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Southeast Alaska News
Petersburg Parks and Recreation patrons will notice some substantial improvements at the Community Gym building this fall. The department recently refinished the gym floor and the weight room will soon be filled with a new compliment of circuit-training machines. Matt Lichtenstein stopped by the facility to talk with Parks and Rec Director Donny Hayes. They started in the weight room.
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KRBD’s Quiet Drive has begun! Which means, the Fall Drive is right around the corner. We’re changing things up around here: this drive will only be 5 days long! Beginning Monday, October 7th through Friday, October 11th, you’ll hear friends, neighbors, and KRBD characters raising funds on air for your community radio station.
As our devoted listener, we need you to ensure that our programming continues, because public radio does not succeed without your financial support. With just five days to reach our goal, a strong response during the Quiet Drive is more important than ever. Why not click the red donate button on our home page to give now? It’s quick, easy, and secure. Remember, you can sustain your support by giving a monthly gift of $5 or more via debit or credit card.
Don’t forget…we have a special drawing for those who make Quiet Drive gifts by 5 p.m. Sunday, October 6th. We will draw the names of three lucky members who will receive the following: the 2013 KRBD mug, a Raven’s Brew t-shirt, 2 pounds of Raven’s Brew Coffee, a KRBD tote bag, plus a surprise item! (Checkout the Fall t-shirt image by artist Cara Murry.)
Thank you for supporting community radio in Southern Southeast Alaska!
A false alarm prompted a brief lockdown for the Petersburg High School and Middle School Friday (this) morning.
The lockdown alarm went off just before school started. It sounds different than the fire alarm and it’s aimed at warning of an imminent threat, like an armed intruder. Superintendent Rob Thomassen believed it was caused by a short in the system at the vocational education building.
While this alarm was unintentional, Thomassen saw it as a good drill and said he was impressed with the fast response from students and staff.
“All the kids were out of class and in the hallways. The lockdown alarm went off. Students and staff responded outstandingly. Everybody headed for a room. Doors were locked. It was orderly. It was quiet. I couldn’t be happier with the way that drill went. We’re going to classify it as a drill even though it was unplanned. Sometimes those are the best,” said Thomassen.
Students had already been taught how to respond to the alarm which is accompanied by a PA announcement as well as a check of the buildings by Principal Rick Dormer, Middle School Dean Jaime Cabral and Thomassen.
“We did a quick cursory check here at the lower level. [Rick Dormer] got on [the PA] saying, ‘This is a lockdown. Please lockdown.’ And then we break out into our teams. I check the upper level. Rick checks the lower level. Jaime checks another level and we’re looking for locked doors, lights off, shades down and then we gather again….then the police show up and they were here as quickly as they could possibly be. [It's a] Credit to our police department and that’s how the drill goes.”
The alarm automatically notifies police and two cruisers were on the scene shortly but the incident lasted only five to ten minutes before administrators sounded the all clear. There was no lockdown at the elementary school which was not in session Friday because of conferences.
The district does lockdown drills two or three times a year. As far as the malfunction, Thomassen says that’s one of the reasons the schools are hoping to replace the old alarm system. The $350,000 project is one of several on the district’s priority list.
A 30-year-old man who threatened Petersburg police with an assault rifle during a drunken, armed standoff last fall has been sentenced to serve more than six years in prison this week. A local Jury convicted Jace Cunningham this spring on two counts of 3rd degree felony assault as well as another four misdemeanor counts of assault in the 4th degree for placing the officers in fear of physical safety. Matt Lichtenstein has more on Wednesday’s sentencing:
For mobile-friendly, downloadable audio, click here.
During a teleconferenced hearing out of Ketchikan Wednesday, Prosecutor Angie Kemp in Juneau asked the court to impose a flat, ten-year sentence. She pointed out that Cunningham had two prior felony convictions for attempted robbery involving a handgun as well as one for vehicle theft all in Tennessee in the early 2000’s.
