Articles from the February 9, 2022 edition


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  • The Way We Were

    Feb 9, 2022

    Feb. 9, 1922 Probably the most welcome news contained in this issue of the Sentinel is that the Wrangell sawmill will start up next week. During the next two months the mill will be busy on orders for Southeast Alaska customers. After that, there will be some export orders to be filled. Consequently a full season’s run is assured. Feb. 7, 1947 One of the most pressing topics taken at the Stikine Sportsmen’s Association meeting last Monday night was how the deer are faring this winter. Reports have drifted in of many deer being found frozen to...

  • State recruiting for children's services worker in Wrangell

    Larry Persily|Feb 9, 2022

    After not having a state Office of Children’s Services caseworker in town for more than a decade, Wrangell could have a staffer here by spring. The Legislature last year added funding for the position to the budget and, unlike 2020, Gov. Mike Dunleavy did not veto the money for the Wrangell caseworker. The borough helped the deal last year by offering to pick up half of the expenses for the staff position, along with donating office space. The borough offered the same deal in 2020 when the governor vetoed the spending along with other a...

  • State 'hopeful' ferry service will return to Rupert on May 1

    Larry Persily|Feb 9, 2022

    An Alaska state ferry hasn’t stopped in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, since fall 2019, but officials “remain hopeful” they can add back the Canadian port to Southeast Alaska runs on May 1. “The Alaska Marine Highway System continues to work closely with both U.S. and Canadian customs regarding a return to service in Prince Rupert,” Sam Dapcevich, state Transportation Department spokesman, said in a Feb. 1 email. The department and ferry system management “have multiple tasks to complete before we will be approved to re-commence service,” t...

  • High school students harvest grant to help with planting indoor garden

    Marc Lutz|Feb 9, 2022

    With a little digging and hard work, Wrangell High School students have unearthed a grant to help grow a project. Junior Rylee Chelette and sophomore Mia Wiederspohn used their grant-writing skills and were awarded funds to help special education teacher Ann Hilburn launch a life-skills project that revolves around starting an indoor garden and incorporating activity, science, math, planning and running a business. “(Basic) things that … our children learn, seems to be by osmosis, but for (the special education students) it has to be han...

  • Tax season comes with unique challenges this year

    Marc Lutz|Feb 9, 2022

    Many may not know they can be taxed on their Permanent Fund dividend income. They may also not know their children can be taxed on theirs. Those are just a couple of the items that most people might not be aware of as they prepare to file their taxes for 2021. Thanks to AARP and a couple of local volunteers, Wrangell taxpayers need not worry. Every Saturday from now until April 15, Paula Rak and Nancy McQueen will be preparing taxes for those who wish to take advantage of the free service. Though they help everyone they can, Rak said there are...

  • Gold medal swimmer gives clinic and shares advice in Sitka

    Garland Kennedy, Sitka Sentinel|Feb 9, 2022

    Tokyo Summer Olympics swim team gold medalist Lydia Jacoby, a 17-year-old Seward High School senior, was in Sitka last month, sharing stories, offering advice - and talking about her goggles. She also talked of criticism directed at her on social media and mental health. "During the mixed-medley (relay) my goggles fell off my face and were in my mouth," she said. "I couldn't breathe for the whole race, and that's something that you think once you get to the Olympics you'll kind of be past that,...

  • Proposal would increase subsistence moose hunt

    Marc Lutz|Feb 9, 2022

    A proposed rule change by the Federal Subsistence Board would allow for the harvest of an additional 20 moose in state Game Management Unit 3 on Kuiu and Kupreanof islands north of Wrangell. One group thinks it’s a bad idea. The Wrangell Fish and Game Advisory Committee sent a letter to the subsistence board in January opposing the change because “taking more bulls from the herd by drawing could be counterproductive to the intent of this proposal.” According to Frank Robbins, a wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in P...

  • Harbors to install 24/7 credit card readers at dock hoists

    Sarah Aslam|Feb 9, 2022

    The port and harbors department will purchase and install cashless meters that accept credit cards at dock hoists in Wrangell that will allow people to use them around-the-clock. The department is buying four credit card readers at a total cost of $11,000 from El Dorado, Arkansas-based manufacturer IDX, and will work with electricians in Wrangell for installation, Port Director Steve Miller said Friday. Two will be installed at Reliance Harbor in front of the harbor master office, one in the boatyard at the Marine Service Center and one at...

