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Comment Period Opens For Cruise Waste Permits

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Tue, 2014-04-22 17:17

The Legislature approved new regulations last year for cruise ships to release wastewater into Alaska’s oceans. Since then, the state has developed a permit process based on those regulations. Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Water Director Michelle Hale stopped in Ketchikan this week to talk about the changes.

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Division of Water Director Michelle Hale. (KRBD photo)

With the new regulations in place, cruise ships that travel through Alaska’s Inside Passage will have better wastewater treatment systems than some coastal communities.

Hale said no untreated sewage is allowed to be dumped, and the legislation closed so-called “donut holes,” parts of the ocean that were just outside of state jurisdiction. The main activity that the new regulations now allow is the use of mixing zones.

“And that’s very similar to all other industries and municipalities in the state of Alaska,” she said. “It’s a little bit controversial relative to cruise ships; it’s a very standard practice when we are actually permitting wastewater discharges.”

Ketchikan has numerous mixing zones for the various wastewater permits, allowing discharge into the Tongass Narrows. They include the City of Ketchikan’s Charcoal Point Wastewater Treatment Facility, Point Higgins School, seafood processors, the shipyard, the Coast Guard, Vallenar View Mobile Home Park and the airport, among many others.

Mixing zones allow discharge to exceed the standards for certain contaminants, as long as

the standards are met within a certain distance of that initial discharge. In other words, it becomes diluted fairly quickly after its hit the water.

Hale said mixing zones for cruise ships are a little different, because ships move.

“The cruise ship defines two different regulatory mixing zones, one for discharge underway and one for discharge at 6 knots or less or stationary,” she said. “Primarily, that 6 knots or less is for stationary vessels, but we kind of had to make a break point. So, if you’re going faster than 6 knots, you get covered under one mixing zone, if you’re going slower, you’re covered under another.”

Hale said some members of the public were concerned that the permits for cruise ships wouldn’t protect the ocean enough. But, she said, her division wrote the permits in a way that treats cruise ships like other wastewater discharge systems.

“When we do our modeling and establish limits, we do that so that the water is protected, so that water quality is protected for the uses that that water is used for,” she said.

Hale said the water must be safe enough for a fish to pass through the area within 15 minutes, and not be affected.

She notes that it’s possible for cruise ships to treat wastewater so that it meets all standards before the water is released into the ocean; but it’s not practicable.

“This is our regulatory definition for practicable: ‘Available and capable of being done, taking into consideration cost, technology that actually exists and logistics, in light of overall project purposes,’” she said. “So, what practicable means, is it has to make sense.”

More details about the draft cruise ship wastewater permit program is available on the Division of Water’s website. That’s also the place to go to find out how to submit comments. The comment period closes May 23rd.

Click the following link to review the Division of Water’s draft permit for cruise ship wastewater.

Tlingit Elder, Master Storyteller Cyril George Dies

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Tue, 2014-04-22 17:16

Cyril George Sr. in 2007, speaking at Angoon Presbyterian Church, where his son Joey George is pastor. (Photo by Skip Gray/KTOO)

Tlingit elder Cyril George Sr. has died at the age of 92. A fisherman, boat builder, master story teller, and man of great faith, George passed away last week at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage.

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A memorial service for Cyril George Sr. is Wednesday, 6 p.m., at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall in Juneau. The Tlingit elder died April 15 at the age of 92.

Over his life, he was a fisherman, boat builder, master storyteller, and man of great faith.

George was of the Deisheetan clan (Raven/Beaver) of Angoon and lived in the Admiralty Island community most of his life. He moved to Juneau in 1975.

One of his five sons, Richard George, recalls his father to be a successful seiner, halibut and herring fisherman.

He also served his community. He was elected to the Angoon City Council and was mayor. He was on the first board of directors of Sealaska, the regional Native corporation for Southeast, from 1972 to 1974, and served as a member of the board for Kootsnoowoo Inc., Angoon’s village corporation.

Richard George remembers his father as a strong man.

He made decisions which always seemed to be the proper decision. That’s what I was impressed with when I was young,” he says. 

