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Southeast Alaska News

Seminar teaches women to fight

Tue, 2014-01-14 01:04

FAIRBANKS — In front of a room of eagerly watching eyes, instructor Jeannette Scott flipped her mock assailant off her with a shove of her hips.

“The trick is to tuck your feet in as close to your rear-end as possible and push with your hips,” she said, half the room’s width separating her from the assailant who had been pinning her a moment before.

Moments later, the dozen women attending the first Women’s Safety Symposium also were bucking off would-be attackers and exclaiming about how surprisingly easy it was.

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Could a historic district revitalize Sitka’s brand?

Mon, 2014-01-13 23:03

Organizers of a downtown revitalization effort in Sitka are taking a look at an unconventional approach to bringing new energy to the community: By keeping some things the same.

This week a historic preservation consultant and two architectural historians are documenting over 70 properties along Sitka’s waterfront, with an eye toward one day creating a historic district on the National Register.

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Rob Meinhardt and Anne Pollnow will host a public meeting Tue Jan 14 to discuss the possibilities for a Sitka Historic District, beginning at 5:30 PM in Harrigan Centennial Hall.

Jo Anne and John Owens, of Tallahassee, Fla., walk along Lincoln Street shops in the summer of 2012. (KCAW photo/Ed Ronco)

For what is arguably one of Alaska’s most history-filled communities, the idea of creating a historic district along Lincoln Street has not always been popular.

Anne Pollnow is a member of Sitka’s Downtown Revitalization Committee. She thinks the times — and attitudes — have changed.

“There is that sense that this is my property,” she says. “I don’t want anybody telling me what to do with it — completely understandable. These myths are being dispelled. It’s already happening, and showing in the lower 48 and in Alaska, that it’s working, helping communities to revive their local economies.”

Pollnow is a professional archaeologist, and she’s been involved with the Sitka Historic Preservation Commission. Although past efforts to create a historic district in Sitka have failed, it’s evident that walking down Lincoln St., from Sitka National Historical Park to the ANB Founders Hall, that the community is really invested in its history.

Rob Meinhardt is visiting from Wasilla. “It sounds like the district has grown organically — even though there’s not a formal designation of a district — through people’s interest and their pride in the community, a district has sort of formed on its own,” he says. Meinhardt’s business is called True North Sustainable Development Solutions. “What we want to do is channel that, and figure out where it is that the community needs to go.”

Meinhardt says there are three kinds of historic districts: Local, when you have a small area with a clear historic core; conservation, where there are historic structures but a central historic theme is harder to nail down; and National Register.

Sitka already has 19 sites on the National Register of Historic Places, including the entire Sheldon Jackson campus. Meinhardt thinks this is the way the community should go.

“National Register Districts are great because if you leave them as-is there are really no requirements for keeping a property a certain way. A lot of times certain people don’t want restrictions in their district, so the National Register, there’s no restrictions per say, unless there’s federal funding coming in, or if you’re going after some kind of federal tax credit or tax deduction.”

Historic districts are nothing new in Alaska — many communities have them, Juneau and Ketchikan to name two. Meinhardt says that Juneau adopted a more stringent design standard in its historic district, but it’s paid off for property owners.

“When you talk stabilization of property values, when you talk increase in real estate market values — it is exactly what people don’t want that increases those market values. So, the community keeps a strong hold on what that district looks like.”

Meinhardt says the first step in creating a historic district is to engage the community — businesses and residents — in defining what they want out of a historic district. Next comes an inventory of historic properties, and then applying the criteria of the National Register to that inventory. If it all adds up, Meinhardt then brings it back to the community to submit an application to the National Park Service, which administers the register.

Anne Pollnow says this is not about making Sitka look historic, with quaint streetlights, or other accessories. Creating a historic district is about celebrating what’s already here.

“Part of marketing Sitka is marketing our assets. And our assets are our cultural resources and our buildings — our history.”

