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Southeast Alaska News

High enrollment won’t budge next year’s school budget

Thu, 2014-01-09 20:36

Despite an upswing in enrollment, the Sitka School Board is going to be cautious as it starts to build next year’s budget.

At its regular meeting this week, the board decided to assume that Sitka Schools will have about 20 fewer students than they have now.


Listen to iFriendly audio.

It’s a bit of a game, choosing an enrollment number — and according board president Lon Garrison, the single most…

“…important parameter for determining the school budget.”

At the moment the district has 1321 students, down 17 from when the official school census was taken in October.

That decline is typical, school officials say. But it’s also well above the 1,295 the district built this year’s budget on.

The unexpected surplus of students was a major factor in a $1-million increase in the 2013-2014 budget.

Each student is worth money to a school district. The state calls it the “base student allocation,” and it’s also sometimes called the “foundation formula.” And it’s not exactly spare change.

“By the time you get through the formula the students are pretty close to $9,000 a piece.”

That’s superintendent Steve Bradshaw. The $9,000 per student is dwarfed by the revenues for intensive needs students. That comes to around $75,000 per student. The Sitka School District had 42 intensive students during the October census, three more than it planned for in the budget.

But board members were not feeling rich, and not confident that the upswing in enrollment was a trend. District business manager Cassee Olin dismissed the idea that enrollment was up due to the construction of the Blue Lake Hydro Expansion project.

She said only two students could be attributed to all the capital projects underway in Sitka at the moment.

Superintendent Bradshaw had the explanation, but not the reason, for the bump.

“You brought in 126 kindergarteners and had a graduating class of 69. That pretty much accounts for the numbers right there.”

This was the second year in a row that a large kindergarten class began school. Why there are large numbers of six- and seven-year olds in Sitka remains a mystery.

By starting with a conservative estimate of student numbers, the board will be forced to put some major cuts on the table. They’ve scheduled a series of public hearings through the end of March to discuss them. The first hearing will take place in joint session with the Sitka assembly on Thursday February 6.

Kathy Hope Erickson photographs elusive Deserted Island!

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:14

Kathy Hope Erickson was the guest Castaway on Deserted Island on Friday, January 7th, 2013. Lo and Behold Kathy actually took a picture of her dessert on her island! She also selected ten songs she would choose to have with her, if stranded, perhaps forever. She also chose pear pie with streusel top as her favorite dessert. Kathy remembers her early years in Sitka, lip syncing as The Supremes (see below) and traveling across the country on the program. Below you can hear the show, see Kathy’s list of ten songs and link to a pear pie recipe.

Leandra (Mary) Baker (L) Kathy Hope Erickson (C) and Laurie Cropley (R) dressed as The Supremes circa 1991.

1. The Lord’s Bright Blessing – Bob Cratchitt (Jack Cassidy)

2. Just a Closer Walk with Thee – Kermit Ruffins & The Rebirth Brass Band

3. Come, Let Us Bless Joseph, St. Innocent Academy; St. Michael’s trio

4. You’ll Never Know – Maura O’Connell

5. San Antonio Rose – Ray Price/Willie Nelson

6. Tsu Heidei – Harold Jacobs

7. The Poor People of Paris – Edith Piaf

8. Piece of My Heart – Janis Joplin

9. Just a Walkin’ in the Rain – Johnny Ray

10. Memories Are Made of This – Dean Martin

Recipe for Pear Pie!

A founder’s island

Thu, 2014-01-09 16:59
Stef Steffen helped found Raven Radio and last fall stepped down from the Board of Directors after more than 30 years. From hosting Good Day and Jazz shows, to leading the efforts of two renovations, Stef’s energy and commitment to community radio are part of the heartbeat of this station.  Stef was the guest “castaway” on Friday, December 27th, bringing his list of ten songs that he would choose to have if stranded, perhaps forever on an island. He would also bring a well-frosted carrot cake. Here is a recording of the show which includes lots of early Raven Radio memories, Stef’s list of songs and a link to his dessert of choice. Enjoy! 1)  Ramblin’ Jack Elliot  / Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain 2)  Red Clay Ramblers / Hard Times Come No More  3)  Stevie Wonder / Gotta Have You 4)  Mose Allison / Live the Life I Love 5) Taj Mahal / Giant Step 6)  Patti Labelle / 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 7)  Rickie Lee Jones / Chuck e’s  in Love 8)  Milk Carton Kids / Michigan 9)  Tim Edey & Brendon Power / The Mountain Road / The Corkscrew 10)  Mumford and Sons / The Cave Carrot Cake Recipe

