Articles written by Brian O Connor


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  • Fourth festival comes to Wrangell

    Brian O Connor|Jul 10, 2014

    The Fourth of July started with a pie-eating contest and ended not with a bang but with the stamp of feet on pavement at Volunteer Park. The five-day event began July 1 with the Welcome Home Picnic and concluded on the day after Independence Day with big-wheel and wheelbarrow races. Unlike perhaps any other event in Wrangell, it can rightly be said that if you weren’t at some Fourth of July event, whether the parade down Front Street, the log rolling competition, or the Chuck Oliver Logging Show, you probably weren’t in Wrangell at all. Pinning... Full story

  • Smith crowned Fourth of July Queen

    Brian O Connor|Jul 10, 2014

    Months of small-business decisions, pavement pounding, hand wringing and stress culminated on the Evergreen Elementary School stage Thursday evening. Graduating senior Erica Smith was crowned the Fourth of July Queen. Smith edged second-place finisher Cassie Schilling-Shilts by 3,971 tickets to claim the crown, with 33,471 tickets sold overall. Schilling-Shilts sold 29,500 tickets, followed by third-place finishers Robyn Booker and Kira Torvend who sold 23,080. Delila Wigg sold 22,650 tickets and finished fourth. “Thank goodness that’s ove... Full story

  • Assembly votes to raise electric rates

    Brian O Connor|Jun 26, 2014

    The borough assembly voted 5-1 to raise electric rates seven percent Tuesday. The rates increases are aimed to off-set declines in the budget reserves of the electric light utility fund. Officials have said that increasing health insurance, labor, and materials costs have reduced the reserves to unacceptable levels. Assembly newcomer Mark Mitchell cast the lone dissenting vote against the increase, motivated in part by fiscal concerns. “I believe that, along with the rest of America, we need to hold a budget and watch our spending as w... Full story

  • Slide deployment delays flight

    Brian O Connor|Jun 26, 2014

    An emergency slide on an Alaska Airlines jet plane deployed accidentally Saturday, delaying a north-bound flight for several hours at Wrangell Airport, according to a spokesperson for the company. Airlines staff were opening the hatch for off-loading when the plane's emergency slide deployed. Pictures, widely circulated on Facebook, show the slide deployed perpendicular to the ground. No one was injured in the mishap and passengers were able to disembark, said spokesperson Nancy Trott. The... Full story

  • Therapy cap extension impacts Southeast patients

    Brian O Connor|Jun 26, 2014

    Patients in local hospitals could face new limitations on how physical therapy can be paid for in Southeast Alaska hospitals. Annual caps for the amount of physical therapy have, in past years, been restricted only to hospitals that did not receive the critical care designation from the federal government. However, for the first time this year, Medicare will apply reimbursement caps – the limit is $1,920 – to physical therapy patients receiving physical therapy even at critical access facilities, like the Petersburg and Wrangell medical centers... Full story

  • Fourth festivities will feature new fair

    Brian O Connor|Jun 26, 2014

    Among the countless events inherited from Fourth of July festivities stretching decades into the past, two new events will feature in this year's festivities. A Red, White and Blue fair aims to boost participation in the Southeast Alaska State fair by providing prospective participants with an early means of participation. In addition to that, big wheel and wheel-barrow races will carry the Wrangell-wide party past the end of events on the Fourth and into the weekend. Nostalgia inspired the fair, in part, said Shawna Buness, who is chairing...

  • Rain, clouds don't deter solstice fair

    Brian O Connor|Jun 26, 2014

    Attendance at Saturday's summer solstice block party easily topped last year's inaugural edition by most accounts. Most Fourth of July Queen food booths stayed open late. Dual candidates Robyn Booker and Kira Torvend had booths featuring ring-toss, cotton candy and pony rides. A Southeast Beasts 5K run billed as the Solstice Streak (though organizers discouraged participation without clothing) raised $8,000 for a local infant recovering from a heart transplant. The run, which started at 8 pm,...

  • Amid Fourth of July festivities, Nolan Center marks decade

    Brian O Connor|Jun 26, 2014

    It began, in part, with a dance. In 2004, Alaska's first lady and many residents of the town attended the ribbon cutting for the newly constructed James and Elsie Nolan Center. Amid the festivities and speeches of thanks, then-city manager Bob Prunella called Dorothy Ottesen in front of nearly 450 attendees, according to the July 8, 2004 edition of the Wrangell Sentinel. Ottesen had often vowed to dance in the museum, were it ever constructed. "The two danced a two-step in front of a clapping...

