Articles from the September 20, 2023 edition


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  • School board discusses potential cost savings with borough assembly

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Sep 20, 2023

    During the budget process next year, the school district will need to cut about $500,000 from its current $5.1 million operating budget to maintain financial sustainability as it prepares for the end of federal pandemic relief funding. This could mean staffing cuts and major changes to school facilities and programs, unless new sources of money are found. Over the past three years, the district has relied on pandemic aid to help cover its costs, but this funding is ending soon. Those federal aid grants, which will run out in fall of 2024, curre...

  • Bigger cruise ships plan Wrangell stops for 2024-2025

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Sep 20, 2023

    Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Cunard Line — among the biggest names in Alaska summer cruises — have added Wrangell to some of their longer itineraries. The traditional seven-day Southeast Alaska cruises from Seattle or Vancouver, B.C., don’t leave time for adding new ports after the companies book stops among the popular destinations of Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau and Skagway, and cruising through Glacier Bay or Tracy Arm/Endicott Arm south of Juneau. Longer cruises, however, allow the addition of new ports of call. The compa...

  • Borough moves closer to allowing more apartments in town

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Sep 20, 2023

    In an effort to make more housing available in the community, the planning and zoning commission has accepted a draft set of rules to allow the addition of a detached rental unit on the same lot as a single-family home. Such rentals currently are not allowed under municipal code. The vote on Thursday, Sept. 14, will set the proposal for a public hearing and further consideration by the commission, which could then forward the recommended ordinance to the borough assembly for another public hearing and approval. “As the housing market c...

  • State will notify tour operators of Petroglyph Beach fees

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Sep 20, 2023

    A state parks official said staff shortages and lack of information about commercial tour operations led to the situation where the state didn’t realize until this summer that businesses were failing to register or pay the required permit fees to bring visitors to the Petroglyph Beach State Historic Site. Though the Petroglyph Beach was designated a state historic site in 2000, the division never specifically publicized or enforced the annual permit and per-person fee on commercial operators taking people to the Wrangell attraction. ...

  • The Way We Were

    Amber Armstrong-Hillberry, Wrangell Sentinel|Sep 20, 2023

    Sept. 13, 1923 Wrangell’s first clown and the first clown for the majority of youngsters here paraded down Front Street Saturday afternoon, leading his “Company” of the youngsters of town who took part in the pet parade. The parade was part of the Chautauqua program and the participants were in costume and carried pets of all kinds. The parade was led by Barney Google (Gertrude Goodrich) and “Spark Plug,” followed by a baby elephant. These mirth-provoking features were the clever work of Mrs. H. W. Gartley and Miss Dorothy Chisholm. Both “Spark...

  • Borough seeks federal grant to cover shortfall on water plant project

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Sep 20, 2023

    The borough needs to fill a funding gap of almost $10 million before it can upgrade its water treatment plant. The new design would increase the plant’s water output and storage capacity to accommodate future growth. The low bid for construction came in at $19.6 million, but borough officials estimate that the total cost will be closer to $24.2 million — a figure that factors in engineering and inspection costs. The borough has $14.3 million available for the project, mostly state and federal money. On Aug. 31, the borough submitted an app...

  • Forest Service will work to lower cost of viewing platform for historic boat

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Sep 20, 2023

    The borough hopes to partner with the U.S. Forest Service to give the Chugach - a wooden Forest Service boat built in 1925 - an improved permanent home outside the Nolan Center, complete with a viewing deck and interpretive signs. Currently, the boat spends most of the year wrapped in a protective plastic covering, though it is occasionally unveiled for events like the Fourth of July. The 62-foot vessel is the last of the Forest Service's ranger fleet, which was once 11 strong. The boat was...

  • Accessory rentals could help ease housing shortage

    Wrangell Sentinel|Sep 20, 2023

    There is no single answer to Wrangell’s housing shortage. There is no magic 2-by-4 that borough officials can wave over the community to create new apartments and homes. Which means trying multiple small steps, such as accessory dwelling units. The planning and zoning commission last week made the next move in advancing the housing ordinance to a public hearing. If approved by the commission and later by the borough assembly, the change to municipal code would allow property owners to put a small, detached rental on the same lot as a s...

