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Southeast Alaska News

Authorities investigate explosion in Petersburg

Tue, 2014-07-15 13:31

More details are emerging about an explosion that injured a Petersburg person over the weekend and has brought federal explosives agents to town to investigate.

Petersburg police issued a press release outlining the incident and some of the resulting investigation. Since no criminal charges have been filed, police are declining to identify the person injured in the explosion Sunday other than to say it was a 59-year-old Petersburg resident.

In their press release, police say the department received a 911 call reporting a person laying outside of the hospital emergency room at one o’clock Sunday afternoon. The caller requested assistance getting the person into the hospital and reported the injury could have been caused by dynamite.

Emergency medical volunteers and firefighters along with local police officers helped hospital staff get the injured person into the emergency room. Police say the person confirmed the injuries were the result of an explosion. Police cordoned off the area shutting down the street and access to the emergency room. Officers found what appeared to be approximately 20 pounds of a gelatinized substance in a vehicle the injured person drove to the hospital. Officers notified hospital staff and moved a large dump truck directly behind the vehicle. Police say residents in the area were notified and some evacuated. Local police say they consulted with a local construction company, state Department of Transportation staff and personnel from Fort Richardson before public works employees moved the explosives away from the hospital.

Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms are in town and have brought an explosive detecting dog. An investigator with the state fire marshal’s office is also here. A Coast Guard C-130 aircraft flew in five of the responders on Monday, along with a response vehicle and equipment. Police say three sites, including the unnamed location of the explosion, were secured by local police along with U.S. Forest Service officers.

Local officers along with federal agents served search warrants Monday at a home on North Nordic Drive along with the vehicle left near Petersburg Medical Center. Officers and agents processed the scene of the explosion and the vehicle left near the hospital. Residue from the explosion site and the vehicle were tentatively identified as a commercially available explosive.

A police car was stationed outside a North Nordic Drive home belonging to Mark and Pat Weaver Monday and police tape cordoned off the yard of that home from the street. Mark Weaver turned 59 on Saturday. Other property near Cornelius Road south of town belonging to Weaver was also cordoned off by police this week.

The police investigation continues and authorities say more information will be available later.

Consultants to help streamline Sitka administration

Tue, 2014-07-15 12:53

Unlike most other departments, the city administration has no master plan. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

City hall will be getting a tune-up this summer, from consultants who have all spent time in local government elsewhere around the country.

Municipal Solutions, based in Phoenix, Arizona, was in Sitka last week to meet with city officials. They’ll spend the next few months reviewing operations in city hall from the ground up, and — hopefully — identify efficiencies and savings.

http://www.kcaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/14TUNEUP.mp3

Just about every city department — water, electric, public works — has an updated master plan. This winter, the Sitka assembly decided that the General Fund, which pays for the city administration, should also have a plan, and it set aside $52,000 to buy some outside help.

David Evertsen is the CEO of Municipal Solutions.

“Organizations are not static. They’re dynamic. They’re constantly changing. And so to reevalute what we’re doing as an organization, the functions we’re performing, the structure, the staffing — needs to be done from time to time.”

Evertsen himself is a former municipal administrator, in towns in Colorado, Montana, and Arizona. Since establishing Municipal Solutions, his firm has helped 300 communities around the country to evaluate their operations.

He’s also consulted internationally. While the US is nation-building in Afghanistan, Evertsen’s been handling seemingly mundane matters in that country. Like how to license 500,000 drivers.

“The Kabul Traffic Directorate could only process 26,000 licenses a year. And the licenses expired at the end of the year. So how did 474,000 people get drivers licenses? Not only is it a safety issue, but it’s also a fiscal issue. It was over $47-million uncollected.”

“Because I come back also with ideas for my own municipality. There are things about Sitka that I want my community to emulate.”

This is Rick Davis, a senior associate with Municipal Solutions, who will be doing much of the hands-on work for Sitka — while moonlighting. He’s currently the city manager of West Jordan, the fourth-largest city in Utah.

“For a community of about 8,800 people, you’ve got the responsibilities that usually would be associated with a municipality that’s much larger. In my community of 110,000, I don’t think I have half to do as Sitka does. So it changes the context in which we look at the city.”

Because Sitka is isolated, it has unique challenges, but Davis says the similarities with other communities far outweigh differences. Municipal Solutions began its examination of Sitka with a paper review, then this site visit to meet staff members. A preliminary report will follow within a month, with a comprehensive final report after that, which Davis will deliver in person.

The report will be based on technical information, but should be easy to follow for lay people. Davis says it will also point Sitka to some hard questions.

