Articles from the February 8, 2023 edition


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  • State Senate proposes sizable boost in public school funding

    Mark Sabbatini, Juneau Empire|Feb 8, 2023

    A proposal to boost state funding for public schools by about 17%, increasing the current $5,960 per-student formula by $1,000, was unveiled Feb. 1 by state Senate leaders as the “beginning of the beginning” of a long debate about the future of education spending in the state. Increasing what’s known as the base student allocation is the top priority of some legislators this session — the per-student funding amount is essentially unchanged since 2017, while inflation has risen about 21% since then. Senate Bill 52 contains no provisions address...

  • Petersburg wolf stops by Wrangell on long swim to Etolin Island

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 8, 2023

    Wolves are social, territorial animals that educate their young, care for their injured and stick with their close-knit family groups - most of the time, that is. In the past few months, a wolf from Petersburg has struck out on its own and taken up swimming, behaviors that are unusual - though not unheard of - for a wolf. The swimming wolf traveled from Petersburg to Wrangell Island to Etolin Island, and its movements could help area scientists learn more about the animals' lifestyle . The...

  • Former Sentinel reporter produces podcast about life 'Before Me'

    Marc Lutz, Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 8, 2023

    As most journalists will tell you, it can sometimes take a while to earn a person's trust. But what if that person is your mom? For six years, Lisa Phu, a Wrangell Sentinel reporter from 2005 to 2009, worked on a podcast that centered on her mother's upbringing and journey to escape Cambodia during its civil war. And though the interviews took place during two separate visits by her mom to Phu's home in Alaska, it took time before Lan Phu was ready to share her story. "I asked her for years if...

  • Nolan Center seeks cast members for spring musical, "Annie"

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 8, 2023

    Wrangell’s rendition of “The Sound of Music” sold out twice last December, but thanks to the Nolan Center and a host of dedicated community members, the curtain won’t stay closed for long. Last Tuesday, Nolan Center Director Cyni Crary announced that the spring musical will be “Annie.” This uplifting tale of resilience and found family, filled with classic show tunes like “Tomorrow” and “It’s the Hard Knock Life,” is coming to Wrangell on the weekends of May 12-13 and 20-21. The Nolan Center is seeking actors to fill the musical’s colorful ca...

  • The Way We Were

    Amber Armstrong-Hillberry, Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 8, 2023

    Feb. 8, 1923 The opening of the Million Dollar Club in Wrangell Saturday night will without doubt be one of the greatest pleasure events in the history of Southeast Alaska. The thrilling life of bygone days of the Klondike will be lived over again as dramatic scenes are re-enacted. The famous Native orchestra of Metlakatla will furnish the music. Special boats will arrive from Juneau, Petersburg and Ketchikan bringing Elks and their ladies. The old rink is today an example of what money can do. Since it was leased by the millionaires, it has be...

  • Trident responds to market, plans to freeze more pinks at Wrangell plant

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 8, 2023

    As the market continues to shift from canned salmon toward more frozen product, “the company wants more frozen pinks,” said Trident Seafoods Southeast regional manager John Scoblic. Which means Trident will freeze pinks along with chums at its Wrangell plant this summer. After a three-year closure due to weak chum returns, Trident plans to reopen its Wrangell plant, buying and freezing salmon in July and August. “We’ll be testing out some new things there,” Jeff Welbourn, Trident’s senior vice president for Alaska operations, said at last wee...

  • Southeast Natives find little land available in federal allotment program

    Caroleine James of the Wrangell Sentinel, And Clarise Larson of the Juneau Empire|Feb 8, 2023

    Einar Haaseth served in Vietnam from September 1964 to December 1965, and never received his entitlement of up to 160 acres of land under the 1906 Alaska Native Allotment Act. The program has reopened, but for Haaseth, and other Native veterans living in Southeast, there’s a problem: Nearly no Southeast Alaska land is available under the program. Last fall, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced an order and made available more than 27 million acres of public land to Alaska Native veterans who were unable to apply for their acres while s...

  • Work gets started to build up seaweed, shellfish farming industry in Alaska

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 8, 2023

    Organizers are creating programs to start using a $49 million federal grant and $15 million in matching funds to grow Alaska’s shellfish and seaweed farming industry. The money will go toward a statewide effort, though more permit applications were filed for new or expanded farms in Southeast than in any other region 2016 through 2022, according to state statistics. Southeast set a record last year with seven applications for seaweed and shellfish farms, Rachel Baker, deputy commissioner at the Alaska Department of Fish Game, said at last w...

