Skagway freshman Nikita Ford battles for a loose ball with Klawock’s Cari Safford as other players hold their ground in the SHS hoop opener this week. The Don Hather Tourney got underway Wednesday and continues through today. For a preview of the SHS season, see
Activities below. Jeff Brady

Bear proposal divides Skagway

Meeting with Fish & Game inconclusive about proposal to protect the next ‘Spirit Bear’


Is it possible to protect one animal in Alaska? How does one define an issue as subjective as color? Does everyone have the right to enjoy a particular resource, and how is that enjoyment defined? Tackling broad questions such as these will ultimately determine the outcome of a proposal by a Skagway resident seeking to protect one particular unusually colored bear.
A certain bear frequently seen roaming the hillside in Skagway from 2006 to 2008 became the talk of the town and of serious interest to local wildlife enthusiasts and photographers alike. Some claimed the unusually colored bear was white, cream-colored, a glacier bear, a white-phased black bear, and even a “Spirit Bear.” All were attempts to define what was perceived as a rarity for Southeast Alaska.
Protection for the bear was sought and granted in 2007 by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game after the municipality drafted a proposal urging them to protect the “white-phased black bear.” However, the language of the final document called for the protection of a “white-colored bear.”
When a bear was shot on June, 5 2008 by Thor Henricksen on his property, state officials examined the hide and concluded it was not a white bear, and no charges were laid.
Many in town drew conclusions the bear shot was the bear designated for protection. Henricksen maintained the bear he shot was a cinnamon bear. He said he had been scared by bears the previous summer and had determined he would shoot one causing trouble on his property during hunting season. Henricksen said the bear had looked straight at him and lowered his head.
Since the taking of the bear by Henricksen, the unusually colored bear has not been seen.
Another proposal, drafted by John Warder, was presented to the Board of Game in November. The proposal calls for the protection of “a light-phase black bear that has cream coloration (or lighter) over more than 30% of its body.”
Many at the meeting felt such a law would be unenforceable, or put an unrealistic burden on hunters.
The appearance last summer of another light colored bear cub left many locals wondering if the proposal could, or would, be adopted.
Approximately 60 of those persons met at the AB Hall on January 10 along with Division of Wildlife Conservation representative Ryan Scott.
“I suspect it’s not going to be very quick,” said Scott at the start of the meeting.
Scott described the process by which the ultimate determination on the proposal would be made, explaining that comments would be heard by the Board of Game at its next meeting on Feb. 27-March 9 of this year.
He said there was currently no recommendation from F&G on Proposal 23 and he was sent to Skagway to “get something more concrete” concerning what was considered to be an allocation issue between consumptive and non-consumptive user groups.
Scott said the unusually colored bears were considered black bears by the department, and that the issue did not matter biologically. He said bears were managed by population and not by single animals.
Scott said one problem in defining a percentage of color on an animal is that it’s “an estimate at best.”
“When one comes in do we count hairs?” he added.
Noting the fact there may be social issues to consider Scott opened the floor to comments or “the nitty gritty.” He said any proposal to protect the bear would ultimately have to be creative.
Keith Knorr was the first to comment and said any colored bear was a “predator” that wouldn’t care when they “slaughter humans.” He said it was matter of time before a tourist was slaughtered, and the only way to remain safe around bears was to put them in a zoo or “shoot them.”
Scott said Skagway had done a great job addressing bear protection, “and did it quickly.” He said 99 percent of the time problems exist because of attractants such as food.
Larry Pierce said the newly seen unusually colored bear cub had already been in a dumpster, was already a safety hazard, and would create another generation of problem bears.
Jan Wrentmore said the issue was protecting light-colored bears from hunting. She added anyone threatened would still be allowed to protect life and property.
Knorr interrupted by saying, “That’s why they wanted to shoot Thor (Henricksen), because he was protecting his own property.”
Scott confirmed that nothing in Proposal 23 would preclude shooting any bear for protection.
Luke Rauscher said limiting hunting would not be good and asked how it would affect subsistence and safety.
Scott said the boundaries of protection should be limited. “This shouldn’t go huge,” he said.
Tim Cochran reasoned he was not for wanton killing of animals, but bear populations had increased dramatically in Skagway since the 1960s. He said the issue should be handled in a humane way but added, “We have a bear problem.”
Cochran said habituation was ultimately the defining problem. “People are feeding them,” he said.
Scott said progress had been made as there was an obvious difference of opinion concerning hunting bears and protecting them. “Let’s keep it that way,” he added.
John Tronrud said the unusually colored bear shot by Henricksen was a “victim of circumstance.” The 800,000 visitors to Skagway each year created too much garbage for the infrastructure to hold, explained Tronrud. He said the ultimate issue was not color but food being made available to bears.
Wrentmore said unusually colored bears were a draw for tourists. She said there should be balance between user groups, and balance could be attained by protecting one bear among many still available for hunters.
In a handout offered to attendees from Scott, Skagway area harvest of black bears from 1998 to 2007 included 20 black bears, five cinnamon bears, and one glacier bear.
Interestingly, Scott noted the “glacier bear” listed was the bear harvested by Henricksen. This is an apparent reversal of the original finding by F&G the bear was multi-colored.
SHS student Mickey Wilson asked Scott whether there were any bear attacks in Skagway ever reported. Scott answered there were none.
Emily Rauscher addressed Wilson and said if it happened once it would be a “big deal.”
Knorr said if someone were to be killed by a bear, “I don’t think Jan (Wrentmore) will stand up and say, ‘I’m one of the one’s protecting it. Someone should take responsibility.”
Student Shelby Surdyk argued the issue was not one of hunting, non-hunting, or problem bears, but rather the issue was allocation. She said the bears were valuable to Skagway youth, who prized the possibility of viewing such a rare animal.
Mavis Henricksen said, “If we protect white bears, eventually that’s all we’ll have around here.”
Thor Henricksen read from a written statement and said, “white bears do not exist in this part of Alaska.” He said people exaggerated the nature of the bear, and Skagway was not a game refuge.
He said pets were required to have licenses so the owners would be responsible and suggested those seeking protection for certain bears should have the animals collared and licensed to themselves.
Wrentmore said such animals are a “trophy,” and if F&G was seeking fairness in allocation, “they would give us this.” She said 50 percent of people were asking to protect the bear.
Warder said, “I’m the guy who wrote the draft proposal,” and that even though he was a hunter, the light-colored bears were important to other user groups besides hunters.
Knorr suggested providing Wrentmore with a gallon of bleach with the purpose of making “all the white bears she wanted.”
Greg Black said the resource allocation was fair as 50 people got to take a picture of the unusually colored bear but “only one got to shoot it.”
Theresa Brown said hunters already had to be diligent in regards to paying close attention to restrictions, and wondered how it would be any different in regards to definitions of bear color phases.
Darren Belisle was concerned there would be more restrictions for hunters citing the inability to hunt grouse at Lower Dewey Lake and bears in spring “when they taste good.”
Later it was noted by the Borough Assembly that there are no restrictions on hunting around Lower Dewey Lake.
Knorr addressed the assembly “in Thor’s defense” by saying Henricksen was protecting his property when he shot the bear in question. He said Henricksen was originally going to have the bear mounted and donated to some local entity such as the museum, but now his attitude was, “I hope nobody ever sees it.”
“You guys need to meet him halfway,” said Knorr. “You guys are pissing in everybody’s Cheerios.”
Scott said the opinions expressed would be helpful to the Board of Game. He said even if there was no consensus, “We’ve still taken positive steps.”
Scott said the board would make a final decision, as it was the third time the issue had been addressed.
Comments concerning the issue can be sent to F&G no later than Feb. 13. Comments may be mailed or faxed to the following location: ADF&G Boards Support Section, P.O. Box 115526,Juneau, AK 99811-5526; faxed to 907-465-6094; or e-mailed to

