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Southeast Alaska News
Ketchikan resident Joel Kotrc pleaded not guilty Monday in Ketchikan Superior Court to multiple felony drug charges, and asked for a public defender to represent him.
The 48-year-old Kotrc was indicted April 3rd by a grand jury on four counts, three for alleged possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute; and one for allegedly maintaining a residence for the purpose of distributing drugs. Monday was his first court appearance in the matter.
Kotrc, who is recovering from an illness, moved slowly with the help of a cane. When asked how he wanted to plead, Kotrc seemed hesitant, but then said he probably should plead not guilty because he wants to talk to an attorney about the case.
He did not have an attorney yet. In response to questions from Superior Court Judge William Carey, Kotrc admitted that he hasn’t worked since December. Carey agreed to appoint the public defender to the case.
Carey also allowed Kotrc to remain free on his own recognizance, which means no bail money will be required. However, Kotrc is not allowed to leave town without permission. He also is not allowed to contact co-defendants in the case.
The charges against Kotrc are related to the arrest in late February of a Washington State man who allegedly brought 7 ounces of methamphetamine to Ketchikan on the ferry from Bellingham.
The next hearing in the case is set for 2:30 p.m. April 28 in Ketchikan Superior Court. A trial is tentatively scheduled for June 16.
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Sitka School Board says city’s failure to fund schools to cap is noticed in Juneau. All-gear quota for chinook significantly larger this season. Juneau artist MK McNoughton explores keeping secrets.
Last week, the Ketchikan School Board adopted new student nutrition and physical activity guidelines, but only after inserting a “cupcake clause.”
The nutrition guidelines are part of the federal school lunch program’s standards, but reach beyond lunch. They include vending machines, concessions and school activities, including classroom parties and fundraising.
Those last two areas raised some concerns, and led to a couple of language changes in order to relax the rules a little.
One of the issues was selling food at athletic competitions that take place during the school day, such as the recent regional basketball tournament. Many non-students attend those activities, and, as Board Member Stephen Bradford pointed out, want their snacks during a game.
“And I think that we can do that by amending line 263, after ‘sold or served’ add the words, ‘Directly to KGBSD students,’” He said “In other words, they can still operate the concession stand, old guys like me can still go in and enjoy my popcorn and coke while I watch the basketball game. We just have to put up a note up for our own students that says you can’t buy anything until 30 minutes after the instructional period is over.”
That amendment passed unanimously, as did Bradford’s second suggestion, which provides an exception to the healthy food standards for special occasions.
“So the amendment would be, ‘Traditional or cultural foods may be exempted from the food standards described above for educational or special school or classroom events when offered free of charge,’” Board President Michelle O’Brien summed up.
Board Member Dave Timmerman then asked, “Does that cover cupcakes?”
Bradford answered, “Well, I believe that a cupcake, in our culture, is a standard item to be offered at a birthday.”
Student board member Evan Wick suggested a third amendment to the guidelines. He noted that the rules prohibit any kind of educational material or school display that includes a name-brand of an unhealthy food.
“I’ve brought with me some educational materials. This is my AP world history book. It has a picture of McDonald’s in it. That would fall under the brands or illustrations of unhealthful foods,” he said.
Wick then handed around a detail from a mural that covers a wall in the high school’s commons area. “It features a Burger King soda, fries and what appears to be a cheeseburger, which I do believe probably falls under unhealthful foods,” he said.
As the student representative, Wick isn’t allowed to make motions, but he asked the School Board to consider amending the regulation, adding the words “within reason.” Board Member Trevor Shaw complied, and the amendment passed unanimously.
The main motion also passed without dissent.
Approving it means that the district’s policies now are aligned with the 2010 federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
Petersburg’s school board Tuesday night will be considering the official resignation letters of two members: John Bringhurst and Dawn Ware. The board will decide how to approach filling those vacancies.
The board will consider a letter from Mike Hanley, Alaska’s Education Commissioner, officially granting the district’s request to let elementary students out of school four days early—on May 30th. The request was made by the district because of the construction project going on. The commissioner had already approved of the early-release verbally.
