Articles written by Caleb Vierkant


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  • Assembly focuses on two options for Public Safety Building

    Caleb Vierkant|Sep 2, 2021

    The assembly has directed borough staff to get two estimates for possibly resolving the longstanding deliberations over repairs to the rot-damaged Public Safety Building and the future of the former hospital building. One estimate would be for a two-year project to repair and renovate the 34-year-old Public Safety Building, restoring it for full use by the police and fire departments, state court system, federal customs and other agencies. The other estimate from an engineering firm would cover remodeling the vacant Wrangell Medical Center as...

  • Borough creates new deputy manager post

    Caleb Vierkant|Sep 2, 2021

    Borough leadership will expand in the near future, with the creation of a new position intended to help allow the borough manager to focus on bigger projects — in addition to taking on its own set of assignments. The assembly unanimously approved Aug. 24 the creation of a deputy borough manager position, following up on discussion from two weeks earlier. The deputy manager would share the workload and assist the borough manager in administrative functions. Assemblymember Patty Gilbert asked what parts of the borough manager job the deputy would...

  • Assembly rejects mask mandate, opts for public education

    Caleb Vierkant|Aug 26, 2021

    The borough assembly decided not to reinstate a local mask mandate at their Tuesday meeting. Rather, they asked borough staff to pursue a public education campaign strongly recommending that people wear face masks and take other safety precautions during the current surge in COVID-19 cases. The assembly vote was 6-1. The meeting was held via Zoom, a reversal from the assembly’s short-lived return to in-person meetings. City Hall has been closed since last week due to staff exposure to COVID. Dorianne Sprehe, with the Wrangell Emergency O...

  • COVID outbreak in Washington distribution center affects Alaska grocers

    Caleb Vierkant|Aug 26, 2021

    A COVID-19 outbreak that shut down a Washington state warehouse that helps supply Wrangell IGA and other Southeast grocery stores disrupted shipments this month, but the operation has reopened and shelves and coolers are moving back toward normal. “We didn’t get any dry groceries for the past two weeks, we only got our dairy and our meat,” Caroline Bangs, with Wrangell IGA, said Monday. “But this week we just got our freight in and just got eight pallets of dry (goods).” With the distribution center reopened and filling orders, Bangs expects d...

  • So long Wrangell, and thanks for all the fish!

    Caleb Vierkant|Aug 26, 2021

    Did I format my entire letter saying goodbye to Wrangell so I could put a "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" reference in the title? Yes, yes I did. Looking back on the past three years of my life, I noticed how many of my fondest memories revolve around seafood in some way. Discovering the miracle that is smoked salmon, going fishing with my friends, watching the bears at Anan fatten up on salmon, friends and neighbors offering to share their catches of crab with me, getting to cover an autopsy...

  • Schools will review mask requirement after first two weeks

    Caleb Vierkant|Aug 19, 2021

    The school board has decided to continue with its COVID-19 mitigation plan that requires students, staff and visitors to wear face masks in the buildings, though the policy will be reviewed again two weeks after classes begin. The plan approved at the board meeting Monday evening calls for review of the masking protocols on a monthly basis. Classes start Aug. 31. The next school board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 13. "Masks will be required for students, staff and guests while in school or at school events," the plan now reads. "During...

  • Borough approves cell tower lease at landfill

    Caleb Vierkant|Aug 19, 2021

    After a two-week delay due to an incomplete property appraisal, the borough assembly has approved the lease for a new cell tower. The first tenant of the new tower near the city landfill will be Verizon Wireless, though additional carriers could be added later. The lease was delayed from the assembly’s July 27 meeting to wait for the appraisal. Lease fees on borough land are based on property value. The lease will be $645 a month. The payments to the borough will increase if more cell providers are added to the tower. The assembly approved t...

  • Assembly takes first step to add deputy manager

    Caleb Vierkant|Aug 19, 2021

    Acknowledging that it’s not easy to run the borough as more projects are added to the borough manager’s work list, the assembly has decided it may be time to add a deputy manager at city hall. The assembly at a workshop Aug. 11 directed Manager Lisa Von Bargen to start toward creating the new position, though final approval will be up to the assembly. “This has been in discussion for well over, I believe, three years,” Mayor Steve Prysunka said. “I’m just going to generally state that this position, at least my understanding, is not necessa...