Mayor: State of the borough is ‘pretty good’

Thu, 2014-01-09 16:34

As the nation’s capital gets ready for the State of the Union speech on Jan. 28, Ketchikan’s borough mayor warmed up local residents with a State of the Borough address this week to a packed audience at the regular Chamber of Commerce lunch.

“Since the city mayor said (in December) that the state of the city was good. I feel like I have to up that,” said Borough Mayor Dave Kiffer. “The state of the borough is pretty good. It’s actually darned pretty good. It’s peachy keen. It doesn’t mean it’s perfect, but we’re doing OK.”

Kiffer worked for many years as the executive director of Historic Ketchikan, so it wasn’t a surprise when he offered some historical perspective to his State of the Borough presentation. He recalled when Ketchikan Pulp Co. shut down, the community lost many year-round jobs, and quite a few people moved away.

“At that time, the State of Alaska predicted that we were basically, if not going to dry up and blow away in the future, lose significant population, that the borough was just going to crater,” he said. “At one point they were saying by the year 2020 that there might be 10,000 people left here, or 8,000 or 7,000.”

That didn’t happen, though. The population rebounded and now is back where it was in 2000. And that economic disaster that rocked the country in 2008? Well, it did lead to a drop in cruise passengers for a few years but those numbers also rebounded to where they were before the recession.

“These are good things,” Kiffer said. “The community clearly is not dying. We’re not going anywhere. We’ve been here for 125 years, we’re stubborn and we’re just not going anywhere.”

That said, there are some issues the community will face as it moves forward. One big one is that the population is aging, as more and more seniors choose to stay. Seniors are exempt from some taxes, and Kiffer said that means over time, more and more people will not pay into the local revenue stream. There’s no clear solution, but it’s something to think about.

Kiffer reviewed some of the borough’s responsibilities, and the biggest one is school funding – all borough property taxes and a chunk of sales taxes go toward local education. The borough also runs the state-owned airport; planning and zoning; economic development; assessment; parks and recreation; animal control and public transportation.

Kiffer said Ketchikan’s transit system is the third busiest in the state.

“This is interesting because if you go back six or seven years, we were talking about getting rid of our transit system,” he said. “It was expensive, costing lots of money, and just not working. Rather than do that, we hired some pretty good staff, put our nose to the grindstone and the borough has created a transit system we can really be proud of.”

Following Kiffer’s presentation, some audience members had questions. One asked about consolidating the borough and city governments, and whether there was a current effort underway to try and make that happen.

“Do I know of anyone right not who is working on consolidation? No. Do I still think people should? Yes,” he said. “We’ve had four elections. Was it five? OK, five elections. We’ve had five different attempts, and several other attempts that didn’t even reach that level. It’s never been successful.”

Kiffer said the trick is to convince the majority of voters that what they will get with consolidation is better than what they’ll be giving up. He doubts that either government will make a new attempt, though, so it will have to be a grassroots effort.

Linda Koons Auger then spoke up from the audience and announced she is collecting names for a list of people interested in consolidation.

Another audience discussion focused on improving access to Ketchikan’s airport. While the state Department of Transportation continues working on the long-awaited Gravina Access plan, local residents and visitors continue to use the ferry system that has been in place for many years. One audience member suggested a baggage check-in and pick-up building on the town side of the system, so passengers at least don’t have to lug bags on the ferry.

Kiffer said there was an attempt to make that happen years ago, but Alaska Airlines nixed the idea. Despite that, he said it makes sense.

“If anyone has ever flown at the airport in Prince Rupert, that’s what you do,” he said. “You go into a building, they take all your stuff, put you on a bus and they drive you to the airport and put you on the ferry. It doesn’t kill them, but of course they’re Canadian.”

