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Southeast Alaska News
A 23-year-old Ketchikan man was arrested and charged for allegedly breaking into Tongass Trading Marine Company last Thursday, and taking five handguns.
Corey C.E. Thompson faces 12 felony charges, including burglary and theft, as well as criminal mischief and weapons misconduct.
According to the Ketchikan Police Department, officers were sent to Tongass Trading after an alarm went off a little after 1 a.m. Thursday. Police noted a broken door and later determined that five guns had been taken. Police were able to recover one handgun quickly, and in that recovery received information that led to a search warrant served at Thompson’s home.
According to police, the four remaining handguns were found during the search.
Thompson had his first court appearance Monday in Ketchikan District Court. Judge Kevin Miller set bail at $5,000, plus a court-approved third-party custodian. Thompson’s next scheduled hearing is Sept. 4.
Monday was the last day for candidates to file for local office, and a flurry of last-minute filers means there will be competition for the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly and School Board, the Ketchikan City Council, and the Saxman City Council.
There are two three-year seats open on each the Assembly, School Board and Ketchikan City Council. Candidates for Borough Assembly are incumbents Alan Bailey and Bill Rotecki, and former Assembly Member John Harrington, who filed on the last day.
Harrington, who also has served on the School Board, is a member of the borough’s Planning Commission, but would have to give up that position if elected. He said he wanted to make sure there was competition in the face of what he predicts will be a tough budget year.
“This is the year, I think, that the budget crunch gets bloody,” he said. “We have been using reserves, having our mill rate at a fairly low level and the crunch is about to hit. So either we’re going to have to raise the mill rate or we’re going to have to cut services or we’re going to have to get creative.”
Harrington said that with a competitive race, the public will pay more attention to issues. He said that if elected, he will look closely at the budget, and would like to see evaluations of borough expenses to see what might be streamlined.
During his most recent School Board tenure, Harrington resigned from his seat without finishing his term, but said that shouldn’t affect his ability to work with the School Board when it comes time to fund the district.
“I did have some interesting relationship problems with certain members of the School Board, not obviously with all of them. But it had to do with internal School Board stuff,” he said.
Harrington said he is an advocate of school funding, and of improving the School Board-Assembly relationship.
For the School Board, high school senior Trevor Shaw was the first candidate to file, and he threw his name into the hat late last week. He was joined Monday by incumbent Dave Timmerman and newcomer Camille Booth.
Booth, who works for the Southern Southeast Technology Education Center, said she wanted to get involved when she saw how few people were signing up to run. She also has a background in education.
“I was in public education for 17 years: about eight years as a teacher in Metlakatla and eight years as principal/administrator in Craig for the Craig City School District,” she said. “Now I’m working for Ketchikan Indian Community as the SSEATEC director.”
Booth also runs Creative Resourcing, which offers tutoring for students, particularly those with reading disabilities. She said she’s especially interested in Native education, educational technology and special education.
Timmerman, port operations manager for the city Port and Harbors Department, said he wants to continue work on some of the issues he’s focused on, including the Indian Policies and Procedures committee. He went on to name a few more important issues.
“Activities is a big thing for me, (along with) the dropout rate, and all those things that we all talk about when we’re trying to work for better for the kids,” he said. “But mostly to keep an eye on the Assembly and make sure the school district is getting funded at a level that we think, or at least that I think is fair, and just keep up the fight, basically.”
For Ketchikan City Council, the two incumbents, Dick Coose and Matt Olsen, filed for re-election. They will be joined on the ballot by Judy Zenge.
The Saxman City Council has three three-year seats open, held by Joe Williams Jr., Richard Makua and Woodrow Watson.
Makua and Watson have filed for re-election, and will be joined on the ballot by Woodrow Anderson Jr. and Trudi Swink.
One two-year seat also is on the Saxman ballot, and that seat now is held by Sylvia Banie. Banie filed for re-election, and is the only candidate for that seat.
The local election is Oct. 1.
CHICAGO — A sea otter found abandoned in Alaska at less than 6 weeks old in 1990 was considered the oldest sea otter living in any North American zoo or aquarium when she was euthanized over the weekend, Shedd Aquarium officials said Monday.
