Articles from the May 1, 2024 edition

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  • House and Senate about $700 apart on this year's PFD

    James Brooks, Alaska Beacon|May 1, 2024

    The Alaska Senate is moving toward a final vote on its draft state spending plan for the coming fiscal year, with senators expected this week to approve a budget that includes enough money to pay a 2024 Permanent Fund dividend estimated at $1,580. The Senate’s draft operating budget is different from one passed last month by the House which included a $2,270 proposed PFD. Senate action will trigger the creation of a conference committee charged with writing a compromise budget deal to fund state services after July 1, the start of the fiscal y...

  • State awaits report, cost estimate on repairing Matanuska

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|May 1, 2024

    The Alaska Marine Highway System is waiting for the prognosis after a full-body scan of the state ferry Matanuska, looking for rusted steel — the equivalent of a cancer scan of the 61-year-old ship. The Matanuska has been out of service for 18 months after it went into the shop for its annual winter overhaul, only to find a lot more “wasted” (rusted) steel in its hull, decking and other areas of the ship than expected. That prompted the scan, which has been completed. Marine architects are working up a cost estimate, said Craig Tornga, marin...

  • State expects pink salmon harvest less than half last year

    Ketchikan Daily News|May 1, 2024

    The Alaska Department of Fish and Game reported April 25 that commercial fishermen caught a total of 66.6 million salmon in Southeast Alaska during 2023, including wild runs and hatchery-produced fish. For this year, the department is predicting much lower numbers for Southeast, with much weaker pink salmon returns. Fish and Game last week issued its prediction that Southeast fishermen across all commercial gear groups would catch a total of 38.7 million salmon this summer, including 169,000 chinook, 929,000 sockeye, 1.5 million coho, 16...

  • Roller rink reopens, with first public skate Friday

    Mark C. Robinson, Wrangell Sentinel|May 1, 2024

    The nondenominational TouchPoint Alaska Ministries has reopened the roller rink on Bennett Street, with the first public skate night set for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Friday, May 3. Georgianna and Richard Buhler, of TouchPoint, are focused on seeing how things go the first night, which they are calling "Roll on the Rock," but they hope to eventually have regularly scheduled skate nights every Friday and Saturday. "That's still the plan," Georgianna Buhler said. "Right now, we're starting small."...

  • They're ready to play ball

    May 1, 2024

  • Community Calendar

    May 1, 2024

    IRENE INGLE PUBLIC LIBRARY summer reading program now open for registration. Open to children entering kindergarten through ninth grade in the fall. Register at the library. The reading program runs May 28 through Aug. 3. More than 100 prize drawings and a pool/pizza party for everyone who completes the program. Call 907-874-3535 for more information. KINDERGARTEN ENROLLMENT is now open for the 2024-2025 school year to any child who will be 5 years old by Sept. 1. Kindergarten screening will take place Thursday and Friday, May 2-3. Call Kendra...

  • The Way We Were

    Amber Armstrong-Hillberry, Wrangell Sentinel|May 1, 2024

    May 1, 1924 A number of citizens met at the Wrangell Hotel last night to discuss the matter of securing a saltwater pump for Wrangell. It is a well known fact that the only thing that saved Ketchikan during the recent fire in that city was the constant streams of saltwater that were kept going by the pumps on the vessels lying in port. O. D. Leet, manager of the Wrangell Ice and Storage Co., is willing to permit the use of one of his engines to run a pump at any time. With the hose now on hand it would be possible to reach a fire as far down...

  • Borough assembly, school board discuss local funding

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|May 1, 2024

    The borough assembly and school board met April 23 in a joint work session to discuss local funding for the school district for the 2024-2025 school year. The school district has requested $1.75 million from the borough, which is the maximum local contribution allowed under state law and an increase from the $1.6 million that the borough contributed each of the past two years. The minimum local contribution required by the borough is $862,086. The state sets a minimum and a maximum in an effort to reduce budget and school program inequalities...

