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  • National Forest Foundation issues contract to rebuild Anan cabin

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 31, 2024

    The National Forest Foundation, working with the U.S. Forest Service, has issued a contract to rebuild the popular Anan Bay cabin, which was taken out by a fallen tree in a February 2023 storm. “It is conceivable that we will have a cabin again this summer,” said Tory Houser, recreation staff officer for the Forest Service Wrangell District. The new cabin will include a big upgrade — a large, covered deck — Houser said last week. The $525,380 contract went to Rainforest Contracting. The Petersburg company rebuilt the observation deck and she...

  • Landslide families could receive state parcels under disaster program

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 31, 2024

    The borough assembly has declared as “hazardous” and assigned a property value of zero to the two lots owned by victims of the deadly Nov. 20 landslide at 11-Mile Zimovia Highway, making the owners eligible to possibly receive state land as replacement for their unusable property. The owners or their estate could build on their new lots, hold them undeveloped or sell them and keep the proceeds, explained Hannah Uher-Koch, who runs the land grant program at the Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Mining, Land and Water. “There are no...

  • Borough readvertises manager job after first round comes up empty

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 31, 2024

    After coming up with no viable candidates in the first round of applications, the borough assembly has decided to readvertise to fill the manager job. The borough received seven applications after posting the job last fall, but the only applicant who was selected for an interview already had accepted another job before Wrangell called back, Mayor Patty Gilbert explained last week. Jeff Good resigned as borough manager last fall to take a civil engineering job with the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs; he has three college degrees in...

  • Family learns homeowner's insurance does not cover landslides

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 31, 2024

    John Florschutz was surprised to learn that his parents’ homeowner’s insurance policy did not cover the loss from the Nov. 20 landslide that destroyed their home and killed his father, Otto Florschutz. “I think it’s a shock to everyone I talk to,” he said last week. “What’s the point of home insurance. … You would expect flooding to be on the policy.” But floods, landslides, mudslides and other “earth movements” are not covered by standard home insurance policies. “There’s not a lot of people who know that,” commented Florschutz, who s...

  • Annual Recycle Event this weekend features Petersburg donations

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 31, 2024

    Some of the items donated this week at Petersburg’s seventh-annual Project Connect Resource Fair will make it to Wrangell for a community clothing and household goods distribution. “It’s nice to have a change of clothes from another town,” Joan Sargent said of the fourth-annual Recycle Event sponsored by the Wrangell community service organization BRAVE, Building Respect and Valuing Everyone. If all goes on schedule, the U.S. Coast Guard will bring the donated goods from Petersburg to Wrangell on Wednesday, Jan. 31, barring an emergen...

  • Story of Alaska's income tax like a soap opera

    Larry Persily Publisher|Jan 31, 2024

    Just because few to none of Alaska’s elected officials are talking about bringing back the personal income tax is no reason to ignore its anniversary. OK, maybe it’s weird to celebrate your anniversary with an ex, but it’s different with the state income tax. Whereas you’re unlikely to remarry an ex, Alaskans eventually may reunite with the tax. Not willingly, of course. More like a shotgun wedding based on financial necessity. It was 75 years ago this month that the territorial Legislature enacted Alaska’s first personal income tax. It was als...

  • Borough plans information fair for potential subdivision bidders

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 24, 2024

    To ensure that potential buyers know as much as possible before putting in their bids for any of the 20 lots at the Alder Top Village (Keishangita.’aan) subdivision, the borough is putting together an information fair for people to talk with builders, lenders and municipal officials. “You can go around to individual booths and talk with people,” said Kate Thomas, the borough’s economic development director. She described it as similar to a health fair, with information booths — not a set schedule of presentations. “Come as you are, whenever you...

  • State permit required this year for Petroglyph Beach tour operators

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 24, 2024

    Commercial tour operators who take customers to the Petroglyph Beach State Historic Site this summer need to get a state permit and pay a fee. In addition to buying an annual permit in advance, commercial operators are required to pay the state $6 per person for guided tours or $2 per person if they simply drop off customers at the site for an unguided tour. Operators can total up their paying customers and send in their payment after the visitor season is over, as long as they make the Dec. 31 deadline, said Preston Kroes, Southeast Region...