An update on the construction project will be given to the board. Because of the construction, the Lutheran Church is extending the use of its Fellowship kitchen to the district for its summer lunch program.
Also at the meeting, the board will continue to consider a possible memorial policy. The board last month reviewed sample memorial policies in other districts. The members want to discuss the policy development piece by piece.
Karen Quitslund, the district’s Finance Director, will update the board on the budget process to date which they plan to discuss.
The board will hear administrative reports from the Superintendent, Maintenance Director and the schools’ principals.
Superintendent Rob Thomason also will be reporting on a district survey for this month.
The school board meeting starts at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the borough assembly chambers. KFSK will be broadcasting the meeting live.
The live show from The Cable House was quite the party! Regal Cheese and The Lost Boys both put on excellent performances, and it was a great end to our One-Day Spring Drive. If you missed it you can listen to the whole show below.
We’re relying on you to make it to the goal!
After a week or so of relative quiet, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game observed nearly 3 miles of active herring spawn in Sitka Sound over the weekend. Area management biologist Dave Gordon reported “Spawn in Mosquito Cove and Katlian Bay light and dissipating. Spawn developing in Salisbury Sound from Marine Cove and north with a little spot inside of St John Baptist Bay. A light spawn on Point Brown in Hayward Strait as well as a small but intense start inside of Rob Pt. A good spawn going right off of Fred’s Creek, with several groups of sea lions outside the reef to the south of Fred’s Creek.” The department uses spawn mapping and dive surveys to study egg deposition and to help forecast next year’s biomass.
That was the question hanging over a joint work session between the Sitka School Board and Sitka Assembly Thursday night (4-10-14).
The board presented a draft budget to the assembly with a modest increase in local support to schools — less than $200,000 — but also delivered a clear message that more was needed.
They’re calling themselves the “Education Legislature,” but Juneau has not settled on a level of school support this year that most districts consider adequate, and there was a serious attempt to amend the constitution to allow public education dollars to flow to private schools — including religious schools.
This was the backdrop for two recent lobbying trips to Juneau by Sitka school board members Lon Garrison and Jennifer Robinson.
During the work session with the assembly, Robinson said her efforts to advocate for more state funding for local schools were undermined by one issue: Sitka does not contribute the maximum funding allowed by law to its local schools.
Robinson is also director of the Sitka Chamber of Commerce, as well as daughter of Sitka mayor Mim McConnell.
She told the assembly she did not often get on a soapbox, but Sitka’s failure to fully fund schools locally was beginning to take a toll on her.
There are two things that I considered when I moved here: It wasn’t how beautiful it is; it wasn’t that this has been my home. Number one, my family was here, and Number two, Sitka has an amazing school system. It’s a place I know my kids are going to get a great education. If either one of those hadn’t been here, I would not have moved back to Sitka. Because as a single parent, it’s not worth the struggle of trying to survive without family support, or where my kids are not going to get a quality education. I have to pay so much to live here, and I have to work so hard to make it happen, that without education it wouldn’t have been worth it. I’d rather live someplace else where I can afford to live, and can make sure my kids are well-educated and can be successful. And I’m not the only one that feels this way. And if we don’t make sure that we are funding the programs our kids need, we are going to be losing more and more families. There has to be a way to make a living, and there has to be quality schools for families to stay here. I don’t care how affordable the housing is, or what kind of economic development we bring in — if we kill the school system now, we’re not going to keep the families long enough to get to that point.
Robinson asked assembly members — as they prepare to write their own budget — to consider what they were spending money on that “might not be as important as schools.”
The City of Sitka contributed a little over $5-million in funding to schools this year — about $1.6-million less than the “cap,” or the amount allowed by state law.
The city contributes thousands more to the district in ways that don’t count against the cap — through Community Schools, for example, and sports activities. But Robinson and Garrison said they repeatedly were questioned by legislators about Sitka’s failure to fund education to the cap.
Assembly members had no direct response to the board’s appeal. Pete Esquiro was concerned that the district was reducing staff at Baranof and Blatchley.