Cyril George attended Sheldon Jackson high school and college in Sitka in the late 1930s, where he became a machinist and learned to build boats. The Presbyterian school was tasked with helping Tlingit shipwright Andrew Hope build the Princeton Hall, a replacement vessel for the church mission fleet.

“I wasn’t the only one that had this feeling of an enormous undertaking when he started to build this boat,” Cyril George recalled in a 2007 interview with KTOO.

“I could weld, I did everything in the machine shop. I was with him all the way from lining up the motor, the shaft, setting up the electrical,” he said. George also built the shaft.

It took a year to complete the Princeton Hall. Then in 1941, just a few days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the boat was to be launched.  It had already been conscripted by the U.S. Navy.

George said all the Sheldon Jackson students trooped down to the harbor to watch the launch.

“When the Navy started to tow it away all the kids were crying. I was crying. I don’t think there was anybody that wasn’t crying,” he said.

After the war, the Princeton Hall was returned to the Presbyterians and it traveled Southeast Alaska waters for years, going village to village.

While George helped build it, he had never been on the boat. Many years later, he had a number of cruises on the Princeton Hall after it was purchased by the late Bill Ruddy. Bill and Kathy Ruddy became close friends with Cyril George, the boat builder, the musician, and the Tlingit storyteller.

George gradually began to lose his hearing. For several years, Kathy Ruddy took on the role of stenographer – typing out conversations for him.

“It really helped him to have things written down so he could look over your shoulder and know what people were saying,” she says.

The hearing loss didn’t slow him down. He continued to play his guitar and sing, visit classrooms, churches, and be involved in the community. He was a delegate to the Juneau chapter of Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, which provided a transcriber for George, so he could be actively involved.

“You know for a guitarist and a really excellent musician, hearing loss is a really poignant thing,” Ruddy says. “The fact that he maintained this constant sense of gratitude even as hearing was failing is just a tribute to his character.”

As a fluent Tlingit speaker, George liked to teach his language and often went to Tlingit language classes at the University of Alaska Southeast, taught by Lance Twitchell.

“In Tlingit he’d tell us: ‘I just feel wonderful whenever I’m looking upon your faces and you guys are learning your language.’ He said he felt that it (Tlingit language) was drifting away from us but then just seeing us fills him with hope.”

Son Richard George calls his father a Godly man. In the 2007 interview, Cyril George talked about a battle with alcohol, which he said he finally won through prayer and his faith.

He was a member of the Salvation Army and was a local commissioned officer known as a sergeant major. He often wore his uniform and always wore it to church, says Lt. Lance Walters of the Salvation Army in Juneau.

He explained one day that he put it on to remind him of what he came from and that he wasn’t going back,” Walters says.

George will be buried on Killisnoo Island near Angoon.

Alaska News Nightly: April 22, 2014

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Tue, 2014-04-22 17:03

Individual news stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.

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BP Sells Some North Slope Assets To Hilcorp

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

BP announced Tuesday it’s selling some of its assets on the North Slope. The company will sell to aging oil fields – Endicott and Northstar – to Hilcorp, a company that is developing oil and gas wells in Cook Inlet. Hilcorp will also buy a 50 percent interest in two other fields- Milne Point and Liberty.

Legislature Remains Embroiled Over Education Bill

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

The Alaska State Legislature is still at an impasse over the Governor’s education bill.

Miller Kicks Off Campaign in Wasilla

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller kicked off his campaign Monday night in Wasilla before a few hundred supporters. Miller drew cheers as he hit on popular Tea Party themes, like abolishing the IRS and ending state surveillance. And he may be the only candidate in the race with a personalized country-western anthem.

APD Implements New Crime-Tracking Systems

Jolene Almendarez, APRN – Juneau

The Anchorage Police Department is using two new systems to communicate with the public about crimes in the city. One is a crime mapping system and the other allows city residents to receive messages directly from the department.

Expert Anticipates Low Prices For Togiak Herring Fishery

Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham

The largest herring fishery in Alaska is the Togiak sac-roe herring fishery and many stakeholders are preparing for an early start to the season. But at least one expert thinks the price may be so low this year, it won’t be worth fishing.