  • It's smart to try on different work shoes

    Larry Persily Publisher|Jan 24, 2024

    This column has little to do with actual footwear — dress shoes if you have an office job, work boots if you’re a contractor, comfortable shoes if you’re on your feet all day or rubber boots if you work on a fishing boat. It’s about walking in their shoes or, more specifically, walking and working in the shoes of people in other jobs. It’s about elected officials and office bosses who make decisions about the jobs and lives of other people. What better way to make good decisions than to know what your employees deal with on the job, the probl...

  • Governor wants to take over appointment of entire ferry system advisory board

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 24, 2024

    Unless the Legislature decides otherwise by mid-March, Gov. Mike Dunleavy will take over appointment of the entire nine-member Alaska Marine Highway Operations Board. State law reserves four of the seats for appointment by legislative leaders, but Dunleavy on the first day of the legislative session Jan. 16 introduced an executive order that changes the law so that the governor would control all of the appointments. The change will take effect 60 days after the order was issued — unless a majority of the 60 legislators vote in a joint s...

  • Summer ferry schedule starts with no service first 2 weeks of May

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 24, 2024

    The state ferry schedule is available for bookings for the summer season, May 1 through Sept. 30, though it opens with no stops in Wrangell until May 12 due to crew changeover between vessels. The overall schedule is the same as recent years: A weekly northbound stop in town Sunday afternoon or early evening, and a southbound port call every Wednesday morning. The Alaska Marine Highway System will operate the Columbia, the largest ship in the fleet, on the weekly run between Bellingham, Washington, and through Southeast Alaska up into Lynn...

  • Dividend, school funding will again dominate legislative session

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 17, 2024

    State lawmakers went back to work this week in Juneau, with two familiar topics likely to dominate the budget-writing work. “The real question is what are we going to do for the Permanent Fund dividend … and what are we going to do for education,” Rep. Dan Ortiz told the Wrangell borough assembly Jan. 9. “That’s what the argument is going to be about.” Ortiz, a retired schoolteacher in Ketchikan, also represents Wrangell and Metlakatla. He’s been in the state House since January 2015 and serves on the Finance Committee, which is in charge of...

  • Wrangell goes after $25 million grant to rebuild harbor floats

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 17, 2024

    The borough will spend about $80,000 for an engineering report, cost estimates and conceptual drawings in hopes of winning a $25 million federal grant to rebuild the Inner Harbor, Reliance and Standard Oil floats. The grant application is due by Feb. 28, pushing the borough and its contractor, PND Engineers, with offices in Juneau and Anchorage, into an accelerated schedule to meet the deadline. If the federal grant comes through, the work will include new floats, ramps, pilings, electrical service and dredging, explained Interim Borough...

  • Trump excels at something - being mean

    Larry Persily Publisher|Jan 17, 2024

    Children are taught not to make fun of others, tease them or be mean. Parents, teachers, counselors, church leaders and community mentors such as Girl Scout and Little League volunteers work hard to explain why it’s hurtful to make fun of someone who is different. Most seem to get the message. But not all. Bullying and shaming continues to be a problem, made worse by social media which treats so many things as a joke or an amusing video, regardless of how it may hurt someone. And rather than set a good example, Donald Trump makes it worse — and...

  • New owner wants to expand Wrangell seafood sales

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 17, 2024

    A Pacific Northwest seafood business owner, whose family has been active in commercial fishing in Alaska since 1981, plans to buy and expand the operations of Fathom Seafoods in Wrangell. Peninsula Seafoods has applied to the borough for transfer of the lease on a small dockside parcel at the Marine Service Center. The port commission has recommended approval of the transfer, sending the issue to the borough assembly. As soon as the assembly signs off on the transfer, which could come at its Jan. 23 meeting, Jeff Grannum, general manager of Pen...

  • Assembly raises rates for lightering cruise passengers to shore

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 17, 2024

    Cruise ship operators that lighter their passengers to shore will pay higher port fees starting this summer in Wrangell. The borough assembly unanimously approved the new rate structure Jan. 9, following a port commission recommendation. The rates had been set at 40% of the cost of tying up to the dock, with the new fee structure raising that to 60%. The increase in lightering fees is intended to encourage more ships to tie up at the dock rather than anchor offshore, Interim Borough Manager Mason Villarma told the assembly. Wrangell should be...