Kiffer was elected as Ketchikan’s borough mayor in 2008, and re-elected in 2011. His current term ends this fall, and because of term limits, he will not be able to run again.

Grant advances Kasaan longhouse repairs

Thu, 2014-01-09 15:28

An insect-infested house post is prepared for heat treatment to kill carpenter ants. (Organized Village of Kasaan)

A nearly-half-million-dollar grant will speed restoration of Alaska’s oldest Haida longhouse. The structure was first built 130 years ago.

Hear iFriendly audio.

Haida Chief Son-i-Hat built the original longhouse in the 1880s at the village of Kasaan. It’s on the eastern side of Southeast’s Prince of Wales Island, about 30 miles northwest of Ketchikan.

Scaffolding allows repairs to the Kasaan Whale House smokehole, which was damaged by rot. (Organized Village of Kasaan.)

It was called Naay I’waans, The Great House. Many know it as The Whale House, for some of the carvings inside.

It deteriorated, as wooden buildings in the rain forest do. The Civilian Conservation Corps, a depression-era employment program, rebuilt it in the late 1930s.

Now, the house badly needs repair again.

“It’s a matter of our cultural revitalization, showing that we’re still here and part of these lands,” says Richard Peterson, president of the Tribal Council for the Organized Village of Kasaan.

The tribal government is partnering with the Native village corporation Kavilco, and its cultural arm, the Kasaan Haida Heritage Foundation.

“A lot of the building is still in really good condition. Some of the supports are what’s failing. I think we’re fortunate enough that we don’t need a total reconstruction, so we want to maintain as much as we can,” Peterson says.

Read more about the effort.

The roof of Kasaan’s Chief Son-i-Hat House, also known as the Whale House, is covered by a tarp during repair work. (Organized Village of Kasaan.)

An analysis by Juneau-based MRV Architects estimated full repairs would cost more than $2 million. A scaled-back plan totaled about $1.4 million. It listed several phases to be completed as funds came in.

And they have. In late November, the Anchorage-based Rasmuson Foundation awarded the project $450,000. Peterson says that, plus funds from the tribal government and its partners, is about enough to complete the work.

“So right now, we’re milling up the logs and they’re going to hand-adz all of the timbers. And we’re just going in and starting to secure up some of the corners that are dropping down. It’s been a really exciting project,” Peterson says.

The effort to stabilize the longhouse has been underway for around two years. But it picked up speed last summer.

The lead carver is Stormy Hamar, who is working with apprentices Eric Hamar, his son, and Harley Bell-Holter. Others volunteer.

Peterson says it’s an all-ages effort.

“The great part is these young kids that are getting involved. And it’s across the lines. Native, non-Native, it doesn’t matter. There’s been a real interest by the youth there,” Peterson says.

Work continues through the winter. Peterson says the focus now is repairing or replacing structural elements so the longhouse doesn’t collapse.

The Whale House is already attracting attention. Independent travelers drive the 17-mile dirt road that starts near Thorne Bay. And Sitka-based Alaska Dream Cruises also stops in Kasaan, where the house is on the list of sights to see.

“Because it’s off-site, you’re not going to see any modern technology. There’s no cars driving by. You can really see how our people lived 200 years ago and experience that and look at those totems in a natural setting,” Peterson says. “It wasn’t put there for a park. This is how it was. And I think people really appreciate that.”

Without too many surprises, Peterson hopes work can be completed in around two years.

Then, he says, the tribe will host a celebration like the one Wrangell leaders put on last year when they finished the Chief Shakes Tribal House.

Grant advances Kasaan longhouse repairs

Thu, 2014-01-09 11:31

The roof of Kasaan’s Chief Son-i-Hat House, also known as the Whale House, is covered by a tarp during repair work. (Organized Village of Kasaan.)

A nearly-half-million-dollar grant will speed restoration of Alaska’s oldest Haida longhouse. The structure was first built 130 years ago.

Hear iFriendly audio.

Haida Chief Son-i-Hat built the original longhouse in the 1880s at the village of Kasaan. It’s on the eastern side of Southeast’s Prince of Wales Island, about 30 miles northwest of Ketchikan.

It was called Naay I’waans, The Great House. Many know it as The Whale House, for some of the carvings inside.

