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Southeast Alaska News
According to The Associated Press, Ketchikan’s Barbara Bigelow soon will be the new administrator for Providence Valdez Medical Center.
Officials with Providence Health & Services say Bigelow will begin her new job Aug. 5th.
Bigelow has nearly 30 years of experience with hospitals in Alaska, including Wrangell Medical Center and Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.
She most recently has worked with PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center.
ANCHORAGE — A state grand jury has indicted an Anchorage teenager suspected of texting while driving on manslaughter and other felony charges for a crash that killed a woman.
Prosecutors allege Murphy Madison Gross, 16, took his father’s new sport utility vehicle without permission, smoked marijuana with friends and drove without a license Feb. 6 before running a red light and causing a crash that killed Catherine Cope.
GALENA — Some residents have begun to repair their homes in a flood-raked town in Alaska’s interior instead of waiting for state emergency managers to officially assess the widespread damage.
About 90 percent of the homes in Galena were affected by last week’s flooding, which was caused by a 30-mile ice jam on the Yukon River. The jam receded days later, leaving a huge mess.
ANCHORAGE — Two Anchorage police officers were justified in a deadly shooting, a review released Tuesday said.
The Office of Special Prosecutions cleared officers Michael Farr and Christopher Alexander in the April 5 shooting death of Detlef Wulf Jr., 27, police said in a prepared statement.
The office’s attorney, Robert Henderson, “concluded both officers were legally justified in using deadly force against Mr. Wulf, and there will be no criminal charges forthcoming against either officer,” the statement says.
ANCHORAGE — A man was arrested after he severely bit an off-duty police officer who was volunteering at an Anchorage soup kitchen, police said Tuesday.
Stephen Faigle, 19, is charged with assault and was set to appear in court Tuesday afternoon. It’s unclear if he has an attorney.
The officer, Joel Breiner, was volunteering with another off-duty officer, Patrick Martin, at the Downtown Soup Kitchen on Monday afternoon when an argument broke out between Faigle and another man in the kitchen’s patio, police said.
JUNEAU — A local Juneau carpenters union has closed after more than 70 years, part of a nationwide trend aimed at cost savings and efficiencies.
Juneau’s Carpenter Union Local 2247, which represented about 150 carpenters and was in existence since 1939, has been absorbed by Anchorage’s local 1281 after recently shutting down, KTOO reported. About 35 carpenter union locals in the Pacific Northwest have closed in the past three years to join larger local unions.
Chris Dimond, a 10-year member of Local 2247, found out about the closure on Facebook.
The Lady Wolves beat Ketchikan 7 to 6 on Saturday to claim their fourth consecutive state championship.
Coach Bob Potrzuski says winning has in no way become routine. Nevertheless, he’s not the kind of coach who runs out on the field to celebrate.
“That’s the girls’ time. I try to just back away and watch, and that’s the most fun. Just watching their excitement. Because they worked really, really hard for it.”
Potrzuski did have a special family moment. His daughter, senior Stefania (stuh- FAWN-yah) Potrzuski, has been on all four championship teams. She let the coach know he was appreciated.
“My daughter picked me out of the crowd after she was with her teammates for a little bit. And she came out and gave me a big hug. She was pretty pleased.”
The title game on Saturday was a nail-biter. The Lady Wolves scored with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to clinch the win. Potruzski says there’s no telling what might have happened had the game gone into extra innings.
He thinks his girls proved they were the best team in the state.
“We hit at 6 AM three days a week. And we practice until 6 PM at night. And it’s kind of a race, softball, because we start March 1 and we’re done June 1. It’s a relatively short season. The dedication that the girls put in this year just totally paid off.”
Dedication is one part of the Lady Wolves success, a deep reserve of talent is another. Potrzuski lost seven starters between 2011 and 2012, and lost five starters coming into this season.
Their team batting average was .401. There’s only one word for that.
“Which is ‘ridiculous,’” Potzruski said.
The Lady Wolves went 16-4 in the regular season, and were undefeated in four tournament games.
KCAW’s Ed Ronco contributed to this story.
One person is dead and six were rescued from a floatplane crash Tuesday on the mainland near Petersburg.