Funding for True North’s survey work comes from a certified local government grant. Pollnow says similar grants recently have paid for an assessment of the Sage Building, preservation work on the ANB Founders Hall and Japonski Boat House, and on travel for Russian scholars to Sitka for a conference on Russian America.

She called it one of the last — and best — sources of government funding for historic preservation available.

Petersburg school superintendent to retire

Mon, 2014-01-13 12:56

Petersburg’s school superintendent is leaving the district at the end of the school year.

Rob Thomason submitted his resignation to the school board Thursday and plans to retire and spend more time with family after five years in Petersburg.

Board president Jean Ellis said she was not surprised by the news. “I knew it was coming but we are very sad to see him go,” Ellis said. “He has done a fantastic job for Petersburg and both he and his wife Susan have added a great deal to our community.”

Ellis called Thomason a positive influence for the school district and said one of his biggest accomplishments was improving morale. Thomason was named superintendent of the year in 2013 by the Alaska Council of Schoool Administrators. He was hired in Petersburg in 2009.

Ellis said Thomason will help lead the search for his replacement. “And we’re not going to pay him any extra for it. It will be part of his regular contract but that should speed up the process a little bit cause he’s right here, we won’t have to bring in somebody from outside. And we’re hopeful. I think he’s going to be a difficult person to replace because he has done such a fantastic job but we’re hopeful.” Ellis said the board wants to have someone chosen for the job by the end of March.

Thomason and his wife Susan plan to move south to be with grandkids. Joe Viechnicki talked with Thomason about his decision to retire.

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Senator expects tighter state budgets in 2014

Mon, 2014-01-13 12:49

Juneau Democratic Sen. Dennis Egan says the upcoming legislative session will be different from last year’s simply because there are fewer state dollars to go around.

Egan represents Juneau, Petersburg, Skagway and several other small Southeast communities. He’s one of two Democrats last year who joined a Republican-led majority coalition in the Senate and thinks budgets will be tighter this year. “The governor’s budget of course was put forward, operating and capital. And on the capital side there are not that many projects,” Egan said. “But it’s not just Southeast Alaska, it’s everyone.”

The governor’s proposed capital budget includes projects totaling 85 million dollars for Egan’s district, with all but 10 million dollars worth funded by the federal government for bridges, roads and airports. Of the 10 million funded by the state, half would go to the Juneau access project. The rest would fund water and sewer projects in Juneau and Petersburg and some building maintenance in Juneau.

Egan expects to be able to add some items to the capital budget for his district in the upcoming session. As for the operating budget, he’s concerned about flat funding for education. “Of course there’s some inflation increases but you know we haven’t had an increase in the base student allocation for now this will be four years and I think that’s unfair to municipalities like Juneau and Petersburg and Skagway, Haines,” he said. “Our communities fund what we can locally, what we call the cap. We fund as much as we can on a local basis. It’s up to the state, its written right in the constitution that one of the main focuses is to provide education to Alaska’s kids.”

As chair of the senate transportation committee, Egan says he’s concerned with the plans for new Alaska class ferries, since the state has decided to go with smaller day-boat ferries. He also thinks the state should be spending money to design a replacement for the Tustamena, which operates around Homer and Kodiak.

He thinks there’s no chance of seeing a replacement main-line ferry in Southeast during the Parnell administration. “I think we’re going to get these two ferries they’re talking about that will be running in the Lynn Canal, I think we’re gonna get this but we need to start talking about replacing the Malaspina, the Taku and the Matanuska as well,” Egan said. “And I see nothing on the wall of talking about putting some funding in to construct a new main-liner. And we need one here in Southeast.”

Egan was prime sponsor on seven bills last session – all are still in various senate committees. They range from bills on pharmacy audits to public employee retirement benefit options to a measure on political activity by a classified employee.