Comment Period Opens For Cruise Waste Permits

Leila Kheiry, KRBD – Ketchikan

The Legislature approved new regulations last year for cruise ships to release wastewater into Alaska’s oceans. Since then, the state has developed a permit process based on those regulations. Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Water Director Michelle Hale stopped in Ketchikan this week to talk about the changes.

Tlingit Elder, Master Storyteller Cyril George Dies

Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau

Tlingit elder Cyril George Sr. has died at the age of 92. A fisherman, boat builder, master story teller, and man of great faith, George passed away last week at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage.

Brace Yourselves, Bird Season Is Coming

Dave Waldron, APRN – Anchorage

Birding season is about to pick up in Alaska, and now is the perfect time to start preparing.

Illegal lingcod harvest in Gulf of Alaska brings $12,000 fine, probation

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Tue, 2014-04-22 16:26
Illegal lingcod harvest in Gulf of Alaska brings $12,000 fine, probation Alaska Wildlife Trooper Sgt. Brent Johnson said the illegal lingcod harvest was substantial for that region, amounting to approximately 70 percent of the entire lingcod quota for the area. April 22, 2014

Obama Tours Mudslide Devastation, Pledges Solidarity With Families

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 16:18

A month after the devastating mudslide that killed at least 41 people, the president stopped at the tiny town of Oso, where he promised to "be strong right alongside you."

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Drug task force boards ferry, arrests suspect

Southeast Alaska News - Tue, 2014-04-22 16:06

A drug dog sniffed out alleged cocaine and methamphetamine on Monday, leading to an arrest on board the state ferry Kennecott.

According to the Alaska Bureau of Investigation, members of the Southeast Alaska Cities Against Drugs task force, K-9 Lutri, and Alaska State Troopers in Ketchikan boarded the ferry at about 9 a.m. Monday, and contacted Kenneth R. Bradley, age 49 of Washington state.

Bradley allegedly had residual amounts of suspected crack cocaine on his person. A K-9 sniff later led to a search warrant for his luggage. According to the bureau, 2 ounces of bulk methamphetamine was found in the luggage, along with 32 small plastic baggies also containing methamphetamine.

The bureau estimates the street value of the meth at $15,000.

Bradley faces felony drug charges based on the results of the search. He also was arrested on an outstanding $2,500 warrant for an unrelated criminal charge.

More tourists are expected in Petersburg this year

Southeast Alaska News - Tue, 2014-04-22 15:33

Dave Berg looks over a spread sheet of this year’s visitors at Viking Travel, Inc. Photo/Angela Denning

More tourists are expected to visit Petersburg this summer than in recent years. Located on Mitkof Island, the small town cannot accommodate large cruise ships because of its shallow channels. But that’s just the sort of thing that some visitors are looking for.

It’s tough to put an exact number on how many tourists come to Petersburg every year, but it’s definitely in the thousands. The closest figure might be from the Alaska Visitor Statistics Program, which shows about 14,000 came in 2011. That number includes visitors by plane, cruise ship and ferry.

Dave Berg has operated Viking Travel, Inc. in Petersburg for 31 years.

“It looks like it’s going to be a better year for us,” Berg says. “We’re seeing a great increase in the number of independent visitors than we’ve seen in the past.”

“Independent travelers” is an industry term that means people who visit on their own outside of the large cruise ships.

“Most of the time they have Petersburg as part of an overall Alaska experience,” Berg says.

The phone lines in Berg’s office are busy these days. He’s dealing with people from all over the world. He says the increase in tourists is partly due to his business buying out Alaska Ferry Adventures in Homer. They were doing the same line of work—setting up travel packages for visitors. He’s now trying to get those people to come to Petersburg.

The main local draw is whale watching. There are also kayaking trips, the Bella Vista garnet mine, and the nearby Anan Bear Observatory. But Berg says it doesn’t have to be that adventurous. People just appreciate walking around the harbors and talking to fishermen.