  • Trident reopening welcome news for town

    Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 8, 2023

    Wrangell has come up short in good economic news in recent years, what with business closures, the loss of Alaska Crossings a year ago, not-so-great salmon runs and crab harvests, rising consumer prices and worker shortages. So it was especially welcome news when Trident Seafoods announced it will open its Wrangell plant this summer after a three-year shutdown. The company plans to start work at the downtown waterfront plant within the month, getting it ready for the summer season to handle pinks and chums for the fresh-frozen market. The...

  • The Fourth of July depends on royalty

    Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 8, 2023

    It’s ironic that Wrangell’s Fourth of July depends on the money raised by royalty candidates who sell raffle tickets, lunches, baked goods and a lot more so that the community can enjoy fireworks, street games and other events packed into several days of fun. Ironic because the holiday celebrates the Declaration of Independence, when the colonies told England that Americans did not need royalty to throw a tea party. Wrangell, however, needs all the help it can get from the annual royalty fundraising competition, and the royalty candidates nee...

  • The math is easy; the politics are hard

    Larry Persily Publisher|Feb 8, 2023

    Getting caught between a rock and a hard place is easier. At least you can rent a backhoe and move the rock. Getting politically caught between more money for public schools and even more money for the Permanent Fund dividend will be the hardest place for legislators this year. The vote will come down to which is more important for Alaska: A long-needed, substantial increase in state funding for public schools, or the governor’s proposed supersized Happy Meal of a nearly $4,000 Permanent Fund dividend? But putting the dividend first and school...

  • Ortiz says school funding, child care and the state ferries are his priorities

    Feb 8, 2023

    The legislative session has begun, and I am back in Juneau working for you. As we dive into hearing proposed bills and dig into budget details, I want to share my priorities and remind you to reach out to me anytime. One of my biggest priorities this session is to reevaluate the base student allocation and the state funding we allocate to our public school system. K-12 education has been flat funded for most of the past eight years, which, when we take into account inflation, actually has resulted in a significant cut in funding. I know the...

  • Community council thanks Rushmore for her enthusiastic willingness to help

    Feb 8, 2023

    As Wrangell Tlingit and Haida Community Council president, I want to thank Carol Rushmore, the borough’s economic development director, and wish her the best for her retirement coming up in April. In January 2018, Tom Gillen Sr., our council member, and I went to see Carol at City Hall when WTHCC was attempting to assist Patrick Mayer, former superintendent of Wrangell Public Schools, to get the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program housed at the old Wrangell Institute property. Though we were not successful in obtaining approval f...

  • WCA tribal council candidates share their views on serving

    Marc Lutz, Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 8, 2023

    Wrangell Cooperative Association members will vote later this month to fill four seats on the eight-member tribal council, which oversees decisions for the tribe. Council members must be members of the WCA; the deadline to apply for candidacy is Feb. 14. Voting takes place on Feb. 28 at the WCA cultural center on Front Street. Tribal administrator Esther Aaltséen Reese said there are a few aspects candidates should be aware of if elected to a two-year term. "We have one meeting a month, it's usu...

  • Port Commission discusses possible rate increases, vessel insurance requirement

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 8, 2023

    Thanks to its aging infrastructure and pricey upcoming projects, Port and Harbors is the least financially sustainable of all the borough’s enterprise funds. Last Thursday, the Port Commission met with Finance Director Mason Villarma and Susan Erickson of P-W Insurance to come up with a plan to improve the fund’s finances while minimizing the impacts on cash-strapped Wrangell residents. One major takeaway from the 2021 audit, Villarma explained, was that many of the borough’s self-supporting funds — particularly the Port and Harbors account...

  • Wireless internet service expected to start later this year

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 8, 2023

    Wireless internet service for areas of Wrangell with limited or no access to high-speed downloads should be in operation later this year. The broadband service initially will start with transmitting and receiving equipment in position atop two existing cell towers, along with two pop-up "cells on wheels (COWS)," explained Chris Cropley, director of the Tidal Network for the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. The portable cell units arrived in Wrangell last week. Ea...

  • Here's the tipoff: Celebrity team coming to Wrangell

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 8, 2023

    Communities without 70,000-seat stadiums don’t often get visits from professional athletes, but later this month Wrangell will become an exception to the rule. Players from Team Hollywood celebrity streetball will visit Feb. 21 to share inspirational messages — and play sports — with students and community members through Wrangell Cooperative Association (WCA) funding. Tribal Administrator Esther Aaltséen Reese of the WCA invited the organization to town after a conversation with Tanana Chiefs Conference member Donald Charlie at the Associ...