“He’s already shown that he’s willing to commit armed robbery with guns. Now he’s using an AR-15 to point at officers and shoot when officers are summoned. So, in terms of a need to protect the public, I can’t envision a situation that is more deeply troubling than when officers are summoned to a location, respond to that location and then are met with…… bullets flying through the air or a guns being pointed at them. Those persons are persons that the public relies on and the citizens of Petersburg rely on in responding to these calls,” she said.
The confrontation occurred at a police roadblock on a dark night last October along a remote section of Frederick Point Road in Petersburg. Police were responding to reports that Cunningham was drunk, suicidal, and parked in his vehicle with an assault rifle. They set up the blockade after officers and mental health counselors were unable to make headway with Cunningham over the phone.
At trial, police officers who were at the roadblock testified that they heard a couple of shots from Cunningham’s location when he tried to drive away from the scene at the start of the standoff. One officer said he saw the muzzle-flash from Cunningham’s vehicle.
As he addressed Judge William Carey during the sentencing, Cunningham repeated his claim that he didn’t fire those shots.
“I never fired a weapon at police officers. I’m not saying, ‘I’m innocent….I did nothing wrong in this incident.’ I’m not saying that at all but I never fired any rounds at Police officers. I can take responsibility for what I did your honor,” said Cunningham.
Carey whether Cunningham was denying that you took any shots at all and Cunningham replied, “Not while police officers were out there. I never fired my weapon while police officers were on scene.”
Carey reminnded Cunningham that, “All the officers testified that the shots came from your direction….and the jury found you guilty.”
One of Cunningham’s felony convictions was based on evidence that he later aimed his rifle at Sgt. Heidi Agner while she was trying to talk him into giving up. At trial, the jury heard police audio tape of the incident during which Cunningham threatened to shoot officers at the scene and told Agner that she was in his rifle scope.
As he handed down the sentence, Judge Carey said Cunningham’s conduct towards Agner was his most serious offense.
“She was scared to death and she had every reason to be. She had a man at just a few feet away pointing an AR-15 directly at her advising here that she was within his scope and, as I say, he’s just lucky he’s not dead today because it wouldn’t be too difficult to imagine other officers just saying, ‘This is it. I can’t let my sergeant go down this way. And he could have been taken out. I’m glad that didn’t happen, obviously.”
The judge ultimately sentenced Cunningham to serve six years in jail for the felony assaults with another three suspended. He added two and a half months to serve for the misdemeanor assaults and several more days for Cunningham’s lesser offenses from this case including driving under the influence, refusal to submit to a chemical test, possessing a weapon while intoxicated, and two counts of criminal mischief in the 5th degree. When he gets out of Jail, Cunningham will be on probation for five years and subject to a variety of conditions for release.
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Sitka Trail Works president Brian Hanson discusses phase 5 of the Sitka Cross Trail project — an extension to Baranof St. and Yaw Dr., with a new access at Pherson St. Trail Works is hoping to raise a $12,000 local match for the $920,000 federally-funded project. Learn more about Sitka Trail Works online.
The domestic violence shelter in Sitka is stepping up its community training program following the release of new survey data last year.
SAFV, or Sitkans Against Family Violence, has routinely offered volunteer advocate training, but now the organization is hoping to involve more of the community in how to recognize — and address — Sitka’s incredibly high rate of intimate partner violence.
The numbers are staggering. According to the 2012 Alaska Victimization Survey, almost half of all women living in Sitka have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence, or both.
“This is actually a surprise,” says Martina Kurzer, the community coordinator for Sitkans Against Family Violence. “Not only for us, but particularly for those who are not steeped in the issue.”
282 adult women in Sitka were surveyed last year by researchers at the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Justice Center. It was part of an ongoing, statewide effort by the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
Kurzer says SAFV’s training is being offered this year not just to shelter volunteers, but to the entire community — free of charge. While the Victimization Survey quantifies a significant amount of physical violence experienced by women — and the threat of physical violence — Kurzer says the training is designed to break down our assumptions.
