Articles from the April 26, 2023 edition


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  • New cost estimate for wastewater disinfection more than double

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 26, 2023

    The borough has been preparing to make costly updates to its wastewater treatment plant, but recent estimates suggest that the multimillion-dollar project could be over twice as expensive as anticipated. Late last year, borough officials placed the project in the $3 million to $5 million range; the new price tag is over $12.5 million. “This is considerably more than what we were planning on,” said Borough Manager Jeff Good. Construction costs are rising nationwide and the borough has had to adjust estimates on many major projects acc...

  • Students learn first-hand about ocean food chain

    Marc Lutz, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 26, 2023

    If there's one thing fourth graders can count on each year, it's that they will see a dead animal inside and out. Teacher Brian Merritt uses various animals to teach about science, whether biology, environment or, in the case of this year, the food chain. On April 18, Merritt brought his class outside to show them the food chain of the animal kingdom in action, if only slightly after the fact. "Whoa!" "That's huge!" "Wow!" The students reacted with astonishment at the unveiling of the enormous...

  • Governor tells legislators he will introduce state sales tax

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 26, 2023

    Gov. Mike Dunleavy told legislators in a pair of closed-door meetings last week that he will introduce a state sales tax as a component of a budget-balancing, long-term fiscal plan. But with just three weeks left in the legislative session, with no details about the governor’s tax bill as of Monday, and with strong opposition from lawmakers who represent communities with a local sales tax, the odds of passage this year are extremely low. If the governor goes ahead with a sales tax bill, it would join more than a dozen proposals offered by H...

  • Villarma closes the book on library career after 34 years

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 26, 2023

    The Irene Ingle Public Library has undergone countless changes in the past three decades, from the digitization of its catalog to major building renovations to the advent of e-books. Library Director Margaret Villarma has guided the facility through it all, offering support to elders and fostering a love of reading in generations of Wrangell youth. Now, after 34 years, she is ready to retire. "I'm just grateful for the job I had here," she said. "I really am. I enjoyed it. I couldn't have asked...

  • The Way We Were

    Amber Armstrong-Hillberry, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 26, 2023

    April 26, 1923 The Wrangell Commercial Club recently undertook to offer better advantages to fishermen, and arrangements have been made for keeping on hand a constant supply of bait and ice on the dock. Glacial ice is being brought in by Harry Coulter, who at the instance of the club is undertaking to keep a supply of ice on the dock that will be adequate to the needs of all fishermen who may come to this port. An ice room is furnished by the McCormack Dock Co. C.C. Mundy is handling the bait. During the few days since the ice and bait have...

  • Polynesian paddlers plan to pay visit to Wrangell in June

    Marc Lutz, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 26, 2023

    It is a voyage of 43,000 miles encompassing the Pacific Ocean, and it begins in Southeast. The Hawaiian canoe Hōkūleʻa and its crew will set sail from Juneau in June to circumnavigate the vast, blue body of water over the course of four years. On its way south, it will stop in Wrangell for a few days. The double-hulled plywood, fiberglass and resin canoe, which was built in 1975 and made its first voyage the following year, was lifted out of the waters of Honolulu Harbor and was scheduled to be delivered to Tacoma, Washington, last Friday. Fr...

  • Shooter drills not active part of Wrangell schools safety protocol

    Marc Lutz, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 26, 2023

    Active shooter drills have become as commonplace in schools across the country as fire drills. However, that is not the case in Wrangell just yet. At the school board meeting on April 17, Devyn Johnson, a parent with two children enrolled at Evergreen Elementary School and one in Head Start, asked that the schools implement some kind of drill. “Wrangell has high access to firearms. Mental illness is high. Depression rates are high. And substance abuse is high,” Johnson said to the board during public comments. “In my opinion, these are all the...

  • Do it for those who live here and for visitors, too

    Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 26, 2023

    Residents will have two opportunities in the next couple of weeks to pitch in, bend down, pick up, lift and carry in a collective effort to make the community cleaner and greener for the summer. The annual community events are a source of pride for residents who see these streets and sidewalks every day. They also are a chance to put Wrangell’s best flowers, benches and footpaths forward for visitors. The town could attract an estimated 33,000 tourists this summer — the most since 2005. It’d be smart to showcase a cleaned-up community, sending...