“In order to remain sustainable, it will force the community to come together to be very specific about the priorities that they need to focus on in the future. Because resources are never going to be enough to do everything that you want to do.”

The use of outside consultants in Sitka has been controversial. The assembly recently reconsidered spending $250,000 on a review of the city’s solid waste management system, in favor of using in-house expertise. Sitka administrator Mark Gorman brought a lot of organizational experience with him when he took the job last fall. But he agrees that this job might be best done by someone outside looking in.

“Certainly the assembly has raised the question about depency on outside consultants, and I think that’s a very legitimate question and concern, that we have to be fiscally responsible how we use our citizens’ dollars. In terms of bringing in outsiders, I kind of fall back on the expression, You Can’t be a Prophet in Your Own Land.”

The 2015 budget for the Sitka General Fund is close to $27-million. Again, Municipal Solutions will be paid — including travel — roughly $52,000 for the evaluation.

Author Nick Jans in Ketchikan Friday

Tue, 2014-07-15 11:53

Author Nick Jans will present his book “A Wolf Called Romeo” Friday night at the Ketchikan Public Library at 6:00 pm.  Jans speaks about his book and experiences. NickJans

More information about Jans is available at his website www.nickjans.com

School Board to vote on background checks

Tue, 2014-07-15 11:40

The Ketchikan School Board will consider policy updates, grants, and teacher contracts at its Wednesday meeting.

The Board will vote on whether to require background checks for volunteer chaperones on overnight trips. The recommendation came from a school safety committee formed earlier this year. If the Board approves the change, it will go into effect in the upcoming school year.

An $837,000 grant titled “The Alaska Digital Academies” is on the table for School Board approval. The state-funded grant would establish more collaboration between Ketchikan and Annette Island, Craig, Klawock, Hydaburg, and Southeast Island School District to provide distance delivery classes.

A wellness grant that was not funded a few months ago is now fully funded. The Board will vote on whether to accept the state-funded Obesity Prevention Grant for $150,000 per year for three years. The grant would fund a wellness coordinator position and a PE teacher.

The Board will consider teaching contracts for Darby Mainardi at Point Higgins Elementary, Peter Stanton at KIC Tribal Scholars, and Elizabeth Hanson at Tongass School of Arts and Sciences.

The Board also will get a chance to review the Ketchikan School District FY ’15 budget that was submitted to the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development for approval.

The School Board meeting starts at 6 p.m. in Borough Assembly chambers at the White Cliff building. Public comment will be heard at the start and end of the meeting.

New reindeer corral being built near St. Michael

Tue, 2014-07-15 07:12

NOME — Volunteers are in the process of building a new corral for a reindeer herd on St. Michael Island.

KNOM reports (http://is.gd/21sTZl) the first fence posts went up Thursday at the new site, located about three miles southeast of the community of St. Michael.

The lease expired at the former site, owned by the Stebbins Native Corp., which is using that land for gravel excavation.

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Fairbanks co-op gets national industry award

Tue, 2014-07-15 07:12

FAIRBANKS — A cooperative market in Fairbanks has received national recognition.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports (http://is.gd/3oVCRV) the Co-Op Market Grocery and Deli was named the co-op startup of year in 2013.

General manager Mary Christensen accepted the award at the Consumer Cooperative Management Association conference in Madison, Wisconsin.

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Coast Guard frees sailboat trapped in Arctic ice

Tue, 2014-07-15 07:10

ANCHORAGE — The U.S. Coast Guard has freed a Canadian sailboat that became trapped in Arctic ice off the north coast of Alaska.

KTUU-TV reports (http://bit.ly/1nyaGCF) the 36-foot Altan Girl out of Vancouver was attempting to sail to eastern Canada through the Northwest Passage.

It became trapped in ice 40 miles northeast of Barrow, the northernmost city in the United States.

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Hooper Bay teen dies in apparent drowning

Tue, 2014-07-15 07:07

HOOPER BAY A Hooper Bay teenager has died in an apparent drowning.

Alaska State Troopers said 18-year-old Darin Long was found tangled Sunday in a partially deployed fishing net in a slough near the western Alaska village.

Troopers say Long had been subsistence fishing.

He was last seen by his family at about 11:30 p.m. Saturday and found after midnight.

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Man charged with felony eluding on ATV

Tue, 2014-07-15 07:06

FAIRBANKS A North Pole man was charged with felony eluding after a chase on an all-terrain vehicle outside the city.

22-year-old Dylan Longoria was arrested early Sunday, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

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Juneau questions SB21 experts

Tue, 2014-07-15 00:02

More than 100 Juneau residents filled the Mendenhall Valley Public Library Monday evening for a question and answer session with four state leaders on the oil tax referendum voters will decide on next month.