  • Elected officials need to quit playacting

    Larry Persily Publisher|Sep 20, 2023

    Close to 50 years ago, I was on the union contract negotiating team at the Chicago newspaper where I worked. The negotiating sessions with management were contentious, even nasty at times. I recall we wanted a new three-year contract, with raises at around 6% to 8% per year. Inflation had averaged better than 8.5% in the three years since our last contract, so we thought our request was reasonable, though we also knew we would have to settle for less. The negotiations dragged on for so long that by the time the two sides finally settled — s...

  • Scheib revs up new car detailing business

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Sep 20, 2023

    No matter how many muddy boots soil your car's seat or how many lattes you spill driving over the Case Avenue potholes, a new car detailing business in town can return your vehicle to mint condition. Scheib's Detailing, owned and operated by Erik Scheib, offers full interior deep cleans for $150. "It puts me in a better mood when I'm in a cleaner car," he said, and since there wasn't a detailing business in town when he moved here this summer, he knew he could "kind of corner that market."...

  • Parks and Rec expands offerings with sign language classes

    Sentinel staff|Sep 20, 2023

    The Parks and Recreation Department will offer American Sign Language classes next month for youth and adults. “We want to expand” what the department offers the community, said Devyn Johnson. “My goal is to offer something for everyone,” she said. Eventually, Johnson hopes to expand the department’s programming to include music, art and more, not just exercise, swimming and pickleball. The upcoming course will be the first time Parks and Recreation has ever offered sign language, she said. The five-session beginner class for people 14 and ol...

  • Wrangell walkers cover 5,500 miles and win Southeast trophy

    Sage Smiley, KSTK|Sep 20, 2023

    Wrangell won a regional Parks and Recreation competition as local participants walked more than others in Southeast this summer. On average, Wrangell’s 22 participants in the challenge tallied 252 miles each — enough to walk from Juneau to Wrangell to Ketchikan, with almost two dozen miles to spare. In total, the 22 people walked more than 5,500 miles. Wrangell Parks and Rec Director Lucy Robinson told the borough assembly at its Sept. 12 meeting that her department helped promote and localize the competition. “We did some fun stuff,” Robinso...

  • Wolves raced in Sitka against largest field yet

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Sep 20, 2023

    The Wrangell Wolves competed in the Sitka Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 16 - their largest cross-country meet before regional and state championships, with more than 240 competitors from 16 high schools. Sophomore Boomchain Loucks came in seventh overall and first in the Wrangell boys team, with a time of 17:08.9 - only a fraction of a second away from his personal record. Senior Keegan Hanson was close behind in ninth place overall with a time of 17:14.4. After Hanson, 12 runners finished...

  • School district looks for new activities director

    Sentinel staff|Sep 20, 2023

    The school district hopes to sign up a new activities director this week after the person handling the work moved on to another job in town. The activities director is a contract position — not a full-time or even part-time staff job — and handles travel and other arrangements for sports, music, art and other school-sponsored activities. Erik Scheib had been in the position just since the start of the school year when he accepted a job with the Public Works Department last week. “Mainly, getting into Wrangell, being new here, there’s been a lot...

  • School board race attracts two candidates for one seat

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Sep 20, 2023

    Voters on Oct. 3 will choose between incumbent Esther Aaltséen Reese and challenger John DeRuyter for a three-year term on the school board. It is the only one of five school board seats on this year's ballot. Reese, tribal administrator for the Wrangell Cooperative Association, is finishing her first year on the board after winning election last October, when she was unopposed. DeRuyter, in his third year on the secondary school advisory committee, is making his first run for office in...

  • Michael Ottesen and Anne Morrison run for assembly unopposed

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Sep 20, 2023

    Two candidates will be running for two seats on the borough assembly in the municipal election Oct. 3 - Michael J. Ottesen and incumbent Anne Morrison. Barring a successful write-in campaign, both candidates will be elected for three-year terms. Ottesen, a captain and tour guide for Alaska Vistas, is running for public office for the first time to bolster youth engagement in municipal government and develop the town's economy. "I feel like we need a little bit more ... of the younger generation...