A transition with scars to heal

Two stories
Sorum leaves: $900/week contract will have him work on clinic, port projects this year

Alan Sorum’s last day as borough manager was Jan. 15, and he drove off the next day with a stuffed car that included a commemorative gold pan from the municipality, and a contract to continue for the rest of the year as special projects manager.
During his final Skagway Borough Assembly meeting on the 15th, Sorum accepted kudos from the mayor and assembly members, but also endured questioning about his upcoming duties. At times it got testy.
Sorum ended up staying for the full 60 days required in his contract, after submitting his resignation in late November. Although Sorum had requested an earlier January departure date to get to a new job in Valdez, he was told after a Dec. 29 special meeting to stick around, so the assembly and its attorney could have the time to work out an agreement for his future services.
Before diving into the contract last week, Mayor Tom Cochran thanked Sorum for his hard work, saying the manager took over during the “maelstrom” of the pay policy revamp, and then continued on professionally to the clinic project and “invaluable work” on the port plan.
“I hope you can continue in some capacity,” Cochran said, and he then pulled out a gold pan with the inscription: “Presented to Alan Sorum, Manager, Muncipality of Skagway, with heartfelt appreciation for your service and friendship.”
The mayor said borough code allows himself to take over as the municipality’s personnel office while there is no manager, and Clerk Marj Harris will oversee the office staff and consult with department heads.
The special projects manager contract with Sorum started out with language that said he would be assigned special projects that shall “include, but not be limited to, the proper management of budgets, grants, and contracts related to any special project to which he is assigned.”
Assembly member Mike Korsmo said that before approving the contract, he wanted to know what special projects Sorum would be working on, whether he would have contact with staff, and who would be taking care of other projects.
Cochran said he would assign managing the clinic construction, port development issues, and the wave barrier project if it is funded.
Korsmo also wanted to know whom Sorum would report to, since there remained “huge issues” concerning staff relations. “The office was a pretty cold place this week,” he said.
Cochran responded that Sorum would report directly to the mayor and everyone would be copied. The contract calls for work at $900 per week, as well as travel allowances. It expires on Dec. 31, 2009, but can be terminated at any time, for any reason, by the assembly.
Assembly member Colette Hisman said she would like Sorum to be able to work with a new manager, once one is on board, for a smooth transition. But Sorum said he was not planning on coming back to Skagway, except for the clinic dedication in August or September.
“I still see lots of stuff going to staff,” said member L.C. Cassidy.
Sorum said he would send reports and any requests from contractors for change orders to the mayor, and it would be up to the assembly to pay them. He said the contract “provides some continuity.”
Then he added, “I’ve been bent out of shape for six months and this (discussion) doesn’t make it any better.”
Korsmo responded that it was not his intention to upset the outgoing manager. “I’m just making sure everyone knows the details…doing the due diligence. Look at it in a practical way.”
Assembly member Mark Schaefer said he believed, in the long view, there was “enough insulation” having Sorum work through the mayor.
The contract passed on a 4-0 vote. At the end of the meeting, Sorum received thanks from all members.
“I know it’s been tough on everybody,” Sorum responded. “There’s a huge potential here, if you can just hang on, and it will solve your school enrollment and other problems. For the most part, I really enjoyed it.”
Sorum will still retain a borough e-mail address and cell phone while under contract.
The borough began advertising for a new manager early this month and as of Jan. 15 had already received a dozen applications. The search committee met this week to go over the first wave. Members are the mayor, Schaefer, Cassidy, Police Chief Ray Leggett, and Gary Danielson.
The borough is advertising for a new manager, and as of last weekend had 12 applications.

