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  • Legislature approves budget with money for Wrangell projects

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|May 15, 2024

    Several of Wrangell’s requests are included in the state capital budget of public works projects that the Legislature approved last week, sending the spending plan to the governor for signature into law or veto. Unless the governor uses his veto powers to eliminate or reduce the appropriations, Wrangell would receive $5 million toward stabilization work at the earthen dams that hold back the community’s water reservoirs; $200,000 to start planning what’s being called an “escape route” for Zimovia Highway residents to drive across the island to...

  • Imitation is not flattering, it's embarrassing

    Larry Persily Publisher|May 15, 2024

    The Republican-controlled Alaska House of Representatives last Saturday did their best impersonation ever of the U.S. House, spending all day on legislation that will never make it into law. It was the same kind of political circus that the nation has endured the past couple of years after a skinny margin of Republicans took control of the U.S. House, beholden to a small group who spend more time on social media than doing their schoolwork. Too bad teachers cannot take away their phones. Rather than focus on bipartisan legislation that could he...

  • Biggest cruise ship of the season to arrive Thursday

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|May 15, 2024

    The town’s population could double for a day. Holland America Line’s Nieuw Amsterdam, with accommodations for just over 2,100 passengers plus a crew of more than 900, is scheduled to tie up at Wrangell at 8 a.m. Thursday, May 16, staying until 7 p.m. It will be the ship’s only visit to Wrangell this summer. It will be the largest ship to bring travelers to town, just beating out Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth, which is scheduled to visit twice — July 18 and 29 — and can carry up to 2,081 passengers. The Queen Elizabeth is actually a little long...

  • State says Petroglyph Beach user numbers would help with funding requests

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|May 15, 2024

    As of last week, just one Wrangell business had obtained the required state permit to provide commercial tours at Petroglyph Beach State Historic Site. The largest cruise ship of the summer is scheduled to tie up in town on Thursday, May 16, bringing as many as 2,000 visitors to Wrangell. The ancient stone carvings at the beach are among the community’s most popular visitor attractions. “We’re hoping we can work with everyone to get them into compliance,” Preston Kroes, the Southeast Alaska superintendent for state parks, said May 10. The par...

  • More state money possible for school budget and building repairs

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|May 8, 2024

    Gov. Mike Dunleavy has indicated he is willing to accept a one-year increase in state money for schools as legislators work toward a $175 million addition to the funding formula before their scheduled adjournment deadline May 15. The increase would cover almost two-thirds of the projected revenue gap in the Wrangell School District operating budget for the 2024-2025 school year. Districts statewide face significant budget deficits after more than seven years without an increase in the state’s per-student funding formula. Though both the H...

  • Forest Service asks public comment on fees for new cabins

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|May 8, 2024

    The U.S. Forest Service plans to build six new cabins and a new campground in Southeast Alaska and wants to hear from the public on proposed fees for the facilities. One of the new cabins will be constructed at Little Lakes, on a former logging road about 25 miles from downtown Wrangell and near the Long Lake Trailhead. The proposed fee for the Little Lakes cabin is $75 a night, which is at the high end of the range of fees charged for use of existing cabins in the Tongass National Forest. Cabins in the Wrangell district range from $30 to $75....

  • Alaska might as well embrace the past

    Larry Persily Publisher|May 8, 2024

    One proposal to solve the impending energy shortage for Alaska’s population centers is to go back in time. To the 1970s, when coal was king in the U.S. The governor, legislators, municipal officials and business leaders are worried that the Railbelt — the population corridor stretching south from Fairbanks, through the Matanuska Valley and Anchorage to the Kenai Peninsula — will run short of natural gas before the end of the decade. The region has lived off the nearby underground warehouse of natural gas from the Kenai Peninsula and Cook Inlet...

  • Free disposal offered again for old vehicles, scrap metal

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|May 8, 2024

    Channel Construction, which runs the scrap metal recycling operation at the former 6-Mile mill site, has resumed accepting unusable vehicles and large appliances from the public — and it’s free. The company collects scrap metal from throughout Southeast Alaska and ships it by barge for recycling out of state. It has operated at the mill site for more than a year, and recently signed a five-year lease to use the borough-owned property. The drop-off site reopened to the public on May 3 and will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Sat...

