Articles written by Brian Oconnor


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  • Howe sentenced to eight months

    Dan Rudy and Brian OConnor|Jul 24, 2014

    State of Alaska Superior Court Judge Kevin Miller sentenced James Howe, 42, to serve eight months in jail at his July 14 hearing. Howe was convicted by a Wrangell jury last month on two counts relating to a domestic disturbance. According to a complaint filed in Wrangell’s First District Superior Court, on March 5 officers responded to a report of fighting at the Alaska State Housing Authority. Dana Cawthorne had told police Howe assaulted her and prevented her from calling for help. Howe further admitted to authorities that he had taken her ph...

  • TBPA: Nicholls and Christian respond

    Brian OConnor|Jul 3, 2014

    Hammer and Wrangell Clerk Kim Lane, accompanied by Wrangell Police Chief Doug McCloskey arrived at the TBPA office headquarters about 3 p.m., when a Wrangell Sentinel reporter was interviewing Nicholls. The interview was the first notification of the imposition of administrative leave, Nicholls and Christian said. Nicholls disputed claims by the Thomas Bay Power Commission that there had been a lack of communication between commissioners and staff prior to the June 6 special meeting. "At that...

  • Fourth of July festivities begin

    Brian OConnor|Jul 3, 2014

    The light slanted low across Shoemaker Bay, and the parking lot at Shoemaker Park was almost full Tuesday. Music was playing on the speakers, hamburgers and hot dogs sizzled on the grill. Hugs, smiles, handshakes and jokes made the rounds of the Welcome Back Picnic. The Fourth of July was still three days away, but a festive atmosphere had already begun to creep into the air around town, and a series of events this week started the journey to Wrangell's most celebrated public holiday. Earlier...

  • Jury finds Howe guilty of assault

    Brian OConnor|Jul 3, 2014

    A Wrangell jury convicted James Howe, 42, on two counts June 25. Police had charged Howe with Assault in the Third Degree, a class C Felony, and Interfering with reporting of Domestic Violence, a class A misdemeanor. According to a complaint filed in the First District Superior Court at Wrangell, authorities responded to a report of fighting at the Alaska State Housing Authority. Dana Cawthorne told police Howe had grabbed her wrist and held her down and struck her at least twice on the side of the head, according to the complaint. When she...

  • School board approves food services contract, grant

    Brian OConnor|Jul 3, 2014

    The Wrangell school board voted 3-0 June 23 to award a food services contract to Nana Management Services (NMS). The cost of the contract is estimated at $63,453 for 174 serving days, and it replaces the school-run program, though all personnel currently employed in the food service program will maintain their positions and jobs. School board members had previously tabled the motion until language regarding the temporary use of a car owned by NMS was added. Nana Management Services, headquartered in Anchorage, is a subsidiary of the Nana...

  • Code committee animal statute review ongoing

    Brian OConnor|Jul 3, 2014

    Borough officials continued a review of borough animal codes June 26. The meeting focused on extensive additions to definitions and enforcement while past meetings had focused on issues of licensure for dogs. Under the draft ordinance reviewed at the last meeting, the licensing period would be extended from one to two years, fees to obtain a license would be doubled from $5 to $10, and the rubric for repeat offenders would be changed. The additions discussed June 26 would legally define, for the first time, 25 terms ranging from “abandon” to...

  • Annual Ottesen's golf tournaments held

    Brian OConnor|Jul 3, 2014

    Golfers braved clouds of rain and mosquitoes to participate in the annual Ottesen's golf tournaments this weekend. In the four-person best shot tournament held Saturday, Brian Smith, Jane Bliss, Tammy Davidson and Vincent Balansag won on an overall score of 21, with a 17-stroke team handicap. A three-person team of George Woodbury, Brett Woodbury and Warren Edgley took second on a team score of 22 with a 12-stroke handicap, followed by Greg Scheff, Bill Messmer and Pete Walden, who also scored 2...

  • Federal government, borough, WCA collaborate on Weber

    Brian OConnor|Jul 3, 2014

    The final touches on the Weber Street project concluded this week. For the Wrangell Cooperative Association (WCA), the repaving and sidewalk work on the formerly two-way street in the middle of a residential neighborhood is simply one more project completed. The project was three years in the making. Bidding for construction was estimated at about $490,000, though final figures for the construction aren't yet available, officials said, and they are waiting for the project to be completed before...

