Bend Tribune prior to joining Raven Radio. He’s a 2004 graduate of Michigan State University.
He’s on the job here through the end of the month, but he plans to remain a proud member of Raven Radio for the rest of his life. Please join us in congratulating Ed on a job well done here in Sitka as well as his exciting new opportunity at KPLU! Ed, we’ll miss you!
There are more empty desks in Juneau classrooms than the Juneau School District expected, and the shortfall means major budget cuts are likely.
Enrollment projections for the 2013-2014 school year had 4,936 students in Juneau schools, but the preliminary tally on Sept. 6 revealed that only 4,848 students were enrolled.
That 88-student difference may end up costing the district more than $650,000 from the state and city because funding is based on enrollment.
JUNEAU — State Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan plans to resign amid speculation that he will run for an Alaska U.S. Senate seat next year.
The news came as another Republican, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, officially launched his campaign for Senate on Thursday.
Sullivan plans to resign effective Sept. 24. In his resignation letter to Gov. Sean Parnell, Sullivan said he intends to seek ways to serve his fellow Alaskans as he explores “new opportunities and challenges” in the next phase of his life.
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough School Board met in regular session Wednesday. Along with a vote on activities funding, the future of the library consortium came up during public comment.
The School Board voted after some discussion to approve a transfer of more than $40,000 from the district’s reserves to the activities program.
The decision comes after changes in the Alaska Marine Highway System schedule last year. Because new ferry times result in lengthy absences for students who travel for competitions, they have been opting to travel by air. The budget transfer approved by the Board would help ease those increased costs.
Board Member Colleen Scanlon proposed that the board double the amount to $84,000 to account for a larger share of the travel fees. While the rest of the board generally agreed with her in principle, nobody seconded her motion, so it died.
Board Member Michelle O’Brien, who works for Ketchikan Public Utilities, notes that the potential for larger energy costs this year should give the board pause when considering taking more out of the district’s reserve fund.
“It’s no secret to all of us that it’s been very warm and very sunny this year,” O’Brien said. “So I have considerable concern dipping into that reserve knowing that there is a large possibility that KPU will have to run an extensive amount of diesels this winter.”
The School Board voted unanimously to approve the budget transfer while tentatively agreeing to approach the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly at a later date for more activities funding.
The topic of the library consortium came up during the board meeting. Kathleen Wiechelman, head librarian at the University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan Campus Library, gave an impassioned plea in favor of the consortium. That agreement allows libraries to share services and books between district schools, the university and the public library. Its future is in question though, after Superintendent Robert Boyle hinted that the school district might exit the consortium due to rising costs.
Wiechelman told the board that the biggest losers if the consortium dissolved would be Ketchikan’s children.
“Frankly, the financial fallout to the public library and the campus library if the school district pulls out of the consortium wouldn’t be catastrophic,” she said at the meeting. “What would be a big deal would be the impact on the schoolchildren of Ketchikan.”
Superintendent Boyle reiterated his opinion that, while the consortium is valuable to the community, the district will have to take a hard look at the cost.
“We value the consortium, it’s been a very successful program for a number of years. But we think at this time that it needs to be analyzed,” Boyle said in response.
Any decision on the consortium will not come soon – the School Board recently signed its yearly contract to remain in the agreement.
The Board also agreed to draft a letter to the federal government over the fate of the Secure Rural Schools program. After a number of years of that program, which compensates communities for a loss of timber sales due to federal regulations, it appears funding for it may have finally dried up. Superintendent Boyle agreed to draft a letter to the national government on behalf of the board, requesting that the program continue.
A 34-year-old Ketchikan man was arrested Wednesday and charged with possession and distribution of child pornography.
According to the Ketchikan Police Department, local police were contacted by Alaska Bureau of Investigation officers, who along with the Anchorage Police Department were monitoring someone in Ketchikan who allegedly was downloading child pornography.
A team made up of Ketchikan police officers, Alaska State Troopers, the U.S. Marshal Service and Homeland Security served a search warrant at a North Yorktown home, and arrested Ryan Michael Thomas Brown.
