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Southeast Alaska News
JUNEAU — The Alaska Redistricting Board is seeking a final judgment approving use of its latest map in upcoming elections.
Superior Court Judge Michael McConahy last month accepted the board’s plan, saying it met constitutional standards.
Plaintiffs in the case, including two Fairbanks-area residents and the Alaska Democratic Party, decided not to appeal. Board attorneys, in seeking a final judgment, say the plaintiffs also did not ask McConahy to reconsider his decision by a recently passed deadline.
The cost of keeping a boat in Sitka’s harbors will likely increase next year – by about 6%. The Sitka Assembly voted to raise moorage fees at its regular meeting on Tuesday night (12-10-13) – and the increase is probably the first of many.
It currently costs $2.64/foot per month, to keep a boat moored permanently in Sitka’s harbors. That’s about $32/foot, per year.
The Sitka assembly voted on Tuesday night to increase that by 6.15 percent, to $2.80/foot per month, or just under $34 per year.
The increase would go into effect on January 1, 2014.
That means that a 45- foot boat would pay about $7 more per month in 2014: $126, up from $119 this year. In total, that boat would pay $1,512 in moorage fees in 2014, $86 more than this year.
The increase would bring in about $86,500 in additional revenue, according to city finance director Jay Sweeney.
Sweeney and public works director Michael Harmon said the increases are necessary to fund maintenance, services, and major improvements at the harbors. And to keep pace, the fees will have to keep increasing, every year for the foreseeable future.
“If the rate increases don’t continue for the next five years at 6.15 percent, you’re then faced with either borrowing more money to pay for that infrastructure, or delaying those projects farther out into the future,” Sweeney said. “[You're] taking the risk of even greater costs or some type of a substantial infrastructure failure.”
The city had initially proposed a much higher increase – the initial plan called for rates to increase by 28% next year. After local fishermen protested, city staff proposed the current, lower numbers.
But commercial fisherman Matt Donohoe said even the new numbers are too high.
“It’s getting very hard for a small boat fisherman to maintain their business in Sitka,” he said.
Donohoe said that boats might look elsewhere for cheaper harbors, pointing out that neighbors like Pelican or Hoonah already charge significantly less than Sitka. Hoonah, for instance, charges $19/foot per year; Pelican charges just $12. For comparison, Sitka’s rates come to about $32, per foot per year, before the increases.
“There are a lot of small boats in this community that are talking about leaving,” Donohoe said. ” I know that there’s probably no way to keep moorage rates from going up, it’s the way of the world. But there is a point in this curve where you will drive the fishing fleet away from this town. You may not think so, but, you will. You have to remember that.”
Sweeney and Harmon said the city doesn’t have a choice.
“No one likes price increases, but we have to consider what the alternative is and what the risk is of not attending to repairs when they’re needed,” Sweeney said. “I’ve asked the question myself, as a layman, what is the worst case scenario?…The worst case scenario, which is, infrastructure breaking apart and moving around in a storm with boats moored to them. And that is what we greatly fear.”
Several assembly members said they thought that the comparisons to other harbors were misleading, suggesting that other cities have the same infrastructure needs as Sitka, and will also have to raise their rates.
Assembly member Mike Reif said that even if that’s not the case, he doubted the math would work against Sitka.
“Being a commercial fisherman, I do spend just a bit of time under transient moorage in Pelican and also in Hoonah,” Reif said. “And I know, whatever I’m saving if I had a permanent stall there, would evaporate immediately when I try to fill up my fuel tank there, because it’s a dollar a gallon more. And if I could buy food in some of those communities it would be even more than the high cost of Sitka.”
“So, it’s the whole package, the cost of doing business in these communities. They can have the good harbor rates, but, boy, my wallet is a lot lighter when I leave those communities than it is in Sitka if the rates are higher.”
In the end, city officials and assembly members seemed to agree that larger increases might be necessary in the future. Phyllis Hackett spoke for most of the assembly when she said, “I think if we can get where we need to go at 6.15% increase, we are pretty darn lucky. ”
The assembly voted unanimously to raise fees for 2014. The ordinance requires a second reading and vote before it goes into effect.