The plane was a deHavilland Beaver, a fixed-wing, single-engine aircraft owned by Pacific Wings of Petersburg with capacity for one pilot and six passengers. It was reported overdue Tuesday afternoon prompting a search by three commercial helicopters and a Coast Guard helicopter from Air Station Sitka.
Coast Guard spokesperson Grant DeVuyst said the crashed airplane was discovered Tuesday evening. “The plane which had seven passengers onboard, we were able to locate them when the Coast Guard MH60 Jayhawk helicopter crew spotted one of the survivors,” DeVuyst said. “We were able to hoist all six of the surviving passengers. Unfortunately one of the passengers was deceased. Of course our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the deceased passenger. Thankfully we were able to get the other six back to Petersburg, back to medical attention.”
The plane crashed on the mountainside near LeConte Bay, a glacial fjord on the mainland east of Petersburg. Due to the steep terrain and late hour, rescuers did not recover the body of the person killed in the crash Tuesday. The Coast Guard is working with the Alaska State Troopers to come up with a recovery plan.
DeVuyst cited the plane’s emergency beacon in aiding the rescue. “Fortunately this plane did have a working emergency locator transmitter onboard,” DeVuyst said. “That’s the only reason that we knew there was trouble and that’s the only reason we were able to really get on scene and find them, the six survivors.”
No word yet on the identity of the person killed in the crash. The survivors were taken to Petersburg Medical Center Tuesday night. Pacific Wings is owned by Sunrise Aviation of Wrangell and offers flightseeing and air-taxi services around central Southeast.
(Editor’s note: this story was updated at 9:15 a.m. June 5th to clarify the person killed in crash was not recovered Tuesday and that the aircraft can carry one pilot and six passengers)
Petersburg’s officials and enforcement officers are cracking down on a growing problem in the borough’s harbor – sea lions. More and more of the creatures have arrived in the harbor, lured by the catch of local sport and commercial fishing fleets. As KFSK’s Robbie Feinberg reports, the problem has turned dangerous.
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If you head out to Petersburg harbor on a typical day, you’re bound to see fishermen, gutting their catch at the harbor’s cleaning stations and throwing heads, bones and scraps into the water. But you’ll also see sea lions, searching for those remains, to eat.
The animals have started to overtake the area, hanging around near the docks to snag remains of a gutted fish. Recently, the problem has swelled. Petersburg Harbormaster Glo Wollen says that what started off as six sea lions a year ago has grow into twenty this year. And those animals have been getting more and more aggressive towards humans.
“And we’ve just been having so many reports of near close-calls this spring that we had to take drastic measures,” Wollen said.
But feeding the sea lions isn’t just dangerous. It’s illegal. Jerod Cook is with the National Marine Fisheries Service. He says that according to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, feeding sea lions in the wild is technically harassment, and it can carry fines of two hundred to five hundred dollars. After receiving more reports of sea lion attacks recently, Cook is worried.
“People have reported being charged by them and where the sea lion comes up and doesn’t jump completely up the dock but hits the dock with his chest,” Cook said. “Very aggressive. It’s very intimidating for folks. And the concern is that somebody’s going to get seriously hurt.”
The animals have even attacked harbor users in the past. Cook wants to fix the problem before it gets any worse, but his plan isn’t to sit at the dock and issue more tickets. Instead, he wants to work with the borough and the harbor to find a proactive solution to the problem.
Cook took the first step in that process on Monday when he brought up the issue at Petersburg’s assembly meeting. The members were receptive to fixing the problem, but they couldn’t agree on a solution just yet. One idea that the assembly floated was to follow in the footsteps of larger harbors like Sitka. In these harbors, the city added a large catch basin, a central spot to deposit fish carcasses that could then be tossed out farther out in the ocean or delivered to a cannery. But Wollen says that would require resources that she simply doesn’t have.
“Right now, I don’t have a staff that’s big enough to essentially wait for a carcass to come in to transfer it,” Wollen said. “At some point, maybe we’ll do some sort of thing. I’ve talked to some of the can companies and they don’t really want to put a tote out, collecting all the wildlife that will be attracted to something like that. From the land side – everything from rats to cats to all sort of things. It sounds like an easy solution, but when you follow it through, there are a lot of logistics that turn it into a bigger operation than just putting out a float and collecting it.”