Shaky start to meeting with staff: Progress made after assembly member walks out

What was intended to be a question and answer session about possible office reorganization in the wake of the borough manager’s resignation certainly didn’t start out that way.
Mayor Tom Cochran began a Jan. 16 work session with a statement that there was an “800-pound gorilla no one wants to talk about,” adding that “50 percent of department heads and several others agree with Alan Sorum’s take.”
Treasurer Cindy O’Daniel and administrative assistant/deputy clerk Michelle Calver had requested the meeting last month. They had a list of questions for the assembly, but after hearing the mayor, asked if this meeting was the proper format.
Assembly member Colette Hisman said, “It sounds like an executive session to me.”
“The questions I have don’t require it,” O’Daniel responded. “But what I just heard (from the mayor) does,” asking for a clarification of his comments. She said it was the first time she had heard anything about department heads.
Assembly member Mike Korsmo said he thought the meeting was about “where we want to go.”
Hisman said the former manager was referenced in correspondence.
O’Daniel said the only reference was that they wanted a meeting because of Sorum’s comment in his resignation letter about the work environment. She also had questions about statements by assembly members about possible reorganization.
Cochran said the comments made to him were not solicited, and asked for suggestions about how to proceed. Borough Clerk Marj Harris said an executive session would have to go through the public notice process.
Calver then spoke up and said Sorum should not have been talking to others about staff, and then accused him of “bad-mouthing me” to other employees.
At this point Hisman got up and left the room.
There was a silence, and then Korsmo said he would like to hear O’Daniel’s questions.
“I’m really upset with what just happened,” Calver said. “That was so inappropriate, an assembly member getting up and walking out… I’m in shock right now.”
She added that not one assembly member came to her to ask for their side of the issue.
Reached later, Hisman said she thought that continuing on with the meeting in open session could put the municipality in a bad position.
“I felt like, because names were being brought up of employees or past employees in an open forum, we were putting ourselves in harm’s way,” Hisman said. “I just didn’t feel it was right.”
Right or wrong, the meeting took a different track after Hisman’s exit. O’Daniel said her questions were geared to “resolve” issues.
She asked what the plan would be in the absence of a manager. She was told the mayor would handle personnel issues, and any budget questions should go to the mayor and assembly. Borough Clerk Marj Harris said O’Daniel, as the treasurer, works with the budget all the time and should have that authority. There was no objection.
O’Daniel said the personnel policy places the manager in charge of office staff, but the grievance procedure leaves no avenue for them if they have problems with the manager. They do not work under a department head like other municipal employees.
Calver said she had a problem with the manager, sent him an e-mail about it, and never got a response.
Korsmo said, “There’s got to be an avenue for you to bring grievances.”
Fire Chief Mark Kirko suggested that a human resources manager be hired to handle personnel duties. But in the end, the staff said they would prefer working under the borough clerk.
That’s the plan for the interim, they were told.
“I suggest keeping it,” Calver said.
When O’Daniel asked how they could have better handled what turned out to be an uncomfortable situation, several suggested better overall communication and annual evaluations with department heads.
Sales tax clerk Kathleen Moody said sitting down with a department head and going over good points and bad would give them time to improve. Then, “if you don’t like (the evaluation), you can appeal,” she said.
Mark Schaefer said annual evaluations are fine, but there needs to be a mechanism to address problems that arise mid-year.
O’Daniel then asked if a staff sees an action that they think may go against code, should they approach the assembly. Both O’Daniel and Calver cited instances where they questioned the former manager, and were viewed as insubordinate. Yet they had nowhere to go.
“I want to know,” said assembly member L.C. Cassidy.
Calver said she was concerned that no clinic construction documents were on file at City Hall. “We have nothing,” she said. “We should have a copy of everything.”
She added that if the media or anyone wanted to see the original bid documents, she would have nothing to show them.
Cochran and new Clinic Administrator Shelly Moss said they would get right on it. Moss said she has some, but other documents are believed to be in the hands of the architect or on-site manager Paul Taylor.
Assembly members were asked if they thought staff had over-stepped their bounds or if they had not fulfilled their duties. All at the table said they thought staff were doing their jobs.
“What are your expectations?” O’Daniel asked.
“To do your job,” Cochran responded.
“Do you feel we’re doing that?” she asked.
She then asked why the word “restructuring” came up. Calver added that the word had been used by Sorum as a threat against her.
Cochran said the possibility of reorganizing the office was as a result of the “uncomfortable workplace.” After meeting with Sorum and Harris in executive session about it in November, their goal was to fix the problems. “Obviously we failed.”
Calver said the office used to have fantastic communication, and she was hoping “all of us can become a team…. I want to get back to that.”
Harris said she wants to get back to having morning “pow wows” with staff before the office opens up.
Harris last month had submitted her own letter of resignation, saying “the past few months have taken their toll,” and she would retire on June 30, 2009. But she withdrew the resignation on Jan. 5 after hearing from several people in the community and assembly members who asked her to reconsider. She now plans to hold off until her youngest daughter graduates in two years.
After a quick review of job descriptions, there was agreement that no changes were needed. Having the office staff work under the clerk will be a personnel policy change.
At the end of the meeting, Calver said she was feeling a lot more positive about the situation, but remained concerned about the mayor’s opening comments.
“If any department head has a problem with me, come to me,” she said. “I’ve done it with others and you can have a good relationship if you work at it and talk it out.”

