Articles from the August 10, 2022 edition


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  • State ferry traffic into Wrangell down 90% from a decade ago

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Aug 10, 2022

    More than 6,700 passengers a year boarded a state ferry in Wrangell 2010 through 2015, and more than 6,900 a year walked or drove off the ships during that six-year period. In calendar 2021, those numbers were down to 690 passengers boarding a ferry and 771 getting off a ship, a drop of about 90%. Those 2021 passenger counts are up from the pandemic-worst travel year of calendar 2020, when just 264 boarded in Wrangell and 274 arrived, but the decline in ridership has been constant since 2014, according to statistics provided by the Alaska...

  • New staff among biggest changes at schools as classes set to begin

    Marc Lutz, Wrangell Sentinel|Aug 10, 2022

    With the first classes just over two weeks away, students are getting ready to return to their education-filled days. Before that can happen, administrative and teaching staff are prepping classrooms, curriculum and registrations to welcome back students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Schools Superintendent Bill Burr said based on the number of kindergartners and graduated seniors from last year, the district is anticipating about 263 children in the student body this year, similar to last year’s number. Online registration will begin M...

  • Good deed uncovers stone stairs built in early 1900s

    Marc Lutz, Wrangell Sentinel|Aug 10, 2022

    Uncovering historical items can have its ups and downs. In some cases, that's the literal truth. Somewhere around 1915, a set of stairs was built that saw a lot of use over the next 80 years. But they began to fade like an old photograph until suddenly they disappeared. It wasn't until a couple of weeks ago that the stairs were found, leading to a conversation about their place in Wrangell's history. Peter Karras, of Sitka, was in town on a visit in mid-July. Not one to be idle, he was cutting...

  • Permanent Fund lost money for first time since 2012

    James Brooks, Alaska Beacon|Aug 10, 2022

    For the first time in a decade, the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., source of more than half of Alaska’s general-purpose state revenue, posted negative investment returns for an entire fiscal year. As of June 30, the last day of the just-ended fiscal year 2022, the fund reported having earned minus-1.32% over the preceding 12 months. The decline will not have an immediate effect on state finances, but continued losses over multiple years would reduce the amount of money available each year for state services and the Permanent Fund dividend. B...

  • The Way We Were

    Amber Armstrong, Wrangell Sentinel|Aug 10, 2022

    Aug. 10, 1922 It has been decided to use the Guild Room back of St. Philip’s gymnasium for kindergarten, which the Wrangell school will add this year. There is no room in the school building for such a department, and a survey of the available buildings failed to locate anything else that was entirely suitable, most of the rooms being on Front Street where no playground could be secured for the tots. While the Guild Room seems at first thought to be rather far from the center of town, the location is really a central one when the fact is c...

  • New principals preparing for start of school year

    Marc Lutz, Wrangell Sentinel|Aug 10, 2022

    As students start school on Aug. 25, two new administrators will be joining them. Ann Hilburn is the new principal for Evergreen Elementary and Bob Burkhart is new the principal for Wrangell High and Stikine Middle school. Hilburn was previously the special education teacher at the high school and middle school, while Burkhart was working as a principal in Missoula, Montana, after having been retired. Leadership positions at the schools opened after Bob Davis retired from the high school and...

  • At-sea COVID cases drop back down to summer average

    Sentinel staff|Aug 10, 2022

    After a mid-July surge to 1,021 COVID-19 infections among tourists at sea in a single week, the state Health Department reports the case count the past two weeks fell to an average of 550 per week. The record number of infections among non-residents, which the state refers to as “at-sea, purpose tourism,” was reported July 20. The July 27 count was down to 517, then 583 on Aug. 3. The state reports COVID statistics once a week, every Wednesday. At-sea cases averaged less than 450 a week from the start of the cruise ship season to mid-July. In...

  • School board approves four new hires

    Marc Lutz, Wrangell Sentinel|Aug 10, 2022

    The school board Aug. 1 held a special meeting to take care of a few last-minute items before the start of classes on Aug. 25. Board members approved the hiring of four staff members for vacant positions. The district hired Krysta Gillen as a paraprofessional, Peter Parks as a custodian, Alyssa Howell as a second grade teacher and Holly Padilla as a long-term substitute at the elementary school level. Only two vacancies in the district remained at the time of the board meeting, but both have since been filled. The board will need to officially...

  • Candidates needed for municipal offices

    Wrangell Sentinel|Aug 10, 2022

    August is a time for fishing, the last of any gardening work and the enjoyment of harvesting the fruits (and vegetables) of that effort. It’s a time for home repairs, while there is still a plausible chance of dry weather to patch the roof, refinish the deck or scrape and repaint the siding. It’s also a time to consider serving in public office. Probably you’re thinking you’d rather pick garden slugs or clean the gutters than serve on the borough assembly, school board or port commission. At least no one criticizes you for those other pursuit...

