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  • Wrangell far down on state-funded school repairs list

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 3, 2024

    Wrangell is No. 16 on the statewide priority list and unlikely to receive any school repair money this year from the state’s Major Maintenance Grant Fund. The list, prepared each year by the Alaska Department of Education after reviewing engineering and condition reports on school buildings, determines which districts receive state funding for their priority repair and rebuilding projects. The Wrangell School District had requested $6.5 million in state money that it would use with $3.5 million approved by voters in 2022 to make $10 million o...

  • State postpones Zimovia Highway concrete repaving work to spring

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 3, 2024

    Though the state Department of Transportation had hoped and planned to pave the rebuilt section of Zimovia Highway in the landslide area by early this month, the weather did not cooperate and the concrete work has been postponed to at least March. “It isn’t working out in our favor,” Chris Goins, the department's regional director for Southeast, said of the gusty winds that blew through town before and after Christmas, forcing the rescheduling. Until it warms up and winter storms are past, drivers will see a crushed-rock surface for sever...

  • We less partisanship, not more

    Larry Persily Publisher|Jan 3, 2024

    Partisan politics itself is not evil. Disruptive, yes. Phony, certainly. Shortsighted, no doubt about it. On its own, partisanship is a childish game played by adults who care more about headlines, fundraising and winning elections than anything else. But in recent years, partisanship has devolved into something much worse than a political shouting match. Stoked by social media, half-truths and everything but the truth, partisanship has grown into a divisive force that threatens the country by threatening our elections. Far too many Americans...

  • Assembly next stop for residential subdivision land sale

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 3, 2024

    The Economic Development Board has recommended to the borough assembly that it put up half of the 20 lots at the Alder Top Village (Keishangita.’aan) subdivision in an online auction to the highest bidders, with the other half going on sale by lottery. There would be no limit on how many lots an individual could purchase in the auction, but the board decided to recommend limiting the lottery to one lot per individual. The five-member advisory board voted unanimously Dec. 20 to forward its recommendations to the assembly, which has final say o...

  • Borough looks to impose $300 fine for illegal tree cutting

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 3, 2024

    People have been driving out the Spur Road and illegally cutting down trees on borough land and hauling away the logs, likely for firewood, Wrangell Police Chief Tom Radke said. In a move to combat the theft and damage to public property, the borough assembly will hold a public hearing at its meeting Tuesday, Jan. 9, on a proposed ordinance that would institute a $300 fine for illegally cutting down trees on borough land. The ordinance would add a new section to municipal code, defining trespass to include “the cutting down, injury or r...

  • School district state travel account back to $52,000 deficit

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 3, 2024

    The school district is advancing funds to cover student travel to state competition this school year, with the account at an estimated $52,000 deficit. The district is looking to the community and the newly created Wrangell Athletic Club to repay the costs before the budget year closes out on June 30. “That is our hope,” Schools Superintendent Bill Burr said in late December. Student travel to state competition cost about $46,000 in the 2022-2023 school year, which the school board voted in November to cover on a one-time basis out of reserves...

  • Trident looks to sell Petersburg and Ketchikan plants; will keep Wrangell

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Dec 20, 2023

    Seattle-based Trident Seafoods will scale back its operations in an economically challenging global market and wants to sell several of its facilities in Alaska, including processing plants in Petersburg and Ketchikan, but the company plans to keep its Wrangell operation. "Wrangell is a highly efficient plant that makes products that feed our value-added salmon operations," Alexis Telfer, vice president for global communications at Trident, reported in an email Dec. 12. "Petersburg is a...

  • Zimovia Highway landslide repairs will exceed $1.2 million

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Dec 20, 2023

    The cost of clearing landslide debris, digging up the roadbed to install three large culverts to carry runoff from the mountainside, building up a new base and shoulders, and then paving the rebuilt section of Zimovia Highway with concrete will exceed $1.2 million. It could be another couple weeks before the work is finished and the highway restored to two-lane traffic, said a state official. Fortunately, the Alaska Department of Transportation had enough sections of 36-inch-diameter culvert on...

