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  • Borough increases rates and fees to cover for inflation

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|May 1, 2024

    The borough will raise some of its rates and fees for things like the Nolan Center, port and harbors and light and power to account for inflation, effective July 1. Among the more notable increases are for space rentals for commercial or private events at the Nolan Center. Renting the civic center for more than eight hours will increase from $600 to $1,200; from $500 to $750 for five to eight hours; and from $400 to $600 for up to four hours. Rates for local nonprofits, however, will not increase in an effort to target revenue from outside the...

  • Prize-winning reporter will talk about rural public safety at remembrance day event

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|May 1, 2024

    Kyle Hopkins, an award-winning journalist for his reporting work on sexual assault in Alaska, will be the keynote speaker at an event for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Awareness Day at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 5, at Shakes Tribal House. Hopkins was the lead reporter on the 2020 Pulitzer Prize-winning “Lawless” series published by the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica. The project explored sexual assault in Alaska and why the problem was getting worse. Though his work is not focused directly on MMIP, he hopes to share the parts of...

  • Radke retires after 4 years as police chief

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|May 1, 2024

    Wrangell Police Chief Tom Radke retired April 5 after four years in the job. He started in Wrangell at the beginning of 2020 after moving from Minnesota, where he worked in the field for almost 30 years. “Wrangell is a great town,” he said, “and it has been a great experience.” Radke and his wife are moving back to Minnesota to be closer to family. The borough is advertising for a new chief, with applications due Wednesday, May 1. The Wrangell department was in good shape when he started, he said, but he believes it is in better shape now. Du...

  • Borough awarded $50,000 grant for cybersecurity

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|May 1, 2024

    The borough received a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to put together a comprehensive cybersecurity plan. Developing a cybersecurity plan entails contracting a consulting team to help the borough conduct risk assessments and draft a comprehensive plan that will guide further initiatives like equipment and training. The grant will fund assembling a plan, after which the borough could apply for further grants to fund purchases and the implementation of the plan. Assets might include things like software, but also...

  • Assembly approves longer-term lease at former mill site

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 24, 2024

    The borough assembly has approved a longer-term lease with Channel Construction at the former 6-Mile mill site where the company plans to build two 3,200-square-foot shop buildings. Under terms of the agreement approved April 9, Channel would store equipment at the site. At its expense, the company will improve the access road off Zimovia Highway with crushed rock, improve the barge landing and expand the rock fill, and seek a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit for the fill. The construction and scrap metal recycling company will lease six acr...

  • Borough receives federal reimbursement for landslide expenses

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 24, 2024

    The borough will be reimbursed for roughly $900,000 it spent on debris removal, restoring downed power lines, overtime pay and other expenses after the deadly landslide in November. The borough’s request for federal disaster assistance for the Nov. 20 landslide was approved April 8. The federal money will reimburse the borough for its costs in dealing with the landslide, which Borough Manager Mason Villarma estimates at about $900,000. The work included installing new power poles and transmission lines; the power was out for about a week for r...

  • Parents caught off guard by court ruling on homeschool funding

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 24, 2024

    Wrangell parents of homeschooled children enrolled in correspondence programs said they were caught by surprise when an Alaska judge ruled unconstitutional the use of state funds for such programs. The law allowed parents of correspondence students to spend their share of state education money, labeled an allotment, on “nonsectarian services and materials from a public, private or religious organization.” The judge on April 12 ruled the law unconstitutional because it allowed public funding to go to private and religious organizations. The jud...

  • WCA awarded federal funds to develop climate change response plan

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 24, 2024

    Wrangell Cooperative Association’s Tl’átḵ - Earth Branch was awarded over $200,000 from the Bureau of Indian Affairs for its climate action and adaptation plan to help respond to the growing concerns and risks of climate change. In surveys conducted last spring, WCA learned that tribal and community members have observed warmer winters and cooler summers, earlier and weaker salmon runs, less game on the island and an increased presence of invasive species, said Alex Angerman, Earth Branch coordinator. The climate action and adaptation plan w...

