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  • Manager tells assembly it's time to reduce spending

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jun 12, 2024

    Sales tax revenues came in under projections for the first three months of the year, an indication of a weakening economy and a worrisome sign for the community, Borough Manager Mason Villarma said last week. “We’re at that point we’re going to have to trim things down,” he told the assembly at a budget work session Wednesday, June 5. Mayor Patty Gilbert called the manager’s draft spending plan “the leanest budget” she has seen. In addition to proposing laying off two of the police department’s seven-member force of certified officers, Villa...

  • Paddle to Celebration provides a source of deeper connection

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|Jun 12, 2024

    "Good morning Paddle to Celebration 2024! It's time to get up!" Jim Zeller's booming voice echoed through the forest. It was 4:30 a.m. and rain pattered the roof of my tent on Read Island. I could hear people in nearby tents begin to stir, along with the faint snoring of those that hadn't been roused by Zeller. We were a couple days into our seven-day canoe journey from Wrangell to Juneau, where we would arrive for Celebration, the biennial gathering of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people. The...

  • Biologist will explain Alaska Natives' connection with prehistoric bone fragments

    Mark C. Robinson, Wrangell Sentinel|Jun 12, 2024

    A University at Buffalo, New York, professor will talk about the genetic connection between human remains thousands of years old discovered in a cave near Wrangell and Alaska Natives in the area today. The presentation, sponsored by the Wrangell Cooperative Association and the U.S. Forest Service, will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 13, at the Nolan Center. The event will be free to the public. Evolutionary biologist Charlotte Lindqvist of the university’s department of biological sciences is coming to Wrangell for the presentation. “I wil...

  • Draft budget calls for 2 layoffs at police department

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jun 12, 2024

    The draft budget before the borough assembly includes eliminating two positions from Wrangell’s seven-member force of certified police officers. The spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1, Borough Manager Mason Villarma said, is constrained by flat property tax revenues, a decline in sales tax receipts, a long list of deferred maintenance projects and declining reserve funds. The layoffs, proposed for Sept. 30, would result in the department pulling back from 24-hour coverage, Villarma explained at a borough assembly budget w...

  • Pessimism shows up in survey of Wrangell businesses

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jun 12, 2024

    Wrangell is among the more pessimistic towns in this year’s annual business survey conducted of Southeast communities. About half of the 35 Wrangell business leaders who responded to the survey had a negative view of the town’s economic outlook, and almost one-third expected they would need to cut jobs this year. None of that surprises Kate Thomas, the borough’s economic development director. “Our downtown district is not doing as well as it has in the past,” she said in an interview Thursday, June 6. Residents are spending more money onl...

  • Schools readvertise counselor job after remote applicant withdraws

    Mark C. Robinson, Wrangell Sentinel|Jun 12, 2024

    The school district is readvertising for a full-time, in-person counselor to serve Wrangell’s 260 students starting in August. Amid pushback from faculty and at least one board member at last month’s school board meeting, the previously selected out-of-town applicant withdrew her bid to work as a remote K-12 counselor for the coming school year. The district administration last month proposed a contract for remote services with Lindsay Pinkelman, who runs Find a Way Consulting, based in Delta Junction, 95 miles southeast of Fairbanks. Tho...

  • Assembly may stop donations to radio, chamber, senior center

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jun 12, 2024

    In addition to focusing on big-dollar issues, assembly members at last week’s budget work session discussed a collective $50,000 question: Whether the borough should contribute money to KSTK radio, the chamber of commerce and the senior center. The issue of improving playgrounds also came up toward the end of the meeting. Unlike recent years when the borough assembly appropriated cash for the radio station, chamber and senior center, the draft budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 does not include any such direct payments. Borough M...

  • Granddaughter wins Fourth of July art contest

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jun 12, 2024

    A Talkeetna high school student who comes to Wrangell for the Fourth of July most every year to visit family is the winner of this year's chamber of commerce competition to design an official logo for the holiday celebration. Kyla McChargue said her winning design, with boats and planes converging on Wrangell, is intended to show everyone coming to town for the Fourth. "I just wanted to show that even if you don't live in Wrangell ... it's home," she said last week. Kyla, 15, who will be a sopho...

  • Wrangell dancers show their pride at Celebration

    Becca Clark, Wrangell Sentinel|Jun 12, 2024

    Centennial Hall in downtown Juneau filled with energy June 5 as Alaska Natives from all over the state paraded through, singing, dancing and wearing their regalia with pride. This was the grand entrance for Celebration, the Alaska Native cultural festival held in Juneau every other year, put together by Sealaska Heritage Foundation Dakhká Khwáan Dancers (People of the Inland) from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, led the Grand Entrance on the first day, lining the stage as they kept singing and d...

