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Southeast Alaska News
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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,
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.
“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.”
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.
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
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.
It’s flu season, and as of Friday, there were 13 confirmed local cases of influenza. And Ketchikan Medical Center was waiting for test results on 15 additional cases.
Infection Preventionist Pamela Standley said she expects at least half of those results to come back positive. She said all known cases so far have been the H1N1 strain, also called “swine flu.”
The hospital urged people to get a flu shot. It’s not too late in the season, and protection against H1N1 is included in the current vaccine. Locally, vaccinations are available at some pharmacies, from primary care providers and at the Ketchikan Public Health Center.
If you do suspect you have the flu, Standley recommends staying home to minimize spreading the disease.
The Ketchikan City Council on Thursday approved a seasonal sales tax, but it might not last.
After the Council voted 4-3 in favor of the 1-percent summertime tax, one of the members who voted yes – Bob Sivertsen – asked that the Council reconsider the vote. So, the issue will come back at the next regular meeting.
The Council did vote earlier in the meeting on an amendment that would have changed the seasonal 1-percent tax hike to a year-round half-percent increase. But, that measure failed.
In an interview Friday, Council Member Marty West says she proposed that amendment in response to comments from the public.
“We heard from several people last night talking about what a bookkeeping nightmare that would be,” she said. “Just different logistical things about having to adjust the sales tax in their businesses twice (a year).”
Some members of the public asked the Council to consider more budget cuts before increasing taxes. However, City Mayor Lew Williams III says the current budget is the result of two decades of cuts.
“People who came to the meeting and said cut the budget. Well, we’ve been cutting the budget and doing things to keep us from having to raise taxes for 20 years,” he said. “It comes down to now, if we cut things in the budget, we’re going to be cutting the service levels. With that and some increases in debt service with the library and fire department, we opted for the sales tax.”
Williams says if enough people come back in the fall to say they still want budget cuts, the Council can explore reducing services.
Also Thursday, the Council approved a 4-percent increase in wastewater fees and postponed a water rate increase. West says the delay is at the request of seafood processing companies, which use a lot of water in their operations. Officials with those businesses told the Council that they wanted to come up with a different proposal for the city’s consideration.
The Council also appointed Dick Coose to fill a vacant seat on the Council. Coose was on the Council previously, but lost his bid for re-election in October. The seat will be on the ballot, along with two others, this coming fall.
The next regular City Council meeting is next week. Thursday’s meeting was rescheduled from Jan. 2 because of the New Year’s holiday.
There were two winners for the first Rain Game Classic, a new rainfall guessing game put on by the Petersburg Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber director Cindi Lagoudakis announced the winners Friday. Hilary Bell and Helen Boggs both win a check for 240 dollars. Both submitted guesses of 110.2 inches, just one hundredth of an inch from the actual rainfall amount last year, 110.19.
The chamber sold 960 dollars worth of tickets for the 50-50 raffle, so the prize money totaled 480 dollars and the two winning guesses split that amount.
“We’re gonna make a more concentrated effort to sell tickets this year,” Lagoudakis said. “We wanna get them printed a little bit earlier and now that people know what it’s about I think it’ll gain a little bit of momentum but it should be kind of fun. Then of course we cut off the entries some time in the fall so there’s a time period there where who knows what’s gonna happen. And I think the heaviest rainfall date was sometime around December 14th so anything can happen after that October date.”
Lagoudakis hopes to have tickets for the next round of guessing available for the Chamber banquet in March.
The state will terminate its partnership with TransCanada under the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, Gov. Sean Parnell announced Friday at an Alaska Support Industry Alliance gathering in Anchorage. Parnell also said the state will pursue an equity stake in the Alaska gas line.
“As a partner in the gas line project, Alaska will control its own destiny,” he said. “Ownership ensures we either pay ourselves for project services or negotiate and ensure the lowest possible costs. As a partner, Alaskans stand to gain more.”
City Council Member Marty West gives a recap of the Thursday night Council meeting, where members voted on a 1-percent seasonal sales tax increase. The vote passed, but one member who voted “yes” said he would like to reconsider a new proposal, for a half percent sales tax increase year-round. The Council will vote again at their meeting next week.
