Articles from the February 15, 2023 edition


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  • Lawsuit could shut down commercial troll fisheries in Southeast

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 15, 2023

    Southeast trollers and communities are awaiting a federal judge's decision on a lawsuit that could close down the region's chinook troll fishery. If the lawsuit prevails, Southeast trollers would be denied access to the highest-priced salmon available to the commercial fleet. The lawsuit seeks to ensure more of the salmon make it to an endangered population of killer whales in Washington state. The Southeast winter troll fishery is underway and will close March 15; the summer season is slated to...

  • Losing 3 B&Bs reduces options for overnight travelers

    Marc Lutz, Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 15, 2023

    It's long been a challenge for travelers to find lodging in Wrangell, especially during the spring and summer months, but with the closure of three bed and breakfasts in the past six months, securing a place to stay has become even harder. With the loss of those short-term-stay establishments, other tourist-related businesses are having trouble attracting clients to the island. Little Bitty Getaway, Oceanside B&B and The Squawking Raven B&B have all closed since last August. The reasons are...

  • Shortage of crew continues to plague state ferry system

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 15, 2023

    An ongoing shortage of crew is the “No. 1 risk factor” for the Alaska Marine Highway System, Transportation Department Deputy Commissioner Katherine Keith told legislators. At a Feb. 2 presentation to the Senate Transportation Committee, the ferry system reported it was still short just over 100 crew for full staffing to efficiently operate the winter schedule, about a 20% vacancy factor for onboard employees. The ferry system, however, is able to run its schedule with crew members picking up extra shifts and overtime to cover the work, and...

  • Cuts in ferry service lead to uptick in water taxi business

    Marc Lutz, Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 15, 2023

    It has been more than a month without state ferry service after the Kennicott last stopped in Wrangell on Jan. 11. Ferry service is scheduled to start again on Friday, with the Columbia pulling in on its northbound run. In the month with no service, privately operated water taxis have been filling even more than before, responding to an increased need for passengers and cargo looking to get to Banana Point at the southern end of Mitkof Island, or all the way into Petersburg or to Coffman Cove...

  • The Way We Were

    Amber Armstrong-Hillberry|Feb 15, 2023

    Feb. 15, 1923 A number of parents and invited guests attended the father-son and mother-daughter dinner at the gym last Monday evening, presented by the Wrangell Boy Scouts. The boys darted busily here and there, seeing to it that everyone was fed. Not a woman or a Girl Scout was permitted to help, and the entire credit for the success of the dinner rests on the Boy Scouts. Just before the gathering dispersed, Superintendent Gross made an announcement of interest to the community, and especially to the young men who comprise the high school...

  • Energy-relief share of last year's PFD not subject to income tax

    Wrangell Sentinel and Associated Press|Feb 15, 2023

    The IRS announced last Friday that most temporary relief checks issued by states in 2022 are not subject to federal income taxes, including the $662 energy-relief portion of last year’s $3,284 Alaska Permanent Fund dividend. Alaska legislators last year added the energy-relief money to the annual PFD of $2,622 in a move to help residents hit hard by high prices for gasoline, diesel and heating fuel. The IRS decision provides last-minute tax guidance as returns are starting to pour in. The agency said it will not challenge the taxability of paym...

  • Kautz retires from helm of the Marine after 43 years

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 15, 2023

    When the recently retired Patty Kautz signed her restaurant, Hungry Beaver Pizza and Marine Bar, over to Rolland Wimberley on Feb. 4, it was exactly 43 years to the day since she first leased the establishment in 1981. "I could not believe it," she said. "It was pretty comical." Though Kautz looks back fondly on her quadragenarian run as owner of Wrangell's oldest pizza parlor, she looks forward with excitement to a retirement full of travel and family time. "There's been a lot of changes in 43...

  • Harbor Department surveyed public to strengthen federal grant application

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 15, 2023

    The borough will use the results of an eight-day public survey of users of its downtown harbor floats to boost the competitiveness of its federal grant application to rebuild the facilities, which officials said are in desperate need of repair. The survey closed Monday and it will take a while to tabulate the results, but officials believe it will help make the borough’s case for as much as $25 million in federal funds. After completing an $11.5 million repair project at Shoemaker Bay Harbor in 2019, the borough does not have the cash on h...

  • Not a good sign for Alaska's future

    Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 15, 2023

    Fewer Alaska high school graduates are qualifying for the state’s largest scholarship program; fewer who would qualify are bothering to participate in the program which requires that they attend college in Alaska; and more students who attend college out of state are choosing to set up their life outside Alaska. The numbers are not encouraging, unless you run a college in the Lower 48 that wants to attract more Alaskans. While elected officials debate the amount of the annual Permanent Fund dividend, who is tougher on crime, who is more s...