It deteriorated, as wooden buildings in the rain forest do. The Civilian Conservation Corps, a depression-era employment program, rebuilt it in the late 1930s.

Now, the house badly needs repair again.

An insect-infested house post is prepared for heat treatment to kill carpenter ants. (Organized Village of Kasaan)

“It’s a matter of our cultural revitalization, showing that we’re still here and part of these lands,” says Richard Peterson, president of the Tribal Council for the Organized Village of Kasaan.

The tribal government is partnering with the Native village corporation Kavilco, and its cultural arm, the Kasaan Haida Heritage Foundation.

“A lot of the building is still in really good condition. Some of the supports are what’s failing. I think we’re fortunate enough that we don’t need a total reconstruction, so we want to maintain as much as we can,” Peterson says.

Read more about the effort.

An analysis by Juneau-based MRV Architects estimated full repairs would cost more than $2 million. A scaled-back plan totaled about $1.4 million. It listed several phases to be completed as funds came in.

And they have. In late November, the Anchorage-based Rasmuson Foundation awarded the project $450,000. Peterson says that, plus funds from the tribal government and its partners, is about enough to complete the work.

“So right now, we’re milling up the logs and they’re going to hand-adz all of the timbers. And we’re just going in and starting to secure up some of the corners that are dropping down. It’s been a really exciting project,” Peterson says.

The effort to stabilize the longhouse has been underway for around two years. But it picked up speed last summer.

The lead carver is Stormy Hamar, who is working with apprentices Eric Hamar, his son, and Harley Bell-Holter. Others volunteer.

Eric Hammer (front) and Harley Bell-Holter work in Kasaan’s carving shed. (Courtesy Organized Village of Kasaan)

Peterson says it’s an all-ages effort.

“The great part is these young kids that are getting involved. And it’s across the lines. Native, non-Native, it doesn’t matter. There’s been a real interest by the youth there,” Peterson says.

Work continues through the winter. Peterson says the focus now is repairing or replacing structural elements so the longhouse doesn’t collapse.

The Whale House is already attracting attention. Independent travelers drive the 17-mile dirt road that starts near Thorne Bay. And Sitka-based Alaska Dream Cruises also stops in Kasaan, where the house is on the list of sights to see.

“Because it’s off-site, you’re not going to see any modern technology. There’s no cars driving by. You can really see how our people lived 200 years ago and experience that and look at those totems in a natural setting,” Peterson says. “It wasn’t put there for a park. This is how it was. And I think people really appreciate that.”

Without too many surprises, Peterson hopes work can be completed in around two years.

Then, he says, the tribe will host a celebration like the one Wrangell leaders put on last year when they finished the Chief Shakes Tribal House.

Scaffolding allows repairs to the Kasaan Whale House smokehole, which was damaged by rot. (Organized Village of Kasaan.)

 

Community Foundation talks funds and future plans

Thu, 2014-01-09 10:49

Tessa Axelson and Tom Shulz of the Ketchikan Community Foundation talk about how much money the foundation has raised and how they plan to support community organizations this year. CommunityFoundation

Docent program to use local science knowledge

Thu, 2014-01-09 10:30


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Ashley Bolwerk, with the Sitka Sound Science Center, discusses training opportunities for docents (and junior docents) at the center. Bolwerk says Sitkans may know more about the natural world than they realize, and can offer a valuable service to visitors. Learn more about the Sitka Sound Science Center docent program online.

Thu Jan 9, 2014

Thu, 2014-01-09 10:21


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Even in new building, Pacific High takes learning outside walls. Petersburg considers lawsuit to recover expense of challenging interim redistricting map. Committee explores options for changes to Petersburg senior sales tax exemption as population ages.

Kookesh, others to challenge overfishing charges

Thu, 2014-01-09 01:09

Former lawmaker Albert Kookesh says he and two other men charged with overfishing intend to again appeal the charges. The Alaska Court of Appeals on Dec. 27 reinstated the charges against Kookesh, Rocky Estrada and Stanley Johnson after the men had succeeded in having the charges dismissed by a Sitka district court judge in 2010. A fourth man cited, Scott Hunter, did not appeal the citation. The citations carry a $500 fine.

read more

Army to reduce authorized soldier count in Alaska

Thu, 2014-01-09 01:07

ANCHORAGE — The U.S. Army has largely spared Alaska from personnel reductions tied to federal budget cuts.