  • We're here to help tell everyone's stories

    Larry Persily Publisher|Aug 10, 2022

    Of course the Sentinel wants to tell stories about what’s going on in town, what’s happened, what’s coming up, what government and businesses are doing that interests or may affect people. The staff depends on the community to share information and opinions so that we can tell all those stories. It’s the same when a member of the community dies. And it’s even more important at those times to tell the person’s story so that friends and family, acquaintances and even strangers can read and remember the person’s contributions to the community and...

  • Alaska voters will select new member of Congress next Tuesday

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Aug 10, 2022

    Alaska voters will go to the polls next Tuesday to mark their ballots in a couple of firsts: The first election under the state’s new ranked-choice voting system, and the election of Alaska’s first new member of the U.S. House in 49 years. The three finalists for Congress selected in the July special primary election are Republicans Nick Begich, a Chugiak businessman, and former Gov. Sarah Palin, and former Bethel state legislator Democrat Mary Peltola. At a recent candidate forum in Juneau, Begich noted that Alaska is the second most fed...

  • Candidacy filing for municipal elections closes Aug. 31

    Sentinel staff|Aug 10, 2022

    There are three weeks remaining for candidates to file for election to the borough assembly, school board and port commission, and as of Monday no one had submitted their paperwork to run for office, with most incumbents reporting they were still undecided. The deadline to file is 4 p.m. Aug. 31 at City Hall for a spot on the Oct. 4 municipal election ballot. Mayor Steve Prysunka has announced he is not seeking a third term. In addition to the mayor’s job, two borough assembly seats, three school board seats and two port commission slots w...

  • Fundraising just starting for Wrangell legislative races

    Eric Stone, KRBD, Ketchikan|Aug 10, 2022

    The candidates to represent Wrangell in the state Legislature have filed their first campaign finance reports for the Aug. 16 primary election. Not surprisingly, House and Senate incumbents have the lead in fundraising. Rep. Dan Ortiz is looking to keep his seat in the newly redrawn District 1, which includes his hometown of Ketchikan, along with Wrangell, Metlakatla, Hyder, Saxman and the Prince of Wales Island communities of Coffman Cove and Whale Pass. Ortiz reported to Alaska’s campaign finance monitor, the Alaska Public Offices C...

  • Palin skips Kenai candidates forum for Minneapolis fundraiser

    Iris Samuels, Anchorage Daily News|Aug 10, 2022

    One of the three U.S. House candidates was missing at a candidates forum in Kenai on Aug. 3: Former Gov. Sarah Palin instead held a fundraiser in Minneapolis, according to photos she posted on her Instagram account. The next day, she was in Dallas for a 20-minute onstage interview titled “She’s Back!” Her Texas appearance was at the Conservative Political Action Conference, which draws notable Republican and conservative politicians, including former President Donald Trump and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Her opponents to fill the se...

  • Coaches work toward successful cross country season with new and returning runners

    Marc Lutz, Wrangell Sentinel|Aug 10, 2022

    And they're off! The Wrangell High School cross country practice began July 27, with many returning runners and a few new faces to race toward a successful season that started with a different training approach. Head coach Kayla Rooney is returning for her third year to guide the team with the help of new assistant coach Mason Villarma. Both coaches have had success as runners in the past, with Rooney placing at the state level each year of her high school career and Villarma running from...

  • Petersburg swimmer tried but could not reach the mainland

    Chris Basinger, Petersburg Pilot|Aug 10, 2022

    At 8 a.m. on July 30, Andrew Simmonds, 60, entered the chilling waters of Sandy Beach in Petersburg, setting out to prove that age has not slowed him down. His goal was to swim across Frederick Sound to the mainland, more than six miles away. His journey started months earlier. Soon after arriving in Petersburg in November, Simmonds, who is a physical therapist at Petersburg Medical Center, visited Sandy Beach to gaze out over Frederick Sound. He admired the whales leaping above the water and cr...

  • Colorado organization rescues six suspected Haines wolfdogs

    Max Graham, Chilkat Valley News, Haines|Aug 10, 2022

    While thousands danced and dined at the Southeast Alaska State Fair in Haines last weekend, Drew Robertson of Sedalia, Colorado, was rescuing a half dozen puppies that might be part wolf. The state suspects at least 10 dogs born at 35 Mile Haines Highway in February could be wolf hybrids, which are illegal to breed or possess in Alaska. The owner of the litter - "Seandog" Brownell - said he suspects the mother, Inja, a lab, could have mated with a wild wolf last December on or near his...