“It’s not battering. Because that’s a very limited definition, and we will define this term. There are other terms. If somebody always puts down somebody else in a household, that’s also a violent act. It’s emotional or verbal, but we consider it violent.”
Other common assumptions, Kurzer says, are that women will want to leave a relationship if they experience violence, or that there is no love in a violent relationship. She says the training helps participants see why both may be untrue.
“Many of these assumptions just fall apart if you go through this and you start understanding what’s going on next door. You learn what to do when you witness something happen next door.”
SAFV uses a combination of shelter staff and local professionals to teach sessions, which take place over three Saturdays and three Monday evenings. Participants can drop in on any or all of the sessions. Kurzer says there is no one who would not benefit from the training — anyone who has colleagues, co-workers, patients, or students will understand them better, and become more compassionate.
“I think we have reached now the step where we as a community can step up and say, We can make a difference.”
FAIRBANKS — Gov. Sean Parnell said Thursday he has ordered an investigation of recent raids by federal and state officials at mines in the Fortymile River area, saying he will not tolerate a state agency’s participation in the sort of conduct displayed.
Enforcement officers with the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Bureau of Land Management were armed and wore body armor, according to Parnell.
ANCHORAGE — Affiliates of Royal Dutch Shell PLC have agreed to pay $1.1 million for violations of air permits by two drill ships operating last year in Arctic waters, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday.
The settlement calls for Shell Gulf of Mexico, Inc. and Shell Offshore, Inc. to pay a $710,000 penalty for violations of the Noble Discoverer in the Chukchi Sea and a $390,000 penalty for violations by the Kulluk in the Beaufort Sea.
Forty-six years ago, a ship long as the Empire State Building sailed with intention toward obstacles that captains usually avoid. The icebreaking tanker SS Manhattan was an oil company’s attempt to see if it might be profitable to move new Alaska oil to the East Coast by plowing through the ice-clogged Northwest Passage.
The world’s largest cruise corporation will soon install new pollution-control equipment on 32 of its ships. Carnival, Princess and Holland-America vessels sailing Alaska waters are likely to be among those getting the gear.
Carnival Corporation owns 10 cruise lines operating about 100 ships from ports in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
It’s a significant player in the Alaska market.
Corporate officials say the technology, called scrubbing, will meet new international requirements for sulfur and smoke emissions. They say they’ll spend about $180 million on the equipment over the next two to three years.
“We haven’t determined which ships of the 32 will be implemented in what markets and what ports,” says Roger Frizzell, spokesman for Carnival, which is headquartered in Miami and London.
“Alaska’s obviously an important market, and I’m expecting that if they don’t have it right away they will have it shortly,” he says. (Read Carnival’s announcement.)
The equipment has been tested on one ship’s diesel engines so far. The evidence helped win conditional approval from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Frizzell says Carnival eventually plans to use scrubbing on all of its 102 vessels.
“This is going to be a real change in our industry and I think it’s something for Alaska and some other key ports it’s going to be beneficial to the environment,” he says.
Carnival’s scrubbers target sulfur oxides, which contribute to global warming and acid rain. They also remove soot and other small particles that make up ships’ exhaust. (Read an EPA paper on scrubber technology.)
Frizzell says the technology is common onshore.
“This is the first time this combination is being developed to accommodate restricted spaces on the ships. Q: Did that require significant reengineering of the technology? A: It did. When we moved it from the power plants and the factories to the ship it really was a complete overhaul of the systems and resizing.”
“I think there’s just been a whole shift at Carnival, with all the problems they’ve had and everything,” says industry critic Chip Thoma of Juneau.
He says the corporation is making a significant – and welcome – change. But the president of the group Responsible Cruising in Alaska says it’s not all good attentions.