NEW PANTHER PAWS – Coach Wassman and team members show off their new shoes. JB

Shoes from Santa Warrior
Pro player sends Skagway players Reeboks

Two days before Christmas, the members of the Skagway High boys basketball team received a wonderful gift: a complete outfit of high-end Reebok shoes from NBA star Jamal Crawford of the Golden State Warriors.
Coach Chris Wassman surprised the team with the shoes at a practice as the team was getting ready to play the alumni.
He knew the shoes were coming, he just didn’t know when..
It all started this summer in his family’s gallery when Wassman met Greg Brittenham, an assistant coach for player development and strength with the New York Knicks.
Wassman talked about his team, and Brittenham talked about an up-and-coming guard for the Knicks who liked to do community work.
They traded e-mails, and in the fall Wassman received confirmation from Brittenham that Crawford was going to “set up the whole team with shoes.”
Wassman did not want to let the team know until the shoes were in town. One worry was that in the middle of the discussions, Crawford was traded from the Knicks to the Warriors, but he came through.
And as the Panther boys now have the proper footwear, the 8-year veteran guard has established his own footing with his new team in California. As of this week, Crawford was leading the Warriors in scoring with 20.4 points per game. In his last three games, he lit it up for 35, 29 and 28.
According to his bio, Crawford cares about young athletes and helping kids: “A lot of kids want to become pro athletes, but you need education to become successful. It’s all about having a well-balanced life, and that starts in school.”

State of Celebration: Skagway partied into the night 50 years ago

It is difficult to imagine a trip to the post office, library, police station, or school without the familiar view of America’s flag waving in the substantial Skagway breeze. While the era of Alaska’s Territorial days are often romanticized, true independence for Alaska residents would only become a reality upon attaining statehood. For Skagwayites (as they were called then) who were a part of that momentous day when the Stars and Stripes made their first ascent of local flagpoles, it was a day of celebration.
Before becoming a Territory in 1912, Alaska was a judicial and civil district of the United States Government. Both designations left control of the state in the hands of the federal government. With little control over their own resources, Alaskans were forced to simply watch as outside forces exploited natural resources such as fish, game, and mining operations.
The push for statehood was a long road met with opposition from a number of sources, both federal and within the state. However, the appointment of Ernest Gruening as governor of Alaska by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939 was the first step toward Alaska becoming the 49th state.
Edward Lewis “Bob” Bartlett served as a Territorial delegate to Congress from 1944 to 1958, and became a key ally of Gruening’s. Bartlett’s influence proved critical in 1958, when he was able to sway the opinion of a longtime opponent of statehood, Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn.
The headline of the July, 1 1958 New York Times read, “Alaska to join union as the 49th state.”
Six days later, on July 7, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Act, paving the way for Alaska to become an official part of the Union.
News travelled fast to Alaska residents including Skagwegians who did what they always do best.
“We were living behind the post office when it happened,” said Si Dennis Jr. who was 10-years-old at the time. “Dad was working, but they laid off everyone for the day. Sirens were blowing, the bars were all open. Everyone was up and down Broadway hooting and hollering. We thought there was a big accident.”
Stan Selmer, also 10 at the time, was en route to the recreation hall behind the Presbyterian Church with some friends for some roller skating. As they walked past the church they heard screaming across the street.
“Dorothy Self was on the balcony of the service station where the Pizza Station is now. And she is screaming at the top of her lungs, ‘We made it!’”
Selmer said they wondered what Self was talking about when she clarified, “We’re a state.”
Said Selmer, “It was an exciting moment for me too.”
Carl Mulvihill called the event an “impromptu celebration.”
With all the bars in town open including The Pack Train, Igloo, and Moe’s, revelers had no trouble finding a watering hole for merrymaking.
“Everyone wanted to drink champagne,” said Mulvihill. “The bars must have gone through cases of champagne.”
“Someone threw a firecracker on a table at The Pack Train and when it went off nobody even jumped.”
Mulvihill said fireworks were being set off all over town. One fellow with the nickname “Shorty” commandeered a fire truck and drove around town blowing the horn repeatedly. A group of concerned citizens chased him from behind in an effort to get him to stop.
Mulvihill said he may have been under the influence of “a joyful juice.”
Barb Kalen found a watering hole of her own, at the old boat harbor.
“We went swimming at ten at night that day. I remember it was a very hot day,” said Kalen.
Kalen, 34-years-old at the time, said, “Everybody was really happy. It was like a celebration… We were a state now. Oh boy! Oh boy!”
For those Skagwayites, life went on as usual after Alaska became a state. Kalen said not much changed locally. “Not mine anyhow,” she added.
“The weather sure didn’t change,” said Mulvihill.
Alaska would officially become the 49th state of the United States of America on January 3, 1959. Mulvihill said the event did give Alaska a voice in Washington D.C. and allowed for local control over resources.
“Before that fishermen used fish traps which destroyed fisheries,” he said.
Other subtle changes were also soon visible. At the time, the Skagway City Council decided to name Congress Way in honor of the momentous vote. The old harbor was named “Bob” Bartlett harbor, and it was suggested that Yakutania Point be named after Eisenhower.
“That never really took,” said Mulvihill.
Bartlett would soon become a U.S. Senator, serving from 1959 to 1968. Gruening served as a Senator from 1959 to 1969.
For 50 years Old Glory has sat atop Alaska’s star-studded flag and fluttered under that same Big Dipper etched between stars overhead.
It’s hard to imagine a Fourth of July without a parade boasting quirky floats and celebrants adorned in eccentric costumes meandering along Broadway. It’s hard to imagine not lining up to vote at City Hall every so often to select a presidential candidate, a senator, or a congressman.
It’s hard to imagine a Skagway without something to celebrate.