  • School district starts work on next year's budget

    Marc Lutz|Feb 9, 2022

    The initial draft budget for the next school year shows a $370,000 deficit, which the school board will work to resolve over the next couple of months. The board met in a work session on Monday to review the draft, and will take public comment on the spending plan for the 2022-2023 school year in a Zoom meeting that starts at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. More board sessions will follow, as the school district works to match revenues and expenditures, or draw down on its reserves, while deciding on staffing levels and programs. “Input from the public h...

  • Election-year kindness helps the ferry system

    Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 9, 2022

    It sure seems the Alaska Marine Highway System is feeling a lot more love these days. Could it be a fundamental shift in the governor’s attitude toward the coastal communities that depend on the admittedly heavily state-subsidized ferries (same as Railbelt communities depend on subsidized highways). Or could it be that 2022 is an election year. Those are not questions as much as they are a combined statement of fact. It’s an election year and every vote counts in Alaska, which is notorious for close elections. When campaigning for ree...

  • More at-home test kits on the way

    Sarah Aslam|Feb 9, 2022

    The fire department is continuing to hand out free, at-home COVID-19 test kits as the community’s level of new cases declines after a record-breaking January. Starting Dec. 30 and continuing through Jan. 30, the borough reported 185 cases in the community, the worst outbreak by far of the pandemic. Since then, the borough has reported 13 new infections, including six reported on Monday evening. As of Monday, the fire department still had 325 test kits, said Capt. Dorianne Sprehe. A shipment of an additional 242 boxes is on the way from the s...

  • It's time more Republicans stood up to Trump

    Larry Persily Publisher|Feb 9, 2022

    I don’t propose anyone take away the former president’s phones, his internet access, his rights to call outrageous press conferences or give loud speeches. I don’t suggest denying him the privilege to fleece supporters who want to click on his fundraising websites, or his prerogative to endorse outlandish candidates for public office. And I would never propose challenging his First Amendment rights to call anyone who disagrees with him a litany of names that only a child would appreciate. Just last week Donald Trump called the former head...

  • Dividend belongs in the state constitution

    Feb 9, 2022

    By Joe Geldhof and Juanita Cassellius Of the Permanent Fund Defenders For a long time, significant issues about our Permanent Fund have been bungled and avoided. How long? Too long, since 2016, when then-Gov. Bill Walker decided to ignore the long-standing formula to pay the dividend embedded in Alaska law. The failure to pay the dividend according to statute created political chaos. Every legislative session since Walker reduced the dividend payment has seen political fighting over the size of the dividend. Without a fix to the dividend...

  • Correction

    Feb 9, 2022

    The first sentence was incomplete in the Feb. 2 Sentinel news report on former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s lawsuit against The York Times. The first sentence should have read: “Unvaccinated former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 24, forcing postponement of the trial in her libel lawsuit against The New York Times....

  • Legislature again considers taxing, restricting e-cigarettes

    Larry Persily|Feb 9, 2022

    For the third year in a row, lawmakers are considering legislation that would impose a tax on e-cigarettes, such as vaping devices, intended to make it more expensive and harder on young people to buy the products. “This bill is about protecting our children from becoming addicted to nicotine,” the bill’s sponsor, Kodiak Sen. Gary Stevens, said in presenting his legislation to the Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 2. In addition to imposing a tax on vaping devices and liquids and other e-cigarette products, the bill, if approved by legislators a...

  • State contracts with search firm to help fill ferry system jobs

    Larry Persily|Feb 9, 2022

    The state has contracted with an Anchorage-based search firm to help recruit and fill almost 50 job openings with the Alaska Marine Highway System, ranging from several onshore management positions to onboard crew. Alaska Executive Search was the only bidder for the contract, said Sam Dapcevich, Transportation Department spokesman. The contract is not to exceed $250,000. The state will pay the company an hourly rate for its work on the year-long recruitment and hiring effort — ranging from $65 to $105 an hour, depending on the contractor p...

  • State ferry Tazlina put into temporary service

    The Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 9, 2022

    The Alaska Marine Highway System has activated the dormant state ferry Tazlina for more than 30 sailings from Juneau to northern Southeast communities in February and March, filling in service gaps to Haines, Skagway, Hoonah, Angoon and Gustavus. Given the shortage of regular ferry service across Southeast, there had been strong public pressure on the state to activate the Tazlina, a $60 million ship built in 2019 but largely unused to save money. Bringing the 300-passenger Tazlina into service required putting together a crew for the...