“Just the small town atmosphere, the village that we have, the village feel of Petersburg versus places with the large cruise ships,” Berg says. “There’s a big difference in the experience that people have by coming to small towns.”

Marilyn Menish-Meucci runs the Petersburg Visitors Information Center.

“The independent traveler loves Petersburg,” Menish-Meucci says. “All the businesses here are locally owned. The only chain we have that is a national chain is Wells Fargo. And so that is huge to people because every time they buy an item in this town, the money stays in this town.”

Menish-Meucci says keeping it local is not only good for attracting tourists but also for local businesses.

Petersburg’s Chamber of Commerce Director, Cindi Lagoudakis, agrees.

“There’s more fuel sales, the gift shops see an increased business and I think some pretty steady clientele in the summertime from independent travelers,” Lagoudakis says. “The food businesses certainly see an uptick and in part that’s why some businesses are only open in the summertime as we have more people coming through town and can support those additional businesses and those dollars flow through town.”

It didn’t hurt that Yachting Magazine recently designated Petersburg as one of the best small towns in the country to visit.

“So, we’ve had a lot of people calling on the phone asking more questions about what Petersburg is like what we have to offer, questions about our harbors, and some really increased interest in what we have to offer here in Petersburg,” Lagoudakis says.

She says it’s often the small town charm that they’re after.

“What I hear again and again from folks that are visitors to town is how friendly the community is,” Lagoudakis says. “I think in part is because we don’t have so many people. There’s enough new people but not so many that you feel bombarded by it. And people will say hi to people in the street or they will offer to help you find something or tell you a little bit about why they like Petersburg and it makes it a very desirable place to visit and to live.”

Petersburg’s tourist season runs roughly from May 15 to September 15.

There will be one large ship– the Caledonian Sky—which is scheduled to be here twice but won’t be able to dock at the harbors because of its size. It carries about 150 passengers and will have to anchor out in Scow Bay or Frederick Sound.

A Gold Rush theme ship is scheduled to be here 12 times. Last year, it came up twice.

Supreme Court Gives Police New Power To Rely On Anonymous Tips

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 15:27

The court ruled that police can stop and search a driver based solely on an anonymous 911 tip. The 5-4 decision split the court's two most conservative justices.

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Competition Bureau to review First Air-Canadian North airline merger

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Tue, 2014-04-22 15:05
Competition Bureau to review First Air-Canadian North airline merger Some residents of northern Canada are worried that passenger fares and cargo rates will rise if competitors combine. April 22, 2014

Assembly doesn’t like tidelands lease options

Southeast Alaska News - Tue, 2014-04-22 14:58

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly had a long discussion about tidelands leases on Monday, and eventually gave direction to the borough Planning Department to come up with a new method of reviewing and adjusting those leases.

Back in the day, the State of Alaska was in charge of tidelands leases. But over the years, the state transferred tidelands to municipalities. Planning Director Tom Williams said some of the leases the borough holds are 25 years old, and the rent rates have never been adjusted.

That sparked a process. There were assessments, input from leaseholders, staff recommendations, adjustments to the code. It’s all very complex. And it doesn’t appear to be getting less complicated.

Williams told the Assembly that the code now calls for leaseholders to pay 10 percent of the property value, not including improvements. But, some leaseholders thought that was too much. Borough staff looked into how other Southeast communities deal with tidelands leases, and Williams said Sitka had recently lowered its lease rates.

“I contacted the Sitka planning director and got some information on how that transpired, and they were going through the same process we were,” he said. “They were coming up on rent renewals and they found that 10 percent was a deterrent to development in the community, so the planning director proposed a 4.5 percent rate of the market value.”

Williams proposed that Ketchikan do a little better than that, by charging 4.5 percent of the property value, which is lower than market value. Ketchikan borough planning staff offered a few other options for the Assembly to consider, such as the existing 10 percent rate, an 8 percent rate, and a rate that changes based on the prime rate.

The Assembly didn’t seem to like any of those options, though. Assembly Member Glen Thompson said that rent on the tidelands needs to encourage development, and he doesn’t believe the options do that.