Kachemak was 23 years and 6 months, much older than the 12- to 15-year expected life span for sea otters in the wild. She was able to provide scientists with information about geriatric sea otters, including diet, immune systems and blood test results.
Mushroom enthusiast Kara Lunde shares her experience and knowledge during a call-in show on gathering wild mushrooms. This is a continuation of our series on locally grown, sustainable foods. Mushrooms0826
JUNEAU — The administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Monday that her first trip to Alaska in the post is about learning and listening.
Gina McCarthy plans to discuss issues involving climate change, air quality and a proposed mine near the headwaters of a premier salmon fishery during this week’s visit to communities across the state.
FAIRBANKS — A Fairbanks family on a blueberry picking camping trip was stalked by a large grizzly bear, which came within several feet of one of the campers before it was shot at and ran off.
Chris and Alina Wyatt and their two children had just set up camp near the top of the Table Top Mountain Trail in the White Mountains National Recreation Area north of Fairbanks when they first saw the bear Aug. 17, the Fairbanks Daily-News Miner reported. The family’s two dogs chased the bear away.
Petersburg’s public safety advisory board is recommending the speed limit on Sandy Beach road remain at 25 miles per hour. It’s a recurring issue for the advisory board. The board also discussed adding stop signs on Ira II Street on the request of residents of that road.
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The public safety board recently sought public input on the two issues following requests from local residents to make the speed limit and stop sign changes.
Board chair Sid Bacom said he heard from 56 people in favor of increasing the speed limit to 35 miles an hour on Sandy Beach. There were another 54 people against the change and 30 others who wanted to see it boosted but only to 30 miles per hour. Bacom said the input would be given to Police chief Kelly Swihart. “With us seeking public input, we’re trying to give the chief information from the public on their wishes on this,” Bacom said. “The more data we can give him, the better decision he can make. This is an issue that does go to the chief of police. He is in control of city roads.” Bacom said the ongoing issue was raised again by local residents who requested the speed limit increase.
Petersburg’s city council voted to reduce the speed limit on North Nordic Drive and Sandy Beach in 2007, a year after the city took over the roads from the state. The issue came before the city council in 2008, but elected officials made no change that year in the face of strong opposition to an increase.
A number of Sandy Beach road residents told the board Wednesday to leave the speed limit at 25. Bev Siercks walks on that road and was concerned with drivers. “I purposely move myself and the dog off, even off that little area where I can walk because I don’t feel it’s safe when they’re exceeding the speed limit right now. So if you raise that speed limit by another 10 miles an hour and we don’t have sidewalks on either side on that road with all that foot traffic, we’re just asking for trouble,” Siercks said.
Opponents of the speed limit increase asked to hear the argument for a higher limit. Board member Jim Engel summed up some of the sentiment but was not in favor of the move. “The repetitive theme was inconvenience and too slow. That’s it, that was the argument. If it was up to me tonight my advice to the chief was let’s take it off the table,” Engel said, adding, “Let’s be done with it.”
The board made a recommendation to keep the limit at 25 – that passed with only Sally Dwyer voting against it.
Another issue before the board was a request for more stops signs to slow traffic on Ira II street. Mary Midkiff said her concern was the traffic using Ira II to go up the hill to the post office. “Not that we’ve had a lot of accidents but just realizing there’s a lot of traffic using this little unpaved road that doesn’t need to,” Midkiff said. I think if they had to stop at least once they would just go out onto Haugen which is where they should be because it’s the highway.”
The board also discussed safety concerns with children playing on streets in the residential area and at a nearby public park. Board chair Bacom says he also heard from people who did not want stops signs added to that street.
But board member Sally Dwyer thought new stops signs would not be a big hardship.“I just don’t think putting stop signs at fourth and sixth are going to be that much of a hardship. I mean we do it on lots of streets, stop, stop, stop. You have the choice to go around or go main street and then up or go up Haugen and then up. I mean you have choice. But if you don’t mind stopping every 200 feet, go on one of the side streets. I mean, it just doesn’t seem like that big a deal to me.”