Egan has filed a letter of intent to run for re-election next fall. That’s despite a trying year medically for the senator who said he was medevaced out of Juneau twice last year and spent 84 days at Virginia Mason medical center in Seattle, following complications from surgery to improve circulation in his leg. “I’m enthused about representing Juneau and Southeast. And I think Bert Stedman and I, Bert’s and R(epublican), I’m a D(emocrat), but we work really well together.”

Egan could have competition for his senate seat. Republican Bill Thomas of Haines has filed to run although he has not specified whether he’ll seek a seat in the house or senate. After this year, the senate district will drop Petersburg and pick up Haines.

Hear what other Southeast lawmakers want to happen during the session:

Sen. Stedman says hydro funds tight, otter bill will change

Sen. Dennis Egan expects tighter state budgets in 2014 

Rep. Kerttula targets education, gasline, oil tax

More links will be posted as reports are produced.

Operation Cup of Cheer sends mugs to troops

Mon, 2014-01-13 12:44

The mother of a Petersburg man put together a package of mugs to send to her son and his fellow soldiers in Afghanistan this month. Janet Holten has dubbed the effort “Operation Cup of Cheer” and will be mailing out her second package of mugs and supplies to her son Gabe Seaman, stationed with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborn division in eastern Afghanistan since November.

Gabe Seaman, photo courtesy or Janet Holten

Joe Viechnicki spoke with Holten about the Cup of Cheer effort.

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NY Musician Matt King visits Ketchikan for Jazz Festival

Mon, 2014-01-13 11:13

Pianist Matt King is one of several out-of-state musicians who are visiting Ketchikan to add their talents to the Jazz & Cabaret festival this weekend, presented by First City Players. King and First City’s Elizabeth Nelson discuss the upcoming performance with KRBD.


Black oystercatcher numbers up in annual bird count

Mon, 2014-01-13 10:54

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Audubon Christmas Bird Count organizers Jen Cedarleaf and Vicki Vosberg discuss the results of this year’s count, which took place on January 4.

Mon Jan 13, 2014

Mon, 2014-01-13 10:48

Listen to iFriendly audio.
Students of Vida Davis carry on her legacy. Bitcoin makes its debut at a pair of Juneau retailers. House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula anticipates another rocky legislative session.

Students of Vida Davis continue her legacy

Mon, 2014-01-13 09:30

Vida Davis played a vital role in Tlingit language revitalization in Sitka. (photo courtesy of Heather Powell)

Vida Susan Davis, a native elder, and leader of Tlingit language revitalization in Sitka died earlier this month. 35 years a Tlingit language instructor, Davis helped many Sitkans develop a cultural identity. Two of Davis’s long-time students, Nancy Douglas and Heather Powell talk about her legacy. They say that thanks to Davis and other native elders they have the tools to continue teaching Tlingit culture.

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Grant will speed restoration of Haida longhouse

Mon, 2014-01-13 01:03

KASAAN — A grant will help speed restoration of the oldest Haida longhouse in Alaska.

The original house was built 130 years ago by Haida chief Son-i-Hat. It was known as Naay I’waans, The Great House, though many call it the Whale House for its carvings inside.

Like most wood structures do in the rain forest, it deteriorated over time.

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New Year's revelers destroy Alaska Internet link

Mon, 2014-01-13 01:03

FAIRBANKS — A New Year’s tradition has left residents in one Interior Alaska community off the grid.

The traditional way to ring in the new year is to shoot off guns at midnight on Jan. 1 in the community of Tanana, located about 150 miles west of Fairbanks.

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Cancer doesn't dampen Bethel girl's spirit

Mon, 2014-01-13 01:03

BETHEL — It’s the type of thing that’s never supposed to happen.

Isabella “Boo Boo” January, 6, was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on her right kidney on Dec. 9. Her parents said it came as a complete surprise.

Her parents, Chip and April, unsure of what the future would bring, sent out a call for help on social media. The community stepped up in a big way. Through a donation site (gofundme.com/JanuaryCancerFight) they have already raised over $13,000 of their $20,000 goal.