Another potential solution was to have fishermen simply clean and filet their fish on the water. But Doug Fleming with the Alaska Department of fish and game pointed out that people need to comply with state rules.
”Regulations for fish like king salmon, or even halibut, we need to have fish brought in so they can be measured,” Fleming said.
Mayor Mark Jensen added that even if the borough does find a short term solution, like closing down a few cleaning stations, enforcing the sea lion rules won’t be easy.
“You know, talk about the signage that we’ve had in the harbor – ‘if it’s against the law, you’ll get a fine,’” Jensen said. “Just last week, my son and I are taking a skiff out of the water, he’s waiting for me to back the trailer down. And somebody dressing a fish at the loading ramp was complaining about the sea lions but on the other hand, they’re throwing their guts in the air to see if the sea lion can catch it. So do you put shock collars to all the people that go out? Do you have somebody sitting there the whole time? It’s a very complicated issue.”
Ultimately, the assembly wanted input from Petersburg’s harbor advisory board, and the topic will be on that group’s agenda later this month. Wollen has already removed a few of the fish cleaning stations from the harbor, and she’s alerted fishermen, too, letting them know that they need to be responsible for their own catch. But the hope is that the harbor board, borough and the fishermen can work together to find a better solution in the coming weeks and months.
JUNEAU – The Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) today announced that the ferry M/V Tustumena will not return to service until July 23 due to extended maintenance work.
“It’s extremely unfortunate that the Tustumena’s return to service date is further postponed, as this delay affects numerous communities, residents and businesses across Alaska,” said AMHS General Manager Captain John Falvey. “It is our intention to have the vessel back in service as quickly as possible.”
A Kodiak man and a woman from Corpus Christi, Texas, were sentenced Tuesday in Anchorage federal court for their roles in embezzling more than half a million dollars from Trident Seafoods of Kodiak.
Valerie Olivares, 35 of Corpus Christi, Texas, was sentenced today by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Ralph R. Beistline to eight months in prison for her role in helping a bookkeeper steal $45,000 via a business checking account.
The boroughwide property tax rate will stay at 5 mills following Monday’s nearly five-hour Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly meeting. The proposed budget had included a half-mill property tax increase.
In the middle of the long meeting, and before the Assembly considered amendments to the borough budget, members had a work session, and argued both sides of the property tax issue.
Assembly Member Glen Thompson said the problem is decreased revenue that the school district isn’t sharing equitably. He said that, earlier this year, the borough told school district officials that it would provide $7.75 million for the local contribution, but then the Assembly didn’t stick with the plan.
“The real problem is that we’ve gone off the rails, as far as I’m concerned, from where we were back in January when we said we were going to slowly ratchet down our school funding to something more affordable, and slowly ratchet up the mill rate to meet it, and we were going to meet around 6 (mills),” he said.
Assembly Member Agnes Moran agrees. She said there was a plan to back off on school district funding, and the Assembly instead “kicked the can down the road.”
Assembly Member Allen Bailey disagreed with that argument. He said that the extra $300,000 that the Assembly added to school funding will be paid for through higher-than-expected sales tax revenue.
“The only plan that I ever agreed to was serving our public and making sure that we do the best we can, and we all do that,” he said. “When I first started this thing, the mill rate was at 5.8. Then it was reduced to 5.0. I wasn’t in favor of that, because I thought it was too deep a cut at that time to sustain current services.”
However, Bailey added that increasing the mill rate every year to make up for budget deficits isn’t a solution.
Assembly Member Bill Rotecki said the 5.0 mill rate wasn’t sustainable when the Assembly reduced it to that level, and it still isn’t sustainable if the borough wants to maintain the service level that the public has grown used to receiving.
One mill equals is one dollar for every $1,000 dollars of assessed property value. That means a home valued at $200,000 is taxed $1,000 by the borough. If the increase had been adopted, borough taxes on that home would have gone to $1,100.
The city has its own mill rate, so property owners within city limits pays both borough and city property taxes.
After the work session, and much later in the very long Assembly meeting, members voted 6-1 to keep the current mill rate intact. Rotecki cast the only dissenting vote.
The Assembly on Monday also approved an additional $155,000 for improvements to Dudley Field, and a 1.5-percent cost of living raise for non-union borough employees.
