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Southeast Alaska News
FAIRBANKS — Two Fairbanks men have pleaded guilty to trafficking methamphetamine.
The U.S. attorney’s office says in a release that 51-year-old Andrew Paul Newman and 36-year-old Jason Carl Heim entered their pleas Friday in U.S. District Court in Fairbanks.
Sentencing was set for April 4.
Prosecutors said the men received a package of seven ounces of 71 percent pure meth in August from California. Postal inspectors suspected it contained drugs, and followed the package when it was delivered.
ANCHORAGE — Anchorage authorities say one person has died and another was injured in a mobile home fire.
KTUU says the fire early Friday morning occurred on the 4100 block of DeBarr Road.
The Anchorage Fire Department says initial reports indicate that the trailer was almost fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived.
Firefighters say the injured person was taken to a local hospital.
Fire Capt. Joe Cizk says the body was found when crews entered the mobile home.
FAIRBANKS — She was surrounded by loud engine revving, stripped-down and spray-painted cars, trying to keep her nerves in check while she watched, waiting for the OK to hit the gas pedal.
It was the first race for 25-year-old Laurel Gangloff in the Dollar Stock league at the Mitchell Raceway’s dirt oval track, and like so many other racers who have buckled up behind the wheel of a car on a race track, it wouldn’t be her last.
ANCHORAGE — Two adult Alaskans died from the flu in the past week, according to state health officials.
The deaths are the first to be reported during Alaska’s 2013-14 influenza season — which has been picking up — and the first since new rules requiring health care facilities to report adult flu deaths to the state took effect in late December.
Before, Alaska only tracked deaths among children. The state has not been notified of any child deaths so far this flu season.
A residential fire in downtown Ketchikan destroyed one home Saturday morning, and damaged two neighboring houses, but did not lead to any injuries.
The fire started after 9 a.m., and the first home was fully engulfed in flames as firefighters arrived. Both homes are located on one of Ketchikan’s boardwalk stair streets, making access difficult.
About six hours after the initial call, as crews were finishing up, checking for hot spots and covering neighboring property with tarps, City of Ketchikan Fire Chief Frank Share took a few moments to talk with KRBD’s Leila Kheiry about the fire. Click below to hear the interview.
At the time of the interview, addresses for the involved homes were not available.
Services have been scheduled for Vida Davis, a long time Sitka resident and Native elder. She dedicated much of her life to Tlingit cultural education. Davis died on Wednesday, January 1, in Sitka. She was 70 years old.
Davis moved to Sitka at the age of 4, after being adopted by her Tlingit parents Eddie and Mary Marshall. Her biological Inupiaq parents had passed away from tuberculosis. She was always very proud of her Inupiaq roots, but raised in a traditional Tlingit home.
Davis worked as a Tlingit language instructor at Sheldon Jackson College. She took great pride in teaching the Tlingit language, and dedicated over 35 years of her life to Tlingit cultural instruction. Through the Sitka Native Education Program she transcribed many songs for the Gajaa Heen Dancers.
In addition to sharing and partaking in Tlingit culture, she enjoyed singing in the St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox church choir, picking berries, and picnicking on the islands around Sitka.
Cultural Services will be held at ANB Hall Sunday (1-5-14) at 6pm. Following the cultural memorial she will lie in state at the Coho House.
Church services will be held at St. Michael’s Cathedral Monday (1-6-14) at noon. A reception will follow at ANB hall.
KCAW News will follow-up with a story next week that will take a more in-depth look at Davis’s contribution to cultural revitalization in Sitka.
One of the two Ketchikan Indian Community Tribal Council members named in a letter of complaint answered some of the allegations on Friday.
Andre “Skip” Lecornu rejects the letter’s claims, which include allegations of interference with personnel matters, including demanding access to confidential information, and encouraging employees to circumvent the chain of command.
Lecornu said that all the accusations listed come from one employee.