Comp. plan voted down, for now
Generic road amendment divides assembly
After a year-long effort, the final Skagway Comprehensive Plan was ready for its final public hearing and approval at the first meeting in January. But with just four assembly members present, it needed a unanimous vote. That didn’t happen.
After deadlocking on a 2-2 vote over a citizen-recommended amendment that would have added some language about potential roads through areas identified as “Recreation/Open Space”, a final vote on the plan itself failed.
But the assembly member who voted against it, Mark Schaefer, asked for reconsideration at the next meeting Feb. 5.
The amendment was offered by citizen John Tronrud. He had sent a letter last month that questioned why the steering committee did not include any reference to a potential Juneau Access project in the document. He initially suggested that a potential road corridor could be aligned with a powerline corridor on the maps.
At the assembly meeting last week, he said he was unable to follow up with Planning and Zoning during its public hearing, but asked the assembly to “keep options open.”
Recognizing that the road issue is still emotional, he offered the following amendment to the land use definition for Recreation/Open Space: "Any road access within these areas would be done in an appropriate manner to maintain or enhance the natural beauty of the lands, as well as providing access and improvements for recreational opportunities."
Tronrud said he drew the language from the 4F section of the federal highways act. “It just keeps our options open,” he said.
Mayor Tom Cochran said he liked the language because it contained no reference to Juneau Access and would address roads for any purpose.
Assembly member Mike Korsmo countered that he did not agree with the state’s definitions regarding 4F, dating back to when “the state said they would shove the road down our throat.” He said objections to a road corridor through the Lower Dewey Lakes area “came from the heart” of citizens before the National Park Service intervened.
The state withdrew taking the Juneau Access project all the way to Skagway after determining that the route would cross into the National Historic Landmark and invoke federal 4F restrictions, which say a road can only be built if there are no other alternatives.
L.C. Cassidy said the Comprehensive Plan was a good blueprint and vision of the future. “This was not something brought out during the process. I’d like to keep the plan as is,” she said.
But Colette Hisman and Schaefer liked the language. Hisman said she did not see how it could be taken as a pro-road stance.
“If (the road) were put in, and I don’t think it will, (this language) would protect the viewshed,” Hisman said.
“I don’t see a problem with it,” Schaefer said, adding, “I’m not so sure we are ready to adopt this anyway. It would be nice to have all the assembly here.”
After the amendment’s failure, Cochran reminded members that they were already behind schedule for passing the plan by the end of the year and receiving its grant funding. “So if we don’t pass it, we may be paying for it,” he said.
Three of the four heeded his call. But Schaefer said he did not feel comfortable passing it with a subject like the road issue “still on the table.” His lone vote against the comp. plan defeated it, for now.
“2009 is off to a great start,” Cochran said.
After a break, Schaefer said he would ask for a motion of reconsideration at the next meeting.

Paint ball island appeal successful
Meeting as the Board of Adjustment on Jan. 14, members of the Skagway Borough Assembly voted to allow the use of a private island in the Skagway River for a commercial paint ball field.
The ruling overturned an October decision by the Planning and Zoning Commission. P&Z denied the application because of questions about land ownership and the possibility of flooding. Adjacent property owner WP&YR also had concerns about the possibility of stray paint balls.
P&Z member Bob Dill said that when they made their ruling, the maps provided were unclear about ownership, and there were concerns about the road to the site being flooded. “The decision was weighted more toward flooding,” he said, adding that the island flooded within the last decade.
But at the hearing last week, those arguments were largely put to rest by the tour operator and land owner.
Josh McCorkle, speaking via teleconference, said he has a written contract with David Hunz, the owner of the land. Hunz, a member of the assembly, was not present but participated via teleconference as a citizen. He confirmed that he owned the property. When quizzed about his land dispute with the state during the flood control project, Hunz said the only land in question was below the ordinary high water mark. He said the land in question was surveyed by the municipality in 2003, and the island property is above the high water mark.
McCorkle and Hunz said the flood control project also installed dikes that widened out the river in that area and better protected the island. Hunz said three rock bar “wing dikes” also were installed to divert water away from the island. He said the river is now slower in that area and speeds up further down where new dikes are in place to protect the town and highway.
He added that his winter gravel mining permit in the river adjacent to the island further lowers the river bottom by about 10,000 yards a year. An established roadway to the island was developed during the flood control project, and Hunz said he has since had to run campers off the island.
Addressing White Pass’s concerns, McCorkle said the entire paint ball field would be enclosed in a net, and visitors have access to the “marker” devices only inside the net. Assembly member Mark Schaefer, the railroad’s chief of maintenance at the nearby shops, said the net addressed their concerns. There will be a small trailer on the property and “a few structures for people to hide behind.” He said all users would wear protective goggles.
Assembly member Mike Korsmo said he wasn’t sure if a paint ball field was a “conducive use” for that area, but noted it’s private property in an industrial zone, and “there’s no way to go against it…. I might have to try it sometime.”
After hearing that there were no written objections and that the paint balls were made of biodegrable corn starch and food coloring, members Colette Hisman and L.C. Cassidy also voted to allow the project.
It passed on a 4-0 vote to not uphold the P&Z ruling. Members Dan Henry and Hunz were absent.
“Fantastic!” said McCorkle. – JB