  • Governor's sales tax doesn't make sense

    Larry Persily Publisher|Apr 26, 2023

    Alaska is 30 years into state budget deficits, borrowing billions from savings to pay the bills. Gov. Mike Dunleavy is five years into the job, still pledging mega Permanent Fund dividends even if the money isn’t there. Three months ago, Dunleavy in his State of the State address couldn’t even manage to acknowledge the need for a long-term fiscal plan, despite the budget math that adds up otherwise. Then the governor had an epiphany last week. Not a religious one, a fiscal one. He said the word “taxes.” Only he didn’t say it in public. That wou...

  • International bird-tracking project alights in Wrangell

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 26, 2023

    Wrangell may not be on the road system, but that doesn't mean it's not connected to the rest of the world. Last week, a U.S. Forest Service project put Wrangell on the map - the Motus map. The Motus Wildlife Tracking System is an international collaborative research network that uses radio telemetry technology to study the migratory patterns of birds and other animals. After scientists put a nanotag on a bird, its movements can be tracked by hundreds of Motus antennae all over the world. These...

  • Borough to spruce up downtown in 'community collaboration'

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 26, 2023

    It’s spring cleaning season, and while individual households may wash their baseboards and dust their blinds, it isn’t just private residences that benefit from a thorough seasonal cleanse — Wrangell’s public spaces need love too. Next month, Parks and Recreation is hosting a “Community Collaboration” event, where all borough departments will work alongside residents to clean and beautify the downtown area. The event will kick off on May 12 at the downtown pavilion at 9 a.m., though volunteers are welcome to drop in and out until it ends at...

  • Last year's Southeast salmon harvest was 69% of 10-year average

    Anna Laffrey, Ketchikan Daily News|Apr 26, 2023

    The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced this month that commercial salmon fishermen across all gear groups caught a total 31.7 million salmon in Southeast Alaska during 2022. Last year's all-species harvest was low, Fish and Game reported. The 2022 catch amounts to 69% of the average harvest over the past 10 years of 46.1 million salmon. The Southeast salmon harvest has been erratic in the past few years. The 2022 catch of 31.7 million was about half of the 2021 catch of 58.9 million and about double the 2020 catch of 14.6 million...

  • Diamonds shine

    Apr 26, 2023

    Delilah Roane, 11, sweeps a dugout last Saturday as part of the volunteer effort to clean up the baseball diamonds at Volunteer Park. The batting cages were weeded and raked, while the fields were dragged to pick up as much debris as possible. An exhibition alumni softball game last Sunday took advantage of the freshened-up fields and Little League opening ceremonies begin this Saturday....

  • Tour operator sets up shop indoors

    Apr 26, 2023

    Mia Wiederspohn, left, makes a purchase at Breakaway Adventures last Friday at the grand opening of the tour company's brick-and-mortar location, while Jaynee Fritzinger works behind the counter. The shop will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday year-round, said owner Spenser Stavee. The storefront will sometimes be open on Sundays, depending on cruise ship schedules. Along with clothing, food and souvenirs, shoppers can rent an electric bike or book jet boat tou...

  • New business brings art to people's fingertips

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 26, 2023

    Whether you prefer dainty French tips or long metallic claws, dayglo colors or classy neutrals, Wrangell's newest nail technician is ready to help you manifest your wildest manicure dreams. Recently certified Luba Lofftus is offering manicures from her home studio and will soon be sharing space with the Stone Cold Fox hair salon downtown. I visited Lofftus in her home to learn more about Happy Girl Nails - her forthcoming business - and to watch her expertise in action. Lofftus does nails at a...

  • State budget battle comes down to school funding and dividend

    Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News|Apr 26, 2023

    The budget battle between the Alaska House of Representatives, the Senate and the governor is shaping up as a fight between the size of the Permanent Fund dividend and a proposed increase to public school spending after years of flat funding. Dozens of education advocates rallied on the Alaska State Capitol steps last Thursday evening in support of a substantial increase to the state’s per-student funding formula. The formula has not been significantly increased since 2017, and school administrators have reported struggling to balance their b...

  • Sweet Tides to reopen Thursday

    Sentinel staff|Apr 26, 2023

    After being delayed one week and one day to reopen, Sweet Tides will again welcome customers on Thursday. The bakery has been closed since early March to expand its storefront and offer specialty coffees in a café atmosphere. Due to a backlog in permitting through the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, it was unknown how long the business would be delayed in reopening. Owner Shawna Buness posted on Facebook last week that the permits were approved the day after a Sentinel story reported she didn’t know if it would take a week or...