Army Alaska announced Wednesday that Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage will lose 780 soldiers by September 2015, falling to authorized personnel of 4,598.

Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks will gain 367 soldiers by the end of fiscal year 2015, pushing the number of authorized personnel to 6,198 soldiers.

The net loss for Alaska: 373 soldiers.

read more

Plane lands in median of major Anchorage street

Thu, 2014-01-09 01:07

ANCHORAGE — A pilot who made a safe emergency landing on a major Anchorage street said he lost power, waited for a break in traffic, then descended onto the snowy median.

Armon Tabrizi said he was not immediately sure where to land before deciding to put the Cessna 172RG Cutlass down in the middle of Boniface Parkway Tuesday afternoon, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Tabrizi, 27, avoided cars and stoplights, and no one in the plane or on the ground was injured.

Meredith Hazen was driving on the four-lane street when the plane came down.

read more

Group takes next step to legalize marijuana

Thu, 2014-01-09 01:06

ANCHORAGE — A citizens’ group hoping to make Alaska the third state in the nation to legalize recreational use of marijuana took a step closer Wednesday, submitting more than 46,000 signatures to the state election office.

If enough signatures are verified — they need about 30,000 qualified signatures — the question of whether to make pot legal in the nation’s northernmost state will go before voters in the Aug. 19 primary. Signatures must come from at least 7 percent of voters in at least 30 House districts.

read more

Task force co-chair says more info on the way

Wed, 2014-01-08 21:09

The House Sustainable Education Task Force has spent $20,666.59 of its $250,000 appropriation so far, according to a legislative accounting document acquired by the Juneau Empire.

The task force came under scrutiny last week after its first report was released. The two-page report, which was labeled as preliminary, didn’t provide any hard numbers or analysis related to the state’s education system as anticipated. It did, however, note “that current education spending is not sustainable.” That statement provoked ire from task force member Andrew Halcro.

read more

Even in new building, Pacific High learns outside walls

Wed, 2014-01-08 20:30

Burdick tells students that it’s not his responsibility to learn. “I already have a degree or two. I’m not going to stand here and do your homework. It’s your turn.” (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

Sitka’s alternative high school has moved into a brand-new building, but the program the school has created doesn’t really depend on the right place to succeed.

Pacific High co-principal Phil Burdick told the Sitka Chamber of Commerce this week (Wed 1-8-14) that the remodeled space was actually the product of the school’s core mission to give students ownership of their education — a ten-year long homework assignment that has finally been turned in.

He explained how “experiential learning” works at Pacific High.

Listen to iFriendly audio.
If you go to a traditional school you’ll get a biology class that will start at the cell and go to the macro, and it will be two semesters long, and you’ll get a little bit of everything all the way across. So what we do is flip that script, and we take biology and ask, How Does Meth Impact the Body? And we drill all the way down. And we do that in all our classes. We do it with History. We don’t do a survey history class, we’ll do something like Civil Rights. Or we’ll do the herring fishery for Alaska Studies. It’s a very different model of education.

Burdick was a teacher at Pacific High for twelve years, before becoming co-principal 4 years ago. He incorporated a book on sustainable school design into his own teaching, and involved students in developing the ideas that would create a better space for education.

He told the chamber audience that Pacific High represents a radical departure from typical schools.

Listen to iFriendly audio.
Did you know that the model for traditional schools — the architecture — is the same model that we used for prisons? You probably didn’t. However, I bet your high school looked a lot like a prison. Mine did. It’s the same thing: a central office where the ward… — I mean the principal — sits. And your cell… classroom, and your common areas: the gym, where you all go to workout, and the lunchroom, where you all get to eat. It’s the same model. It turns out that’s not a great model for education. It turns out it’s a great model for prisons. But when you want a student to learn there are lots of different ways and places and types of learning. Students need quiet places. They need soft places, they need cave spaces. They need indoor/outdoor connections. So our classrooms are big, they’re flexible. You can do a lot of things. We have messy areas, so people can work on projects. We have quiet areas, so people can sit down and read. We have conference rooms where students can break out in small groups and work on a project together. The picture that you saw in the paper of the rotunda when you walk in: That becomes a meeting space. We had our first all-school meeting in it today. It was great. There’s nowhere to hide.