School forum: Tale of two tables

At the annual Skagway School Community Forum on Jan. 13, it appeared that one table was focused on problems, and the other on solutions.
Two topics were on the menu: 1. Student travel, and 2. the “culture of Skagway” and how seasonal shifts affect the school and funding.
A table led by Superintendent Michael Dickens and School Board member Joanne Korsmo heard mostly complaints about student travel decisions and other issues, while a table led by Board President Darren Belisle and members Chris Ellis and Chris Maggio heard suggestions from students and parents about an educational travel plan, and tried to address the culture issue.
At the first table, parent Colette Hisman suggested the board make it a goal to have a policy in place on student travel. But it was noted that the current prohibition on senior trips was not an actual policy, but something the board adopted a couple years ago after there were reports of students partying on one trip.
Hisman has been trying to get the board to allow a senior trip to Chicago this year, and had some support at the table.
“Just because one class is not responsible shouldn’t mean other classes are,” said Cindy O’Daniel, who suggested laying out guidelines for students and parents in the freshman year about what will be allowed.
Korsmo said she supported the Chicago trip and it will be brought up at the Jan. 27 board meeting. Others like Becky Jensen supported educational trips like the one to the Smithsonian last year.
The discussion then shifted to questioning by resident Blaine Mero about an approved DDF trip to the Marshall Islands this spring, and whether money could be raised in time. Dickens said that was not up to the district, which did not budget for the trip. But he said the board approved it last month because the DDF team was invited, and based on its work last year on a nuclear awareness conference and this year’s focus on climate change. If the money is not raised, then they won’t go, Dickens said.
Mero also said a problem of “teachers being out of school so much” needs to be discussed, and Elizabeth Burnham said there needs to be better communication of daily events at the school. But when complaints were directed at some staff, teacher Denise Caposey broke in and said the discussions were approaching a violation of the staff’s negotiated agreements.
Over at the other table, parent Niki Hahn said fund-raising is a big issue with senior trips, and the competing classes had presented a burden on the community. She said doing away with the senior trip actually may have helped last year’s senior class, which saw a record number of scholarship dollars donated.
The focus then shifted to what kind of trips should be allowed, and students and staff weighed in.
Junior Mickey Wilson said the Smithsonian trip last year, which was opened to all students in grades 9-12, was “the best vacation I ever had, and I learned a lot.” Senior Shelby Surdyk agreed that those kinds of trips are good, but also said a senior class should be able to go on an educational trip of its own, if they can raise the money. It might depend on the class, others noted. “Our class can’t decide where to go to lunch,” Wilson joked.
Teacher Mary McCaffrey said there had been talk about a trip with a science focus next year. The group then agreed that a plan should be put in place to allow for the following: two educational trips during the high school years, with a year to raise funds for each trip. They would fund-raise during the freshman and junior years and travel during the sophomore and senior years.
The same table talked about Skagway’s seasonal shifts, but concluded that enrollment was down due to recent regional population shifts, parents or kids just moving on for various reasons, and a lull in reproduction about 10-15 years ago.
Borough Assembly member Mike Korsmo said the survey for the Comprehensive Plan last spring found nearly 900 people living here 10-12 months out of the year. “They’re here, they’re just not having kids,” he said.
“One age group of kids (here) had kids, the others did not,” added Ellis, but it was noted that the pre-school was pretty full, and several home-educated kids are back in the school. Elementary numbers will likely grow while the high school is in decline.
Mike Korsmo said the overall enrollment decline is not the school’s fault, and the district has done its part to improve educational opportunities.
“This is a phenomenal school,” he said. “Look at the test scores. He credited the board, superintendent and parental involvement that has “created an environment that’s excellent, but probably not enough to overcome this (enrollment) problem.”
Staff member Deb Steidel said small schools have all the functions of a big school, and Maggio said the state really should fund schools to their full potential regardless of enrollment size.
Belisle then scribbled down a goal for the board: “Keep the school positive to keep people here.” Others were added the following evening (see sidebar).
Prior to breaking up into two rountable groups, the audience of about 30 watched presentations on the technology curriculum and the new DARE program. The tech show concluded with a sample of a video of a high school math class that is now available for students on activity trips.
The DARE presentation by Officer Rick Ackerman was an introduction to what will be taught to fifth and sixth graders over the next couple months.
“It’s not just about drugs and alcohol,” he said, “it’s about making good choices.”

Goals: Better communication, keep positive, keep students
A night after holding its annual forum, the Skagway School Board met in a work session to go over notes and formulate goals for the coming year.
Superintendent Michael Dickens said that, from the discussions at his table, he sees a need to improve communication about why teachers travel.
“I know why teachers go on professional development training, they (staff) know, and the school people know it, but I haven’t been good at how the information is disseminated,” Dickens said.
It was noted that only 25 percent of parents log on to the school’s Powerschool website for student information, and some travel information has been going out in elementary newsletters, but they aren’t always read.
Dickens said his “solution” would be to develop a list of parent e-mail addresses and divide them into class address books.
“It seems to be a better conduit,” Dickens said. “The teachers like the idea because there’s proof you got (information) to people.”
Some board members were concerned about the format of this year’s forum, suggesting it may be better to either just have one open session, or have the tables tackle one topic only.
“It got more personal as it went along,” Dickens said of the discussions at his table.
Chris Ellis said they should have repeated the procedures about dealing with teacher complaints. Board policy says they must first go through the teacher, then the superintendent, then the board.
“Last night once things got breached, we did say they were out of order,” Joanne Korsmo said.
Ellis then proposed the first goal: “Develop better communication for students and teacher traveling using technology.”
The goal resulted from the earlier discussion about e-mails, and demonstrations of how teachers can communicate to students when traveling. The math video class was an example, as well as English teacher Kent Fielding’s blogs to students while he was in Japan on a fellowship last fall.
Belisle also expanded on his goal of keeping things positive at the school.
“We need to strive to keep that excellence if we have any hope of bringing people in,” he said.
To this end, Belisle said the school’s own website should be updated weekly so people keep coming back to it.
Last year’s goal was “develop website.” This year’s goal will be to “keep website growing and current.”
The board decided to keep the remaining goals regarding: college readiness, continuing the foreign language program, student pride in school and community, developing student community service, opening channels of communication through community and media, and continue examining ways to increase enrollment. The goals will be formally adopted next week. – JB