  • Chamber seeking royalty candidates for annual July 4 fundraising

    Marc Lutz, Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 8, 2023

    It’s still early but the chamber of commerce is wasting no time in finding candidates for its annual royalty competition. Each year, candidates sell tickets through door-to-door sales or at food booths to raise money to fund the following year’s Fourth of July festivities. Sales in 2022 totaled $56,260, which is about $30,000 shy of what the organization needs to cover costs. Candidates have until May 30 to sign up to vie for the titles of king, queen, prince and princess. Last year, only one candidate, Tyson Messmer, signed up. Typically, the...

  • High school boys sweep Craig, while girls teams struggle

    Marc Lutz, Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 8, 2023

    Coordinated plays, three-pointers galore, solid defense and near misses defined Wrangell High School basketball teams’ games against Craig High School last Friday and Saturday. The boys varsity and junior varsity teams each won both of their games against the Panthers, while the girls varsity lost two games and junior varsity had one win and one loss in Craig. Boys varsity squad members were back in good form, as team members were healthy and energetic on the hardwood. From the tipoff in Friday’s game to the final buzzer in Saturday’s, the W...

  • NOAA rejects commercial fishing in Bering Sea crab area

    Yereth Rosen, Alaska Beacon|Feb 8, 2023

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has rejected a petition from crab fishers to bar all commercial fishing for six months in an area of the Bering Sea designated as a special protective zone for red king crab, which have suffered a population crash. The decision announced on Jan. 20 by NOAA Fisheries confirms action in December by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. The council rejected the emergency request, which was made by the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, a harvester group. In a statement, NOAA Fisheries said the...

  • Senior puts laser focus on project to raise money for shop class

    Marc Lutz, Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 8, 2023

    The high school shop class shapes more than wood, metal and other materials for a myriad of uses. It also shapes young minds and abilities to invest in the future. Kyle Hommel is a good example of that. Hommel, 17, took what he has learned in shop and from his father to complete his senior project, which used his skills to raise money for his favorite class. The idea for his project came from his father, Kyle Hommel Sr., when he created metal fish-themed sculptures using a plasma cutter to sell...

  • Coast Guard makes special delivery to help communities

    Marc Lutz, Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 8, 2023

    The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Pike went on a BRAVE mission last Wednesday. Though the vessel is often engaged in patrolling the waters around Wrangell and Petersburg and performing search and rescue operations, the crew took a few hours to help the neighboring communities in another way: Package delivery. Donated items from Petersburg were transported by the Pike and her crew to the Reliance float in Wrangell. The 66 boxes contained bedding, adult and children's clothing, accessories and all...

  • Sitka McDonald's will close this summer after 35 years

    Shannon Haugland, Sitka Sentinel|Feb 8, 2023

    After more than 35 years as Sitka’s top spot for a fast-food fix, McDonald’s on Feb. 1 announced that its Sitka restaurant will close this summer. An announcement posted on the bulletin board at the Sitka McDonald’s said the restaurant would “cease operations no later than 7/31/23.” The announcement indicated the decision came from McDonald’s headquarters, and not from the franchise holders, Mike White and Bill Laliberte. “As a franchisee of McDonald’s we understand the business decision but find it hard to leave a community that we have be...

  • Services planned Feb. 18 for Dennis Berkeley

    Feb 8, 2023

    Former Wrangell resident Dennis Robert Berkeley, 76, passed away after a courageous battle with cancer on Dec. 7, 2022, in Sitka, his family reported. He was surrounded by family and friends, and was visited by many close friends and family during his final stay in Sitka. A service will be held on his birthday, Saturday, Feb. 18, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Elks Lodge in Wrangell. He was born Feb. 18, 1946, in Petersburg, and grew up in Kake, where he developed his love for commercial fishing and...

  • Commercial shrimp fishermen frustrated with change to May season

    Anna Laffrey, Ketchikan Daily News|Feb 8, 2023

    The 2023 commercial pot shrimp fishery in Southeast Alaska will open May 15. Fishermen targeting pot shrimp missed out on their usual October opener last year following a season change set by the Alaska Board of Fish. Fishermen expressed frustration over the season change during a preseason meeting held Feb. 1 by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. About 70 people from across Southeast attended the Zoom meeting to review the department’s shrimp surveys and catch-limit estimates. In previous years, the pot shrimp season ran from Oct. 1 u...

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