JUNEAU — For one Alaska city, it’s not rain, sleet or snow that’s affecting mail delivery. It’s a broken postal sorting machine that has prompted officials to fly letters and packages more than 200 miles away to be separated and flown back for delivery.
That has left Ketchikan residents to complain about mail getting delivered up to five days late.
ANCHORAGE — The sale on eBay of a city-owned vehicle used by Sarah Palin when she was mayor of Wasilla is causing a stir in small-town politics: One official says the current mayor is trying to fatten city coffers off Palin’s fame, and the mayor says “guilty as charged.”
The city of Wasilla, north of Anchorage, auctioned off a 1999 Ford Expedition with 74,188 miles used by Palin before she became a household name. A Fairbanks woman won the SUV on Nov. 27 with an online bid of $10,300, about $8,000 above its estimated value.
ANCHORAGE — A commuter airplane that crashed and killed four people outside the southwest Alaska village of Saint Marys had diverted course because of deteriorating weather, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.
The Hageland Aviation Cessna 208B Caravan with 10 people aboard was bound from Bethel to Mountain Village on Nov. 29. The pilot changed course before reaching Mountain Village and headed for Saint Marys about 20 miles away.
ANCHORAGE — Six former police officers and three former Corrections Department employees have formally lost certification as law enforcement officers.
The Alaska Police Standards Council voted to revoke state certification for the nine at a Dec. 3 meeting in Anchorage, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Four of the officers surrendered certification.
The Ketchikan City Council has a new member following Monday’s special meeting. In a 4-2 vote, the elected members appointed Russell Wodehouse to fill the Council’s seventh seat, recently vacated by Sam Bergeron.
Wodehouse grew up in Ketchikan and knows a lot of people here. He left town for a while, but maintained his local contacts. Now he’s moved back, and wants to get involved.
“I have friends and colleagues all over town and from every walk of life. I’m not here to represent any group or niche,” he said. “I hope if appointed to offer a voice of common sense, to ask tough questions and to weigh without any predisposition the myriad of difficulties that face this body, such as the budget shortfall, the challenges with infrastructure… power production and maintenance.”
Wodehouse said he wants to be part of overcoming those issues and planning Ketchikan’s future.
Wodehouse works at Salmon Etc., a downtown business that sells and ships seafood, particularly during the summertime. He also is a musician and graphic artist.
When asked by Council Member Bob Sivertsen about ideas for resolving fiscal challenges, Wodehouse suggested a balanced approach involving both budget cuts and revenue increases. He said a seasonal sales tax is one possibility.
Sivertsen also asked for Wodehouse’s interpretation of needs versus wants.
“Needs are things that we can’t live without; things we’re obligated to that we’ve already committed to,” Wodehouse answered. “Wants are things that would be nice if we could do this, or provide this. I think those are some of the challenges facing us right now, is looking at what wants are and distinguishing what those are, and comparing them to the needs and making some tough choices.”
Wodehouse was one of five people who applied for the job. The other candidates were former Council Member Dick Coose, who lost his bid for re-election in October; Ty Rettke, who works for the city and would have had to resign that job if selected; Mickey Robbins, who operates a bed-and-breakfast and a fishing charter business; and Jacquie Meck, who owns a local business and is involved in numerous civic organizations.
Before the candidates were interviewed by the Council, three members of the public addressed the topic. All spoke in favor of Coose.
Wodehouse was the last of the candidates to be questioned by the Council, and when he was done, Council Member Marty West quickly nominated him for the position.
“I’ve known Russell for a long time. I think he’s fair and he’ll do the work,” she said. “He’ll give everybody a fair shake. He’s smart, he listens. I don’t think he makes his mind up before he does the research on an issue.”
Council Member Matt Olsen, who seconded the motion, concurred. Also speaking in favor of Wodehouse was newly elected Council Member Judy Zenge.