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Man injured in explosion in Petersburg, authorities investigating

Mon, 2014-07-14 17:00

Petersburg police say a person injured in an explosion Sunday was medevaced out of town but are not releasing much more information about the incident.

Police chief Kelly Swihart says an individual injured in an explosion in the late morning or early afternoon Sunday and was able to transport himself to Peterburg Medical Center.

Local EMTS were called in to help the individual and found him outside of the hospital and helped get him into the emergency room. After treatment there he was flown to a medical facility in Seattle for further treatment.
One side of Petersburg Medical Center was cordoned off with police tape Sunday afternoon after police reported finding explosives near the hospital. That resulted in road closures on North 2nd Street and Fram. Those roads were re-opened by early evening Sunday.

Police are not releasing the person’s name and are investigating the incident. They’re getting help from two federal agencies. Brian Bennett, public information officer with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms said Monday the ATF is sending agents to Petersburg this week to assist the local police department and the FBI in the investigation. A special agent from the Anchorage field office and an explosive enforcement officer arrived on Monday. Two more ATF agents, one with an explosive detecting dog were expected to arrive this week.

In addition, two agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation are in town assisting.

Phone calls to the Petersburg Police Department seeking additional information Monday were not returned. KFSK will continue to try and provide updates on this story as we learn more.

Gardening tips

Mon, 2014-07-14 14:34

Lee Skidmore gives tips on summer watering, saving seeds, drying herbs, prepping for over-winter planting and more during this call-in show.  Gardening

Third Ave development now under city review

Mon, 2014-07-14 13:51

The access road leading to property under development off the Third Avenue Bypass.

A preliminary plat to subdivide undeveloped property off the Third Avenue Bypass was approved about a month ago by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough’s Planning Commission and Platting Board; but there are still some hurdles for the property owners to jump.

The commission had some conditions for Paul and Theresa Hamilton, including a review by the City of Ketchikan. The borough wants to know whether the access road currently used it acceptable and whether the city will provide fire and EMS to the sites. The commission also wants the city to sign off on construction plans for hooking those sites up to city utilities.

The problem is, the property in question isn’t technically in city limits, and the city won’t provide municipal services outside of its jurisdiction. In a memo to the Ketchikan City Council, City Manager Karl Amylon recommends annexing the property, which would allow the city to move forward with those needs.

Amylon also expressed concern about the development plans. He writes that those plans don’t adequately address surface drainage or on-site waste disposal. Both of those could affect downhill property, which include the Ketchikan Public Library and the KRBD radio station.

Amylon also writes that the access road has already been damaged by development activity, and until it has been restored or replaced, the city won’t sign off on plans to use it.

The Ketchikan City Council will consider the issue during its regular meeting on Thursday.

Workshop: How dementia affects eyesight

Mon, 2014-07-14 12:02
http://www.kcaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/140713_MI.mp3

Erin Matthes and Zachary Desmond of Brave Heart Volunteers and Pam Steffes of the SEARHC eye clinic discuss how eyesight and dementia interact — and how sensory loss is different in dementia than with normal aging. Brave Heart is holding a workshop on eyesight and dementia this Wednesday, July 16, from 12-1pm at the Pioneer Home Manager’s House. Lunch will be provided. The workshop is part of a six-part series on dementia and the senses. For more information, call 747-4600 or visit braveheartvolunteers.org.

Kodiak High works with NASA on temblor project

Mon, 2014-07-14 00:02

KODIAK — A global initiative led by NASA to develop ways to better predict earthquakes will soon get legs in Kodiak.

And some of its data crunchers will be Kodiak High School students.

“We will have some NASA interns coming here this fall,” Kodiak Island Borough School District Stewart McDonald told the Mirror. “They’re going to be installing the earthquake sensors that talk to the satellites. They will be installed right here, we’ll have students working on these projects directly with the scientific community.”

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Family holding out hope as search continues

Mon, 2014-07-14 00:02

KENAI — Lanell Adams misses her best friend. She misses making funny faces with her two nieces when they talked via Skype and would do anything to see their smiling faces again.

While search efforts have been taking place nearly everyday since a Kenai family of four went missing six weeks ago, Kenai police and volunteers have not found anything to pinpoint their location. Volunteer numbers have dwindled in recent days with searches competing with people’s work and recreation schedules, said volunteer search organizer Katherine Covey.

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Some answers on oil taxes

Mon, 2014-07-14 00:01

Editor’s note: This article is one of several published by Morris News Service-Alaska taking a comprehensive look at the issues surrounding the upcoming Aug. 19 election that will decide whether Alaska keeps the oil tax reform bill passed in 2013 or returns to the previous system known as ACES.