  • Borough looking at sales tax changes to raise revenue - but not the rate

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|May 1, 2024

    Assembly members expressed interest — but also caution — in what borough staff can come with to change the sales tax code to possibly raise more revenue without raising the actual tax rate. Raising more money from sales tax would allow the borough to continue funding the schools without raising property taxes, Borough Manager Mason Villarma said. There are options for increasing revenues other than raising the tax rate. Currently, Wrangell charges a 7% sales tax on goods and services up to $3,000 in value. There is no tax charged on pur...

  • Borough to conduct random sales tax audits of businesses

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|May 1, 2024

    The borough will conduct sales tax audits periodically over the next year. Ten businesses will be selected at a time, covering various categories of business types, Borough Manager Mason Villarma said April 24. The audits are an effort to preserve equity for all businesses and consumers in the borough. “There appears to be circumstances where businesses are collecting sales taxes but not remitting to the city, and maybe having a history of not ever remitting to the city,” Villarma said. “Those will be the first folks that we make sure get c...

  • Borough increases rates and fees to cover for inflation

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|May 1, 2024

    The borough will raise some of its rates and fees for things like the Nolan Center, port and harbors and light and power to account for inflation, effective July 1. Among the more notable increases are for space rentals for commercial or private events at the Nolan Center. Renting the civic center for more than eight hours will increase from $600 to $1,200; from $500 to $750 for five to eight hours; and from $400 to $600 for up to four hours. Rates for local nonprofits, however, will not increase in an effort to target revenue from outside the...

  • The truth hurts, but it's the right decision

    Wrangell Sentinel|May 1, 2024

    Alaska Marine Highway System management has decided to cut back on advertising that for years promoted the state ferries as a scenic, leisurely way for summer travelers to tour Southeast. Though painful to admit, it’s the right decision. Nothing upsets customers more than to bite on advertising, book a ticket, plan a trip and then find themselves at the dock all dressed up with no place to go. “Because of our reliability with the fleet, we have consciously pulled back our advertising in the Lower 48 because we just disappoint people right now...

  • No sense wasting time, except for politics

    Larry Persily Publisher|May 1, 2024

    The state House needed an auctioneer last week. Instead, it wasted three hours in a meaningless bidding war as the Republican-led majority told Alaskans they cared far more than anyone else about supporting education and ensuring state-funded alternatives for correspondence school students and their families. That meant they didn’t want to move too quickly to fix the constitutional problem of state money going to private and religious school programs. Let the millions continue to flow and wait for the Alaska Supreme Court to hear the appeal o...

  • Bird in hand gets a band

    May 1, 2024

  • Several dozen households apply for state, federal disaster aid

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|May 1, 2024

    The state had paid out more than $167,000 in disaster relief aid to 11 Wrangell households as of last month, with more than two dozen applications waiting on review for federal assistance. State and federal disaster declarations opened the door for individuals and businesses to apply for financial aid to cover property damages and other expenses caused by the deadly Nov. 20 landslide that struck at 11.2-Mile Zimovia Highway. As of April, the state had paid $167,023 to 11 households, representing 15 claims for expenses such as property damage,...

  • Ferry system cuts back Lower 48 advertising due to poor fleet reliability

    Mark Sabbatini, Juneau Empire|May 1, 2024

    Problems with the Alaska Marine Highway System’s operations and aging fleet are so acute that marketing efforts to potential visitors outside Alaska are being intentionally scaled back, Marine Director Craig Tornga said during an online open house on April 22. “Because of our reliability with the fleet, we have consciously pulled back our advertising in the Lower 48 because we just disappoint people right now,” he said during the hour-long event advertised as an overview of the ferry system’s pending long-range plan for the next 20 years....

  • Students will perform spring concert May 7

    Mark C. Robinson, Wrangell Sentinel|May 1, 2024

    Student bands and choirs will present the annual spring concert at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 7, at the high school gym. The event is free but donations are welcome. The concert will feature performances from the high school band, middle school band, jazz band, middle school and high school choir, fifth grade band and honor choir comprised of students from third through fifth grade. “We do a spring concert every year,” said music teacher Tasha Morse, who said the event has been going since long before she arrived. Morse also said musical per...

  • Author presents workshop for the shortest of short stories

    Mark C. Robinson, Wrangell Sentinel|May 1, 2024

    A free creative writing workshop will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 4, at the Irene Ingle Public Library. Children's book author and artist Michael Bania will help participants create "micro-stories." "The idea is to get a prompt of some sort, which I'll provide," Bania said. "You have to, in 50 words, tell a story." The author found inspiration for her 50-word story challenge through her membership with the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, a nonprofit organization t...