The board unanimously approved a motion to have board chair Bacom work with public works director and police chief to make the decision on new stop signs.
A collaborative effort is underway to spread the word about releasing sport caught halibut in a way that increases the chance the bottom fish will survive and live to fight another day. The Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory program, Alaska Marine Conservation Council and the charter fishing industry have teamed up on a project to compile and teach best practices for handling and releasing sport caught halibut. Joe Viechnicki spoke with the Marine Advisory’s Terry Johnson about the effort.
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Johnson points out that the charter industry volunteered to take part in the effort following a resolution out of the International Pacific Halibut Commission’s conference board. The groups will be developing a video, print and online materials and holding outreach meetings in 2014 in coastal communities around the state.
A team of two people filming ice and glacier research high above Juneau this summer recently came down off the ice and visited Petersburg. Mira Dutschke, originally from South Africa, and Jeff Barbee, who hails from Colorado, spent seven weeks filming scientists studying the glacial ice above the Capitol City with the Juneau Icefield Research Program. The program trains university and high school students in Earth Sciences and wilderness survival as they spend eight weeks crossing from Juneau to Atlin, British Columbia. Dutschke and Barbee stopped by the studios of KFSK and Joe Viechnicki asked them about how they first got involved in the project.
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Find out more about the research and training program at juneauicefield.com or view a short film done by Barbee and Dutschke on link television.
It sounds like Petersburg’s school board will not be expanding in the near future.
Board president Jean Ellis this summer asked superintendent Rob Thomason to look into expansion from a five person board to a seven person board as a way to assure enough board members are present at each meeting.
Thomason reported back the results of his research on the issue Tuesday with only three of the five board members at the August monthly meeting. Thomason told the board it would take a charter change approved by local voters to expand board membership and he said it could expand the length of meetings. “Even though you may hopefully increase your attendance rate at meetings you also increase, research says you increase the length of meetings because the discussion gets longer because there’s exponential discussion that takes place,” he said. “So there were a lot of reasons to kinda rethink that and if at some point in the future the board would see fit to go from five to seven members the process is there.”
Thomason thought the charter change could take about 18 months. Board president Ellis said she would not pursue the issue. “And after discussing with Rob what he had found and how it worked, I decided OK we’ll stick with this. I think my frustration is that it is hard to get enough people at the meetings. It seems like just three people making some important decisions doesn’t seem like a lot of people.”
The board took no action on the issue Tuesday. Board members did hear from administrators and staff about preparations for the start of the new school year. Teachers go back to work next week and students have their first day the following week, on Tuesday September 3rd. Maintenance director Tye Peterson detailed some of the work that’s been completed in the school buildings over the summer. That includes remodeling of the elementary school library along with painting, new curtains and carpet in the auditorium.
High school and middle school principal Rick Dormer also discussed the leadup to the new year. “People who are listening or people here who have kids, again we register kids next week, so that’s happening,” Dormer said. “So parents are hopefully ready time to go in and pay some of the fees, laptop rollouts begin next week, so a lot of the high school kids will get their laptops next week, middle school kids getting signed up for classes talking about their activities that will start soon. So, we’re in full bore and just remind everybody to, hopefully you got something in the mail and information’s on the website. Parents out there if you need to register, if you’re wondering when to do that.”
In other updates, activities director Jaime Cabral told the board that activity fees have gone up to $100, from $80. There’s also a $340 cap for families with multiple students or students in more than one sport.
Six grade students will be able to take part in school sponsored sports travel this year in cross country, track, basketball, cheer leading, wrestling and volleyball. Cross country and track are new additions to the middle school offerings and six graders, starting this year, are allowed to join seventh and eighth graders on one trip a year for each sport.
The board approved a new bussing contract with local company Stikine Services. The contract includes a two percent increase and is for just under $160,000 dollars. The district receives state funding to cover the costs of pupil transportation.
The board also approved a six-year Capital Improvement Project list that’s submitted to the state for possible funding of future projects or reimbursement for work that’s already been done. Topping the list is a one-point-five million dollar food service renovation project.