  • Gary Morrison unopposed for fourth port commission term

    Caroleine James, Wrangell Sentinel|Sep 20, 2023

    Gary Morrison is running unopposed for his fourth term on the port commission. He is seeking reelection so that he can support ongoing harbor projects and, he admits, "because no one else is doing it." During his tenure as a commissioner, the borough completed the Shoemaker Bay Harbor project and made improvements to the community's many harbor floats. His priorities for the upcoming term include the installation of the security system cameras at the harbors and the corrosion-inhibiting anode...

  • Rep. Peltola's husband dies in plane crash in Southwest Alaska

    Zaz Hollander and Riley Rogerson and Iris Samuels, Anchorage Daily News|Sep 20, 2023

    Alaska U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola’s husband, Eugene “Buzzy” Peltola Jr., died after a plane he was flying crashed Sept. 12 in Southwest Alaska. Peltola, 57, was the former regional director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs for Alaska, serving from 2018 to 2022. He previously spent 34 years working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska. Among other roles, he served as vice mayor and council member for the city of Bethel between 2010 and 2012 and sat on various Alaska Native village corporation boards. After retiring in 2022 from his work...

  • Marijuana industry says Alaska's high tax gives advantage to illegal sales

    James Brooks, Alaska Beacon|Sep 20, 2023

    In an unusual offseason hearing, a committee of the Alaska Legislature considered a proposal on Friday, Sept. 15, that could lower the state tax on marijuana sold in the state. House Bill 119, considered by the House Labor and Commerce Committee, would shift the state’s marijuana tax system from a tax per ounce to a sales tax. The state’s marijuana industry says the change is desperately needed to help marijuana businesses compete with the state’s black market. “This is a very desperate situation that we’re in,” said Lacy Wilcox, legislative... Full story

  • State caught up on old food stamp applications but behind on new requests

    Claire Stremple, Alaska Beacon|Sep 20, 2023

    Officials from the state Division of Public Assistance said its staff has worked through the backlog of applications for food stamps that stressed Alaska families for more than a year. But that success came at the cost of what officials are calling a “new” backlog. Division Director Deb Etheridge took over leadership in the midst of the backlog and said getting through the old backlog is a success. “We’ve got to celebrate those wins and the staff feel really good about it,” Etheridge said. The division got through the backlog two months fa... Full story

  • Police report

    Sep 20, 2023

    Monday, Sept. 11 Lost property. Agency assist: School. Agency assist: Hoonah Police Department. Tuesday, Sept. 12 Traffic stop. Summons service. Wednesday, Sept. 13 Agency assist: Department of Transportation. Civil paperwork. Suspicious activity. Thursday, Sept. 14 Parking violation: Citation issued for parking on private property. Parking violation: Citation issued for parking on private property. Pretrial enforcement. Traffic stop: Warning for headlights. Friday, Sept. 15 Found property. Traffic stop: Citation issued for speed. Saturday,...

  • Classified ads

    Sep 20, 2023

    RUMMAGE SALE First Presbyterian Church will hold a garage rummage sale from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 22, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23, at the church. Accepting donations now. Call 907-874-3534 or text 907-660-7112 to coordinate donation pickup or drop-off. LAND FOR SALE Two Stikine River properties on the west side of Farm Island in King Slough: 200-foot frontage, 6-plus acres, $80,000; 8-acre backlot, lots of good access, $60,000. Can access the main river at any stage of tide. Willing to finance. Call... Full story

  • Alaska saw big increase in flu cases last fall and winter

    Yereth Rosen, Alaska Beacon|Sep 20, 2023

    After a period when COVID-19 restrictions halted the spread of other respiratory diseases, Alaska had a big increase in influenza cases last fall and winter, state data shows. The overall influenza case load during the 2022-23 season was much higher than in prior years, reports a new bulletin issued by the epidemiology section of the Alaska Division of Public Health. Most notably, cases spiked much earlier in the season, in November and December, before dropping. There were five influenza deaths over the season, all among adults, according to... Full story

  • Over half of Alaska-born residents leave the state

    Alaska Beacon|Sep 20, 2023

    More than half of Alaskans born within the state have moved away, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. A state’s ability to retain Alaska-born residents is an indicator of its economic health and attractiveness, and the state ranked near the bottom of the analysis conducted by University of North Florida professor Madeline Zavodny and two experts at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Using data from the Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey, they found Alaska ret... Full story