“You can invest your money in your property or you can leave it in the bank. If we create a situation through property taxes or tidelands leases where it’s better for them to leave it in the bank or invest somewhere else, then we’re defeating our purposes here,” he said.

Thompson added that each existing tidelands lease should be evaluated individually, taking into consideration its location, the economic value that the leaseholder’s improvements provide to the community and rate shock – in other words, the reaction a leaseholder might have to a rent adjustment after 25 years of no change.

Assembly Member Todd Phillips had a suggestion: “The thing that stands out the most to me is Ketchikan being open for business. At this point, I’m not sure what would work. In my mind, I was thinking maybe we should do a 1 percent, then increase 1 percent a year and cap at 3 (percent).”

Phillips said that kind of program would allow businesses to plan their budgets to accommodate rate increases over time, rather than all at once. There was no Assembly action on Phillips’ suggestion.

Later, Thompson made a motion directing borough staff to bring back a modification to the tidelands lease ordinance that provides for new leases, and details how the borough will address existing leases. He said the original lease rate should be the basis for the borough’s evaluation process, to not punish leaseholders for making improvements.

“When 10-mile was originally put in there, when that lease was developed, there might not have been a road out there, there might not have been power out there,” he said. “Look at Gravina Island, when we had that one we had no power, no roads, no nothing. But when we put a business out there, we put some sort of economic engine out there, it creates the growth and it creates that development. Then we come back 10-20-30 years later and say, ‘Geez, you’ve done such a great job we’re going to penalize you for it.’ I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

Assembly members approved Thompson’s motion, and added that they would like the cost of making improvements to a site considered, as well. Phillips pointed out that some tidelands are costly to develop, and in the long run the community will benefit from those improvements.

The tidelands leases all have reversionary clauses, which means the property will come back to the borough at the close of the lease.

Also Monday, the Assembly voted to move forward with repairs to the Gateway Aquatic Center roof, and to work toward a settlement agreement with the contractor rather than file a lawsuit.

Ketchikan students prep for boat trip to Petersburg

Southeast Alaska News - Tue, 2014-04-22 14:55

Ketchikan High School’s boat, the Jack Cotant.

A group of Ketchikan high school students and teachers is preparing to sail to Petersburg on Wednesday. They’ll be taking the Ketchikan School District’s boat, the Jack Cotant.

It’s a clear, 50-degree day with calm skies and waters. Mark Woodward is one of the teachers riding the Jack Cotant up to Petersburg. He’s standing on the docked boat, which looks clean and empty. That will change tomorrow, when eight students and two other teachers, including Captain Rick Collins, load onto the converted pocket seiner.

“There are five core students that are going for oceanography/maritime sciences,” Woodward says. “And then [three student] deckhands are going through the maritime program.”

It’ll be a two day trip up to Petersburg. The crew will stop Wednesday and Thursday night to sleep at cabins along the way. On Friday they’ll arrive in Petersburg. Then, five of the Ketchikan students will fly back, and their places on the boat will be taken by Petersburg students, who will take the two day trip back down to Ketchikan.

Along the way, students will learn about navigation, safety, marine biology and more. They’ll catch some crab and halibut to study and maybe serve up for dinner.

The trip isn’t just for fun — the students will be getting credit for it.

“AKLN, which is Alaska’s Learning Network, I told them what we were doing and they think it’s unbelievable,” Woodward said. “So we’ve come up with a 70-hour course. They’ll get a half an elective credit for doing this.”

A half credit is equivalent to a semester-long traditional class. Woodward says the Ketchikan and Petersburg school districts have been planning a trip like this since last year.

“The reason why I do this, is I think this is the best education — the best classroom we have — the Tongass and the North Pacific Ocean,” Woodward said.

Matthew Kelly is a junior high school student who takes both maritime and oceanography classes. He’s one of three Ketchikan students who are serving as deckhands and going on both legs of the trip.