  • Borough approves sale of hospital property to real estate developer

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 17, 2024

    The borough assembly approved the sale of the former medical center and six adjacent lots to property developer Wayne Johnson on April 9. Johnson is a Georgia-based real estate developer hoping to build a 48-unit condo-style housing development with covered parking on the property. The borough sold the two acres of the former hospital property to Johnson for $200,000, which required approval from the economic development board and the planning and zoning commission as it was below the property’s appraised value of $830,00. Municipal code allows...

  • Borough approves pay raises for union, non-union employees

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 17, 2024

    The borough assembly approved a three-year collective bargaining agreement with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers on April 9, covering public works, light and power, port and harbor and maintenance jobs, totaling about 23 positions. The agreement includes amendments to some job descriptions and the wage and grade table, effective July 1. Borough Manager Mason Villarma said they wanted to make sure changes were made to reflect inflation. He also said the borough noticed that some wages weren’t competitive with other municipalit...

  • Assembly approves Villarma's borough manager contract

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 17, 2024

    The borough assembly on April 9 approved Mason Villarma’s contract as borough manager. The assembly vote was unanimous. Villarma went to work as finance director in September 2021 and has been serving as both finance director and interim borough manager since November 2023 when Jeff Good stepped down as manager to accept a federal job. Villarma’s four-year contract for borough manager goes into effect May 5. During his tenure as interim borough manager, he helped see the borough through the deadly landslide Nov 20 and recovery efforts. He spoke...

  • Annual birding festival flies into town April 24-28

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 17, 2024

    The time of year is approaching when birds flock to the river flats, and Wrangell is once again hosting the Stikine River Birding Festival. The festival will run from April 24 to 28 and will include a variety of bird-themed events and activities free of charge. This year is a bit of a lighter year, Matt Henson, who is organizing festival planning, said. They are focusing on community-centered, family-friendly events. Rather than a couple weekends of programming that the festival has offered in years past, this year’s schedule will be more c...

  • Forest Service hosts public workshop for management plan revision

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 17, 2024

    After more than a quarter-century, the nation’s largest national forest is getting a new management plan. On April 22, Wrangell community members will get a chance to learn about the proposed revisions to the forest plan and share their thoughts. A forest plan can be compared to zoning, Paul Robbins Jr., public affairs staff officer for the Tongass National Forest, explained. The plan helps guide management decisions, such as focusing on what areas are managed for recreation versus other activities, rather than looking at specific trails and c...

  • Wrangell loans ambulance to Ketchikan after station fire

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 17, 2024

    The South Tongass Volunteer Fire Department station in Ketchikan caught fire early morning April 9, damaging multiple fire and EMS response vehicles. When the Wrangell Fire Department heard about the damages, they responded quickly by lending an ambulance to Ketchikan, sending it out on a barge later that same day. The fire started at 2 a.m. April 9, according to information from the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, and was under control by 3:49 a.m. and extinguished by 4:30 a.m. No one was injured in the fire. The Ketchikan department lost a 20-year...

  • Class teaches and preserves traditional Haida hat weaving

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 10, 2024

    The WCA Cultural Center filled with the sweet aroma of cedar as students sat around tables, focused on their hats in progress in front of them. They dipped the strips of red and yellow cedar into bins of water and occasionally spritzed their weaving with water to keep it from drying and cracking. Quiet chatter filled the room as they shared stories and advice. Master weaver Holly Churchill, from Ketchikan, made her way around the room, offering helpful tips and reminding students not to get...

  • History podcast tells not all was golden in 1874 gold rush

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 10, 2024

    One hundred and fifty years ago, the Stikine beckoned people to its rugged landscape with the promise of wealth. This was the Cassiar gold rush of 1874, a huge moment in Wrangell history, according to Ronan Rooney, historian and creator of the podcast "Wrangell History Unlocked." Rooney's newest series "Strange Customs" tells the story of the gold rush in Wrangell in three parts. The story, however, is not just about the search for gold on the Stikine. It involves a political corruption ring in...

  • Plants will have to be homegrown this summer

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 3, 2024

    It’s officially spring and almost gardening season in Wrangell, but Sentry Hardware and Marine won’t be able to provide the plants they usually do this year, nor will IGA. The stores’ supplier, Skagit Gardens, of Washington state, announced in February it was going out of business by the first week of April after 57 years in operation. There will be no plant starts, vegetables or hanging baskets at Sentry this year. However, there will be trees and shrubs. Typically, Sentry starts getting plants in the last week in April, and the Febru...