The nomination passed 4-2 with Sivertsen and Council Member DeAnn Karlson voting no. City Clerk Katy Suiter immediately administered the oath of office.
After a brief break, Wodehouse took his seat for the rest of the special meeting, which was part of the Council’s ongoing 2014 budget review.
The Ketchikan City Council meets again in special session on Wednesday and Thursday, both starting at 7 p.m., and both focusing on the budget.
Petersburg wrestlers had three champions and took 2nd place overall behind host Mount Edgecumbe at Southeast Regionals over the weekend. Petersburg came within a dozen points of Edgecumbe but the Braves kept the lead and pulled ahead to finish first with 256 points over The Viking’s 200. Matt Lichtenstein checked in with Vikings Coach Ed May:
For mobile-friendly, downloadable audio, click here.
The State Wrestling Tournament starts Thursday at Anchorage’s Bartlett High School.
It looks like Petersburg’s commercial drive-down dock will be built by a local contractor for substantially less money than expected. Matt Lichtenstein attended Friday’s bid opening and has this report:
For mobile-friendly, downloadable audio, click here.
Debate coach Dan Ortiz and student Evan Wick speak about the upcoming Debate, Drama and Forensics meet at Kayhi. They are still looking for judges. Debate
Listen to iFriendly audio.
Librarian Sarah Bell and ‘super-friend’ Gus Adams discuss the $250,000 budget gap in the Kettleson Library project, and how to close it.
Listen to iFriendly audio.
Sitka Assembly to consider library design, budget when it meets in regular session tonight. A moorage rate hike is also on the agenda. Funeral procession and mass for Fr. James Blaney to take place at 11 AM today in Sitka. HIV/AIDS activist Joyce Kamwana speaks in Sitka about the role of the Global Fund.
ANCHORAGE — An 82-year-old man died Sunday in a crash on the Seward Highway south of Potter Marsh.
Anchorage police say Robert Brooks died in the crash north of McHugh Creek.
Police at 10:25 a.m. took calls reporting a crash between a pickup and a sport utility vehicle. Callers said one driver had been ejected.
FAIRBANKS — Four Alaska Air National Guardsmen have been awarded Bronze Star Medals for service on overseas missions.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports Maj. Matthew Komatsu, Chief Master Sgt. Paul Barendregt, Master Sgt. Kyle Minshew were honored for efforts Sept. 14, 2012.
ANCHORAGE — A 48-year-old Anchorage man will be sentenced April 4 following his conviction on sexual assault charges.
State prosecutors say Ronald McIntosh was convicted Friday of raping and assaulting a woman in April.
The trial lasted three weeks.
SUTTON — A 61-year-old Sutton man sought on a warrant for leaving the scene of an accident has been charged with felony assault and driving under the influence of alcohol following a weekend crash.
Alaska State Troopers say 61-year-old Peter E. Wilson is being held without bail at Mat-Su Pretrial Facility.
Troopers just after 11 p.m. Friday responded to a crash near Mile 53 Glenn Highway.
JUNEAU — ConocoPhillips is budgeting $1.7 billion for 2014 capital costs in Alaska, twice what it says it spent in 2012 and $600 million more than was budgeted for 2013.
The company in a release says the larger budget reflects increased spending on the long-planned CD-5 development within the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and increased activity due to the oil tax cut passed by the Legislature earlier this year.
ANCHORAGE — Separate power outages turned out the lights for about 8,000 customers in Alaska’s two largest cities.
By late Monday morning, power had been restored to South Anchorage and the Fairbanks area, officials said.
The outage in Anchorage affected about 6,300 customers, Chugach Electric told the Anchorage Daily News.
FAIRBANKS — The Alaska Supreme Court has ruled that Alaskans must live in the state for six straight months to qualify for allowable absences to receive the annual oil dividend payments given to permanent residents.
The court, in a 3-2 decision Friday, sided with the state in a case brought by 172nd Stryker Brigade serviceman Richard Heller.