  • Another bad year for Alaska wildfires, and the worst could be ahead

    Mark Thiessen, Associated Press|Aug 10, 2022

    ANCHORAGE (AP) — Alaska is burning this year in ways rarely or ever seen, from the largest wildfire in a typically mainly fireproof southwest region to a pair of blazes that ripped through forests and produced smoke that blew hundreds of miles to the Bering Sea community of Nome, where the normally crystal clear air was pushed into the extremely unhealthy category. As of late July, more than 530 wildfires had burned an area the size of Connecticut — and the usual worst of the fire season is ahead. While little property has burned, some res...

  • Former resident Leatha Vada Aitken dies at 90

    Aug 10, 2022

    Former Wrangell resident Leatha Vada Aitken "went home to her Lord" on July 19, in Juneau surrounded by family. Vada, as she was known, was born Nov. 12, 1931, to James Virgil and Maude Briscoe in Healdton, Oklahoma, and grew up in nearby Fox. The farm life was not easy, but Vada had happy times, her family wrote, especially with cousins Judy and JoAnn. Vada had two daughters with first husband, George Vaughan: Vicki, born in California, and Sandi, born in Juneau. After divorcing, Vada met and m...

  • Anchorage, Fairbanks school districts short of bus drivers

    Anchorage Daily News and Sentinel staff|Aug 10, 2022

    Students return to school soon, and Alaska’s larger districts are facing a shortage of school bus drivers. The Anchorage School District was short 75 bus drivers less than two weeks before classes begin on Aug. 18. The shortage could lead to some bus routes being suspended, the superintendent said. The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District contractor was short bus drivers last month to cover 115 routes, and as of last week was advertising: “We need bus drivers and attendants!” The district last week announced reduced service when class...

  • Murkowski part of bipartisan group in support of abortion access

    Iris Samuels and Riley Rogerson, Anchorage Daily News|Aug 10, 2022

    WASHINGTON — Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Aug. 1 joined a bipartisan coalition to introduce a bill that would protect abortion and contraception access. The measure faces an uncertain future in a Senate that failed to pass a broader measure enshrining abortion rights in May. It also comes as Murkowski faces reelection this fall, with abortion emerging as a key issue in that campaign. Despite the bill’s bipartisan co-sponsors — Democrats Tim Kaine, of Virginia, and Kyrsten Sinema, of Arizona, and Republicans Susan Collins, of Maine, and Murko...

  • Petersburg assembly sets up task force to look at housing shortage

    Petersburg Pilot and Wrangell Sentinel|Aug 10, 2022

    The Petersburg Borough Assembly voted 4-1 on Aug. 1 to establish a new task force to address the community’s housing crisis. Assemblymember Jeff Meucci said the task force would work with the assembly’s backing to look at housing needs in the community. “Like child care, I think this is one of the most important issues facing Petersburg,” Meucci said. “Every person that we’ve hired within the borough over the past several months — police officers, up at the fire department, Mountain View Manor (senior citizen housing) — they were all lookin...

  • Sitka 9-year-old reels in 45-pound king

    Garland Kennedy, Sitka Sentinel|Aug 10, 2022

    For many Southeast residents, fishing is a way to fill the freezer or earn a living. But for Sitka’s 9-year-old Miles Lawrie, fishing is a chance to spend time with his grandparents on the water. It was a bonus for Miles when, while fishing with his grandparents on July 8, he caught his first ever king salmon — a 45-pounder. “The pole went like 10 feet out, just dragging, it kept going hard way out,” Miles said. It’s unlikely he would have caught the big king if sea conditions out in Sitka Sound hadn’t made grandparents Pete and Shelley Pal...

  • Sitka starts site prep for small cabins to house homeless

    Garland Kennedy, Sitka Sentinel|Aug 10, 2022

    After years of work and planning, site preparation is underway for the cabins to house Sitka’s homeless people. The plan is to build a dozen small cabins at the end of Jarvis Street, about a mile east of the downtown waterfront. The Sitka Homeless Coalition’s fundraising has exceeded expectations, SEARHC health educator Doug Osborne said at the Rotary Club meeting Aug. 2. The project also got a boost Aug. 2 with Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s announcement that she has added $1 million for the project to the federal appropriations bill now under consi...

  • Police report

    Aug 10, 2022

    Monday, Aug. 1 Nothing to report. Tuesday, Aug. 2 Found property. Trespass. Agency assist: Ambulance. Wednesday, Aug. 3 Citizen assist: Lost medication. Agency assist: Harbor Department. Parking complaint: Vehicle blocking driveway; vehicle moved. Agency assist: Hoonah Police Department. Gunshots: Unable to locate. Smell of fireworks in the area. Thursday, Aug. 4 Found property: Bushnell range finder. Animal complaint: Car versus fawn. Disorderly conduct. Citizen assist: Vehicle unlock. Abandoned property. Gun shots. Friday, Aug. 5 Dog...

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