  • Governor's budget includes $5 million for Wrangell dam repairs

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Dec 20, 2023

    Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed state budget for legislative consideration starting in January includes $5 million to strengthen the century-old earthen dams that contain Wrangell’s water reservoirs. The state grant would pay to “reinforce both these dams with buttresses,” likely concrete, Interim Borough Manager Mason Villarma said Dec. 15. The governor released his version of the budget on Dec. 14. Lawmakers will reconvene in Juneau on Jan. 16, with the state spending plan likely to dominate the 121-day session. Villarma and other borough...

  • PFD the center of governor's budget universe

    Larry Persily Publisher|Dec 20, 2023

    Gov. Mike Dunleavy is starting his sixth year as the state’s top elected leader. Sadly, he’s not providing much fiscal leadership, other than beating the drums for his perpetual political bandwagon that trumpets the Permanent Fund dividend at the front of the parade, with public schools playing second fiddle. It’s off-key and off-base. The governor unveiled his proposed state budget last week, setting out a spending plan for the fiscal year that will start July 1 and which legislators will start working through when they reconvene in Junea...

  • Borough moves closer to decision on subdivision land sale

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Dec 20, 2023

    The borough has gone out to the public for a second time to survey their opinions on how to sell the first 20 lots of the Alder Top Village (Keishangita.’aan) subdivision, in advance of a decision by the Economic Development Board at its meeting set for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 20, at City Hall. The board is scheduled to make a recommendation to the assembly for how the lots should be sold, with the assembly expected to take up the issue in January. According to the Economic Development Department’s proposed schedule, the borough would hol...

  • Residents advised to apply to learn if they qualify for disaster aid

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Dec 13, 2023

    A dozen Wrangell households had applied as of Dec. 7 for state financial aid to help them recover from the Nov. 20 landslide. The deadline to apply is not until Jan. 27, and an official with the state emergency management agency is encouraging anyone who believes they were directed affected by the slide to fill out an application. “We want people to apply,” said Jeremy Zidek, with the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The division will review the applications and give priority to people who have the greatest needs...

  • Elon Musk provides a megaphone for fraud

    Larry Persily Publisher|Dec 13, 2023

    Elon Musk brought Tesla, SpaceX and Starlink to the world, which has mostly been good. He certainly is creative and extremely wealthy — gotta give him credit for that. Musk is brash and boastful, which has been obnoxious but mostly harmless. He also is rude and insensitive, which can be hurtful. But he doesn’t understand his responsibilities to society, and that’s dangerous. Really dangerous. The guy who renamed Twitter as X needs to relearn his ABCs of civic responsibility. Especially after earning a big fat F for Fail after he restored the X...

  • Next summer's draft ferry schedule same as this year

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Dec 13, 2023

    With the rusty Matanuska out of service pending repairs, the Kennicott scheduled for tie-up due to lack of crew and the Tazlina in the shipyard to add crew quarters, the state ferry system’s draft summer 2024 schedule is limited by the number of vessels in service and looks about the same as this past summer. The Columbia would make a weekly northbound stop in Wrangell on Sundays and a weekly southbound visit on Wednesdays on its run between Bellingham, Washington, and Southeast Alaska. The marine highway system released its draft schedule D...

  • Clearing work continues at slide; fundraising grows to help families

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Dec 6, 2023

    Response to the deadly landslide continues, with extensive clearing work to remove debris from along the highway to increase safety and with fundraising for families affected by the disaster, particularly the Heller and Florschutz families that lost loved ones. More than $43,000 from 342 donations had been raised in a GoFundMe campaign for the two families as of Monday, Dec. 4. Almost $20,000 had been raised in another account to help families who were displaced or whose lives were disrupted by...

  • Maybe our politicians could learn from AI

    Larry Persily Publisher|Dec 6, 2023

    All this talk about artificial intelligence is a bit unsettling. Sure, in time, it will bring a lot of good to the world, particularly in medicines, finding and treating cancers, improving weather forecasting, eliminating boring and repetitive work, answering questions and researching data faster than humanly possible. It also will make it easier to cheat on school homework and copy (and steal) someone else’s creative ideas, while adding to the loss of privacy, eliminating jobs and making people overly dependent on computers to manage their l...

  • Elks Hoop Shoot offers burgers and free basketballs

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Dec 6, 2023

    The nationwide Elks Hoop Shoot has been around for more than 50 years, but it’s aimed at a much younger crowd than that. Contestants in the annual free-throw shooting event set for Saturday, Dec. 9, at the community gym can’t be older than 13. For 8- to 13-year-olds, it’s a chance to take aim and sink as many free throws as they can. There will be medals and, if their scores qualify after they are measured against regional and state competitors, the kids could go to nationals. Regardless, everyone at the Hoop Shoot will get a hamburger and a...

