Articles from the January 4, 2023 edition


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  • Borough commits $2.2 million to develop residential subdivision

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 4, 2023

    The borough’s target date is 2024 for the sale of the first 22 residential lots in the proposed subdivision of the former Wrangell Institute property upland from Shoemaker Bay. The assembly last month approved $2.2 million for installing utilities and putting in streets across a portion of the 134-acre property, which the borough acquired in 1996. “Our goal is to start construction this fall,” Borough Manager Jeff Good said last week. “That’s our target right now.” The borough is moving closer to receiving its U.S. Army Corps of Engineers p...

  • Borough sells tidelands for development as marine service business

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 4, 2023

    The borough assembly unanimously approved the sale of a parcel of tideland property on Peninsula Street to Ketchikan-based Micony for the development of a marine service business. The sale, which was finalized at the Dec. 20 assembly meeting, will transfer nearly 40,000 square feet of borough property into private ownership. The borough sold the land for $83,989, which is $27,511 less than the appraised value of $111,500. The price decrease is permitted under Wrangell’s municipal code, which allows the borough to sell property at less than appr...

  • Small group braves chilly temps on New Year's Day

    Marc Lutz, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 4, 2023

    For the 24th New Year's Day in a row, a group of intrepid people celebrated the new year by taking the plunge. Fifteen souls went bravely or insanely into the chilly waters of Shoemaker Bay, depending on how you look at it. Despite the warmer mid-40 temperatures, the wind was gusting through Wrangell, stirring up two- and four-foot waves. The tide was lower than it was at the same time last year, causing the dippers to make a slightly longer trek to the water over rocky terrain. Clay Hammer was...

  • Kate Thomas to become borough economic development director

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 4, 2023

    For the past eight years, Parks and Recreation Director Kate Thomas has kept Wrangell in peak physical and mental form by fostering a welcoming gym environment where the community can swim, sweat and sustain each other through the long winter months. In the coming year, however, she will take her talents to another area of the municipal government. As the new Economic Development Director, Thomas plans to improve the borough’s economic fitness by bolstering workforce development, securing Wrangell’s place in the maritime industrial economy and...

  • Sealaska Heritage releases hour-long film highlighting 40 years of Celebration

    Sentinel staff|Jan 4, 2023

    Sealaska Heritage Institute has released an hour-long film on the history and origin of Celebration since the first gathering in 1982. The film, titled “40 Years of Celebration - A Biennial Festival of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Cultures,” begins with the first Celebration when Native people came together in Juneau to celebrate their cultures. The film shows the growth of the event over the years. It started off with primarily elders and has expanded to include all ages. It also has grown to include art shows, a Native artists market, foo...

  • The Way We Were

    Amber Armstrong-Hillberry|Jan 4, 2023

    Jan. 4, 1923 A record crowd witnessed the opening game of the basketball tournament Thursday afternoon between Wrangell and Ketchikan and got their money’s worth of thrills without a doubt. Kayhi played a fast game from the beginning and drew first blood, the lead alternating with regularity, the score being 7-5 at the end of the first half in favor of the visitors. In the second, Wrangell tightened up and local fans cheered them lustily as they kept Ketchikan from making more than two baskets while they were getting four points on fouls and t...

  • Family wakes to find boat sunk on Christmas Day

    Marc Lutz, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 4, 2023

    Christmas morning is supposed to be a time of warmth, cheer and uplifted spirits. Unfortunately, for one Wrangell family, it was a morning where their spirits sank. Along with their boat. Benn Curtis, his wife Shirley Wimberley and their son Rolland Wimberley were enjoying the start to their day on Dec. 25 when they discovered their family boat submerged. "We were just sitting around and (Rolland) looks out and says, 'At least it's a white Christmas.'" Shirley Wimberley said. "I was thinking it...

  • Borough to list hospital property with a realtor pending investor interest

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 4, 2023

    The assembly has approved an ordinance allowing the borough to list the former hospital property with a realtor for the value of the land, half the price of the previous minimum bid. However, Borough Manager Jeff Good told the assembly at its Dec. 20 meeting that he plans to delay listing the property while he negotiates with a potential investor. The property was listed for its full appraised value of $830,000 — a price that encompassed the value of its land and building — on a public surplus website in April 2022. The borough, however, rec...