“The 11 people that signed never once asked the other side of the coin,” he said. “Other than to hear from one person what they thought happened.”
The Nov. 22 letter was signed by 11 KIC administrators. It doesn’t provide details related to the accusations, but it does demand that the Tribal Council remove Lecornu and Tribal Council Member Norman Arriola from their elected positions. Arriola declined to comment on the issue.
Lecornu said he and the rest of the Tribal Council were concerned about the accusations, and asked those who signed the letter to provide more details.
“When you take nebulous statements like this and try to formulate a response, it makes it very difficult, that’s the reason the Council asked for specifics, which were not forthcoming,” he said.
Regarding the issue of personnel records, Lecornu said he did not ask for any files. He said he requested a form that he and a specific former employee could sign, after which point the file would be available for Lecornu to look at with that former employee.
The KIC Tribal Council has eight members. The annual election is Jan. 20th. Four seats are up for election, and are currently held by Lecornu, Delores Churchill, Donna Frank and Rob Sanderson.
The letter was sent anonymously to KRBD, and Lecornu says he suspects the timing of the letter’s release.
“I think it could be an ulterior motive,” he said. “I felt pretty disheartened about the letter, and decided not to run, but by golly I don’t feel like I want to be run out of office, either, so I’m seriously considering another strong write-in campaign.”
Lecornu won his current term with a write-in campaign two years ago.
A few public hearings will kick off Monday’s Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly meeting. The hearings provide the public an opportunity to comment on ordinances, including two that would expand development options at the borough-run airport, and appropriate about $62,000 in cruise ship head tax funds to the City of Ketchikan for improvements at the downtown dock.
Also on the agenda is a presentation about ways to improve congestion at Herring Cove, a popular destination for summertime tourists. An earlier report suggested infrastructure improvements, but the Assembly directed staff to come up with options.
The proposed solution would establish a program to issue permits for commercial tour operators taking passengers to Herring Cove. The permit would require the operator to have an off-street parking area at the destination and proof that the driver is trained in pedestrian safety. A permit fee or cruise head-tax funds could pay for the staff position needed to administer the program.
Another option would be to establish a new service area. Then that service area would hire an enforcement officer to make sure parking and safety rules are followed.
Also on Monday, the Assembly will consider a resolution reiterating the borough’s opposition to a “no-action” alternative for the state Department of Transportation’s Gravina Access Project. State DOT and Federal Highway Administration officials are scheduled to start preparing the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for that project next week.
The Assembly meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. in Borough Assembly chambers. Public comment will be heard at the start of the meeting.
The owners of a house on Wrangell Avenue in Petersburg are hoping a superior court will throw out last month’s order by Petersburg’s borough assembly to require repair or demolition of the aging building.
Karen Ellingstad and Fred Triem on Thursday, January 2 filed an administrative appeal of the assembly’s decision that their house at 1011 Wrangell Avenue is a dangerous structure and needed to be fixed or demolished within 30 days.
The assembly made their decision at a December 2nd meeting following testimony from Triem and a closed-door executive session on the issue. In a written report, borough building official Leo Luczak wrote that the foundation of the structure had failed in 2009 and as a result had multiple violations of building code. Luczak deemed the home a dangerous building and thought the unoccupied house is uninhabitable and presents a hazard to the public and surrounding properties.
Luczak sent a letter to the home owners this summer notifying them he considered the building dangerous and requiring changes. Neighboring property owners also have written to the borough seeking to have the structure razed.
Triem and Ellingstad argue that the borough did not correctly issue a final order with a 30 day appeal period and they challenge the borough’s procedure for setting a hearing date or giving the home owners information for the hearing. The couple argue their due process was violated at the non-compliance hearing held by the assembly. Among their appeal points, Triem and Ellingstad are questioning whether the borough provided any evidence that the structure is rotten or dangerous. The pair also question whether the assembly violated the state’s open meetings act by conducting deliberations behind closed doors.