Burdick discussed the outdoor connection. While a lot of learning at Pacific High takes place outside, it complements the learning taking place inside.

Listen to iFriendly audio.
We have a door that goes out of every classroom. I have a gardening class. Last year Hillary (Seeland) taught a herring class. She was out on the boats, she was bringing in experts. Everybody now has access to the outside, because that’s where education happens. I was fine in a high school, you were fine in a high school I’m sure. But boy, it’s sure nice for students who high school is not good for to get out and do something that’s active, that still engages them, and still connects to the learning. It’s not that we’re digging rows at St. Peter’s and not learning English. We come back and we reflect on that, and we write on that. We teach you how to write a paragraph about what you’ve done. We’re hitting the Standards, but we’re doing it in a way that engages as many people as possible.

School board member Tonia Rioux was one of two Pacific High alums in Burdick’s audience Wednesday. She attended Pacific High when it was located in an unused building on the Mt. Edgecumbe campus on Japonski Island. She said great teachers had made the difference in her education then. Now, she was happy that Pacific High students had great teachers, and a great building.

Listen to iFriendly audio.
If you come into a place of learning and there’s water coming through the ceiling and a bucket under it, and the window’s broken, and it’s hard to walk up the steps because they’re crumbling, and you’re already having challenges in education, what does that say? You’re just not that important. That’s why I’m really excited about the building, and that’s where the impact truly lies.

Classes resumed in the new Pacific High building on Tuesday. Phil Burdick invited the public to attend an open house on campus on Elizabeth Peratrovich Day, Sunday, February 16.

Council to pick new member; hire KPU head

Wed, 2014-01-08 15:54

The Ketchikan City Council will choose a new Council member Thursday, and will decide whether to hire Andy Donato as the new Ketchikan Public Utilities Electric Division manager.

In December, the Council appointed Russell Wodehouse to the vacant position, but he resigned soon after due to a controversy related to his teaching certificate in Washington State.

Three other candidates who had applied for the vacant position resubmitted their applications. They are former Council Member Dick Coose, who lost his bid for re-election in October; Dale “Mickey” Robbins, who operates a bed-and-breakfast and a fishing charter business; and Jacquie Meck, a local business owner who is involved in numerous organizations.

The Council also will vote on whether to hire Donato, who has been filling in as interim KPU Electric Division manager since Tim McConnell left in November. Donato has been KPU’s senior electric systems engineer for about three years.

City Manager Karl Amylon strongly recommends that the Council hire Donato at an annual salary of $133,150.

The Council meeting starts at 7 p.m. Thursday in City Council chambers. Public comment will be heard at the start of the meeting.

Assembly to discuss boro policies in 2-day meeting

Wed, 2014-01-08 14:57

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly has scheduled a marathon policy meeting, starting at noon on Friday and lasting through Saturday.

The members will recess the meeting at around 4 on Friday, though, and then reconvene Saturday morning at 9 a.m., to finish out the agenda.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss policy issues, and provide direction for borough management. The items up for discussion include the borough budget, library funding and the school district budget ; sales tax collection; the process for determining the community’s capital project priority list; Parks and Rec fees; and the process for filling vacancies on the Assembly.

During a presentation Wednesday to the Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce, Borough Mayor Dave Kiffer added that economic development is another topic that could be discussed, and he invited the public to come to the meeting and give advice.

“We are always looking for more ideas,” he said. “If you’ve got specific ideas or things you think we should be looking at, let us know. To be honest, over the last 15-20 years, the borough hasn’t always done the very good version of economic development. We’ve made some good choices. Certainly supporting things like the shipyard have benefited the community. But we don’t always make the right choice. Sometimes we end up with bowl factories.”

While the policy session is expected to recess at 4 on Friday, the Assembly will have some more work to finish that night. Some items from Monday’s regular meeting had to be postponed due to a snafu over the legal notice, which wasn’t published in time. As a result, the Assembly recessed Monday’s meeting and will reconvene at 5 p.m. on Friday to take care of those postponed items.