  • State awaits report, cost estimate on repairing Matanuska

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|May 1, 2024

    The Alaska Marine Highway System is waiting for the prognosis after a full-body scan of the state ferry Matanuska, looking for rusted steel — the equivalent of a cancer scan of the 61-year-old ship. The Matanuska has been out of service for 18 months after it went into the shop for its annual winter overhaul, only to find a lot more “wasted” (rusted) steel in its hull, decking and other areas of the ship than expected. That prompted the scan, which has been completed. Marine architects are working up a cost estimate, said Craig Tornga, marin...

  • No sense wasting time, except for politics

    Larry Persily Publisher|May 1, 2024

    The state House needed an auctioneer last week. Instead, it wasted three hours in a meaningless bidding war as the Republican-led majority told Alaskans they cared far more than anyone else about supporting education and ensuring state-funded alternatives for correspondence school students and their families. That meant they didn’t want to move too quickly to fix the constitutional problem of state money going to private and religious school programs. Let the millions continue to flow and wait for the Alaska Supreme Court to hear the appeal o...

  • Several dozen households apply for state, federal disaster aid

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|May 1, 2024

    The state had paid out more than $167,000 in disaster relief aid to 11 Wrangell households as of last month, with more than two dozen applications waiting on review for federal assistance. State and federal disaster declarations opened the door for individuals and businesses to apply for financial aid to cover property damages and other expenses caused by the deadly Nov. 20 landslide that struck at 11.2-Mile Zimovia Highway. As of April, the state had paid $167,023 to 11 households, representing 15 claims for expenses such as property damage,...

  • No need to amend the Alaska Constitution

    Larry Persily Publisher|Apr 24, 2024

    Less than two years ago, Alaskans voted overwhelmingly against convening a constitutional convention to amend the state’s founding document. More than 70% of voters said no thanks, it’s a bad idea. It was the sixth time in a row, going back to 1972, that voters by wide margins rejected the whimsy of shaking up the constitution as you would a game of Etch A Sketch and redrawing the fundamental laws of Alaska. While they oppose reopening the constitution to a potential wholesale rewrite, Alaskans have approved multiple specific amendments ove...

  • Borough holds pre-season tourism meeting Thursday morning

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 24, 2024

    The first small tour boat of the summer is due May 9, with the first large cruise ship scheduled for May 16, and it’s time for the borough’s annual pre-season informational meeting for businesses and anyone else involved in the tourism industry. The meeting is set for 9 a.m. Thursday, April 25, in the assembly chambers at City Hall. The agenda includes a review of the cruise ship schedule, along with staging and transportation logistics for business that pick up and drop off passengers. If all of the ships’ berths are full, Wrangell could...

  • Latest state budget proposal falls short of funding Wrangell school repairs

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 17, 2024

    The Alaska Senate has passed a capital budget to fund roads, school repairs and rebuilds, housing, water and sewer systems and other public works projects across the state — but the spending plan is short of funds to cover repairs to Wrangell’s three aging school buildings. The budget bill approved by the Senate on April 12 will move next to the House for its consideration and possible amendments before a legislative adjournment deadline of May 15, at which time the governor could exercise his authority to veto individual items in the spe...

  • Time to let younger people take the lead

    Larry Persily Publisher|Apr 17, 2024

    Neither President Joe Biden, 81, nor former President Donald Trump, 77, is necessarily too old to be president. Their biggest flaws are not their ages, it’s that they are blocking and discouraging younger people from getting a chance to lead the country. It’s because the two nominees are so certain that they are best suited for the job of leading the country and that they, more than anyone else, are best able to manage a nation of 335 million people. They seem to think that younger leaders are not as capable as they are. Their ego tells the...

  • Wrangell may receive state funds to start planning emergency route

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 17, 2024

    The state capital budget approved by the Alaska Senate last week includes $200,000 for the borough to start planning an emergency access route for when Zimovia Highway is blocked by landslides or other disasters. The route would connect the old logging road at Pats Creek on the west side of Wrangell Island to the Spur Road on the island’s east side. The borough estimates the total cost of design and construction at roughly $5 million, and requested $500,000 in state funding to start planning and design work. The Senate approved the capital proj...

  • Alaska high schoolers are right to speak up

    Larry Persily Publisher|Apr 10, 2024

    Who better to talk about education in Alaska than students. They could continue leaving it to school administrators, elected officials, their parents and teachers to speak for them, but that would be the easy way out. It’s also been unsuccessful. Looking to break that losing streak with the governor and state legislators unwilling to adequately fund education, hundreds of high schoolers around the state last week showed they are frustrated at the outcome. From Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau, in Anchorage, Eagle River, Homer, Bethel and Utqiaġvik, st...