  • Stop calling it a dividend, maybe stop paying taxes

    Larry Persily Publisher|Feb 15, 2023

    There might be a way to avoid federal income taxes on the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend. But it would mean admitting that the annual payment to Alaskans is a political decision not at all tied to earnings of the savings account. It could mean changing the name of the PFD to Popular Fall Distribution, to truly disassociate the money from the fund’s investment earnings. If it means avoiding federal income tax on the money, we could learn to call the annual payment most anything. It would mean changing state law. And it would mean discarding the...

  • Wrangell should be proud of entire staff at long-term care

    Feb 15, 2023

    My mom, Marlene Clarke, was a long-term care resident at SEARHC in Wrangell from August 2022 until her recent passing on Feb. 7. I was so impressed by the skilled and compassionate care that she received from the nurses, nursing assistants and doctors. She never wanted to go to the long-term care unit, but in my opinion she received the best care of any nursing home anywhere. I have worked as a registered nurse in Oregon for 32 years. I originally trained as a nursing assistant at Wrangell Medical Center in high school in the early 1970s. At th...

  • Hospice will award 'hearts' at annual meeting Monday

    Feb 15, 2023

    Each year, Hospice of Wrangell recognizes with “Hospice Hearts” those who have provided special assistance to the group. These will be awarded at the group’s annual meeting Monday, Feb. 20. Our hearts this year go to: Nettie Covalt, Anne Morrison, Michael Bania, Maria Byford, Bonnie Demerjian, Bill Rohrer, Donna Rohrer, Artha Deruyter, Kathy Watkins, Gary Watkins, Jim Bailey, Duke Mitchell and Loretta Rice. Special thanks go to the folks at the Nolan Center: Cyni Crary, Tyler Eagle and Michael Bahleda, to Cathy Gross, and to all the ladie...

  • St. Valentine's Day a reminder of God's love

    Feb 15, 2023

    February is the month when we turn our thoughts to matters of the heart. On the 14th we give our sweetheart a card, a box of candy or maybe take them out to dinner. No matter what is done we think of love to our wife, husband, girlfriend or boyfriend. Saint Valentine was a third-century Roman saint and was commemorated on the 14th of February. Yes, we still celebrate the event to this day. In the course of history there is an even greater event to show love. God sent his only son to show us just how much we are loved. That love was told to us...

  • Wrangell varsity boys fare better in rematch against Sitka

    Marc Lutz, Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 15, 2023

    The last time they met on the hardwood, the Wrangell High School boys varsity basketball team fell in two games against the Sitka team on Sitka’s homecourt. “Our guys played really tough,” head coach Cody Angerman said after those games in December. “I would love to play this Sitka team again when we get Ethan (Blatchley) back.” And play the higher-division team again they did on Feb. 5 and 6, splitting the two games. Originally, the Haines team was supposed to come to Wrangell to play but those plans fell through. At that time, Angerman...

  • Alaskans celebrate Native civil rights advocate Elizabeth Peratrovich

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 15, 2023

    On Thursday, Alaskans will celebrate Elizabeth Peratrovich Day to honor the Tlingit civil rights advocate who pushed for the nation's first anti-discrimination law, 19 years before the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. During her lifelong campaign for Native rights, she fought segregation and a majority white territorial Legislature to establish a foundation of legal protections that have benefitted Alaskans since 1945. Peratrovich was born in segregated Petersburg on July 4, 1911. She was a...

  • Tlingit and Haida offers start-up grants for new business owners

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 15, 2023

    Tribal citizens with new business ideas may be eligible for funds to help launch their small businesses through the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s start-up grant program. Tlingit and Haida has been operating pandemic relief programs for existing small businesses run by tribal citizens for three years. In 2021, they added the federally funded small business relief start-up grant program to their list of offerings to support citizens who do not yet have a small business, but would like to develop one. This year...

  • High school/middle school principal retires after first year on the job

    Marc Lutz, Wrangell Sentinel|Feb 15, 2023

    After only one school year, Bob Burkhart is retiring as the principal of Wrangell High School and Stikine Middle School. Burkhart relocated from Ennis, Montana, last year to take the job, coming from a position as a principal at a school in Missoula, Montana, which he took on after being retired the first time. “He just decided not to sign an additional year contract and will continue as principal through the end of this year’s contract,” said Schools Superintendent Bill Burr. “He is looking to retire with his wife in Montana where they ha...