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New Petersburg recycling program starts Feb. 4

Mon, 2014-01-13 01:00

PETERSBURG — Petersburg is gearing up for a new curbside recycling program.

The city already offers recycling, but residents have to sort it, and not all materials can be recycled.

The new program starts Feb. 4, KFSK reported. Customers don’t have to sort, and they can put most plastics, aluminum, tin, glass, cardboard and paper into the same bag. All they have to do is set the bag next to their garbage on normal pickup days.

Public works director Karl Hagerman told the assembly that recycling bags will be distributed at the start of the program.

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Volunteers return from Philippine relief efforts

Mon, 2014-01-13 01:00

KODIAK — Last month, Kodiak resident Jun Belen was feeding kids at a school on the Philippine island of Leyte when he was struck by the kindness of one boy.

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First wave of prefiled legislation released

Sun, 2014-01-12 01:11

JUNEAU — Bills that would axe recommended salary increases for top state officials, institute crisis training programs for schools and limit use of drones by law enforcement were among the first wave of legislation filed Friday ahead of the upcoming legislative session.

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State report details injuries in fisheries

Sun, 2014-01-12 01:10

ANCHORAGE — A recent state analysis of injuries treated at a Dutch Harbor clinic provides some patterns on who is injured, and on what vessels, in Alaska’s fisheries.

According to a report from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Division of Public Health: “It is not surprising that the majority of the non-fatal injuries occurred on catcher processors, as they employ the largest number of workers and process the largest volumes of seafood relative to other vessel types.”

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Port expansion manager urges dismissal of lawsuit

Sun, 2014-01-12 01:09

ANCHORAGE — A lawsuit filed against the firm that formerly oversaw expansion of the Port of Anchorage should be dismissed, the company’s attorney said Thursday.

Kurt Hamrock told a federal judge that as a federal contractor, Integrated Concepts and Research Corp. is protected by sovereign immunity, just like the federal government, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Hamrock also said company did nothing outside the scope of its contract. Only actions exceeding the contract provisions can be the basis for a lawsuit, Hamrock said.

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Bloody bear tracks seen near Denali National Park

Sun, 2014-01-12 01:09

FAIRBANKS — Mushers and others have reported seeing bloodied grizzly tracks on trails near Denali National Park and Preserve.

Four-time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog champion Jeff King lives in the area, and told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that he saw fresh, bloody bear tracks Wednesday.

“I followed them for about a mile up the Yanert Valley,” he said. The bear walked in the middle of the trail, and didn’t appear it wanted to get off it.

King said the fresh tracks made him apprehensive, and the fact they were accompanied by blood didn’t help.

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Tom and Mary Schulz named Citizens of the Year

Sat, 2014-01-11 22:41

Mary and Tom Schulz listen as Penny Pedersen introduces the couple as the Chamber of Commerce Citizens of the Year.

Ketchikan’s annual Chamber awards banquet is about honoring individuals, but it also is a celebration of the community as a whole. Each of the honorees expressed appreciation of this place and the people in it.

The awards segment of the evening kicked off with Outstanding Youth Leaders, Rick and Pat Shaner. Both Shaners are retired teachers who founded numerous church-based youth groups and substitute-teach in local schools. A crowd of young people emerged with flowers for the couple when their names were announced for the award.

Pat Shaner accepts the Chamber Outstanding Youth Leaders award, which went to her and her husband, Rick Shaner.

Here is Pat Shaner, thanking the Chamber for the honor.

“We feel blessed beyond anything you can imagine,” she said. “Our kids keep saying, ‘Why don’t you move down here with us?’ We say we have kids in Alaska that need us.”

Next, Chamber Business Manager Chelsea Goucher announced the Outstanding Community Event, the annual Shellfish Festival. The sponsoring organizations are the Alaska Shellfish Growers Association, Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association and OceansAlaska, and the event has been extremely popular for each of the four years it has been held.