  • Early 2015 numbers project hospital cash increase

    Brian O Connor|Jun 26, 2014

    Preliminary hospital budget figures show the hospital anticipates a five percent revenue increase in the next fiscal year. Operating revenues are projected to increase five percent, while operating expenses will increase by about four percent, according to figures presented to the hospital board June 11 by CFO Dana Strong. That slight increase in profitability means the hospital will post a 13 percent increase in cash flow over the annualized 2014 numbers, budget figures provided at the meeting...

  • KSTK hires new reporter

    Brian O Connor|Jun 26, 2014

    Katarina Sostaric graduated this spring from the University of Missouri-Columbia and wanted to see somewhere beautiful. Less than a month and a half later, and after a few days of training in Juneau, Sostaric arrived as KSTK's news staff reporter June 12. "I wanted to be a public radio reporter and go somewhere that was beautiful and had a lot of nature, so this seemed like a good place," she said. Sostaric's arrival in Wrangell marks her first full-time job out of college, though she's...

  • Survey: recycling, illegal dumping top local environmental issues

    Brian O Connor|Jun 26, 2014

    An informal survey of Wrangellites conducted by the Indian Environmental General Assistance Program (IGAP) concluded illegal dumping and recycling were the top environmental issues locally. The survey’s 158 respondents were asked to rank, on a one-to-five scale, 16 environmental issues, ranging from safe drinking water to mining issues on the Stikine River. The survey also included a place for respondents’ own suggestions. The scores for each issue were then combined and ranked according to how high they had scored. Under this rubric, dum...

  • School officials table food services contract

    Brian O Connor|Jun 19, 2014

    School board members tabled by unanimous consent a food services contract with Nana Management Services, LLC (NMS) at Monday’s regular school board meeting. In particular, discussion focused on codifying an unwritten agreement between the company and the school board over providing a vehicle for use around town and around minor statutory changes to be made after reviews by the school system’s lawyer and the Alaska Department of Education & Early Childhood Development. “We feel like we’ve got a program that the state’s approved and NMS will... Full story

  • Stough resigns from Assembly, TBPC

    Brian O Connor|Jun 19, 2014

    James Stough resigned from both the Thomas Bay Power Commission (TBPC) and the borough assembly Friday. TBPC secretary Dave Galla resigned the same day. The resignations came a day after a Petersburg meeting called at the request of a majority of the commissioners. Commissioners voted to contact Stough by phone and letter concerning his absence at both the June 12 Petersburg meeting and a meeting held June 5 in Wrangell. Stough last ran unopposed to Assembly Seat C in 2012, receiving 468 votes.... Full story

  • Lights, Camera, Wrangell

    Brian O Connor|Jun 19, 2014

    Some burly men were duct taping a video camera to the side of a plasma cutter in a shipping container at the Marine Services Center Friday afternoon. The camera was a GoPro. The plasma cutter belonged to Superior Marine Services, and the shipping container was transformed momentarily into a set for a television show. "This is gonna be (expletive) awesome!" one man said. A moment later, the plasma cutter started roaring. It cut an elaborate metal "S" out of a piece of plate metal. The cameras -... Full story

  • Assembly to consider raising electric rates

    Brian O Connor|Jun 19, 2014

    An ordinance change passed on first reading at the June 10 assembly meeting could raise electric rates by as much as 10 percent by January 2015. If approved as worded – judging only from preliminary discussion at the assembly meeting, that appears unlikely to happen – a five percent increase in electrical rates would take effect July 1. An additional five percent increase could be enacted Jan. 1, contingent on whether or not Wrangell Light & Power receives an annual rebate from the Southeast Alaska Power Agency (SEAPA). Officials say the rat...

  • Officials look to Rally's return

    Brian O Connor|Jun 19, 2014

    Officials this week tried to make the best of last week’s postponement of the Salty Dog Rally. Among the officials who expressed disappointment was Leslie Cummings, a Wrangell Convention and Visitors Bureau board member who played a large role in facilitating Wrangell’s participation as the end point of a long-distance yachting rally. Cummings made the initial connection with Salty Dog Rally ALASKA organizer Dawny Pack and said, while local organizations who contributed were upset about the plan, they looked forward to Rally’s planned resch...

  • Power official urges caution with fish entrails

    Brian O Connor|Jun 19, 2014

    Fish guts and good intentions have caused at least one of two short bird-related power outages in the last two weeks, officials with Wrangell Light & Power said. Fishermen with an eye toward offering feathered friends a meal often leave the undesirable part of the fish out for the birds, said superintendent Clay Hammer. The birds, excited at the possibility of a free meal, lose track of their surroundings and inadvertently bridge the gap between two electric lines. The birds are killed instantly...