  • Alaskans charged with illegal transport of Southeast crab

    Tess Williams, Anchorage Daily News|May 1, 2024

    Three fishermen are facing federal charges of illegally transporting more than 7,000 pounds of crab harvested in Southeast Alaska to Seattle in hopes of getting better prices there. Instead, federal prosecutors say, much of the haul was wasted upon arrival in Washington state because the crab had either died or were suspected of being diseased. Corey Potter, Justin Welch and Kyle Potter were indicted last month on charges they violated the Lacey Act. The law makes it a federal crime to break the wildlife laws of any state, tribe or foreign...

  • Prize-winning reporter will talk about rural public safety at remembrance day event

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|May 1, 2024

    Kyle Hopkins, an award-winning journalist for his reporting work on sexual assault in Alaska, will be the keynote speaker at an event for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Awareness Day at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 5, at Shakes Tribal House. Hopkins was the lead reporter on the 2020 Pulitzer Prize-winning “Lawless” series published by the Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica. The project explored sexual assault in Alaska and why the problem was getting worse. Though his work is not focused directly on MMIP, he hopes to share the parts of...

  • State House passes ban on children under 14 from social media

    James Brooks, Alaska Beacon|May 1, 2024

    The Alaska House of Representatives voted by a wide margin and with bipartisan support on April 26 to ban children younger than 14 from using online social media. House Bill 254, from Homer Rep. Sarah Vance, also requires companies that provide internet pornography to check whether an Alaskan viewing that pornography is at least 18 years old. The bill, which passed on a 33-6 vote, advances to the Senate for further consideration in the final two weeks before the legislative adjournment deadline. Vance said the age requirement, which also...

  • Radke retires after 4 years as police chief

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|May 1, 2024

    Wrangell Police Chief Tom Radke retired April 5 after four years in the job. He started in Wrangell at the beginning of 2020 after moving from Minnesota, where he worked in the field for almost 30 years. “Wrangell is a great town,” he said, “and it has been a great experience.” Radke and his wife are moving back to Minnesota to be closer to family. The borough is advertising for a new chief, with applications due Wednesday, May 1. The Wrangell department was in good shape when he started, he said, but he believes it is in better shape now. Du...

  • Zarembo Island mineral water had a short life a century ago

    David Reamer|May 1, 2024

    It began with a bottle, not in the usual way as a tragedy, but a mystery. Tinted blue and clearly old, the heavy glass bottle is imperfect with numerous bubbles frozen forever in the medium. It had an embossed brand on its body: Zarembo Springs Mineral Co., Seattle. After an impulse purchase, I still wondered, what was its story? Here is the answer. Zarembo Island is west, southwest of Wrangell. Its Tlingít name is Shtax-Noow, and before the arrival of settlers, the area Shtax héen wáan, or St...

  • Senate wants to fix correspondence school funding dilemma; House divided

    James Brooks, Alaska Beacon|May 1, 2024

    As the state Senate is launching a legislative push intended to quickly fix a looming problem with correspondence school programs in Alaska, the House of Representatives signaled that it is so split that it may need more than a year to act on the issue. House lawmakers spent more than three hours on April 24 debating an informal declaration asking Anchorage Superior Court Judge Adolf Zeman to postpone until June 2025 the implementation of a court ruling that struck down two laws which govern programs used by more than 22,000 Alaska...

  • Fish Conservancy sues over Columbia River salmon hatcheries

    Shannon Haugland, Sitka Sentinel|May 1, 2024

    Another lawsuit with implications to Southeast Alaska commercial salmon fisheries was filed last month by the Wild Fish Conservancy, claiming that hatchery programs on the Lower Columbia River are harming the recovery of wild fish runs. The complaint was filed April 17 in U.S. District Court in Tacoma by Washington state-based Wild Fish Conservancy and The Conservation Angler, based in Portland. The suit is filed against the National Marine Fisheries Service, and state biologists and fishery managers in Washington and Oregon. Matt Donohoe,...

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