  • Legislator wants to limit interest rate on high-cost payday loans

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 26, 2023

    Alaskans who need cash quickly can go to a payday lender for a short-term loan of up to $500, handing over a check or access to their bank account to cover the entire loan repayment just as soon as they get paid at work or their pension arrives. But it will cost them plenty for that fast cash, as much as 15% interest on the debt every two weeks. A freshman Republican legislator from Anchorage wants to put an end to what he calls “these predatory loans.” Payday lenders “take advantage of the dire situations of individuals,” said Rep. Stanley...

  • E-cigarette use by young Alaskans tripled between 2016 and 2021

    Alaska Beacon and Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 26, 2023

    Alaska posted the nation’s highest rate of increase in electronic cigarette use by young adults from 2016 to 2021, according to a report tracking patterns in all 50 states. The rate of e-cigarette use by Alaskans in that age group more than tripled, from 4.8% in 2019 — the lowest rate in the nation at the time — to 15.8% in 2021, according to the report. The sponsor of a bill in the Alaska Legislature to impose a tax on e-cigarettes, vape sticks and other electronic smoking devices has said the tax is intended to deter young people from vapin...

  • Legislators amend bill, making it easier for schools to teach financial literacy

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 26, 2023

    Rather than requiring a specific course in financial literacy for high school graduation, lawmakers have amended the legislation so that school districts could incorporate the same information into one or more classes as long as the material is covered. The amended Senate bill would require school districts to teach students how to open and manage an account at a financial institution, prepare a budget and manage debt and credit cards. It also would require districts to teach students about loans, insurance, taxes, financial fraud, retirement...

  • Senators move legislation to help low-income Alaskans with legal services

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 26, 2023

    Legislation that could boost state funding to assist more low-income Alaskans needing help with civil law issues has advanced through its second state Senate committee and is waiting for a vote by the full chamber. The measure would more than double a source of state funding that could be directed each year to the Alaska Legal Services Corp., a 56-year-old nonprofit legal aid organization that helps several thousand Alaskans a year with domestic violence, family law, housing, elder advocacy and other cases. “They provide absolutely critical l...

  • Bill would amend state corporate taxes to capture more from digital businesses.

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Apr 26, 2023

    The state should change its tax code to increase corporate income tax collections from out-of-state businesses that sell goods or services to Alaskans, particularly digitized services, according to a legislator promoting the revisions. “The world has changed,” said Anchorage Sen. Bill Wielechowski. “We’re no longer bricks and mortar.” His legislation would amend Alaska’s income tax code to ensure that online and digital sales are included in calculating how much of a company’s U.S. profit was made in Alaska and should be subject to corporate...

  • Severe staff shortage delays state approval of occupational licenses

    James Brooks, Alaska Beacon|Apr 26, 2023

    After waiting six months for a license to operate, an Anchorage psychologist asked Senate Majority Leader Cathy Giessel for help. But when the Anchorage Republican called the licensing office, she was greeted by voicemail. The person in charge of answering the phones had quit and wasn’t replaced. “Professional licenses are required to get people to work. That division doesn’t have enough people to even answer the phone,” Giessel said last month. That person wasn’t alone — last year, the state reported that 39 occupational license-exa...

  • Hawaii lawmakers consider charging visitors to use parks and trails

    Audrey McAvoy, Associated Press|Apr 26, 2023

    HONOLULU — Repairing coral reefs after boats run aground. Shielding native forest trees from a killer fungus outbreak. Patrolling waters for swimmers harassing dolphins and turtles. Taking care of Hawaii’s unique natural environment takes time, people and money. Now Hawaii wants tourists to help pay for it, especially because growing numbers are traveling to the islands to enjoy the beauty of its outdoors — including some lured by dramatic vistas they’ve seen on social media. “All I want to do, honestly, is to make travelers accountab...

  • Alaska Supreme Court rules political gerrymandering of election districts unconstitutional

    Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News|Apr 26, 2023

    In a landmark decision, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled last Friday that partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional under the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection doctrine. The decision follows a contentious reapportionment cycle after the 2020 census: The Alaska Redistricting Board was twice found by the state’s highest court of having unconstitutionally gerrymandered the state’s political maps by attempting to give solidly Republican Eagle River more political representation with two Senate seats in the 20-member body. Following a court...

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