  • Author with Wrangell connection to visit on book tour

    Brian OConnor|Jul 3, 2014

    Blood may be thicker than water, but water has its own unique bond. Dave Olson has written a quasi-memoir, "Bonded By Water," about his family's multi-generational bond to Southeast. The Olson family relocated to Ketchikan when Dave was a teenager – he remembers coming to Wrangell in the pep band when Ketchikan High School played the Wrangell Institute basketball team – and the family retained a strong connection with Southeast. Dave is the brother of the Rev. Ken Olson, the former pastor of...

  • School board hears bullying testimony

    Brian OConnor|Apr 24, 2014

    An Evergreen Elementary school student has faced intimidation from older students after being wrongly accused of bullying, his mother told the school board. The intimidation stemmed at least partially from a Sentinel story published April 3, in which an unnamed mother claimed a bullying incident landed her son in the hospital. The mother in that account did not specifically identify her son’s alleged assailants. However, according to Kelly Decker, word of mouth and rumor have since led the victim and two other students to make allegations a...

  • Assembly discusses future of Thomas Bay Power Authority

    Brian OConnor|Apr 24, 2014

    The future of the Thomas Bay Power Authority and the commission governing it took center stage at Tuesday’s borough assembly meeting. The heart of the matter focused on the role the Thomas Bay Power Commission will play in future negotiations about the future of the Tyee Lake electric plant. James Stough, the sitting president of the Thomas Bay Power Commission issued the cease-and-decist letter April 4 on TBPA letterhead in his authority as TBPC president without notifying other members of the commission of the letter in advance. He claims t...

  • 'Eggs'-ellent

    Brian OConnor|Apr 24, 2014

    Alivia Haggard, 5, Becca Haney, and Roger Williams work together dyeing eggs Saturday at the Wrangell Medical Center. The event was held for Long Term Care residents and their grandchildren and adopted grandchildren in celebration of Easter....

  • 100 and counting

    Brian OConnor|Apr 24, 2014

    Nondas Haux kisses the hand of husband Ted Haux Satuday at Wrangell Medical Center. Nondas will turn 100 Monday. The two of them have traveled across the country 42 times for missionary work, bringing with them their priceless D'Angelico guitars and singing voices. Nondas was an amazing public speaker, Ted said. The two of them have been married for more than 60 years. Nondas has also authored a book about their travels, titled "In Journeys Oft." A celebration is planned for Monday at 3 p.m. in...

  • 3D printer arrives at Wrangell High School

    Brian OConnor|Apr 24, 2014

    Wrangell vocational and technical students could soon have a hands-on glimpse of the manufacturing future. A 3D printer arrived at the high school shop last week, part of a Department of Labor-sponsored program at Sitka High School to move high technology into Southeast, according to high school shop teacher Drew Larrabee. The printer consists of a small nozzle, resembling a glue gun, for extruding molten plastic onto a heated platform. The first thing the printer creates for each object is a...

  • School board hires Mayer for superintendent job

    Brian OConnor|Apr 24, 2014

    The school board voted 4-0 Wednesday night to offer the top administrative position to Patrick Mayer. Mayer was one of two finalists who interviewed for the position and participated in a public meet-and-greet March 21. The board initially signed a contract with the other finalist, Jay Thomas, but Thomas withdrew last week citing personal reasons. Since 2010, Mayer has been principal of Delta High School in the Delta-Greely School District headquartered in Delta Junction, near Fairbanks. "I'm...

  • Wrangell turns into birders' paradise

    Brian OConnor|Apr 24, 2014

    The more visible aspects of the Stikine River Birding festival start this evening, but festival elements had already started Monday. Guest artist Elizabeth Kunibe has been teaching students in Wrangell about art using bird cutouts and paints. Their work goes on display this evening in the Nolan center. Students were given wooden templates mounted on driftwood and received a lesson about color. They then painted their silhouettes and attached eyes, Kunibe said. She was putting the finishing touches on the bird templates last week when interviewe...

  • TBPA resolution unanimously approved

    Brian OConnor|Dec 12, 2013

    The council voted 5-0 to approve a resolution that would begin the process of moving the Thomas Bay Power Authority-run Tyee Lake facility over to the Southeast Alaska Power Agency. The resolution reflects a draft resolution approved at the Dec. 3 special assembly meeting, and keeps most of the terms of that resolution intact. TBPA employees would be “kept whole” in terms of wages, benefits, and positions during the conversion process. SEAPA would absorb the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) unfunded liability. Wrangell and Pet...