  • Potentially prehistoric artifact found on land of former Wrangell Institute

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 3, 2024

    A blue plastic baseball, part of a wooden clarinet, a glass Horlicks malted milk bottle, a 1938 Mercury dime and a net sinker made of slate, potentially from prehistoric times. All these items were discovered on the property of the former Wrangell Institute during archaeological monitoring completed last fall. The borough is developing the property of the former Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school into the Alder Top Village (Keishangita.'aan) subdivision and plans to offer 20 residential lo...

  • Federal aid available to individuals who suffered losses from landslide

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 3, 2024

    Federal financial aid made available by a presidential disaster declaration requested by the Wrangell Cooperative Association is now available for people who suffered economic damages from the Nov 20 landslide. The assistance includes grants for home or vehicle repairs, temporary rental assistance, replacing essential personal property and loss of subsistence foods, as well as medical, dental and funeral expenses. The assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency is not available for damages covered by insurance, state disaster...

  • Chili cook-off promises to warm springtime appetites

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 3, 2024

    Get out your crockpots, The Salvation Army is hosting a chili cook-off April 13 at the Nolan Center from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. Anyone is welcome to register to compete with their favorite chili recipe. Chilis will be tasted by three judges and members of the community. The judge’s favorite and the community favorite will each win a cash prize, said Capt. Chase Green of The Salvation Army, though the amount hasn’t been determined yet. If you’re not competing, be sure to arrive to the event hungry. Community members will vote for their top three...

  • Divers start underwater work to install anodes on harbor pilings

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 3, 2024

    Work has begun to install 830 corrosion-preventing anodes on the pilings in Heritage Harbor and the Marine Service Center. The anodes are pieces of oxidizing metal that protect the steel pilings and piers from underwater corrosion. During a routine check of the pilings last year the borough discovered that anodes had never been installed during construction of Heritage Harbor in 2009. The Marine Service Center boat haul-out pier and T-dock also were not fitted with anodes when they were designed and constructed. The total project is estimated...

  • Movie about Juneau's secret history coming to Wrangell

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 3, 2024

    A video filmed of the award-winning play “Blue Ticket,” a historical fiction of dark pieces of Juneau history in the 1960s, will show at the Nolan Center at 6:30 p.m. April 15. The author of the play, Maureen “Mo” Longworth, will be present for a discussion following the film. The play is based on true stories about gay Alaska men who were secretly removed from Juneau by police in the 1960s. When Longworth moved to Juneau with her partner Lynn in 1992 to work at SEARHC, she discovered that LGBTQ topics were not talked about openly. She learned...

  • Presidential disaster declaration will provide WCA with funds to clean landslide tidelands

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|Mar 27, 2024

    Presidential approval of a disaster declaration for the Wrangell Cooperative Association will make more than half-a-million dollars available for the tribe to remove hazardous material from the beach covered in debris by the 11-Mile landslide on Nov. 20. WCA is the first tribe in Alaska to receive a federal disaster declaration, and the fourth in the nation to provide individual assistance under the program, said Esther Aaltséen Reese, WCA tribal administrator. President Joe Biden signed the declaration on March 15. The funding will cover the...

  • Assembly hires Villarma, who talks of growth and prosperity for borough

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|Mar 27, 2024

    Mason Villarma, the interim borough manager since November, is no longer interim: The assembly has agreed to offer him the job. In an executive session March 19, the assembly interviewed three applicants - two from out of state - and ultimately decided to proceed with contract negotiations with Villarma. Mayor Patty Gilbert and Vice Mayor David Powell will negotiate a contract, which will likely come before the assembly for approval at the April 9 meeting. Villarma went to work as finance...

  • Property tax assessment values similar to last year

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|Mar 27, 2024

    After last year’s comprehensive review of every piece of property in Wrangell pushed up the borough’s total taxable assessed valuation by more than 50%, this year’s assessment notices are tame. Property tax assessments were sent out March 20, and initial numbers are down slightly from last year, though the numbers are not final until approved by the borough assembly. This year the total assessed value of taxable property comes to $229 million, with non-taxable property at $158 million, which includes state, federal, borough, SEARHC and churc...

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