In an order dated December 5th, the borough assembly required the house be fixed or demolished within 30 days or the borough would remove it. In an email Thursday, Luczak wrote that he planned to consult with the borough attorney about the matter before determining the next step. Triem wants more time to fix the home.
It’s not the first time the two sides have argued in court over the upkeep of a local building. The city of Petersburg was in and out of court with the property owners for more than a decade over the condition of an old building on the corner of First and Fram Streets. That building was eventually moved out of the street right of way, placed on a permanent foundation and refurbished.
Your best photo of commercial fishing in Alaska could win Alaska Airlines photos or an Apple Ipad.
Communications director Tyson Fick said the photos will help tell the story of the Alaska seafood industry and will help ASMI market that seafood to the world. “You know whether in store, recipe leaflets, they could wind up on the website, facebook, things like that, all the different avenues that we use to promote Alaska seafood,” said Fick.
Prizes will be given out in seven categories including throwback, scenic, family, boat or action photos.
“What’s new this year is after we get all the entrants in, we’re gonna put up about 20 or 30 of the judges selections that then will be on our Facebook site and we’ll have a fan favorite option and the one that gets the most likes through the facebook page, the photographer will get a trip for two anywhere Alaska airlines flies,” Fick said.
Last year the contest brought in close to 600 entries. The deadline for submissions is February 2nd. Winners will be announced February 17th. There’s more information, including rules and forms on the ASMI website.
Albert Kookesh is stepping down as board chairman for Sealaska, the regional Native corporation for Southeast. He’ll leave the post at the same time Sealaska CEO Chris McNeil retires.
The 65-year-old plans to remain on the panel. But he says a heart attack last spring means he has to cut back on his commitments.
“I think I’m Superman and I think I can do all the things I did before the heart attack, but that’s just me. My family really doesn’t think so and I really think that I better step back,” he says.
Kookesh also chose not to run for reelection as co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives last year. He also held that position for 14 years.
He says board vice chairwoman Rosita Worl would be a good replacement.
But she says she has too many other commitments to succeed Kookesh.
“We’ve got 13 members who sit on the board and each one of them are leaders in their own right. So from my perspective, anyone of them has the capacity to become chair and continue with the leadership,” she says.
Worl runs the corporation’s cultural arm, the Sealaska Heritage Institute.
Such changes are not unusual.
“People in those positions usually mentor or have someone in mind that they have groomed to take over the leadership roles,” says Vicki Otte, former executive director of ANCSA Regional Association, representing Native corporation presidents and CEOs.
“I would expect something like that to happen there,” says Otte, CEO and former board member of MTNT Limited, a village corporation in the Kuskokwim basin.
Sealaska’s 2013 proxy statement says the board chair earns a base pay of about $65,000 a year, including health insurance. There’s extra compensation for attending meetings and events. Sealaska Shareholders Underground, a group critical of the corporation, calculated Kookesh’s 2012 compensation at around $76,000.
The proxy listed the CEO’s pay, benefits and bonuses totaling about $675,000.
CEO McNeil announced his planned retirement in October after 12 years at Sealaska’s helm.
The board is accepting applications for his replacement through the end of February. It’s drafted a list of qualifications and hired a San Francisco-based recruiting firm to help.
“I think as some of the board members say (we want) ‘somebody who walks on water’,” Worl says.
She says the new CEO must be a shareholder willing to live in Juneau, where Sealaska is headquartered.
“Very definitely we want that individual to have the business acumen to run a large corporation. We want them to have that experience in the business world. And we don’t exclude the nonprofit world either, because some of our nonprofit organizations are probably larger,” she says.
The new CEO will take over at the corporation’s June annual meeting. That’s the same time the board chairman will step down.
But Kookesh says he’s not worried about continuity of leadership.
“If I was stepping off of the board the same time he was stepping out of the CEO job, I might be a little bit concerned about it. But I’m still going to be there,” he says.