  • Sitka businessman pleads guilty to stealing electricity

    Shannon Haugland, Sitka Sentinel|Feb 9, 2022

    A Sitka businessman indicted more than two years ago on charges that he stole electricity for his multiple properties has pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay restitution to the city utility of almost $150,000, plus interest. Richard A. Forst, 59, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of theft of property or services and a misdemeanor of criminal mischief. He pleaded guilty on Jan. 31. Superior Court Judge Jude Pate placed Forst on probation for two years. The judge also fined him $5,000 and ordered Forst to perform 80 hours of community work...

  • Marshalls advise: Don't be mean but be honest

    Sarah Aslam|Feb 9, 2022

    Robbie Marshall, 25, and Kiara Marshall, 22, have known each other since elementary school. Robbie actually took Kiara's sister to the prom. Kiara and Robbie both ended up in her sister's wedding party in the summer of 2017. They started talking after that. Kiara's first impression of Robbie was that "he was really goofy and really cute." By November, they started dating. When they found out they were pregnant, "I asked her parents for her hand in marriage," Robbie said. But he still needed to...

  • Roses are romantic, line dancing is dumb: Hommels celebrate 25 years

    Sarah Aslam|Feb 9, 2022

    Joe Hommel in 1996 at age 24 used to swing by the meat department at IGA to visit his best friend. Then Charity, 18, started working there, too. "It started with saying 'Hi' to my friend. Then I started saying 'Hi' to Charity," Joe, now 49, said. Charity, 43, said she lived on a boat for seven years with her family, and Wrangell was one of her favorite towns to stop in. Her family was sailing from Juneau to Ketchikan, and she jumped ship in Wrangell, getting a job at the former iterations of IGA...

  • Villarmas credit patience and forgiveness for 67 years of marriage

    Sarah Aslam|Feb 9, 2022

    Verda Villarma remembers Felix Villarma winked at her from the bleachers at a high school football game in Idaho seven decades ago. She was a cheerleader. "She was a good looking gal," he said. "Every time I'd look up there, he'd wink at me," Verda said. That was the first time they met. "He was very good looking," she added. Verda turns 89 in June, and Felix turns 90 later this month. On May 20, the couple will celebrate 67 years of marriage. "It sometimes amazes me," Verda said. Felix came...

  • State House drops proposal to remove Eastman from committees

    Becky Bohrer, The Associated Press|Feb 9, 2022

    Alaska House leaders last Friday backed away from a proposal to strip committee assignments from Wasilla Republican Rep. David Eastman, a member of the far-right organization Oath Keepers. For now, they plan to hold at least one hearing on the group. House Majority Leader Chris Tuck said members had been prepared earlier this week to vote on the proposal but said it was "questionable" whether the votes were there to remove Eastman from committees. Tuck described as informational the planned hear...

  • Undersea fiber optic cable work planned for fall

    Larry Persily|Feb 9, 2022

    Timely environmental approval and a cable-laying ship available after finishing another job in Alaska waters will allow Alaska Power & Telephone to move ahead this fall with installation of a 214-mile undersea fiber optic cable from Prince of Wales Island to Juneau. The project, along with onshore network build-outs in Coffman Cove and Kasaan, will bring high-speed internet to the two Southeast communities. The $28.5 million project, called SEALink, is being funded by a $21.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utility...

  • Police report

    Feb 9, 2022

    Monday, Jan. 31 Civil issue. Parking complaint. Parking complaint: School bus loading zone. Tuesday, Feb. 1 Agency assist. Traffic stop: Citation issued for no proof of insurance and no valid driver’s license. Wednesday, Feb. 2 Agency assist. Civil issue. Stolen property. Thursday, Feb. 3 Agency assist: U.S. Forest Service. Traffic stop: Citation issued for no proof of insurance. Traffic stop: Citation issued for no proof of insurance. Welfare check. Friday, Feb. 4 Found property. Agency assist: Hoonah Police Department. Traffic stop: F...

  • State settles with doctors wrongfully fired when Dunleavy took office

    The Associated Press|Feb 9, 2022

    JUNEAU (AP) — The state agreed to pay almost half-a-million dollars in public funds to settle with two psychiatrists who won their lawsuit against Gov. Mike Dunleavy when a federal judge ruled last fall they were wrongfully fired after “political” demands that violated their First Amendment rights. Under the agreement, announced Feb. 2, the state agreed to pay Anthony Blanford $220,000 and John Bellville $275,000, reflecting lost wages, damages and attorneys’ fees. The agreement says the payments are subject to legislative approval. Both wo...

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