He questioned the wisdom of cutting people, while pursuing technology goals that would put a computer tablet in every child’s hands in the near future.
Board president Lon Garrison responded that the landscape of education was changing.
There’s no turning back. We’ve taken the exit on the new digital freeway. And there really is no going back. And the way education will be delivered: By the time the kindergarteners this year graduate, my guess is that well over 50-percent of them will go on to get higher education and it will all be distance-delivered. Brick and mortar is fast disappearing, and the world is changing quicker than you can imagine. Things that we did in 2007 and 2008 — it seems like decades ago, especially when you figure that the iPhone was introduced in 2007. It’s difficult to get a grasp on that — I grant you that, Pete. I hear a lot about It’s the People, and I totally agree.
The work session was a more cordial exchange between the two elected bodies than it’s been in the past. In fact, assembly member Mike Reif complimented the board on it’s conservative approach toward its use of reserves, and its expectations for state funding.
One notable difference with past meetings was that outgoing superintendent Steve Bradshaw did not speak until he was invited to share his opinion by the assembly. Over his thirteen years on the job, Bradshaw has occasionally used this forum to press the assembly hard. His swan song, however, was conciliatory.
And I know you’re faced with tough choices. I know the budget’s tight. But I also know that we find ways to get the things done that we want in life. Whether that’s in our personal budgets, our state budgets, community budgets, or federal budgets. And far too often you hear people providing lip service to what’s best for education. This community has always supported education. From Pacific High School to the auditorium, to everything else we’ve asked for. So I would urge you in the future to continue to do that. Because that, I believe, is our goal, is to try to make each generation a little bit better. And again the only way I think we can do that is to teach children to think, to be creative, and to be proud of who they are and where they’re from.
One bright note in school funding this year is Secure Rural Schools. The federal program for states with significant National Forest Lands has funneled $500,000 into the Sitka district over the last several years. Secure Rural Schools was considered a non-existent possibility at the beginning of this budget cycle, but powerful western senators have revived it. The school board is confident enough to add the money to its revenues, and reduce the amount it now expects to take out of reserves to balance the budget to $400,000.
The school board will hold a final budget hearing on April 21, and submit a final budget to the assembly shortly thereafter.
The blood draws have been going on for about the last thirty years. To find out more, Angela Denning spoke with Liz Bacom and Jessica Fetters with the Petersburg Medical Center:
The Health Fair happens April 26 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the community gym. People can pick up their blood draw results there. The results will NOT be mailed out this year so people must pick them up at the fair. If you miss the fair, you can pick them up later at the lab.
Here is a link to the Health Fair and scheduling.
The Petersburg Community Foundation is trying to give away thousands of dollars. The charitable foundation awards annual grants and this year, the pot is $10,000. The money will be divvied up to local non-profits that apply and are found to have legitimate causes.
For over 40 years, David Wallen earned money fishing around Petersburg. Now he’s retired and has the time to give back. He’s one of several volunteers with Petersburg Community Foundation trying to facilitate this year’s grant process. Wallen says a core group of non-profits usually apply year after year but the money has been spread around over time.
“Oh, Children’s Center, Little Norway, just a myriad of projects and groups,” Wallen says. “I believe that there are something like 75 non-profit groups in Petersburg. It surprised me when I read the list but there’s quite a few and they’re all eligible.”
The deadline to apply is April 18. Wallen explains how the process works.
“When they put in their applications, which are done on-line, we will receive them after the closure of the period. We will read and grade each application,” Wallen says. “Of course, it is up to the individual group to request whatever it is that they feel they need and then to justify that.”
There’s no question that there are many local non-profits that need help with funding. In making their decision on who gets what, Wallen says the foundation is looking for the effectiveness of how far the money will go towards a specific need.
“With a very real eye toward what will a partial grant mean to the whole grant, whether or not they will be able to fill that in,” Wallen says. “It’s a critical part and it’s sometimes overlooked.”
Wallen says they rarely give groups the full amount that they ask for but awards typically range from $500 to $2,500.