The policy session and the reconvened meeting both will take place in Borough Assembly chambers at the White Cliff building.

First baby born just before midnight Sunday

Wed, 2014-01-08 11:25

First Baby Lene Oralie is held by her mother, Loren Mickel. Standing from left are Nurse Manager Lauralynn Williams; Lene’s father, Caleb Mickel; RNs Hilary Vincent and Ariel Randall, and CNA Jennifer Tavares. Photo courtesy PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center.

Ketchikan’s first baby of 2014 is Lene Oralie Mickel, born just shy of midnight on Jan. 5th at Ketchikan Medical Center.

The healthy 6-pound, 8-ounce girl was born to Loren and Caleb Mickel, and she is the first child for the couple. According to the hospital, Certified Nurse Midwife Marta Poore delivered the baby, with assistance from nurses Susan Walsh and Kathleen Foster.

The family received a gift basket holding items donated by hospital staff and members of the hospital auxiliary.

Petersburg gears up for expanded curbside recycling

Wed, 2014-01-08 10:35

Petersburg’s expanded curbside recycling program is on track to start early next month and local garbage customers will be getting new recycling bags later this month. Petersburg’s borough assembly Monday got briefed on the plans for recycling.

For mobile-friendly audio, click here:
February 4th is the scheduled start up for the commingled recycling program. It will mean customers can put most plastics, aluminum, tin, glass, cardboard and paper, unsorted, into a bag left on the curb alongside garbage cans each week. The borough’s existing recycling program requires sorting, and only includes certain plastics, glass bottles and cans.

Public works director Karl Hagerman told the assembly that recycling bags would be given out for the start of the program. “But after that initial roll out as you deplete your supply of bags you can come into public works to get those. I think we’re gonna add the finance department as another source for those bags for people that come in and pay their bill on a monthly basis or in town. It’s a more convenient spot for people to come in and grab bags.”

The borough ran a pilot program with a portion of local customers to test commingled collection this summer. The municipal government is trying to encourage customers to recycle and wants to decrease the amount of garbage that winds up in a landfill in Washington state. People who don’t recycle will see their garbage rate increase about five dollars more a month for a 32 gallon can.

Anyone who already recycles in the existing program, that’s about 350 customers, will be included in the new commingled collection. People who want to sign up can still do so. The voluntary program has already boosted participation numbers to 525 customers and that’s expected to continue rising. That’s still only around half of the 11-hundred residential garbage customers that could be recycling.

Hagerman told the assembly he’s heard from customers who do not put out garbage for collection every week and are concerned about incurring that higher rate. “As long as whenever you do set you garbage out, you also set out recyclables. Then, there won’t be any problem with that, getting the incentive rate, the lowest rate possible on your garbage.”

Assembly members, like Nancy Strand, asked Hagerman questions about how the program will work. “My biggest concern is that my commingled garbage which is going to include some cardboard and office paper, gets wet. Is it OK to get a can with a lid and put it in just to keep it dry or would you rather not deal with extra cans?” Strand asked.

“The can thing is an option for people if they have animals in the neighborhood that are going to cause a problem,” Hagerman replied. He hoped that people would not have to buy garbage cans to keep recycling safe from curious birds and other animals.

Mayor Mark Jensen asked whether collection bags could be given out at the same time recycling is collected. Hagerman thought time could be an issue. “I’m trying to make it efficient as possible for that collection contractor to pick that stuff up. If it turns out we’ve got plenty of time in the day for them to collect all the curbside material and the other materials they have to collect and there’s still spare time then perhaps bag distribution by that staff wouldn’t be a problem.”

Jensen responded that he wanted the program to be convenient for customers too.

Everyone on the road system of Mitkof Island can be a part of the recycling program. Businesses can also participate.
The borough will be contracting with a business or organization to do the collection. Petersburg Indian Association staffers have been contracting to do the work and could continue to do so. However the borough seek proposals from interested companies in February.

There’s more information on what can be recycled on the borough’s website.