ANCHORAGE — Responders and residents are racing against a tight deadline to help rebuild a badly flooded town in Alaska’s interior before the region’s unforgiving winter arrives, but frustrated locals say the work isn’t being done quickly enough.
In response, the town of Galena is working on a backup plan for alternate local housing in case some homes remain inhabitable by winter, as expected. About 80 people from the community of about 500 have not been able to return to their homes yet, city manager Greg Moyer said.
ANCHORAGE — The concerns of indigenous people in the north were discussed at an Inuit Circumpolar Council meeting in Kotzebue.
Members from Russia, Greenland and Canada met with Alaska members last week, the Alaska Public Radio Network reported.
ICC Alaska President Jim Stott said the regional groups have grown and are much more capable of addressing concerns for the people they represent.
FAIRBANKS — A 70-year-old Fairbanks pilot faces a potential $1 million fine and jail time after he was convicted of turning a blind eye to 7 gallons of beer carried in his Cessna 206 on a trip to a dry community in Northwestern Alaska.
A six-member jury returned a guilty verdict for both Ken Jouppi, 70, and his business, KenAir, for misdemeanor alcohol importation Friday, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
Prosecutors said during the trial that Jouppi’s actions amount to willful ignorance of the community alcohol ban. Some of the beer was in a bag.
KENAI — There’s a distinctive “whub, whub, whub” sound that signals the approach of a Bell helicopter. Whether the pilot is speeding at more than 120 miles an hour, or slowed and hovering six feet off the ground, it’s hard to mistake the sound.
“Anybody that was in Vietnam or anybody that was in a war knows that sound and usually it’s somebody coming to help them, so it’s a neat feeling,” said Ken Carlton, contract helicopter pilot for the Division of Forestry in Soldotna.
KODIAK — A Kodiak woman is leading a study to find out why Alaskans love salmon.
The Salmon Project, still in an exploratory phase, aims to find out about the deep connections Alaskans have with wild salmon.
“We wanted to understand how it relates to people’s lives and what values were associated with salmon fishing, salmon viewing or salmon eating,” project organizer Erin Harrington said.
ANCHORAGE — Despite cutting the capital budget by more than 20 percent this fiscal year, the State of Alaska increased spending on large education infrastructure work by 18 percent.
Lawmakers appropriated $98.8 million to such projects for the state’s 2014 fiscal year, which began July 1. The Department of Education and Early Development’s Major Maintenance Grant Fund was allocated nearly $23 million for 13 projects. The department’s School Construction Grant Fund garnered more than $73 million to go towards three renovation and new construction projects.
The Sitka Assembly is scheduled to hold a special meeting at 6 o’clock inside Harrigan Centennial Hall to make its choice. Members will select from four finalists, after having interviewed them at the end of last week.
The list began with 53 people. Then it was 10, with videoconference interviews earlier this month. From there, the Sitka Assembly picked four finalists. Each of them sat Thursday and Friday for separate, hour-long interviews in open session.
They each received similar questions, many drawn from a numbered list in front of each Assembly member. Topics ranged from management style to feelings about the city’s comprehensive plan, to how they would expect to relate to the Assembly itself. We don’t have enough time in this story to share everything that was said, so for the purposes of this newscast, we’re going to focus on one question, asked by Assembly member Thor Christianson:
“You have a community member come in with a complaint, and you can’t help them, or you can’t give them what they want, for various reasons,” he said. “How do you deal with that?”
First up: Pam Caskie, formerly city manager in Alliance, Nebraska. She left that post in 2010 after five years. Since then, she’s run a consulting business in Loveland, Colo.
“If you’re looking to put somebody in this position that says yes to everybody, to keep everybody happy — and there are cities that want that — I’m probably not the person you want to hire,” she said. “I don’t necessarily think that’s my role. My role is to be the stopper. The department head says yes, but if their answer is ‘no,’ they appeal to me. My job might be to say ‘yes,’ occasionally overruling a department head, but by the time the department head has said no, there’s a pretty good reason for it, and my job is to backup the department head unless I see something nobody else sees.”