George Bennett Sr. discusses SEARHC’s new pilot program: telebehavorial health services for rural veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
A nearly-half-million-dollar grant will speed restoration of Alaska’s oldest Haida longhouse. Curbside recycling is starting to get a toehold in Southeast Alaska, starting with Petersburg. The Sitka School Board has a cautious approach to building next year’s budget: assume that Sitka Schools will have about 20 fewer students. Large parts of Sitka lost power Thursday night after an operator technician at Blue Lake Hydro plant bumped his ladder against a control panel.
SITKA — Students at Sitka’s Pacific High School are starting the new year with a new school.
For two years, Pacific High operated out of the Southeast Alaska Career Center while its new building was being built.
The site where the new school sits has been dedicated to education for more than a century and has gone through a number of incarnations. The original was an Alaska Native training school that had one room and was segregated.
JUNEAU — A Haines helicopter ski operation that has agreed to plead guilty to unauthorized use of federal land says the encroachments were “minor, infrequent and unintentional.”
Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures, or SEABA, released a statement through its attorney on Wednesday.
Editor’s note: The Juneau Empire will feature Q&A segments with candidates in statewide races leading into the next election. The following interview with Gov. Sean Parnell was held at the Empire’s office on Jan. 7. It has been edited for length.
Large parts of Sitka lost power for about a half-hour this evening (Thu 1-9-14), after a technician at the Blue Lake Hydro plant bumped his ladder against a control panel while changing light bulbs.
Blue Lake operator Frank Rogers said the bump was just enough to cause a protective relay to open, isolating the Blue Lake switchyard from Sitka’s other main power source at the Green Lake plant.
Green Lake was powering most of Sitka when the mishap occurred at about 8:30 PM. Residents along Halibut Point Road, at the far end of Sitka’s utility system were supplied by one of the Blue Lake generators which remained on during the event.
Rogers says it was just a matter of balancing the two hydro plants to restore power, which took about a half hour.
And he added that it’s great to have fresh light bulbs in the control room.
Sitka is currently in the middle of a $157-million project to raise the height of the Blue Lake Dam by 83 feet, and add a third generating turbine. It’s the most expensive public works project in the city’s history.
Despite an upswing in enrollment, the Sitka School Board is going to be cautious as it starts to build next year’s budget.
At its regular meeting this week, the board decided to assume that Sitka Schools will have about 20 fewer students than they have now.
It’s a bit of a game, choosing an enrollment number — and according board president Lon Garrison, the single most…
“…important parameter for determining the school budget.”
At the moment the district has 1321 students, down 17 from when the official school census was taken in October.
That decline is typical, school officials say. But it’s also well above the 1,295 the district built this year’s budget on.
The unexpected surplus of students was a major factor in a $1-million increase in the 2013-2014 budget.
Each student is worth money to a school district. The state calls it the “base student allocation,” and it’s also sometimes called the “foundation formula.” And it’s not exactly spare change.
“By the time you get through the formula the students are pretty close to $9,000 a piece.”
That’s superintendent Steve Bradshaw. The $9,000 per student is dwarfed by the revenues for intensive needs students. That comes to around $75,000 per student. The Sitka School District had 42 intensive students during the October census, three more than it planned for in the budget.
But board members were not feeling rich, and not confident that the upswing in enrollment was a trend. District business manager Cassee Olin dismissed the idea that enrollment was up due to the construction of the Blue Lake Hydro Expansion project.
She said only two students could be attributed to all the capital projects underway in Sitka at the moment.
Superintendent Bradshaw had the explanation, but not the reason, for the bump.
“You brought in 126 kindergarteners and had a graduating class of 69. That pretty much accounts for the numbers right there.”
This was the second year in a row that a large kindergarten class began school. Why there are large numbers of six- and seven-year olds in Sitka remains a mystery.
By starting with a conservative estimate of student numbers, the board will be forced to put some major cuts on the table. They’ve scheduled a series of public hearings through the end of March to discuss them. The first hearing will take place in joint session with the Sitka assembly on Thursday February 6.
Kathy Hope Erickson was the guest Castaway on Deserted Island on Friday, January 7th, 2013. Lo and Behold Kathy actually took a picture of her dessert on her island! She also selected ten songs she would choose to have with her, if stranded, perhaps forever. She also chose pear pie with streusel top as her favorite dessert. Kathy remembers her early years in Sitka, lip syncing as The Supremes (see below) and traveling across the country on the program. Below you can hear the show, see Kathy’s list of ten songs and link to a pear pie recipe.