“They’re making so much money. It’s such a lucrative corporation that they’ve decided to switch gears and get into the 21st Century. And it’s a wonderful move that they’ve done so,” Thomas says.
The EPA says the agreement is a trial effort and the technology will be closely monitored. (Read the EPA’s announcement.)
Carnival spokesman Frizzell says it exempts equipped ships from new, stronger air-quality regulations aimed at lowering pollution along the coast.
“The exemption gives us the flexibility to use whatever fuel source we determine. And that’s significant for us because it gives an economic value,” Frizzell says.
That’s because low-sulfur fuel is more expensive than what cruise ships usually burn.
The agreement still requires Carnival ships to use that fuel while in port – or plug into an onshore power source.
The EPA has also reached agreements with Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruise lines, as well as barge companies and owners of some other large vessels. Some are using different approaches.
Catholics in the Diocese of Juneau and Southeast Alaska are being asked to take to their knees Saturday in prayer for peace in Syria.
The request comes on the heels of a call from Pope Francis for a worldwide day of fasting and prayer for the country being ravaged by civil war.
Bishop Edward J. Burns directed parishes in the region to set aside time from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for public prayer. The timing coincides with a planned vigil at the Vatican from 7 p.m. until midnight Rome time.
WASHINGTON — The world’s largest cruise ship company will adopt technology from power plants and automobiles to reduce air pollution from the massive diesel engines powering its ships.
In a tentative agreement reached Thursday with the Environmental Protection Agency, Carnival Corp. will deploy scrubbers to reduce sulfur dioxide and filters to trap soot on as many as 32 ships over the next three years. At port, the ships will either plug into the electrical grid, rather than idle, to reduce pollution or use a lower sulfur fuel.
ANCHORAGE — The honorary mayor of a tiny Alaska town is noticeably absent this week, when he should be hanging out at the general store or sipping his water-catnip concoctions from a wine glass at the pub next door.
Instead, Stubbs the cat is sedated and under veterinary care after he was badly injured in a vicious dog attack in Talkeetna, a quirky community of 900 that elected him in a write-in campaign 15 years ago. Talkeetna has no human mayor, so you could say 16-year-old Stubbs is the reigning leader — of the feline sort, anyway.
Season passes are on sale, the trails have been cleared and the work on a new learning center at the Eaglecrest ski area is on schedule. Ski season has almost arrived.
The Eaglecrest Board of Directors met Thursday to discuss progress on summer projects and details about the winter schedule, and to name its leaders for the next year.
Two water-related projects were not finished during the summer off-season, but the area should be ready for skiers for opening day on December 7, Eaglecrest Manager Matt Lillard told the board.
The satellite receiver in Tenakee has failed. We are shipping a replacement today (Monday) with hopes it will arrive and get installed mid-week. Thanks for your patience! In the meantime try streaming our web signal found in the upper right corner of this page.
This fall, City of Ketchikan voters will decide whether to accept up to $43 million of new debt to pay for renovations at the city-owned hospital building, which is run by PeaceHealth. Advocates say the bonds will be paid through existing taxes, and that the renovations are badly needed.
Hospital and city representatives talked about the project during this week’s Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce lunch.
The first phase of Ketchikan Medical Center’s planned renovation will cost $62 million. And, if the bond measure passes, the vast majority of those funds will come from locally collected taxes.
But, not new taxes. City officials say the existing 1 percent hospital sales tax – which is designated for health care in general – will cover that 30-year debt payment.
And what will all that pay for? A large part of the plan is to upgrade the 50-year-old surgery area. Ken Tonjes, chief administrative officer for PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center, led Wednesday’s presentation. He asked longtime local doctor David Johnson to talk about his experience in the surgery part of the hospital.
Johnson described a typical operation when he arrived in the 1970s, which involved very little in the way of electronic equipment.
“Fast-forward 47 years, and by the time you have monitors for the anesthesia machine, monitors for the procedure being done… so you’re going from a very uncrowded room to one that is so tightly crowded that you pretty much have to choose where you’re going to stand during the procedure and then stay right there because you can’t move without contaminating the surgical field,” he said.