  • Former Soldotna police chief hired to run Wrangell department

    Mark C. Robinson, Wrangell Sentinel|Jun 12, 2024

    Dale Eugene "Gene" Meek has been hired as Wrangell's new police chief and will start the job on July 22. He most recently served as police chief in Soldotna, on the Kenai Peninsula. Borough Manager Mason Villarma, who met with Meek several times during his visit to town over the weekend, said he and Mayor Patty Gilbert had dinner with Meek and his wife, Mechel (pronounced "mee-shell"), on Saturday. The day before, soon after his arrival on the afternoon flight on Friday, Meek met with members...

  • One dead in Wrangell Narrows boating collision

    Petersburg Pilot and Wrangell Sentinel|Jun 12, 2024

    After a six-hour search, divers recovered the body of a woman who died in a boat collision between a 20-foot Hewescraft aluminum skiff and a 58-foot commercial fishing vessel in the Wrangell Narrows near the mouth of Blind Slough on Wednesday morning, June 5. An Alaska State Troopers spokesman on Friday identified the woman as Susan Paul, 73, of California. A second individual, thrown from the skiff into the water, was rescued by a good Samaritan on the scene, according to a U.S. Coast Guard news release. The man was taken to the Petersburg...

  • U.S. Navy will apologize for deadly 1882 attack on Angoon

    Mark Sabbatini, Juneau Empire|Jun 12, 2024

    An apology for the bombardment that destroyed Angoon in 1882 will be offered by the U.S. Navy, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said while appearing with a dance group from the Tlingit village at Celebration in Juneau on Friday. The attack burned the village, leaving few structures intact, resulting in the death of at least six children and "countless" more due to its impact during the winter, according to the Sealaska Heritage Institute. Historical narratives by Natives in Angoon and the Navy...

  • Washington state man charged in 2023 drug overdose deaths in Skagway

    Anchorage Daily News|Jun 12, 2024

    A 32-year-old Washington state man was arrested last week on manslaughter charges linked to the overdose deaths last year of two Skagway residents. Authorities say Jacob D. Cotton, 33, shipped fentanyl to one of the two men who died by overdose in Skagway in January 2023, according to a probable cause statement filed with the criminal charges on June 3. The other man overdosed the next day, the statement said. Skagway police arrested Cotton at the Juneau airport on June 3. According to the Skagway Police Department, Cotton provided fentanyl to...

  • EPA pushes state to update fish consumption data and water quality rules

    James Brooks, Alaska Beacon|Jun 12, 2024

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is prodding the state of Alaska over its failure to update water pollution rules. On Thursday, June 6, the EPA issued a formal determination that the state should update pollution limits that are based in part on the amount of fish consumed by individuals. Under federal law, those limits are supposed to be reviewed every three years, but Alaska has not updated its limits since 2003. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has been working since 2013 on an updated list of water quality...

  • Juneau's hospital losing $1 million a month; programs may be cut

    Mark Sabbatini, Juneau Empire|Jun 12, 2024

    Juneau residents are expressing concerns about reducing or eliminating several programs that lose money at Bartlett Regional Hospital, including a 16-bed residential and outpatient substance abuse treatment facility that is projected to lose $800,000 next year. The hospital’s financial condition is unhealthy, officials said at a public forum June 4, while it faces growing competition from the nonprofit SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium. About 25 people in-person and 35 online attended the first of two public forums scheduled by h...

  • State hit with class-action lawsuit over Medicaid delays

    Claire Stremple, Alaska Beacon|Jun 12, 2024

    On a life-flight from Fairbanks to Anchorage, Sierra Ott’s newborn son Liam would not stop bleeding from a routine needle prick. Doctors in the Anchorage neonatal intensive care unit diagnosed him with a blood clotting disorder. Without medication, he is at risk of extreme joint pain and even bleeding out from what would not normally be serious injuries. Ott said that without health insurance from her husband’s military service, the pills would cost the family about $8,000 a month. At the urging of her case worker, Ott applied for Medicaid for...

  • State sues Ketchikan stores for selling fake Alaska jewelry

    James Brooks, Alaska Beacon|Jun 12, 2024

    The state last month sued the owners of three Ketchikan jewelry stores, alleging a broad scheme to defraud Alaskans and tourists by selling fake made-in-Alaska jewelry. The stores, which include Soni Inc. and Colors Fine Jewelers, initially continued operations despite the state’s request for a court order closing them, reported radio station KRBD in Ketchikan. As of Thursday, June 6, Soni was still open; no one answered the phone at Colors Fine Jewelers. The case is one of several consumer-protection lawsuits filed by the Alaska Department of...