The Petersburg Community Foundation was established in 2008. It has a permanent endowment fund which is used to improve the quality of life in Petersburg.
“It’s a loose knit revolving group of people that have interest with finding people with needs and sources for helping them,” Wallen says.
There will be an awards celebration around Little Norway days when the recipients will find out about their awards.
Applications must be done on-line. You can do that at petersburgcf.org and follow the grant links there.
One of the most hotly contested bills of the 2014 Legislature — the effort to raise the minimum wage — got even hotter after it passed the House on Sunday.
The measure approved by the House was changed on the floor to raise the wage to $9 an hour in 2015 and to $10 an hour in 2016 — those numbers had been $8.75 and $9.75, respectively. It would be adjusted annually for inflation each year after that.
WASHINGTON — After months of watching Democrats get hammered over President Barack Obama’s health care law, friends of an embattled senator are fighting back by proudly linking him to “Obamacare.”
An independent group in Alaska is airing a TV ad that praises Democratic Sen. Mark Begich for helping people obtain insurance even if they have “pre-existing conditions,” such as cancer.
SAXMAN — City of Saxman water operator Richard Shields beams as he walks through the new, nine-years-in-the-making surface water treatment facility, describing its state-of-the-art capabilities amidst the whirr of machinery.
SITKA — Rotating artifacts and themed exhibits are part of the Sitka Historical Society’s plan to make their museum a more dynamic place to learn about Sitka’s past.
Sitka Historical Society Executive Director Hal Spackman spoke at Wednesday’s Chamber of Commerce lunch and explained that the society is revamping its approach to telling Sitka’s story.
“I hope for other people it’s a rebirth of the Sitka Historical Society,” Spackman said.
ANCHORAGE — The U.S. Department of Energy is soliciting for another round of research into methane hydrates, the potentially huge energy source of “frozen gas” that could step in for shortages of other fossil fuels.
The department is looking for research projects on the North Slope of Alaska that could explore how to economically extract the gas locked in ice far below the Earth’s surface.
DOE is also seeking researchers to document methane hydrate deposits in outer continental shelf waters of coastal states.
KENAI — With the Kenai Chamber of Commerce celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, Fred Braun, a director for the chamber, said he could not think of a better gift from the City of Kenai than a new sign.
At the April 2 Kenai City Council meeting, Braun and chamber treasurer Brendyn Shiflea presented a proposal for a new electronic reader board sign for the Chamber and Visitor and Cultural Center. The purpose of the sign would be to promote events for both the chamber and visitor’s center.
JUNEAU — Municipal leaders on Saturday expressed support for Gov. Sean Parnell’s approach to addressing the state’s pension obligation.
They also supported keeping the municipal contribution to the public employees’ retirement system at its current level. Municipal leaders have been worried that lawmakers would propose raising the local contribution as part of a plan to address the unfunded pension liability, though no such proposal has been made.
FAIRBANKS — Alaskana Raven “Books and Things” may not have been open for very long, but it has a lot of history. The small book store is located at the end of a hallway in the Co-op Market on Second Avenue in Fairbanks.
James Rogan opened the store with his wife, Molly Leahy, in June to expand their love of the 49th state to anyone in Fairbanks. The store is no bigger than a living room but contains myriad texts on the farthest-north state in the union.
ANCHORAGE — Alaskans have been lining up for a two-day clinic offering free dental care in Anchorage that was scheduled to begin Friday.
ZhanCai Hanna Lee of Anchorage was the first in line Thursday morning outside the downtown Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center for the effort called the Alaska Mission of Mercy, the Anchorage Daily News reported. People who lined up behind her included residents of Anchorage, Ketchikan, Fairbanks and Tok.
“This right here has been a blessing to us,” said Lee, 59, pointing to the sidewalk sign advertising the clinic.
The Alaska State Senate passed Senate Bill 216 on Friday, better known as “Erin’s Law.”
Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, introduced the legislation to combat Alaska’s high rates of child abuse.
SB216 requires school districts, with the assistance of the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, to implement age-appropriate training and curricula on sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention for students, kindergarten through high school.