“On the way up to Petersburg I’m gonna be a mostly oceanography-related student and on the way back down [I'll work on] more maritime stuff,” Kelly said. “For oceanography, we’ll probably be doing a few sample things like plankton tows and checking the salinity of water. And then for maritime we’ll be doing a lot of navigation.”

This will be the longest trip the Jack Cotant has taken in recent years. Woodward says the Ketchikan School District hopes that in the future they can organize similar trips to more towns to give other high school students a chance to learn on the ocean.

New wind parks to be constructed in North Finland

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Tue, 2014-04-22 14:53
New wind parks to be constructed in North Finland Approvals have been granted for the new farms, where 45 wind turbines are expected to produce power, at a cost of $276 million. April 22, 2014

U.S. Says It's Monitoring For Possible North Korea Nuclear Test

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 14:41

The State Department, citing news reports of heightened activity at Pyongyang's test site, says it's closely watching the situation.

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Green GOP Group Caught Between 'Rock And A Hard Place'

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 14:17

On Earth Day 2014, it wasn't easy being an environmental organization in the Republican Party. The big donors who write checks aren't much interested in the environment.

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Upstart Hilcorp buys share of North Slope assets from BP

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Tue, 2014-04-22 14:09
Upstart Hilcorp buys share of North Slope assets from BP Much-smaller Hilcorp, known for its role in rejuvenating oil production in the aging Cook Inlet oil patch, is expected to agree to become operator of the Endicott, Northstar and Milne Point oilfields on Alaska's North Slope.April 22, 2014

Rider dies after snowmobile flips

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Tue, 2014-04-22 13:55
A Whitehorse man is dead following a snowmobile accident on Good Friday along the South Klondike Highway.

Nominations wanted for Arctic Inspiration Prize

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Tue, 2014-04-22 13:52
A total of $1 million is up for grabs and some, possibly all of it, could go to projects happening in the Yukon.

‘Caribou Legs’ Firth feted in Dawson and Mayo

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Tue, 2014-04-22 13:50
Brad Firth, better known as Caribou Legs, took a short break last Wednesday and Thursday from his 1,200-km run from Inuvik to Whitehorse to attend fund-raising meetings honouring his quest in Mayo and Dawson.

School Board to take final vote on FY ’15 budget

Southeast Alaska News - Tue, 2014-04-22 13:20

After multiple discussions and public hearings, the Ketchikan School District FY2015 budget is scheduled for a final vote at Wednesday’s School Board meeting.

Upon approval, the budget of about $41 million will be given to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough for review. The School Board will be able to make changes later depending on funding levels from the state and borough.

In the School Board meeting agenda, there is a resolution regarding the School Board’s stance on chloramine. At previous meetings, community members have asked the Board to take a stand on the use of chloramines to disinfect Ketchikan’s water.

The proposed resolution says the School Board takes no official position concerning the use of chloramines.

The Board will continue to discuss the federal guidelines of the Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act and how that might impact things like food served in classroom celebrations and concession sales in Ketchikan schools.

Two amendments approved at the School Board’s last meeting that relaxed some of the regulations were sent to the state Department of Education and Early Development. According to district Business Manager Matt Groves, the Board will need to change the wording of an amendment that allowed food from concessions to be sold during the school day to anyone other than a local student. DEED, with direction from the USDA, says the rule must apply to all students, regardless of where they attend school.

A new survey measuring obesity in Ketchikan students might factor into that discussion as well. Ketchikan School District staff measured the height and weight of 88 percent of current pre-K through 9th graders. The analysis found that 41 percent of those students are overweight or obese.

The Board also will vote on two new contracts. One is a $98,000 contract for Felicia Wells to teach special education at Houghtaling Elementary School. The other is an $84,000 contract for Andrea Marthinsen as the school district physical therapist.

The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. in Borough Assembly chambers at the White Cliff building. Public comment will be heard at the start and end of the meeting.

Soldier Speaks Up A Decade After Pat Tillman's Friendly-Fire Death

NPR News - Tue, 2014-04-22 13:02

Steven Elliott, one of the Rangers who mistakenly fired on Tillman's position, says he believed there were no "friendlies" in the area when he pulled the trigger.

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