  • Antisemitic pamphlets anonymously distributed around Craig

    Anna Laffrey, Ketchikan Daily News|Jun 12, 2024

    People in Craig on June 4 found antisemitic pamphlets packaged with dry beans inside of clear plastic bags distributed in yards and driveways across town. Bob Claus, who lives in Craig, said he found four antisemitic flyers while he was out for a walk along Third Street and Beach Road in west Craig. Claus said the flyers were packaged inside plastic bags that contained “different versions of what looks like professionally produced flyers about different subjects … they'd been thrown in several driveways.” “One is about Jewish control of the...

  • Developer plans for year-end construction start at former hospital property

    Becca Clark and Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jun 5, 2024

    Wayne Johnson, a Georgia-based real estate developer, came to town to finalize his $516,000 purchase of the former hospital property and six adjacent borough-owned lots. Johnson said in an interview Sunday, June 2, that he still needed to work out some details on the purchase of the six lots but anticipated no problems and expected to sign the papers this week, before he needs to return to Georgia. He plans to start demolition in October, with site preparation and start of construction by year-end, he said. Johnson has changed his plans...

  • Assembly sets property tax rate at same as last year

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jun 5, 2024

    As Wrangell’s population continues to age, the total value of senior citizen-owned homes exempt from property taxes continues to grow. About 27% of Wrangell’s population was 65 years or older last year (551 of 2,039 residents), according to Alaska Department of Labor statistics. That’s up from just under 23% in 2020 (482 of 2,127) and 19% in 2015 when the town’s population was much larger at 2,442. State law requires municipalities to exempt from property taxes the first $150,000 in assessed value on homes owned by senior citizens and disable...

  • Chamber moves salmon derby to June 15-30

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jun 5, 2024

    The chamber of commerce has moved the dates for this month’s salmon derby to June 15-30 to allow anglers more time to try their luck after popular areas near Wrangell open to sportfishing on June 15. The chamber had initially scheduled the derby for two weekends — June 7-9 and June 14-16 — but decided at a May 28 derby committee meeting to move the days to later in the month. State Department of Fish and Game District 6, west of Etolin and Zarembo islands, and most of District 7, east and south of Wrangell, are closed to kings through June...

  • Borough holds open house Friday to meet police chief finalist

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jun 5, 2024

    The borough has scheduled an open house for 5 p.m. Friday, June 7, at City Hall for the community to meet Gene Meek, finalist for the job of Wrangell police chief. Meek resigned as Soldotna police chief on May 17, effective immediately. He had been on the job since July 2022. “It was an amicable departure,” Soldotna City Manager Janette Bower told Kenai-Soldotna KSRM radio on May 20. “He’s a great person, and we wish him the best as he moves forward with wherever he may go.” She called the resignation a mutual agreement. Meek moved to the Ke...

  • Borough pitches 6-Mile mill site to Huna Totem for cruise port

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jun 5, 2024

    As part of the borough’s quest for a long-term, economic development opportunity at the 6-Mile mill property, officials met last month with officers of Huna Totem Corp., which operates a cruise port at Icy Strait Point near Hoonah and is developing three others around the state. Borough officials are also thinking that the waterfront property could be a good location for a timber value-added facility or maybe even a solar energy farm. “We are looking for solutions for the mill property,” Borough Manager Mason Villarma told the assembly May 2...

  • Assembly will take up mandatory boat insurance proposal

    Larry Persily, Wrangell Sentinel|Jun 5, 2024

    Assembly members have directed borough staff to come back with a revised ordinance setting requirements for boat owners to carry insurance on their vessels moored in Wrangell harbors. The assembly in March questioned several aspects of a proposed ordinance forwarded by the port commission which required coverage. The assembly wanted to see a minimum vessel size to require insurance, increased management rights to keep out unseaworthy boats and exemptions for transient vessels. The intent is to protect other boat owners and the borough from...

  • Teacher works on side gig of restoring vintage furniture

    Mark C. Robinson, Wrangell Sentinel|Jun 5, 2024

    With school out for the summer, special education teacher Mikki Angerman will now focus more on repairing and restoring vintage furniture for her growing side business on Case Avenue called Forget-Me-Not Furniture. "'Furniture flipping,' I guess you can call it," she said. She hopes her business will grow even more this summer, as residents continue to show interest. "It's nice to have that kind of support from the community." Angerman first started working on furniture out of boredom during...

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