He says he’ll run for re-election in 2015, when his board term ends. He was first elected to Sealaska’s governing body in 1976.
Some shareholders are looking forward to the change.
“I believe that new ideas will be able to come forward and many other stockholders will be included,” says Juneau’s Mick Beasley, who is among those critical of the board and corporation management.
Beasley has put term-limit and discretionary voting resolutions before shareholders in past years. He’s collecting signatures again to try to change discretionary voting.
He’s also run for the board several times and plans to do it again this year.
“Reshuffling the deck at Sealaska from within is not going to produce growth. Sealaska will never rise above the self-interests of Sealaska directors and upper management and grow. After all, the daily wage becomes more important than the company,” he says.
Kookesh spent 16 years in the Legislature, eight in the House and eight in the Senate. The Angoon Democrat has a law degree, was a commercial fisherman and owned a lodge and store.
He says one of the board’s top actions was to push to allow tribal members’ descendents to become shareholders.
“We’re one of five corporations in Alaska that have changed that policy and opened the doors to new Natives born after 1971.That’s an accomplishment I’m very proud of,” Kookesh says. “I’m also proud of the fact that we’ve taken care of our elders. We’ve given everybody over 65 an additional 100 shares to lessen the impact of those new Natives coming into the corporation.”
Sealaska has more than 21,000 Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian shareholders. About half live outside Alaska.
Listen to iFriendly audio.
Keet Gooshi Heen science teacher Rebecca Himschoot has won a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science, one of 102 educators — and only two in Alaska — to do so this year. The award comes with an unrestricted $10,000 cash prize, and an all-expense paid trip to Washington DC.
Ketchikan schools have improved lunch programs and wellness programs. School wellness program coordinator Barbara McCarthy speaks about the progress. SchoolWellness
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Former Sen. Albert Kookesh steps down as Sealaska board chairman, will retain seat as board member. US Coast Guard and Sitka Mountain Rescue advise residents to take simple precautions against weather and darkness when heading outdoors for recreation. Petersburg launches rebate program for air-source heat pumps. KFSK’s Matt Lichtenstein leaves radio after 18 years to become a power troller.
BETHEL — A man from the southwest Alaska village of Saint Mary’s is one step closer to saving his remote cabin, thanks to a recent action by a U.S. Senate committee.
William Alstrom’s cabin is about 31 miles northwest of his village. The federal Bureau of Land Management said the cabin had to go because it is illegally located on the Andreafsky Wilderness in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge.
Just over nine months ago, Army National Guard Sgt. James Bearup put a shotgun into his mouth and blew away memories of his military service in Afghanistan, an inability to find consistent work to support his wife, growing family and the pressure of coping with day-to-day life with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The 29-year-old left eight siblings, a wife and two children, 30 nieces and nephews and two parents shocked with the loss, suddenness and permanence of his departure.
CH2M Hill has been selected by the Municipality of Anchorage to manage the design, engineering and reconstruction for the troubled Port of Anchorage expansion project, Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan announced Thursday.
The company will take over management responsibility from MARAD, a federal agency that previously managed the project, and will help the municipality develop a Request For Proposals for design and engineering services, select a firm to provide the services, and then manage the construction, Sullivan said.
Employment in Alaska is expected to grow by 0.4 percent in 2014, according to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Southeast Alaska should also see a slight increase of jobs at 0.3 percent, despite a decline in government jobs.
The department released the economic forecasts Thursday as part of its monthly Alaska Economic Trends publication.
While 2014 is expected to be the fifth straight year of increased employment statewide, this year’s growth is lower than the state’s 10-year average, state economist Caroline Schultz noted in the forecast.
What’s in store for Alaska’s oil and gas industry in 2014? There are more questions than answers at this point with three major uncertainties.
First, will North Slope producers and TransCanada finally reach a commercial alignment to proceed with the big North Slope gas pipeline and LNG project? That was unresolved as 2013 ended.