Through live video feed, police allegedly obtained and preserved video evidence. Several pieces of computer equipment also were seized.
Brown faces at least three counts of distributing and one count of possessing child pornography. He had his first court appearance Thursday, and Judge Kevin Miller set bail at $25,000 plus a third-party custodian. The public defender agency was appointed to represent Brown.
The Ketchikan School Board on Wednesday night voted to tap reserves and add about $42,000 to the activities budget to help with travel costs. Stephen Bradford give details of the meeting. SB091213
ANCHORAGE — A coalition of Anchorage libertarian and tea party groups has launched a campaign to put a measure on the ballot that would bar the city from deducting union dues from employee paychecks.
The coalition has filed an application with the city, the Anchorage Daily News reported. City workers in unions currently have compulsory dues automatically deducted from their paychecks.
JUNEAU — A loan program designed to help cover energy upgrades to schools and other public buildings has gotten no takers even as school districts struggle with energy costs.
The state spends $100 million each year on school district utility costs. In 2010, the Legislature created a loan program to help bring down the costs, with the loan to be repaid with money saved on heating fuel.
WASHINGTON — Wind energy facilities have killed at least 67 golden and bald eagles in the last five years, but the figure could be much higher, according to a new scientific study by government biologists.
The research represents one of the first tallies of eagle deaths attributed to the nation’s growing wind energy industry, which has been a pillar of President Barack Obama’s plans to reduce the pollution blamed for global warming. Wind power releases no air pollution.
ANCHORAGE — A federal study of polar bears in the Chukchi Sea has detected no ill effects to the animals from a loss of sea ice.
The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service study of the ocean waters between northwest Alaska and Russia indicates polar bears are as healthy as they were 20 years ago, Alaska Public Radio Network reported.
“So, despite some significant sea ice loss in the Chukchi Sea region, bears have maintained their size, they’ve maintained their body condition, which means their fatness and their level of reproduction,” biologist Eric Regehr said.
The City and Borough of Juneau will interview five finalists for the state lobbyist position on Sept. 21.
Juneau solicited applications last month, and applicants provided letters outlining the role they sought to fill as the city’s state lobbyist, along with the necessary salary for them to accept such a role.
The highest salary request from one of the finalists was $85,000 a year, and the lowest was $52,000. The information was presented to the Assembly Finance Committee Wednesday night before the interview process happened.
JUNEAU — Former state Rep. Alan Dick has been ordered to pay nearly $18,000 related to violations of state ethics rules, including living in his office.
A legislative ethics committee announced Wednesday that it had found Dick in violation of five allegations, including using state resources for his personal benefit by living in his Fairbanks legislative office with his wife and sometimes his son, off and on in August 2012 and for about a month between mid-October and mid-November of 2012.
ANCHORAGE — The father of a Rhode Island man who was mauled by a grizzly bear in Alaska said Wednesday it’s a miracle that his son is alive after suffering bites to his head and leg.
John O. Matson Jr. of Charlestown, R.I., was listed in fair condition Wednesday at an Anchorage hospital.
“He’s got a hell of a headache,” said his father, John O. Matson Sr. of Hopkinton, R. I., adding that his 46-year-old son was recuperating after head surgery. “His spirits are great.”
Two members of Alaska’s Washington, D.C. delegation have reacted to President Barack Obama’s televised speech Tuesday on the crisis in Syria with expressions of concern for Syrians, but no message of support for a limited strategic bombing campaign.
Obama told the nation that he’s asked Congress to postpone a vote on a U.S.-led military strike in Syria while his administration pursues a diplomatic solution.
James Marcus brought 250 red currant bushes and several dozen Saskatoon berry bushes to communities in Southeast Alaska over the last year. The bushes were part of an effort to spread the word about the Southeast Soil and Water Conservation District, an organization that hopes to serve as a kind of clearinghouse for information and resources to support agriculture and fight invasive species in the region.
“We sold them at the wholesale price,” Marcus said. “The idea was to get out into communities without nurseries.”
KCAW’s Caitlin Woolsey is a Stanford senior, and the SoCo teaching assistant. She sent this audio postcard from what is proving to be a hands-on adventure in higher education.