Seniors lobby to keep sales tax exemption

Wed, 2014-01-08 10:27

A committee looking at possible changes for the collection of sales tax in Petersburg on Friday heard from local senior citizens interested in keeping the senior exemption. Officials are expecting the percentage of the local population that qualifies for the over-65 exemption to grow in the next few decades, which could impact sales tax revenue. However, the committee did not come to any agreement on recommending an end to the senior exemption.

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Residents 65 and over qualify for a sales tax free card with the borough. Some 479 seniors currently have those cards and do not have to pay the borough’s six percent tax on purchases. Local resident Harvey Gilliland called the exemption a great aid for seniors on a fixed income and didn’t want it to end.

Another senior, Jackie Morrison offered a compromise. “And I don’t wanna be a burden on the young kids, that they have to pay six percent and I don’t have to pay anything. Has it occurred to anybody or is it even a thought, that maybe we could all split it. That we could pay three percent and you young kids could pay three percent. That wouldn’t kill us. It wouldn’t do us any good but it wouldn’t kill us. And I appreciate you guys trying to figure out how to keep the city running.”

The committee also heard from Bob Nilsen who thought rising costs to live in Petersburg would force seniors to leave town. “I don’t worry about myself, I worry about a lot of other people that don’t have money. I have enough money I admit that. I know how people think I shouldn’t talk about this but the truth of it is, there’s a lot of poor people in this town. If you take this exemption away, it hurts ‘em.”

Besides removing the exemption altogether, the committee also heard arguments for a smaller change. Glorianne Wollen thought there were too many exemptions from sales tax and too much of a burden on people paying property tax. “I would just like to ask if maybe we’d consider looking at maybe only giving exemptions for things like food and fuel. Things that people that are really having trouble living here those are the things they really need is food and fuel or some of those kinds of things.”

Another idea was granting the exemption only to low income seniors. Committee chair Sue Flint read a letter submitted by assembly member John Hoag. “Speaking as an individual, it appears to me that given the projection that the number of seniors who qualify will double in the next 10 years, that continuing the exemption without any modification will be unfair to the rest of the community will be unfair to the rest of the community as too high a percentage of the population will be exempt from sales tax. Many of us who qualify for the exemption do not need it. I suggest that the exemption be modified to have a qualification of an income-based exemption for seniors.” Hoag suggested an annual tax return document could be used to apply with the borough for an income based exemption.

Committee members also talked about using Medicaid eligibility as a determining factor. John Murgas had trouble with an income based system for the exemption that would be a public issue at the checkout line. “If its something that’s based on Medicaid eligibility…um, we seniors have pride and it would be difficult to be standing in line and then hopefully being real quiet ‘I’m exempt,’ it would be like food stamps or something like that and I think that would be too humiliating to expect our seniors to have to do that.” Murgas thought the community should welcome with open arms any seniors who are willing to move here.

And another committee member, Lee Corrao wanted to keep in mind the impact that sales tax changes have on retail sales locally. “Because there are many people who opt to go to other communities because of the six percent that they can save by going somewhere else. And it does directly impact the bottom line which also directly impacts our ability to employ others, so on. There’s a trickle down effect as a result of that.” Corrao also thought the state projection of a growing senior population in the area was too high because of the inclusion of Kake residents. He did not think the percentage of Petersburg seniors would be doubling.

In fiscal year 2013, the community saw over 107 million dollars worth of sales. Of that, nearly 61 million dollars worth of sales was exempt. Committee member Fran Jones pointed out that total senior exemptions last fiscal year were only four million dollars worth of sales, much smaller than the impact from other exemptions. “Whereas some of these other ones like government, which I know we have to exempt because we’re required to by federal and state law, those were actually 16 million, Resale was almost seven million, out of town, almost 14 million and so on and so forth. Seniors were a small part.”

Meanwhile, finance director Jody Tow told the committee that the borough was above last year’s sales tax revenue amount at this time of year by 240-thousand dollars. “It does fluctuate quite a bit each year. I looked, I tried to pull a report together for businesses that are outside the borough, or outside service area one that have now been taxing, and it was about 55-thousand dollars of that. I think a lot of that was because it was such a great fishing year, but I don’t know.”

The committee has yet to vote on any recommendations for the borough assembly but plans to meet twice next month with that goal in mind. Any tax changes would go on the ballot this October.

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