  • State says it will take months to clear backlogged food stamp applications

    Mark Sabbatini, Juneau Empire|Jan 4, 2023

    A months-long backlog of food stamp applications has denied aid to thousands of Alaskans. And although the state plans to add additional employees during the next few weeks to process the applications, the director of the statewide program said Dec. 27 it likely will be months more before all the issues are resolved. At least 8,000 households applying for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits since September have faced delays of 90 to 120 days in processing, far exceeding the 30-day statutory requirement, due to an employee...

  • Taxing e-cigarettes is a healthy idea

    Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 4, 2023

    Governments levy taxes to pay for community services, such as schools, police and road repairs. And to help pay the public treasury costs of what can be unhealthy personal choices, such as excessive alcohol consumption and smoking. The state and federal governments pick up a large share of the expense of treating smoking-related illnesses, alcohol abuse and responding to alcohol-related crimes, and targeted taxes can help cover those bills. In addition, research has shown that adding taxes to cigarettes discourages consumption. Cigarette...

  • It's true, liars don't belong in public office

    Larry Persily Publisher|Jan 4, 2023

    No doubt liars have served in public office ever since the first candidate printed a handbill and later evolved to taping a radio or TV commercial or clicking on social media. It’s as American as apple pie, and as dishonest as the pie stuffed with applesauce instead of apples. And if the candidates themselves were too honest to tell a fib, their campaign managers or biographers would step in and put out a lie to make the candidate look better. Even the story about how George Washington, our nation’s first president, had fessed up to cut...

  • Unflattering photo leads to resolution for better judgment

    Marc Lutz, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 4, 2023

    I like to think I'm my own worst critic. Every word choice and every photo I run in print are reviewed, critiqued and deemed passable. For example, I rewrote this paragraph three times. When it comes to photography, I enjoy it so much that it's hard to boil down my choices for print. Sometimes, I'll take thousands of photos a month for news stories. Readers will maybe see 20 of those. My only hope is that what is printed has a positive affect for the most part. It doesn't always happen that...

  • Health care providers watching for flu and other viral infections

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 4, 2023

    Though the combined impacts of COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza have burdened medical facilities nationwide, seasonal flu cases appear to be plateauing in Alaska, though activity remains high. Wrangell has largely managed to avoid the effects of the “tripledemic” predicted by White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha. Cases in Alaska started to rise steadily in October and hit pre-pandemic peaks in late November — months before the usual February peak for flu. As of the Dec. 24, the flu activity “is s...

  • Borough starts cost review of new wastewater permit requirements

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 4, 2023

    The borough is about to begin the five-year, state-mandated process of updating its wastewater treatment plant. Borough officials are currently searching for sources of funding for what will likely be a multimillion-dollar project. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issues permits to wastewater treatment plants across the nation, regulating the amount of pollutants they are allowed to release into the water. Historically, the Wrangell treatment plant has received a waiver allowing it to discharge wastewater that has not undergone full...

  • Senior project taking flight to serve community

    Marc Lutz, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 4, 2023

    Everything Nikolai Bardin-Siekawitch has learned about piloting a drone since 2021 will help launch his senior project. Not surprising, he is abuzz with excitement to use the flying technology any way he can. The overall goal Bardin-Siekawitch wants to achieve in his high school project is to provide some sort of drone-related service in Wrangell "because we don't really have one here and I want to be the first." That service could be anything from real estate photos to promotional videos or...

  • Dave Rak retires after 45 years with Forest Service

    Marc Lutz, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 4, 2023

    It's been 45 years since Dave Rak and his wife Paula came to Alaska. It's been 45 years since he accepted a job as a soils scientist with the U.S. Forest Service. And now, 45 years later, he's retiring. Rak's last day as a full-time employee with the agency was Dec. 31. In that time, he's held a few different positions, worked with many different people and seen the Forest Service change in lots of different ways. Fresh out of graduate school in 1977, Rak applied with the Forest Service to be a...

  • Tory Houser takes temporary helm of Forest Service Wrangell district

    Marc Lutz, Wrangell Sentinel|Jan 4, 2023

    After 20 years of working in the U.S. Forest Service, Tory Houser is taking on a new role, albeit a temporary one. While Ranger Clint Kolarich is away on another assignment for four months, Houser is filling in as the acting ranger for the Wrangell district of the Tongass National Forest. The biggest change in Houser's duties is that she will be the decision maker for the district. "All of the recommendations, all of the projects and things that come through here and need a signature, a 'yes'...