  • Application period open for 43rd year of Permanent Fund dividends

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 10, 2024

    Almost 110,000 Alaskans applied for the fall 2024 Permanent Fund dividend in the first eight days after the application period opened on Jan. 1. Applications close in 11 weeks, on March 31. Last year’s dividend was $1,312. This year’s amount will be determined as part of annual state budget deliberations, which will begin next week when legislators reconvene in Juneau. The annual dividend is paid from the state general fund, which gets most of its money from investment earnings generated by the $78 billion Alaska Permanent Fund and from oil...

  • Middle Ridge Road closed 'for the foreseeable future'

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 10, 2024

    Middle Ridge Road, heavily damaged and blocked in several places by a 3,400-foot-long landslide Nov. 20, will be out of service until the U.S. Forest Service can come up with a repair plan and funding for the project. "It is closed for the foreseeable future. ... We're talking a major project," said Austin O'Brien, interim district ranger for the Forest Service in Wrangell. Several stretches of the road are covered in mud, trees and debris, cutting off access to the Forest Service's Middle Ridge...

  • Port commission recommends mandatory insurance for boat owners

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 10, 2024

    The port commission has recommended to the borough assembly approval of an ordinance that would require owners who moor their vessels at a reserved spot in Wrangell harbors to either provide proof of marine insurance or pay a monthly surcharge on their moorage fee. Officials have been considering since 2022 adding the new requirement to municipal code to help shield the borough from the cost of raising and disposing of boats that sink in the harbors. “The cost of recovering sunken vessels has significantly increased, and the community can no l...

  • State goes to bid for rockfall-prevention work past 6-Mile

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 10, 2024

    The Alaska Department of Transportation is seeking bids for rockfall-prevention work just past 6-Mile Zimovia Highway in an area known as The Bluffs and prone to rocks breaking off from the hillside and landing in the right of way. The work is scheduled for this summer. Bids were due Jan. 9. The work will include drilling and installing into the rock face more than 300 linear feet of bolts, each at least 25 feet long and grouted in place. The job also will include clearing work at the top of the slope. An engineer’s estimate puts the e...

  • Borough ramps up marketing plan to attract more independent travelers

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 10, 2024

    The intent is to promote Wrangell’s unique attractions, its wildlife, culture and history, aiming to attract more independent travelers to town. “Our goal is to establish a steady stream of visitors,” Kate Thomas, the borough’s economic development director, said of the town’s new Travel Wrangell marketing plan. “It’s bringing in that independent traveler,” she explained in an interview last month. The objective is to have visitors “spend more money and more time” in town. The marketing plan has been under development since last May, a month a...

  • AI is similar to a teenager, but costs more

    Larry Persily Publisher|Jan 10, 2024

    There is at least one big similarity between artificial intelligence and teenagers. They both think they know everything. And now, an AI applications provider is promoting in its marketing material that it is just like a teenager. But first, a bit of the history that underlies my commentary. And, no, AI did not assist in writing this column or augment my memory or provide data scraped from the internet. Though I do enjoy the crispy pieces scraped from a good mac-and-cheese casserole. Several years ago, actually three decades ago, I was dating...

  • Energy relief 'bonus' dividend looking smaller

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 10, 2024

    This fall’s energy relief payment, which would go out along with the annual Permanent Fund dividend, is looking smaller than expected several months ago. The “bonus” on the 2024 dividend would come from state revenues in excess of what is needed to cover the spending plan approved by lawmakers and the governor last spring. The Legislature included a provision in the state budget that said half of any surplus would go into savings and half into an energy relief payment to Alaskans. The latest projection for the fall payment is about $175, Alexe...

  • School district counts on state funding increase

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 3, 2024

    It’s been eight years since the state last increased its per-student funding formula for public schools — a 0.5% nudge that year — and years of stagnant funding have caught up with districts statewide, including Wrangell. “We have to count on funding this year,” Schools Superintendent Bill Burr said. An increase in the state formula “is essential to us.” The state’s K-12 foundation funding covers almost 60% of the Wrangell district’s $5.3 million operating budget for the 2023-2024 school year, with borough funds filling about 30% and mostly fe...

  • Borough sees interest in former hospital property

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 3, 2024

    After sitting vacant for almost three years — spending about half that time on the market — the borough is finally seeing interest from private parties in buying the former hospital property on Bennett Street. Three parties have expressed interest, said Interim Borough Manager Mason Villarma, adding he anticipated at least one offer by the start of the new year. Hopefully, the borough could sell off the 1.94-acre parcel by February, he said. “The value is getting rid of the property,” Villarma said in an interview before Christmas. The borough...

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