Phase 1 of the hospital project also adds parking, and will double the space available at the clinic next door, also run by PeaceHealth. Tonjes said the existing clinic doesn’t have enough exam rooms, and very little office space for doctors.
He stressed that the project isn’t about coddling physicians, but it’s important for the hospital to be able to attract new doctors to Ketchikan. To address that issue, he invited up Dr. Peter Rice, who told a story.
“About four years ago, we had a … candidate who toured our clinic, and I was a little offended because she looked around the clinic and said, ‘I don’t see how you could ever recruit anyone to work in this clinic,’” he said. “It’s the only place I ever worked. It doesn’t seem that bad to me.”
Tonjes also talked a little about the economic benefits of providing up-to-date health care. He said that when local businesses hire from Outside, they often are asked about the health care opportunities in the area.
Mayor Lew Williams III also spoke, and assured listeners that the current tax structure will cover the bonds.
“Hospital sales tax fund really can cover it,” he said. “We have $3.7 million in reserves right
now. In the first four years, we’ll pay $1.5 million toward the bonds. Then the bonds for the last one you voted for … pays off in 2017, and we’ll roll that into the payment, and it’ll be about $2.5 million from then on until it’s paid off.”
That last bond he mentioned paid for hospital improvements about 13 years ago.
Williams said the city government is frugal, and wouldn’t push for this project if it weren’t right for the community.
“Our management is one of the most conservative there is, even though Karl (Amylon), our city manager, I still think is a socialist,” he joked. “We argue about things, but he doesn’t like to spend money and I like that. Don’t anyone tell him that, please.”
After the presentation, there were some comments and questions from the audience. Saxman Mayor Joe Williams, who also is on the hospital foundation board, said the entire borough should be involved in paying for the renovations. Another audience member pointed out that everyone will pay for it through the city’s sales tax, including all the summertime tourists.
The question of an urgent care facility came up, and Tonjes said there isn’t really enough demand in Ketchikan to provide a 24-hour clinic. To address some of that need, the hospital’s clinic is offering extended hours, and once the expansion is complete, there will be additional opportunities for that kind of service. However, for late-night medical needs, the emergency room will continue to be the only option.
To close the presentation, Dr. Johnson says he hopes that some kind of symbolic groundbreaking for the renovation project can take place on Oct. 13, which will be the 50th anniversary of the current hospital building.
The local election is October 1.
The Southeast Alaska Subsistence Regional Advisory Council will meet this month in Ketchikan.
The council will develop recommendations on proposed changes to federal subsistence hunting and trapping regulations for 2014-2016, hear a briefing on federal customary and traditional use definitions and review the rural determination process and develop recommendations on how to improve the process.
The Federal Subsistence Board will review the council’s recommendations when it meets in April.
It takes place Sept. 24-26 at the Ted Ferry Civic Center in Ketchikan.
Petersburg kids returned to the classroom This week. Some of the changes this fall include a couple of new but familiar teachers, an updated math curriculum, and improvements in the Wright Auditorium. Matt Lichtenstein visited with some of the staff on the first day of school for this audio postcard:
For mobile-friendly, downloadable audio, click here.
Alaskans will get to vote next year on whether to repeal Senate Bill 21.
The Division of Elections certified a petition to put SB 21 on the 2014 primary ballot Thursday. Of the 52,649 signatures gathered, 45,667 were qualified.
SB 21 — which passed the House and Senate during the last session — would give tax breaks to oil and gas producers.
State statute gives opponents 30 days from the date of certification to challenge the petition in Superior Court.
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Martina Kurzer, the community coordinator with Sitkans Against Family Violence, discusses a Volunteer Advocate and Community Training planned for the next three Saturdays and Mondays. All sessions are free. The training will be held at the Unitarian Church on Marine St. See the complete schedule online.