  • High school players take on alumni in annual matchups

    Jan 4, 2023

    Alumni Sam Armstrong, left, Riley Blatchley, Sean Gillen and Tyson Messmer pursue senior Ethan Blatchley as he drives the ball during the annual alumni game on Dec. 27. The game started at a fast pace and never let up. The high school team jumped to an early lead and never let up. They defeated the alumni 56-39. Kaylyn Easterly, with the ball, is surrounded by members of the Wrangell High School girls basketball team, while looking for an opening during the alumni game on Dec. 21. The Lady...

  • Federal spending bill includes multiple provisions for Alaska

    Riley Rogerson, Anchorage Daily News|Jan 4, 2023

    WASHINGTON — The $1.7 trillion federal spending package includes hundreds of millions of dollars in appropriations for projects specific to Alaska and enacts legislation that will directly affect the state. “There is literally no part of our state that this legislation doesn’t benefit,” said Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee that helped negotiate the legislation. Congress passed the bill on its last day of work Dec. 23, funding the government through September 2023. President Joe Biden signed the...

  • Judge says right to free speech protects legislator who belongs to Oath Keepers

    James Brooks, Alaska Beacon|Jan 4, 2023

    An Anchorage Superior Court Judge has ruled that Wasilla Republican Rep. David Eastman’s membership in the Oath Keepers does not violate the Alaska Constitution’s disloyalty clause because of First Amendment protections for free speech. The decision, which may be appealed, means Eastman may continue serving in the Alaska Legislature. Eastman was re-elected in November. In a 49-page order issued Dec. 23, Judge Jack McKenna said the Oath Keepers — labeled an antigovernment militia by the federal government — “are an organization that has, thro...

  • Alaska teens increasingly substitute vaping for cigarettes

    Yereth Rosen, Alaska Beacon|Jan 4, 2023

    Alaska teens have largely ditched cigarettes over the past two decades, but they have substituted that unhealthy habit with another: vaping. About 25% of surveyed high schoolers reported using electronic cigarettes in the past 30 days, according to the Alaska Tobacco Facts Update, released last month by the Alaska Department of Health. The national rate of teen e-cigarette use, also known as vaping, is even higher, at 33%, the report said. Among Alaska youth, cigarette smoking has declined drastically since the 1990s, from 37% in 1995 to 16%...

  • Ketchikan police chief charged with assaulting man at restaurant

    Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, Associated Press|Jan 4, 2023

    Ketchikan’s police chief pleaded not guilty last Friday to charges that he assaulted an intoxicated man while he was off-duty at a resort restaurant, including allegedly shoving the man head-first into a wall and putting him in a chokehold. A grand jury returned an indictment Thursday against Ketchikan Police Chief Jeffrey Harrison Walls for felony third-degree assault. He is also charged with three counts of fourth-degree assault and two counts of reckless endangerment, which are misdemeanors. During an arraignment Friday, defense attorney J...

  • Federal funding will pay for commercial driver's license training program in Southeast

    Clarise Larson, Juneau Empire|Jan 4, 2023

    Snowplow and bus drivers are exceptionally critical occupations this time of year — but they’re in short supply statewide. A new Juneau-based program may change that. The $1.7 trillion federal spending bill recently passed by Congress includes $750,000 for University of Alaska Southeast to establish and operate a commercial driver’s license (CDL) education training program at the UAS Juneau campus. According to UAS Chancellor Karen Carey, the new program will help fill the many positions for CDL-certified drivers currently vacant across Southea...

  • Congress drops funding to purchase used icebreaker for Coast Guard

    Clarise Larson, Juneau Empire|Jan 4, 2023

    A late change in the Senate to the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package passed by Congress last month deleted funding to purchase a privately owned icebreaker that the U.S. Coast Guard said could be homeported in Juneau. A $150 million authorization for the Coast Guard to purchase the vessel was removed from the bill that had to pass by Dec. 23 to avoid a government shutdown. The bill passed the House that final day, after winning Senate approval earlier in the week. The removal of the funding was disappointing, both of Alaska’s senators s...

  • Senate Finance co-chair criticizes governor's proposal for larger PFD

    Shannon Haugland, Sitka Sentinel|Jan 4, 2023

    Sen. Bert Stedman, co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, says Gov. Dunleavy’s proposed $3,800 Permanent Fund dividend in 2023 would mean “starting the year underwater.” “It’s not a prudent way to administer the state’s financial resources.” Stedman said, reacting to his first review of Dunleavy’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. “Revenues would not meet recurring expenditures. We’d be talking about going into the hole by about $300 million.” Stedman was reelected Nov. 8 to a sixth term in the Senate representing s...

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