  • Masks required, new tracking system in place for school buses

    Caleb Vierkant|Aug 12, 2021

    Wrangell’s school bus operator is reminding parents and children that riders must wear a face mask, same as last year. But what will be new this school year is a software tool that will tell parents in real time the location of their children’s bus. Zach Taylor, of Taylor Transportation, said face masks are a federal mandate, and not something they can bend on. He asks that kids use their own masks when riding the bus, but the drivers will provide disposable masks in case anyone forgets. “That is a federal mandate, just like the airpl...

  • Nolan Center needs more staff to cover theater and museum

    Caleb Vierkant|Aug 12, 2021

    The Nolan Center, Wrangell’s museum, movie theater and community center, is suffering from a staffing shortage. The center has received some help from volunteers, but director Cyni Crary said they hope to hire for various new positions. “We’re basically down to just me,” Crary said. “I had one of the theater staff helping in the gift shop, and she was doing a really good job, but she’s gone for the whole month of August. I kind of lost all the help that I would have had.” Crary said they are looking for a Nolan Center coordinator,...

  • State trooper gives advice to keep bears out of trash

    Caleb Vierkant|Aug 12, 2021

    The number of bears getting into trash and having close encounters with people or their pets is increasing, said Chadd Yoder, Wrangell’s state wildlife trooper. And it’s likely to get worse before it gets better, he said, as bears try to fatten up before winter hibernation. Bears accustomed to searching garbage for food can become a serious issue, Yoder said, and he wants to educate people on what they can do to keep bears out of their backyards. The real hot spot for bears getting into trash is between 5-mile and 10-mile Zimovia Highway, he...

  • School sign-up opens next week

    Caleb Vierkant|Aug 5, 2021

    Registration for the new school year will open online Wednesday. In-person registration will be offered 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 17 at the high school gym. Classes start Aug. 30. Teachers start back at work Aug. 25. Families registering their kids for school should not expect any big changes from last year, said Megan Powell, high school secretary. “It’s the same as last year, other than last year we didn’t do an in-person (registration) due to COVID,” she said. “It should be really easy for parents. I did it last year for my daughter and it wa...

  • It's a dog's world at Jessie's Pantry

    Caleb Vierkant|Aug 5, 2021

    "I was trying to think of what to do while finishing up college virtually, here in Wrangell," Alex Angerman said. "My family and I were brainstorming, and it was actually my dad who thought of the idea to start making and selling dog treats." Angerman has been running her dog-treat bakery, Jessie's Pantry, out of her home since October 2020. She graduated with honors this past spring from Eastern Washington University, with a degree in urban and regional planning and a minor in geography. She...

  • Rally for Cancer Care fundraiser tees off this weekend

    Caleb Vierkant|Aug 5, 2021

    As the COVID-19 pandemic winds through its second year, many aspects of normal life are returning, including the annual Rally for Cancer Care golf tournament this weekend in Wrangell. The rally is a big fundraising event put on by the WMC Foundation, established in 2006 to support the Wrangell Medical Center. Although the borough hospital has changed hands and SEARHC has its own charitable organizations, WMC Foundation President Patty Gilbert said the group continues to serve Wrangell and other small Southeast communities. The golf tournament...

  • Equipment delays slow down trash baler project

    Caleb Vierkant|Aug 5, 2021

    Progress on transitioning from moving Wrangell’s trash in open-top containers aboard barges to bales of shredded and compressed waste in closed containers is moving slower than expected due to equipment delivery delays, said Capital Facilities Director Amber Al-Haddad. “We can anticipate all the baler equipment to arrive by next week,” she said, adding that there are several other pieces that will take longer to arrive. Due to staffing and material shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Al-Haddad said, manufacturers worldwide have exper...

  • Photographer shares advice during Bearfest workshop

    Caleb Vierkant|Aug 5, 2021

    Robert Johnson has made a living as a professional photographer for about 20 years, and found time again this year to share tips at a workshop as part of Wrangell's annual Bearfest. He advised people not to worry too much about the equipment they are using and to just find what they are comfortable with and what complements their creative process. Modern cellphones take amazing pictures, he said. It isn't necessary to have an expensive setup to get a good photo. Another piece of advice was to...

  • Junior entrepreneur at work with Lobtail Lemonade stand

    Caleb Vierkant|Jul 29, 2021

    "Mostly what I do, when I'm not busy, is I mostly sit inside and ... just think about what I'm going to do," Jonah Hurst said. Jonah, 8 years old, is the young entrepreneur behind Jonah's Lobtail Lemonade, a lemonade stand he set up along the driveway at Panhandle Trailer Court. Jonah said the name came from the whales that swim around Wrangell Island, sometimes beating the top of the water with their tails. With his lemonade stand, he is making money and learning more about running a business....