  • Ortiz introduces bill to increase state funding for public schools

    Sam Stockbridge, Ketchikan Daily News|Feb 15, 2023

    A second bill has been introduced in the Legislature to significantly boost state funding for public schools. Rep. Dan Ortiz, whose district covers Ketchikan, Wrangell and Metlakatla, introduced a bill on Feb. 8 to increase the state’s per-pupil funding formula by 21%. The Senate Education Committee a week earlier introduced its own version with a 17% boost. Ortiz’s bill would add about $320 million to the state budget. The per-student funding formula has not budged in the past six years, squeezing school budgets, jeopardizing programs and staf...

  • Alaskans who went to college out of state more likely not to return home

    Yereth Rosen, Alaska Beacon|Feb 15, 2023

    Nearly 18 years ago, about 6,000 young Alaskans left high school and launched into adulthood. Where did they end up? Slightly half were still in Alaska as of 2021, but the percentage was much smaller for those who got college degrees outside of the state, according to an analysis by the Alaska Department of Labor. Results are published in the February issue of Alaska Economic Trends, the monthly magazine of the department’s research and analysis division. There is “nothing magical” about the class of 2005, said Dan Robinson, the depar... Full story

  • Lifelong resident and fisherman Felix Villarma dies at 90

    Feb 15, 2023

    Felix Villarma, 90, passed away on Jan. 22 in Wrangell. He was born on Feb. 28, 1932, in Wrangell. "He loved Wrangell!" the family wrote. "From a very early age, Felix was a hard worker. He cut halibut cheeks, sold scrap fish to the local mink farm, and was a paperboy for the Wrangell Sentinel." He graduated from Wrangell High School in 1949, where he was an excellent basketball player. He also worked as a deck hand on several different boats during those years. In the fall of 1950, he left... Full story

  • Long-time resident Marlene Ann Clarke dies at 86

    Feb 15, 2023

    Marlene Ann Clarke passed away Feb. 7 in the Wrangell long-term care facility. She was born on April 3, 1936, to Nellie Prescott and Howard Messinger in Wrangell. She spent most of her childhood in Wrangell except for short stays in Juneau, Haines and Anchorage. She came back in the third grade and graduated from Wrangell High School in 1954. Working summers in the shrimp and fish canneries gave her the push to move to California to try something different after graduation. She took business... Full story

  • Fewer Alaska students seek scholarships to attend college in-state

    Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News|Feb 15, 2023

    The vast majority of Alaska high school students eligible for college scholarships that require them to study in-state are choosing to go Outside, according to a new report from the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education. The Alaska Performance Scholarship was first established in 2011 to encourage high school students to excel and stay in Alaska. Roughly $100 million in scholarships have been distributed since then to a little more than 29,000 students. The merit-based program has three tiers, the highest paying $4,755 per year to the...

  • Alaska backs federal lawsuit to block distribution of abortion pill

    Jennifer Shutt, Alaska Beacon|Feb 15, 2023

    WASHINGTON — Attorneys general representing nearly two dozen Republican states, including Alaska, are backing a lawsuit that would remove the abortion pill from throughout the United States after more than two decades, eliminating the option even in states where abortion access remains legal. The state of Missouri filed its own brief in the case Friday while Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch filed a brief on behalf of her state as well as Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, M... Full story

  • Police report

    Feb 15, 2023

    Monday, Feb. 6 Domestic violence order: Violation. Agency assist: Ambulance. Found bicycle. Disturbance. Tuesday, Feb. 7 Parking complaint: Written warning issued. Agency assist: Verbal warning for speeding. Dog at large. Owner picked up dog and purchased license. Wednesday, Feb. 8 Civil matter: Child custody. Thursday, Feb. 9 Traffic stop: Citation issued for operating in violation of provisional license, verbal warning for taillight out. Traffic stop: Citation issued for speed in school zone and failure to provide proof of insurance. Traffic...

  • Endangered listing for sunflower sea stars could affect West Coast fishing

    Yereth Rosen, Alaska Beacon|Feb 15, 2023

    One of the biggest sea stars in the world has been devastated by a malady likened to an underwater "zombie apocalypse" and could soon be granted Endangered Species Act protection. Sunflower sea stars, fast-swimming creatures that can have up to 24 arms and grow to three feet in diameter, have largely vanished from their habitat, which stretches from the western tip of Alaska's Aleutian Islands to the waters off Mexico's Baja California. The culprit is sea star wasting syndrome, a body-mangling... Full story

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