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The US Forest Service, Rotary, and the Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game will hold Kids Fishing Day at Swan Lake. Registration opens 8 AM Sat Jun 8, with fishing starting at 9 AM. With Ben Mann (USFS), Sharon Bergman (Rotary), Troy Tydingco (ADF&G).
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SHS Lady Wolves capture 4th consecutive small schools softball championship. Architects to ask public’s input on Centennial Hall remodel at public meeting tonight (6:30 PM Tue Jun 4, Harrigan Centennial Hall). Alaska Marine Stewardship Foundation sponsors shoreline cleanup projects in nine Alaska communities.
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly passed the 2014 budget without raising the mill rate. Assembly member Jim Van Horn gives an update. Assembly060413
Petersburg’s borough assembly has agreed to consider a local law on herbicide and pesticide spraying, prompted by a change this year in state permitting requirements. The assembly Monday voted to draft a law on use of herbicide and pesticides within the borough. That’s after the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation earlier this year eliminated the public review process and permitting requirement for using the chemicals on state land.
Former city councilor and retired state fishery biologist Barry Bracken urged the assembly to take action, saying that spraying herbicides and pesticides could harm the reputation and habitat for Alaska’s salmon. “Alaska markets our wild salmon to the world, touting our pristine waters,” Bracken said. “Applying toxic chemicals to the upland habitat would certainly make that a questionable claim. Spraying our uplands could negatively impact productivity of local salmon streams. Even the small tributaries are important fish rearing habitat.”
Bracken asked for an outright ban for large spraying programs on land within the borough, or at the least, a local public review process for planned spraying. State agencies do have to give the public notice of plans to spray but no longer have to apply for a DEC permit. DEC officials said the change was intended to help state agencies deal in a timely manner with invasive weeds and other pests.
A critic of the change, Anchorage Democratic representative Les Gara, introduced a bill at the end of this year’s legislative session seeking to establish buffer zones for spraying around salmon streams and drinking water sources. Gara’s bill would also reinstate public input for proposed spraying.
The state Department of Transportation has sought to spray herbicides along state roadways and airports in the past but has opted to cut down the plants instead. In supporting the regulation change last year, a DOT official wrote that the agency intended to spray along some roads, airports and facilities.
Assembly members were supportive of drafting an ordinance, however, John Hoag questioned whether Petersburg could stop state spraying. “My concern is as a general rule of law any political subdivision which is the borough cannot regulate what the state does, because the state is the basis for the borough’s existence, so we need a legal review of that,” Hoag said.
Any proposed ordinance will be reviewed by the borough’s attorney. The assembly voted 7-0 to draft a local law on chemical spraying and will consider the language and details of that ordinance at some later date. The borough also plans to send a letter to the state protesting the elimination of the permitting process for state spraying.
GALENA — Yukon River flooding that knocked out power to the Alaska village of Galena has brought on a number of secondary problems, including how to keep bears away from hundreds of pounds of game meat that has spoiled in residents’ refrigerators and freezers.
ANCHORAGE — Wetter, cooler weather was giving crews a welcome reprieve on Monday at many of the 40 active wildfires in the state, fire managers said.
The weather, however, was expected to warm up again by Thursday, said state Division of Forestry spokeswoman Sarah Saarloos.
Among the blazes slowed by rain was the Bitter Creek fire 60 miles east of the community of Tok that had quickly burned through dry black spruce on Sunday.
ANCHORAGE — A decision by the Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to issue temporary permits to a popular Fairbanks club after its liquor license lapsed has some critics saying the board is too lenient.
The issue came up when the board issued “catering” permits to the Blue Loon, allowing the club to stay open after it was discovered that the business had sold drinks without a valid liquor license.
The low-cost permits are meant to allow liquor sales at one-time events such as conventions, picnics and sporting events.
JUNEAU — A federal demand for repayment of funds has Alaska timber communities worried that a program that relies on the money for schools and other projects could be doomed.
U.S. Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell has asked 41 states to return a total of $17.9 million in timber payments as a result of automatic federal budget cuts known as sequestration.
Those timber payments are used for schools, roads, and search and rescue operations in rural communities and for conservation projects.