  • King salmon sportfishing restrictions same as recent years

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 10, 2024

    Commercial trollers had a productive winter catching kings along the outside waters of Southeast, but area runs are still weak and sportfishing restrictions around Wrangell this summer are similar to recent years. District 8 in front of the Stikine River and the waters closest to town will be closed to king fishing through July 14. “The retention of king salmon is prohibited, any king salmon caught must be released immediately,” according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. District 6 and most of District 7, encompassing the Back Cha...

  • Chamber calls for 4th of July royalty candidates

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 3, 2024

    The Fourth of July is three months away, and the start of ticket sales for the annual fundraising raffle is still eight weeks away, but the chamber of commerce figures it’s not too early to start asking who wants to volunteer for this year’s royalty competition. The royalty contestants sell tens of thousands of $1 raffle tickets that pay for the community’s Fourth of July fireworks, festivities and events. They get to keep a portion of their sales for all their hard work, using the money for college or anything else. Ticket sales start May 3...

  • Stop serving up PFD as a sugary dessert

    Larry Persily Publisher|Apr 3, 2024

    Alaska faces a seriously long list of long-term serious problems. Our population is aging, people are not moving here fast enough to replace those who leave, too many employers lack enough workers to fully staff their operations, and the state’s finances are as stable as oil prices — which is to say not. State funding for K-12 education is frozen in time from the past decade. We maintain our deteriorating public buildings about as well as a teenager cleans their room. And we seem in a contest to see which is in shorter supply in our com...

  • Crew shortage continues to limit operations at state ferry system

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Mar 27, 2024

    The Alaska Marine Highway System’s ongoing crew shortage has eased up for entry-level steward positions but remains a significant problem in the wheelhouse and for engineers, likely keeping the Kennicott out of service again this summer. As of March 8, the state ferry system was short almost 50 crew of what it would need to put its full operational fleet to sea this summer, which means keeping the Kennicott tied to the dock, Craig Tornga, the system’s marine director, reported to a state Senate budget subcommittee on March 19. That is abo...

  • Ferry ridership still not back to pre-pandemic numbers

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Mar 27, 2024

    The state ferry system carried 181,000 passengers in 2023, still short of the pre-COVID numbers in 2019 and down substantially from almost 340,000 in 2012 and more than 420,000 in 1992. Overall vehicle traffic also is down, from more than 115,000 in 2012 to 63,000 last year. Much of the decline corresponds to a reduction in the number of vessels in operation, according to statistics presented to a state Senate budget subcommittee on March 19. The fleet provided almost 400 “operating weeks” in 2012, with each week a ship is at sea counting as an...

  • Tax credits no substitute for state responsibility

    Larry Persily Publisher|Mar 27, 2024

    Tax credits have long been popular, growing more so every year. Supporters push them to provide government backing for new initiatives or ongoing programs, steering money to worthy causes — some unworthy ones, too — bypassing actual appropriations by federal, state or municipal lawmakers. With a tax credit, businesses or individuals can make donations to a program or invest in a project, such as housing, and reduce their taxes to the federal, state or municipal treasury. Tax credits divert private money that otherwise would become public mon...

  • Wrangell teens bowl over the competition at state

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Mar 27, 2024

    Five Wrangell teens know their books, chapters and verses better than any other team in Alaska, and for the second year in a row Wrangell won the state title at The Salvation Army’s Bible Bowl competition. The team was so dominant and won by such a wide margin at the competition March 16 in Juneau that “Anchorage actually forfeited,” said Capt. Chase Green of The Salvation Army’s Wrangell church. Haines took second and Juneau won third in the four-team contest, he said. With the state title in hand, Wrangell will move on to the nationa...

  • Legislature falls short in override of governor's school funding veto

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Mar 20, 2024

    Alaska lawmakers fell one vote short Monday in an attempt to override the governor’s veto of a comprehensive school funding bill, which included a permanent increase in the state funding formula for K-12 education and which could have provided an additional $440,000 for the Wrangell school district. The additional funds would have covered about two-thirds of the deficit in the Wrangell district’s draft budget, reducing the amount of money it will need to pull out of reserves for the 2024-2025 school year. The vote in a joint session of the Hous...

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