Caskie says she’ll listen, and at the very least help citizens navigate the system of government.
“The idea is to do that and still have them walk out and be a friend. That’s a challenge,” she said. “Sometimes it’s more of a challenge depending on the amount of emotion attached to it. I try very very hard to say no, explain the reasons for the no, and have them walking out still thinking I heard them and that I cared about their personal situation.”
The next candidate to interview was Mark Gorman. The former SEARHC vice president has called Sitka home since 1978, and has a long resume of foreign relief work. Presently, he’s country director for World Education’s operation in Laos, in southeast Asia.
Here’s his answer to the question, which, remember, is how do you deal with it when you can’t give a member of the public what they want?
“I would like to believe compassionately,” he said.
Gorman says he’s encountered the situation a lot in his career.
“The best you can hope for in those situations is that the person may leave disappointed, but if they feel that they’ve been heard and respected, then you’re ahead,” Gorman said.
He told the Assembly about being adopted into the Eagle Wolf clan in Klukwan, and words of advice from an elder.
“’Always speak the truth and you never need to remember what you told people.’ That wisdom — I often come back to it — is when you’re faced with a difficult situation, look the person in the eye and tell them the truth,” Gorman said. “They may not like it but they tend to walk away feeling respected.”
Cynna Gubatayo, the current deputy borough manager in Ketchikan, says she’s also had a lot of experience being unable to give a resident something they’re asking for. Gubatayo says everyone who comes into her office gets a fair hearing.
“Often times I find their complaint or their issue isn’t resolved, because their case has been handled properly,” Gubatayo said. “We can’t waive fees unless that authority is specifically given to us. We can’t waive deadlines unless the authority is specifically given to us. There are these immutable things that just can’t be changed. When people run up against them it does make them upset.”
She says she takes the issue back to the department heads, and gets multiple sides of the story. And she says sometimes people leave happier, even if they didn’t get what they were hoping from the city.
“And sometimes it’s good,” Gubatayo said. “They’re happy that you listened, they’re happy they had a say. Sometimes they’re not. But everyone deserves their opportunity to speak and to be heard.”
Jim Pascale was the final interview before the Assembly last week. He was administrator of Princeton Township, New Jersey, for about 30 years. Pascale was never directly asked how he’d deal with being unable to satisfy the request of a member of the public. But he did address the topic when Mayor Mim McConnell asked him about his management style.
“The general public is always right,” he said. “The customer is always right.”
Pascale said it’s his job to resolve issues, especially between the public and city department heads.
“Usually I find when they come to me they’ve calmed down a little bit,” he said. “They’re actually a lot more respectful, and we talk. If the department head couldn’t do something, when they hear it again from the administrator, they usually accept that. They’ve had their day in court. Or conversely, if the department head didn’t handle it right, I’ll make sure it gets handled right.”
Four finalists, and four answers on how they relate to the public, especially in uncomfortable situations. Assembly members concluded the interviews Friday night, and had the weekend to deliberate individually. They’re expected to come out of tonight’s meeting with an offer for one of the candidates.
Assembly members hope to have the new administrator on the job by the beginning of October. The job has been open since then-Municipal Administrator Jim Dinley resigned in April. City Finance Director Jay Sweeney has served as interim municipal administrator since then. Sweeney did not apply for the permanent position.
The salary for the municipal administrator is advertised at around $125,000.
KENT, Conn. — His tribe once controlled huge swaths of what is now New York and Connecticut, but the shrunken reservation presided over by Alan Russell today hosts little more than four mostly dilapidated homes and a pair of rattlesnake dens.
JUNEAU — Shopping guides aboard cruise ships that come to Alaska have new rules to abide by, following complaints that they were misleading passengers and smearing local stores.
FAIRBANKS — Student mentors in Lathrop High School’s Ignition program this year have an advantage over all the mentors who have gone before them — they’ve been there before.
Every high school senior knows what it’s like to be a freshman, but this year’s senior class of mentors is the first to have had mentors of their own.
Lathrop High School began its Ignition program three years ago as a way to give incoming freshmen a short adjustment period to acclimate to the pace of the high school experience.