DDF students win four events
Volunteers needed for first home meet Feb. 6-7

Shelby Surdyk and Alini Jashiki of the Skagway DDF team entered and won four events in Ketchikan last weekend, an excellent warm-up for the team’s first home meet Feb. 6-7.
Jashiki won for her solo, “SALOME”, a cutting from Oscar Wilde’s play of the same name. In the piece, Jashiki plays the 15-year-old Salome, a girl who has received unwanted attention from her uncle, Herod, ruler of Judea. Salome becomes attracted to John the Baptist, primarily because Herod fears the prophet. When John the Baptist refuses Salome’s advances, she extracts her revenge on both Herod and John. It’s a play about feminine power and what happens when an individual stuck in an unwanted situation decides to take control. Salome symbolizes women in traditional societies.
The judge of the final round stated, “She (Alini) is very talented and uses her face, voice and body well to express herself. This would have been a weird choice for most students but great for her.” Jashiki received commands for her solo, meaning that she was asked to perform her piece in front of all those in attendance. Jashiki also finished second in oration, and was offered commands for it as well, but she humbly declined, feeling one command was plenty.
Surdyk also enjoyed a wonderful tournament. She won three events: Oration, Expository Speaking and Extemporaneous Speaking. Most impressive was her victory in extemporaneous speaking. One of the hardest events in DDF, a student randomly draws three topics and chooses one on which to speak. The topics are all related to news events, either domestic or international, and with only thirty minutes prep time, the student must deliver a 5-7 minute persuasive speech using a variety of sources to back up their opinion, and utilizing form, precise vocabulary and delivery style.
Surdyk had entered extemporaneous speaking once before, her sophomore year, but had never devoted herself to it. The event requires a great deal of reading and analyzing of current news articles from a variety of sources worldwide. She now spends hours each day reading and critiquing current events. One source she uses is the Jerusalem Daily. Surdyk’s winning, or sweeping, of the speech category was not a surprise to any of the coaches, and most view her as a favorite at state.
The next DDF event will be Skagway’s first home meet, Feb. 6-7.
Teams from Sitka, Ketchikan, Juneau, Wrangell and Haines are expected to attend. Volunteers are needed to judge, help run the tab room, and make/donate food for judges and coaches. The meet could have 60 contestants competing in twelve events and will need 50-60 judges to cover the two days.
On Saturday Feb. 7, the command performances, the best pieces in the meet, will be showcased at the Eagles Theatre from 6:30 – 8 p.m. The school encourages the community to attend the meet. All events are open to the public and free of charge.
For more information, or to volunteer, please call Kent Fielding at 907-983-3604 or Billi Clem at 612-0146.

Skagway teams will utilize their speed to compete for top spots in region
The Skagway High basketball teams opened their seasons this week with a flurry of games, starting with league battles against Klawock (results below) and then moving right into the Don Hather Tourney.
Both Panther squads are looking to improve on their third place finishes in the region last year and secure spots at the state tourney in March.
The girls team should have been a lock for second place to region champ Yaukutat but stumbled in a strange, new region tourney format that had them play a fourth game against the consolation round champion for the region’s second berth to state. They were upset by a Kake team that they had beaten soundly earlier in the tourney.
Girls coach Lara Labesky says her team is motivated to move on this season and are “hungry for state.”
“I think that we should finish second, if not first, in our region record-wise, and be in good position at regionals,” she said. “It’s going to be a good year. It’s a fun group of girls who have played together for so long. They play with a certain amount of confidence, but they’re not over-confident. This should help them in playing at tough places. We should give Yakutat a good run this year.”
The team was hurt by the loss of a couple key juniors and seniors, but has a strong core of sophomores led by top scorer Jessie Ellis, top rebounder Kaitlyn Surdyk, and top playmaker Kaylie O’Daniel. Also starting are freshmen Anna Korsmo and Rori Leaverton. Contributing off the bench are freshman Nikita Ford, sophomore Kayla Henricksen, junior Amanda Jensen, and exchange student Soobin Kang.
“Our strengths are we have excellent shooters and ball handlers, and we are very, very quick,” Labesky said.
If the girls have a weakness, it’s inexperience.
“We are heavily dependent on young freshmen and sophomores – again,” Labesky said. “But I think these kids are pretty mature basketball players for their age. The sophomores worked hard this summer and are leading out on the floor.”
That was evident in the Lady Panthers’ dominating wins over Klawock early this week. After a bit of a slow start, Skagway applied the pressure and kicked the running game into high gear by the second quarter of each game. Labesky said they embraced their new offense and performed very well.
“I’m definitely stoked about this team,” Labesky concluded. “I love the way they work together.”
Team chemistry is also a strong point for the Panther boys. Although they fell twice to a vastly improved Klawock team early this week, coach Chris Wassman said his group is working as a team and will be shooting to get better by region tourney. Last year, the team peaked at regions, where the strange format gave them a second chance, and they almost made it to state.
“I think we are looking really good as far as being a team,” he said. “We have a lot of speed and the guys are working together really well this year.”
He said they will shoot for a “run and gun game” and work in a press.
The Panthers are led by the strong backcourt duo of juniors Thomas Etue and Mickey Wilson. They work well together and can score in bunches. Wassman said Etue “has skills way above average and he is now learning the leadership role that comes with being a great basketball player.” Wilson is the fastest member of the team and “has the potential of putting up 30 points every night… done with speed.” They are joined on the wing by promising freshman Danny Moore, who is “tough, smart, tancious, and quick.”
Also starting are sophomore forward Bryce Jones, and either junior Jacob Cotton or sophomore Devin Fairbanks are working to establish positions down low. That’s not a lot of size, and it showed against Klawock early this week. Wassman said he saw “spots of greatness,” but they will have to work hard to get in good position for rebounds and shots, and stay out of foul trouble.
Coming off the bench are senior Tylor Forester, sophomore John Doland, and freshman Ian Klupar. All contributed and scored in their first games.
The Panthers were in both games against the Chieftains until about midway through the third quarter. In the first game, Klawock’s Ryan Armour lit them up from behind the arc, but in the second game, they switched up defenses to shut him down. However, Klawock big men Rick Carle and Sean Hall took over when Skagway got into foul trouble.
“Our strengths are our speed and fast guards who can finish shots,” Wassman said. “Out weakness right now is inspired post play” to make the triangle offense work better.
But it’s early, and Wassman saw improvement after the first game jitters wore off. In the second game, Skagway made adjustments and challenged the Chieftains to the final gun. “That’s the same team we beat at tournament, I know we can beat them,” Wassman said.
“Regionals is the time when we want to be playing our best ball,” he concluded. “We’ve got two months left and we will be working really hard toward our goal of being a run and gun, pressing, basketball team that plays tough defense for 32 minutes.”


