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A fishing tender that sank in Duncan Canal near Petersburg last Wednesday does not appear to be leaking more fuel.
The Coast Guard, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and an emergency response company have suspended their search for the 71-foot Pacific Queen. The tender hit a rock and sank in about 40 fathoms near Lung Island, about two miles east of Kah Sheets Bay.
A pollution response vessel arrived at the scene last Thursday and spent two days looking for the sunken ship, according to a DEC report released Monday. The search yielded no sign of an additional fuel spill or the ship itself.
The Pacific Queen had an estimated two thousand gallons of diesel fuel onboard, according to the latest DEC report, but the crew reported securing the fuel vents before the ship went down. A light oil sheen was observed on the site on August 14th. The DEC report notes the search could resume if any additional diesel sheens are reported in that area.
The vessel was owned by Joseph Lykken of Wrangell and it was tendering for SeaLevel Seafoods, based in Wrangell.
Petersburg’s borough assembly will be voting this fall on whether several advisory boards and committees will continue or disband. The borough charter approved by voters last winter dissolves the advisory groups within a year’s time unless the assembly votes otherwise. The assembly last night voted down a blanket continuance for the committees.
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The borough charter gives the assembly until next January to decide on continuing elected groups like the public safety, parks and recreation, library, harbor and utility advisory boards along with some appointed bodies like the transient room tax and motor pool committees. Some have gone months without meetings, or long spells without filling vacant seats. Others have had contested seats in recent elections, are active monthly and make frequent recommendations to the assembly.
Assembly member John Hoag said he asked to table the issue when it came up last spring. “Cause I though if we were going to look at this we should look at it one board at a time, let the department heads come in, give us a chance to look at, I would suggest six months of minutes from some of these committees and make a decision committee by committee as opposed to doing it up and down en masse.”
Hoag noted the difficulty in getting people to serve on the elected boards, which may be more difficult with financial disclosure requirements now in place for elected board members in the new borough. Before it became a borough, the city council for Petersburg looked at changing the groups to appointed several times in the past two decades but backed down over objections from the public.
This year borough staff surveyed members of the advisory boards about continuing; all said they wanted to keep going. Assembly member John Havrilek argued for the advisory groups to continue. “The more public input we have the better off we are. And I, except for the finance committee that we’ve already talked about I would be very comfortable with just keeping all these boards. They’ve all said they wanna stay and I would welcome more participation than less.”
Havrilek moved to keep all the advisory boards on, but Hoag argued against a blanket continuance and singled out several of the groups. “I mean having a motor pool board is doing a function that should be done by the department heads and the city manager. I mean the utility board, how much does it really do today? how much does it function?” Hoag wondered.
Ultimately Havrilek joined Hoag, Cindy Lagoudakis, Sue Flint and Mayor Mark Jensen in voting down that continuance. Nancy Strand and Kurt Wohlheuter were the only yes votes.
Instead, the assembly will look at the advisory boards one or two at a time, However, some of the groups won’t have to go through the review process – assembly members discussed continuing the planning commission, harbor advisory board, transient room tax committee and library board. The advisory boards for public safety, utilities and parks and recreation will be up for review, along with the motor pool committee, at future assembly meetings starting up next month.
The website Groklaw, which for 10 years demystified complex issues involving technology and the law, is shutting down. Editor Pamela Jones writes that she can't run the site without email, and that since emails' privacy can't be guaranteed, she can no longer do the site's work.
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly decided to remove the hospital renovation project and add the Performing Arts Center to its capital project priority list. Mike Painter gives an update on the August 19th meeting. Assembly082013
An aide to U.S. Senator Mark Begich tells Petersburg officials the U.S. Coast Guard has no immediate plans to relocate or decommission a Petersburg-based cutter and says plans to bring in new larger cutters to Southeast may be delayed.
Bob King, a legislative assistant to Alaska Democratic Senator Mark Begich, sent an email response to Petersburg mayor Mark Jensen this month. King wrote that he contacted Coast Guard headquarters about the fate of the 110-foot cutter Anacapa, which does search and rescue missions, homeland security and law enforcement out of Petersburg. King writes that officials at Coast Guard headquarters say they have no current plans to take the Anacapa out of service or change its homeport.
Local officials wrote to the senator this summer asking about plans for replacing the fleet of aging 110-footers and asking to keep both the Anacapa and the buoy tender Elderberry or their replacement ships in town. Mayor Mark Jensen Monday said it’s nice to have the Coast Guard here and hopes the ships are in Petersburg for many years. “53 people I believe are associated with that ship being in town,” Jensen said. “There’s kids in school and people in the workforce and be a shame for that to go away for the community I would think.”
The Coast Guard plans to replace the 110-foot vessels with new 154-foot fast response cutters and wants to commission 58 new ships around the country. Two of the larger vessels are planned for Ketchikan, possibly as early as 2015. However, in his email, King writes that only 18 of the 58 larger ships have been funded and postponed delivery of the two ships to Ketchikan seems likely due to budget cuts.
Local merchants and shoppers can look forward to another day without sales tax this fall.
Petersburg’s borough assembly last night voted to have a day without borough sales tax on October 5th. That was a request of the Chamber of Commerce’s retail committee.
Assembly member Sue Flint supported the tax free day. “We are ahead of our budget with sales tax revenues and October is a month where it’s pretty much residents living in Petersburg, or shopping in Petersburg and I think it’d be a better time to have it than it was in May when we’re full of visitors,” Flint said.
October 5th is also two days after Permanent Fund Dividend checks are sent out by the state, giving local residents some money to spend.
The assembly can choose whether or not to designate up to two sales tax-free days a year under an ordinance ratified by Petersburg voters in 2011. Assembly members did not vote on offering a similar tax free day last spring over concerns with impacts to the borough’s budget. The issue did make it to a vote last night and it passed, 6-1 with assembly member John Hoag voting against it.
Sitka fire officials stopped short of evacuating residents along Halibut Point Road early Monday morning, after a nearby fire sent smoke billowing toward neighborhoods.
Assistant Fire Chief Al Stevens says the fire began at the end of Granite Creek Road, where three containers of asphalt were being heated on trailers, for use on Baranof Street.
One of the heaters fell off its bracket and landed near the tires of a trailer, which then caught fire. Stevens says officials were concerned about a big tank of diesel nearby. They contacted the airport, which sent its foam truck to help extinguish the blaze.
Smoke billowed toward homes on Halibut Point Road, but the fire was put out before evacuations became necessary.
Stevens says about 15 firefighters responded to the incident, which began just before 1:30 a.m. Monday. Firefighters were back at the station by 3 a.m., and on their way home about an hour later.
The equipment that caught fire is owned by Aggregate Construction Inc. Representatives of ACI’s Sitka office could not immediately be reached for comment.
It’s unclear whether the fire will impact the repaving of Baranof Street. Stevens, with the fire department, said the company was hopeful some of the asphalt could be salvaged. But officials in the city’s public works department also could not be reached for comment on Monday.
The street runs alongside two Sitka schools — Baranof Elementary and Pacific High School. Classes in both buildings are scheduled to begin next week.