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A 'different' kind of candidate

Mon, 2014-07-14 00:00

Peter Dukowitz is running as a Republican for the downtown Juneau and Douglas seat in the Alaska House of Representatives, but he’s voted as “undeclared” for the last 25 years. His views on Alaska’s future reflect that unorthodox history.

Dukowitz grew up and went to school in the Kenai area, and said he’s getting involved in Alaskan politics now because he sees trouble on the horizon for the state’s bank accounts. Dukowitz said he’s the type that embraces such a challenge.

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New Ketchikan float sees steady use

Mon, 2014-07-14 00:00

KETCHIKAN — The City of Ketchikan’s new drive-down float at Bar Harbor has seen steady use since opening on June 17.

“It’s been busy down there,” said city Port and Harbors Director Steve Corporon.

That certainly was evident on Wednesday afternoon, when boats lining the sturdy float included a seiner, a gillnetter and a commercial diving vessel.

A crewmember of the gillnetter Njord was busy cleaning brailer bags as crew members of the seiner Quetzal walked the 48-feet by 120-feet float to head up the drive-down ramp.

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Composting, ecotours, distillery in running for biz prize

Sun, 2014-07-13 20:36

Path to Prosperity semifinalists attend a class during the 2013 Business Boot Camp. (Photo courtesy Haa Aanì)

Southeast Alaska entrepreneurs are getting a second chance to win $40,000 to develop regional businesses. It’s part of a partnership involving a Native corporation and a conservation group that made its first awards last year.

The Petersburg Indian Association has been developing a small compost business.

The association’s Jason Wilson says it uses local products.

“We take the fish waste [from Petersburg fisheries] and then we have alder wood chips from clearing of the roads and then we also have sawdust. And we mix it all together and let it compost. And voila!” Wilson says.

The association is one of 12 semifinalists in a program called Path to Prosperity. It’s supported by Haa Aaní, part of the Sealaska regional Native corporation, and The Nature Conservancy.

Alana Peterson is economic development coordinator for Haa Aaní.

“We really are looking at businesses that want to improve their communities, create jobs and do so in a way that doesn’t deplete resources and that solves existing needs in the communities,” Peterson says.

Peterson, who’s based in Sitka, says the 12 semifinalists were chosen from a pool of 27 applicants.

They’ll spend the next few months developing their plans. One step is a business boot camp weekend to be held in Juneau during September.

“At the boot camp we connect them with industry professionals that can help them fill in the gaps and try to answer questions that they might have,” she says.

The business plans are due in early December and the two winners will be announced in late January. An online survey will then pick a people’s choice winner. All will receive $40,000 in consulting and technical services.

Peterson says all the proposals look worthwhile. One, from Kasaan, would expand cultural tours in the Haida village on Prince of Wales Island.

“Their business idea is really to put together a gift shop and offer a real ecotourism experience for the independent traveler so people who want to come in and really experience what it is like to be in Kasaan and what kind of village it is,” she says.

Other semifinalists include a Haines distillery, a Sitka otter-fur sewing business, a Petersburg fish-processor and a Juneau coffee shop.

Wilson, of the Petersburg Indian Association, says its compost project is ripe for expansion.

“If we make it through, it would be nice to be able to just have a business that was going to be completely sustainable, because we’re using all sustainable elements in the product itself,” Wilson says. “It would be nice to just to be able to have a system in place that really just paid for itself because we’re doing a good thing with the environment.”

He says compost is concentrated and dried. That keeps shipping and storage costs low.

The business would employ about two people at the start. But eventually, he’d like to have several more working on the business.

Last year’s Path to Prosperity finalists were Raven Guitars of Wrangell and Hoonah and Icy Straits Lumber of Hoonah.

The 12 semi-finalists are:

Business Name                         Location                       Principal Applicant

1. Tonka Seafoods, Inc.                 Petersburg                    Seth Scrimsher
2. Port Chilkoot Distillery             Haines                            Heather Shade
3. Sea Fur Sewing                          Sitka                               Robert Miller
4. Edens Marine Resources          Wrangell                        James A. Edens
5. PIA SeaLife Compostsn.           Petersburg                    Jason Wilson
6. Coppa                                          Juneau                           Marc Wheeler
7. Fairweather Ski Works             Haines                           Ian Seward
8. The Sawmill Farm                     Sitka                              Bobbi Daniels
9. Whale House Tours                   Kasaan                          Carrie Sykes
10. Keku Products, LLC                Kake                             Adam Davis
11. SeaMonster Seafoods              Juneau                          John Foss
12. The Annaken House               Gustavus                       Aimme Youmans