  • Police advise to watch out for counterfeit bills

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Dec 6, 2023

    A few $100 and $20 bills have turned up in Wrangell, prompting police to caution businesses and everyone else to look for phonies. The fakes look real enough in design and color - except for the words "COPY MONEY" on the front and back in the same typestyle as "THE UNITED STATES." The counterfeits were reported in the last week of November. "Currently, there are reports of $20 bills and $100 bills ... possibly being circulated around the community, but there could be other denominations," the...

  • State releases names of landslide dead and missing

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Nov 29, 2023

    State officials have released the names of the four people killed and two others still missing from the Nov. 20 landslide that hit just past 11-Mile Zimovia Highway. As of Monday, Nov. 27, searchers had found the bodies of Timothy Heller, 44, his wife, Beth Heller, 36, and their daughters, Mara, 16, and Kara, 11. Mara was a high school junior and Kara was in fifth grade. Searchers found Mara's body the night of the slide, during the initial search operations by first responders able to reach the...

  • Regional monitoring system needed for landslides

    Larry Persily Publisher|Nov 29, 2023

    Southeast Alaska is known for rain, windstorms, mountainsides that loom above residential areas — and landslides that occur with increasing frequency. Sitka knows the risk, and the pain, losing three people in a 2015 landslide. Haines lost two people in a 2020 slide. And now Wrangell is added to the list. That list doesn’t include the multiple landslides over the years that caused damage and fear, but thankfully no deaths. After the 2015 slide, the Sitka Sound Science Center took the lead and worked with the community — and federal money — to...

  • Financial aid available under state disaster declaration

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Nov 29, 2023

    Individuals and the borough are eligible for financial aid under the state’s disaster assistance programs. State grants to individuals are limited to no more than $21,250 for housing repairs and up to the same amount for other needs. That could include lost or damaged personal items such as clothing, furnishings and tools; energy costs; medical, transportation or temporary storage expenses. The grant limit is based on a federal standard, explained Jeremy Zidek, public information officer for the state Division of Homeland Security and E...

  • Sitka responded to fatal 2015 landslide with monitoring system

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Nov 29, 2023

    A series of landslides hit Sitka more than eight years ago during heavy rain, with the largest striking a new subdivision and killing three workers. It prompted the community, led by the Sitka Sound Science Center, to set up a landslide warning system. The system includes rain gauges and soil-moisture sensors spread around town, with a website that advises people of the risk level of a landslide. It took about four years to develop the system — and a lot of federal grant money. “We started when we had our landslide. We started calling sci...

  • Satellite link in a backpack provides service for landslide responders

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Nov 29, 2023

    First responders and volunteers working at the site of the deadly landslide have a Wi-Fi signal, thanks to a backpack satellite-link setup the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Tribes of Alaska sent to Wrangell. The council’s operations center keeps the Starlink setups in Juneau and Sitka for emergencies and community use, said Chris Cropley, director of the Tidal Network at Tlingit and Haida. The council sent two of its Starlink packs to Wrangell on Nov. 22, and the service was up and running at the landslide response site that same d...

  • Annual PFD debate is similar to a food fight

    Larry Persily Publisher|Nov 22, 2023

    I can be sentimental. Not often, but I’m working on it. I just need to figure out how to increase my sentimentality without decreasing my cynicism. Nostalgia is my favorite form of sentimentality. I enjoy recalling the more pleasant times before social media, before angry people felt entitled to yell at store clerks, flight attendants and their own mothers, before Donald Trump convinced millions of people it is OK to be mean and even dangerous. Routines and schedules help calm me. Which is a lot like nostalgia — looking forward to those thi...

  • Businesses look at working together to bring more shoppers downtown

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Nov 22, 2023

    Several store owners and managers are talking about the need to form a business association of some kind to work toward drawing more locals to shop downtown. Wrangell residents are spending an increasing amount of their dollars online, ordering from Amazon and other remote merchants. About 10% of the borough’s sales tax collections last year came from online shoppers — and the number is growing. Forming a downtown business association isn’t about competing with or abandoning the chamber of commerce, the store owners said. The chamber serve...

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