“Just try to get a ticket at the last minute, or even a week before,” Goucher said. “It’s nearly impossible. The attraction is buckets upon buckets of southern Southeast Alaska’s best in shellfish delicacies, prepared by its premier chefs and cooks. Alaska produced oysters, spot prawns, geoduck clams, sea cucumbers, scallops; all of this is featured as part of the feast at the festival.”

Doug Ward, center, accepts the President’s Award from outgoing Chamber President Judy Zenge, right. At left is Rosie Roppell.

Outgoing Chamber President Judy Zenge then announced the President’s Award, which went this year to Doug Ward. She praised Ward for his community advocacy, and his involvement in the Chamber over the years. Ward gave a characteristically entertaining acceptance speech.

“When I first got here, I remember the stench of the seaweed at low tide and the rotting logs and the dying fish on the beach, and it brought tears to my eyes then, too,” he said. “It didn’t take too many years that I started noticing a subtle difference, in when I got off that plane, I began to enjoy that smell.”

Nancy Christian presented the Entrepreneur of the Year Award to Alma and Dennis Parker,

Alma and Dennis Parker accept the Chamber Entrepreneurs of the Year award.

who own StudioMax fitness and dance studio. Christian said it was the couple’s dream to own the business, but Dennis Parker offered a clarification.

“Real quick, I’m gonna clear something up here. It was not my dream,” he said. “I have come to Ketchikan, I get that smell, I have not yet learned to love it. The community of Ketchikan, the people of Ketchikan, I love.”

The Business of the Year award went to Parnassus Books, and former owner Maggie

Freitag. She worked many years at Parnassus before buying it in 2004 from founder and longtime owner Ms. Lillian Ference, and Freitag recently sold the bookstore to former librarian Charlotte Glover.

Maggie Freitag accepts the Chamber’s Business of the Year award Saturday.

“If you don’t recognize me, I’m the retired Maggie Freitag,” she said. “I felt honored to be part of Lillian’s business, I felt honored to take the helm of Parnassus and I know Charlotte is going to do a great job carrying on the tradition of Lillian.”

The evening ended with the Citizens of the Year: Tom and Mary Schulz.

Tom Schulz, a retired judge, volunteers much of his time to local organizations, including the District 36 Democrats, Ketchikan Community Foundation, Ketchikan Yacht Club and Women in Safe Homes.

Mary Schulz is a former teacher who has been honored in the past for her teaching activities, was among the WISH Women of Distinction honorees two years ago, and helped found First City Homeless Services. She also is devoted to promoting swimming safety, and started the local Masters Swim Program for adults in Ketchikan.

Penny Pedersen, announcing the award, noted that Tom Schulz moved here from Juneau first, and Mary followed later with the kids, a lot of animals and a pickup truck with a busted rear window. Mary explained that it was damaged when her son drove the snowmachine into the truck bed.

“Actually it wasn’t Bryan’s fault,” she said. “We had to get the snowmobile to Ketchikan – we didn’t realize there wasn’t any snow here. So I said we can get it in the back of the truck. I told Bryan you run it around and I’ll back up into the snowbank and you can drive onto the truck. So, he knows he’s going to have to gun it to get it on the truck. In the meantime I think if I put this plywood over the snowbank, then he wouldn’t have to jump the little gulf there. But I didn’t tell him. So he gunned it, he shot through the air, landed in the back window and — what can you say?”

In a brief and emotional acceptance speech, Tom Schulz summed up the general theme of the evening.

“I came down here from Juneau in ’73, and all I wanted to be was a trial judge,” he said. “I found a great community. Thank you so much.”


Ziegler and Stone sentenced to jail time

Fri, 2014-01-10 18:11

The Alaska and American flags fly at the State Office Building downtown.

Former Alliance Realty co-owners Robert “Zig” Ziegler and Roger Stone were sentenced in Ketchikan Superior Court today following a plea deal.  Each pled guilty to one count of misapplication of property and received identical sentences.  

Roger Stone sits with his attorney in court Friday.