  • Local educator to retire after 24 years

    Brian OConnor|Dec 12, 2013

    When bachelor science teacher Monty Buness started working at Stikine Middle School in the fall of 1989, a British scientist had just invented the world wide web, but it wouldn't be widely available for four more years. When the former Alaska Principal of the Year – now happily married to former library aide Linda Buness – retires at the end of the 2013-14 school year, every student in the high school will have his or her own laptop computer, and likely own a cell phone or other mobile dev...

  • State ruling to change medevac insurance plans

    Brian OConnor|Dec 12, 2013

    An Alaska Division of Insurance ruling will effectively cancel a widely used medical evacuation membership plan across Southeast. The ruling, issued in a letter of judgment Nov. 12, effectively invalidates the Airlift Northwest’s Alaska AirCare membership plan. Airlift Northwest is a subsidiary of the University of Washington, and until mid-November the Alaska AirCare membership plan was designed to eliminate co-payments for emergency medical costs in Southeast. Wrangell citizens typically use a combination of plans to cover the costs of m...

  • Marshall acquitted of murder solicitation

    Brian OConnor|Dec 12, 2013

    A Ketchikan jury took less than an hour to acquit Steve Marshall of a murder solicitation Thursday, officials and family members said. The trial – held before Superior Court Judge William Carey in the First Judicial District at Ketchikan – hinged on the credibility of witness Frank W. Mooney, according to family members and the Ketchikan Daily News. Mooney is a convicted sex offender. Carey sentenced Marshall to 10 unsuspended years on a first and third degree assault counts Aug. 20 after a Wrangell jury acquitted him of rape charges at the sam...

  • Obamacare site improves but hurdles remain

    Brian OConnor|Dec 12, 2013

    While major improvements to the flagship website of healthcare reform have been made, parts of the reform law remain a work in progress, a representative of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium said. The troubled healthcare.gov website has started to show signs of improved functionality, said Monique Martin, the consortium’s representative. Martin visited Wrangell Tuesday to discuss problems and remaining issues with the site. She spent most of the day Tuesday consulting with local healthcare consumers worried about the laws effects, a...

  • Five wrestlers bound for state

    Brian OConnor|Dec 12, 2013

    Five Wolves qualified outright for state, and a sixth is an alternate after the Southeast Region V tournament last weekend. Freshman Sig Decker, sophomores Roger Miller and Chet Armstrong, junior Jeffrey Rooney, Jr., and senior Devon Miller each reached fourth or higher – the qualification minimum for state – and will wrestle in the State tournament. Senior Alex Cano reached fifth, and will stand in if one of the higher wrestlers in his weight bracket becomes incapacitated. "It was a great tou...

  • Volleyball team's season ends at Klawock

    Brian OConnor|Dec 12, 2013

    The Lady Wolves came within a game and five points of the State tournament last weekend. In the fourth game of the set against Klawock, the Wrangell High volleyball team was only five points down. Unable to make up the deficit, the team eventually finished third, behind Klawock and Craig, who will head to State this weekend. Klawock beat the Lady Wolves twice over the course of the tournament, once to send them into the consolation bracket and a second time to seal the Lady Chieftan's second...

  • USFS urges public comment on cabins

    Brian OConnor|Dec 12, 2013

    A representative from the U.S. Forest Service urged members of the borough’s economic development committee to comment on the service’s environmental assessment. At the Dec. 5 meeting, Austin O’Brien told committee members the public comment period would allow local residents to defend cabins that may be on the chopping block. The Wrangell Ranger district is facing a 30 percent reduction in its recreation budget this year, meaning that without substantial changes to the way the district does business, cabins and other attractions – includi...

  • Bell ringers seek volunteers

    Brian OConnor|Dec 12, 2013

    The Salvation Army's annual bell-ringing campaign has begun, and organizers could use some folks willing to brave the cold. The perennial tinkle of the bell can be heard outside the City Market and Bobs' IGA grocery stores from about 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., though filling all of those hours has been difficult without a steady stream of volunteers. The annual campaign kicked off Dec. 1, and captains Ronnie and Debbie Davis say they could use volunteers to meet this year's collection goal of $2,500,...

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