1. The Lord’s Bright Blessing – Bob Cratchitt (Jack Cassidy)
2. Just a Closer Walk with Thee – Kermit Ruffins & The Rebirth Brass Band
3. Come, Let Us Bless Joseph, St. Innocent Academy; St. Michael’s trio
4. You’ll Never Know – Maura O’Connell
5. San Antonio Rose – Ray Price/Willie Nelson
6. Tsu Heidei – Harold Jacobs
7. The Poor People of Paris – Edith Piaf
8. Piece of My Heart – Janis Joplin
9. Just a Walkin’ in the Rain – Johnny Ray
10. Memories Are Made of This – Dean Martin
As the nation’s capital gets ready for the State of the Union speech on Jan. 28, Ketchikan’s borough mayor warmed up local residents with a State of the Borough address this week to a packed audience at the regular Chamber of Commerce lunch.
“Since the city mayor said (in December) that the state of the city was good. I feel like I have to up that,” said Borough Mayor Dave Kiffer. “The state of the borough is pretty good. It’s actually darned pretty good. It’s peachy keen. It doesn’t mean it’s perfect, but we’re doing OK.”
Kiffer worked for many years as the executive director of Historic Ketchikan, so it wasn’t a surprise when he offered some historical perspective to his State of the Borough presentation. He recalled when Ketchikan Pulp Co. shut down, the community lost many year-round jobs, and quite a few people moved away.
“At that time, the State of Alaska predicted that we were basically, if not going to dry up and blow away in the future, lose significant population, that the borough was just going to crater,” he said. “At one point they were saying by the year 2020 that there might be 10,000 people left here, or 8,000 or 7,000.”
That didn’t happen, though. The population rebounded and now is back where it was in 2000. And that economic disaster that rocked the country in 2008? Well, it did lead to a drop in cruise passengers for a few years but those numbers also rebounded to where they were before the recession.
“These are good things,” Kiffer said. “The community clearly is not dying. We’re not going anywhere. We’ve been here for 125 years, we’re stubborn and we’re just not going anywhere.”
That said, there are some issues the community will face as it moves forward. One big one is that the population is aging, as more and more seniors choose to stay. Seniors are exempt from some taxes, and Kiffer said that means over time, more and more people will not pay into the local revenue stream. There’s no clear solution, but it’s something to think about.
Kiffer reviewed some of the borough’s responsibilities, and the biggest one is school funding – all borough property taxes and a chunk of sales taxes go toward local education. The borough also runs the state-owned airport; planning and zoning; economic development; assessment; parks and recreation; animal control and public transportation.
Kiffer said Ketchikan’s transit system is the third busiest in the state.
“This is interesting because if you go back six or seven years, we were talking about getting rid of our transit system,” he said. “It was expensive, costing lots of money, and just not working. Rather than do that, we hired some pretty good staff, put our nose to the grindstone and the borough has created a transit system we can really be proud of.”
Following Kiffer’s presentation, some audience members had questions. One asked about consolidating the borough and city governments, and whether there was a current effort underway to try and make that happen.
“Do I know of anyone right not who is working on consolidation? No. Do I still think people should? Yes,” he said. “We’ve had four elections. Was it five? OK, five elections. We’ve had five different attempts, and several other attempts that didn’t even reach that level. It’s never been successful.”
Kiffer said the trick is to convince the majority of voters that what they will get with consolidation is better than what they’ll be giving up. He doubts that either government will make a new attempt, though, so it will have to be a grassroots effort.
Linda Koons Auger then spoke up from the audience and announced she is collecting names for a list of people interested in consolidation.
Another audience discussion focused on improving access to Ketchikan’s airport. While the state Department of Transportation continues working on the long-awaited Gravina Access plan, local residents and visitors continue to use the ferry system that has been in place for many years. One audience member suggested a baggage check-in and pick-up building on the town side of the system, so passengers at least don’t have to lug bags on the ferry.
Kiffer said there was an attempt to make that happen years ago, but Alaska Airlines nixed the idea. Despite that, he said it makes sense.
“If anyone has ever flown at the airport in Prince Rupert, that’s what you do,” he said. “You go into a building, they take all your stuff, put you on a bus and they drive you to the airport and put you on the ferry. It doesn’t kill them, but of course they’re Canadian.”
Kiffer was elected as Ketchikan’s borough mayor in 2008, and re-elected in 2011. His current term ends this fall, and because of term limits, he will not be able to run again.