Ziegler and Stone had separate sentencing hearings Friday, but both faced multiple charges of felony misapplication of property and second-degree theft.  The two were under investigation for allegations made at the time they were co-owners of Alliance Realty in Ketchikan.  Stone reached an agreement in May of last year, and Ziegler last November.  Both pled guilty to one count of felony misapplication of property with all other charges dropped.    

Under the terms of the agreements, maximum jail time would be 30 days and any additional time, up to six months, would be spent in community service.  The judge could also suspend all jail time, requiring only community service.   Both are also required to make financial restitution. 

During both hearings, Assistant District Attorney Ben Hoffmeister says the embezzlement of funds occurred during difficult economic times.  He believes the motivation was ego rather than greed.

“They got themselves into a hole.  They made an extremely bad choice by raiding these trust accounts, and they couldn’t get themselves out.  I think that’s all based on ego.  What is comes down to is that their reputation was more important to them and the problems that they had created for themselves rather trying to atone for them.”

During Stone’s hearing, defense attorney Jeffrey Sauer noted that Stone has no prior record and as soon as the misappropriations were discovered, he cooperated fully with the

Robert “Zig” Ziegler is seen in court Friday.

investigation.  Sauer says a lengthy jail sentence would result in Stone losing his current job in Washington State.  He says recovering financial losses is most important and restitution can’t be made by someone in prison.

Addressing the court, Stone apologized for his actions.  He says he hopes to be able to continue to support his family while making restitution to those affected.

“I’m deeply sorry for the events that occurred.  I probably should have pulled the plug much earlier, but in the heat of battle, when you’re trying to save something that you have in your entire life invested in, sometimes bad decisions get made.  I made a very poor decision and I will regret that for the rest of my life.”

Stone has been making payments through a bankruptcy trustee.   

During Ziegler’s hearing, defense attorney Sam McQuerry argued that Ziegler was completely unaware of the misappropriation of funds and Stone was fully responsible.  He says Ziegler trusted Stone completely as the agency’s accountant.

Much of the discussion in both hearings revolved around a $10,000 check from the trust account made out to, and cashed by, Ziegler.  Stone claims Ziegler asked him to write the check and that Ziegler was aware the money was coming from the trust account.  Ziegler claims he did not know the money was coming from the trust account.  He says his greatest error was not looking closely at the check and trusting Stone with all management of the books.

Presiding Judge William Carey asked Ziegler why, if this is the case, he chose to plead guilty.

“You recognize that the statute that you have pled guilty to states, ‘a person commits the crime of misapplication of property if the person knowingly misapplies property” Carey said.

 Ziegler replied, “Your honor, I understand.  The reason that I accepted my position right now is that I should have known.  It is very accurate to say that I should have done more, and it was my responsibility to do more.  And I didn’t.  I had relied on others to do that and that’s my fault.  But I have sold everything to make good on what was due.  I have monitored the situation continually to make sure everything is being done.  The opportunity that I have at this point is to hopefully get back to Florida as soon as possible so that I can be gainfully employed and make restitution as quickly as possible.”

Ziegler has been living in Florida where he has an Alaska import business.

Before making his decisions, Judge Carey said both men had already paid a very high price having lost their credibility and reputations.  He says some jail time is appropriate, but noted both have been making restitution payments and seeing that funds are returned is most important.  Carey imposed the same sentence on both men.

It was a suspended imposition of sentence.  Stone and Ziegler received 75 days jail time, 15 to serve, with 60 days converted to community service.  For good behavior, jail time could be reduced to 10 days.  Both men will be on probation for 5 years, but the term could end sooner if restitution and community service are completed.

Stone requested to begin his incarceration immediately.  Ziegler requested to begin serving his sentence on Saturday.  McQuerry requested a no-contact order between Stone and Ziegler on behalf of his client.  Judge Carey denied the request.  Both men will serve their jail time at the Ketchikan Correctional Center and the community service in the states they now reside.

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