  • Wrangell rentals in seasonally short supply

    Brian O Connor|Jun 19, 2014

    When their Plan A for housing fell through, the seven-member Bosdell family pitched Plan B in Shoemaker Park. Plan B was a three-room tent. Plan A had been to buy property at Olive Cove, but at the last minute, the deal fell through, Victoria Bosdell said. The Bosdells pitched their tent in hopes that it would be a short-term stay. The tent eventually became home to Shannon, Victoria, Jeanne, McKinley, Lief, Tyler, Hawkeye, two dogs and a cat for slightly more than a month. While some might envy the back-to-basics simplicity of life in a tent,...

  • Zoning commission approves variances

    Brian O Connor|Jun 19, 2014

    The planning and zoning commission voted 5-0 to approve a pair of measures for a local tanning salon June 12. In the first vote, the board approved a conditional use permit for the permanent location of SunDash Tanning at 105 Church Street. The second vote granted a variance permit request to off-street parking requirements for Sundash. A third item relating to height variances for a house to be constructed near the intersection of Zimovia Highway and Ash Street was removed from the agenda. That item was resolved by the Board of Adjustment....

  • Salmon Derby prizes awarded

    Brian O Connor|Jun 19, 2014

    Fishermen and fishing enthusiasts gathered at the Nolan Center June 12 to garner cash and prizes for the 2014 Salmon Derby. The Derby has been held since 1953, said master of ceremonies Jeff Angerman. "A lot of years have gone by, and it was quite a successful derby," he said. Kelley Krumm took first place in the adult tourney, earning $6,000 plus a $500 weekly prize. Bruze Kautz won the $4,000 second prize with a 40.1-pound fish, as well as the Week 2 $500 weekly prize. Solvay Bakke took third...

  • TBPC approves resolution supporting SEAPA takeover

    Brian O Connor|Jun 12, 2014

    Thomas Bay Power commissioners voted 5-0 to support the handover of Tyee Lake to the Southeast Alaska Power Agency (SEAPA). The special meeting, held June 5, was the commission’s first in at least two months and drew Petersburg commissioners as well as the Petersburg mayor to the borough assembly chambers. Critics of the transfer have said the handover would essentially put borough resources in the hands of an unelected bureaucracy. Supporters generally say the transfer will limit the liability Wrangell faces in connection with Tyee Lake o... Full story

  • Familiar faces in race to replace Wilson

    Brian O Connor|Jun 12, 2014

    Candidates for the newly renumbered State Representative District 36 say jobs and connections were among the key issues for Southeast. Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly member Agnes Moran, Wilson legislative aide and small business owner Chere Klein, and Ketchikan Visitors Bureau president and CEO Patti Mackey will all appear on the ballot for the Aug. 19 Republican primary. The victor will face independent candidate Dan Ortiz in the Nov. 4 general election. Retiring legislator Peggy Wilson (R...

  • Borough assembly approves 2015 budget

    Brian O Connor|Jun 12, 2014

    The borough assembly voted 5-0 Tuesday to pass both the property tax rate and the municipal budget for the fiscal year 2015. At a May 13 budget workshop, officials pledged the mill rate of 12.75 mills will remain unchanged this year. That means that a house assessed at $200,000 would pay a property tax bill of $2,550. Since presenting the budget at a public workshop May 24, officials have received news of $37,219 in additional revenue, composed of a $23,821 shot in the arm from increased revenue sharing and a $13,398 increase from the state...

  • Summer road work projects will pave Weber, Cassiar

    Brian O Connor|Jun 12, 2014

    Summer road projects will result in two Wrangell streets being paved for the first time. Work is currently underway to pave Weber Street, starting at its intersection with Church Street and stretching up into the small subdivision above Reid Street, with completion expected by the end of this week. City officials expect to pave and rework culverts on Cassiar Street from Mission Street to the street's end starting June 15, according to Public Works Director Carl Johnson. A firm completion date hasn't yet been set, though officials expect the...

  • Lemonade peddlers line Front Street

    Brian O Connor|Jun 12, 2014

    While lemonade – organic, strawberry, cherry, pink and blue – was definitely for sale Saturday, it was far from the only thing eager Wrangell children were selling at stands on the borough's main street. Other items sold ranged from handmade lumpia to horchata, cupcakes, Wrangell garnets, cookies, popcorn and cotton candy. Enough lemonade and food was available for sale to please the palate or overwhelm the stomach of the unwary consumer. In addition to selling items beyond lemonade, wou...

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