  • Borough approves new Shoemaker cell tower

    Caleb Vierkant|Jul 29, 2021

    The borough assembly Tuesday evening approved a lease amendment for a new cell tower at the Shoemaker Harbor, which the developer said will bring improved cell service to the island. Action on a second agreement to lease borough land for a new tower next to the landfill at the north end of the island was postponed to the assembly’s Aug. 10 meeting, waiting for a property appraisal. The Shoemaker tower will replace a shorter pole installed in 2007 near the parking lot. The new 125-foot-tall tower will be capable of providing improved cell s...

  • Salmon runs have been weak

    Caleb Vierkant|Jul 29, 2021

    Salmon harvests are coming in slowly in the Wrangell-Petersburg area, according to Sea Level Seafoods and the state fisheries biologist out of Petersburg. Though it’s too early for a lot of specific numbers, both report catches have been lower than in previous seasons. “It’s going pretty slow,” said Nik Morozov, manager at Wrangell’s Sea Level plant. “We’re close to half of what we normally do.” Morozov said he has three tenders out right now, and had been assuming they would fill up and bring back loads of fish quickly, but that is not hap...

  • New leader has plans for more chamber events in the community

    Caleb Vierkant|Jul 29, 2021

    There's some new leadership at the Wrangell Chamber of Commerce, but the organization's mission is still the same: To promote and support local businesses. To do so, said the new executive director Britani Robbins, there are big but currently secret plans for the future. "I have lots of new ideas, but they're secret," she said. "I plan on having a fair amount more events following COVID. Everything's opening back up. When I was a kid Wrangell was all about events and community gatherings, and I...

  • Fundraiser underway for family that lost boat to fire

    Caleb Vierkant|Jul 29, 2021

    The Della G, a Wrangell fishing vessel owned and operated by the Churchill family, was lost to a fire in Juneau on July 13. Nobody was on board the 32-foot boat at the time of the fire, according to news reports in Juneau. The Wrangell community has started to come together to help the Churchills. According to news reports, the Della G was in Gastineau Channel near the Juneau airport. Reports of the fire came in before midnight, but the response was delayed. “Initially unable to get through the wetlands to the fire from the airport side, Juneau...

  • Borough will update cost estimate for water treatment plant

    Caleb Vierkant|Jul 22, 2021

    The borough assembly has directed the administration to pursue an updated cost estimate for solving Wrangell’s deficient water-treatment plant. Progress on replacing the treatment process has moved slowly since a 2017 cost estimate of nearly $10 million, while Wrangell now faces key deadlines to retain $9 million in federal assistance that was approved for the work between 2017 and 2019. The likelihood of higher costs since 2017 is another hurdle, should Wrangell proceed with the project. Borough officials said at a July 13 assembly work s...

  • From the publisher

    Larry Persily and Caleb Vierkant, Wrangell Sentinel|Jul 22, 2021

    Newspapers report what happened. Sure, we also report some of what will or may happen in the days ahead, but most of the Sentinel tells you what occurred last week in the community that may affect or interest you. By definition, it's old news by the time you get it in your mailbox or buy it at the store on Thursdays. It's not deliberately old, it's just a matter of timing. Publishing a weekly newspaper has its time and production constraints, which dictate how old the news is by the time we get...

  • Wrangell hosts first Heart Walk with Petersburg

    Caleb Vierkant|Jul 22, 2021

    Dozens of people from Wrangell and Petersburg came together at the downtown pavilion Sunday morning for the first Heart Walk of their communities, organized as a fundraiser for the Children's Heart Foundation and as a way for the communities to show support for three families: The Buness, Shumway and Maddox families. As of Monday morning, the Heart Walk has raised $8,797, with donations still coming in online. Jaxon Buness, 17 months old, is the child of Wrangell's Shawna and Jordan Buness. Owen...

  • Baked for Breakfast plans to mix old and new

    Caleb Vierkant|Jul 22, 2021

    The decision to open a business just sort of happened, according to Bridgette Petticrew. She and Celsee Churchill were sitting with their kids at dinner one night, and had a spur-of-the-moment idea to start one. Churchill is a good cook, Petticrew said, and she is a good baker. Now, about a month down the road from that idea, Baked for Breakfast is gearing up for business. "We just had a couple of good ideas, and so far it's taking off," Churchill said. "We thought we'd start out small." Part...

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