Susan K. Hosford , 1951-2008
Longtime Alaska resident Susan Karen Hosford passed away December 18, 2008, in Seattle with her husband by her side. She was 57.
Born August 31, 1951 to Pete and Irene Erickson in Auburn, Washington. Sue was raised in Auburn and Petersburg, Alaska. Graduating high school, she met and married her husband Mike in November 1969. They were blessed with 2 daughters and 6 grandchildren. They raised their family in Skagway, Petersburg and Juneau.
Some of her first jobs included managing her mother Irene’s restaurants, Petersburg Hospital, and National Park Service in Skagway. She had a variety of great positions with the State of Alaska including the Museum and the Dept. of Retirement and Benefits
Many will remember Sue’s incredible giving nature and warm smile. With one of the biggest hearts on earth, her door was always open with encouragement to do the right thing in her own special way. Because of her uniqueness, she will long be remembered for her caring generosity that touched the lives of many.
Sue’s passion was her children and grandchildren. In her incredible loving and generous nature, she was simply referred to those close to her, including her children’s friends as ‘Aunt Sue’.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Pete and Irene Erickson. She is survived by her husband Mike; daughters Heather Hosford, Rachel Hosford Spence and husband Darren; grandchildren Joey Hosford, Tyler, Mikey and Andrew Burns, Aiden, and the newest addition, Lydia Spence; brothers Steve, Mike and wife Bonnie Erickson; sisters, Judy Erickson, Kathy Hosford and husband Fred, and numerous nieces and nephews.
She was so loved and will be sorely missed.
A spring memorial service is planned in celebration of Sue’s life in Skagway. Please contact (907) 983-3799 for further information. Condolences may be sent to Hosford family, PO Box 388, Skagway, Alaska 99840.
Memorials in Sue’s name to three organizations that Sue supported passionately: Alaska Crippled Children’s now ACCA at 1020 Barnette St., Fairbanks, AK 99701; MADD Alaska Chapter, PO Box 84679, Fairbanks, Alaska 99708; or Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 5559, Box 20085, Juneau 99801. – Submitted by the family

Janet M. McDonald, 1951-2009
Janet Marie McDonald, 57, an Elder of the Shoalwater Bay Tribe, passed away peacefully, Thursday, January 15, 2009, at the family home in Westport, Wash. in the arms of her husband, Tim. She was born in Aberdeen March 26, 1951, the daughter of Vern and Ethel (Davis) Bizer.
Janet spent many summers with her Aunt Ruthie on the Shoalwater Bay Reservation. She graduated from Wishkah High School and earned her LPN certificate at Grays Harbor College and later worked at the Grays Harbor Community Hospital and also at the Kittitas Hospital, Ellensburg.
She married Tim McDonald in Grayland on October 11, 1975. In 1978 they loaded up the old Ford pickup with their three kids, all their earthly belongings and boarded the Alaska ferry. They landed in Skagway, Alaska where they were to spend the next 21 years.
Skagway was a special place with special friends for Janet. She worked at the Trail Bench, a gift shop along Broadway Street, and took care of the owner, Jewell Knapp, for many years. She always called it her home despite moving to Westport over 10 years ago.
Later in life, Janet went to work for the Shoalwater Bay Wellness Center, which she helped establish. She was a medical receptionist. She loved that job and all the people she worked with.
Three years and four months ago Janet was diagnosed with lung cancer. She fought with a super-human effort through many tough times, but always had a smile and never gave up hope.
Janet was an avid cribbage player and placed fifth in the Alaska State Cribbage Tournament. She loved to do crossword puzzles with her dad, Vern, and was a big fan of her beloved Chicago Cubs.
Besides her husband, Tim, of the family home, Janet is survived by a son, Erik and his companion, Brandi, of Aberdeen, Wash.; two daughters: M’Liss Ayers, Wilsonville, OR, and Sarah and husband Keith Beck, Ocosta, Wash.; her father: Vern Bizer, Enumclaw, Wash.; two brothers: David and wife Vickie Bizer, Enumclaw, Wash., and John and wife Connie Bizer, Del Ray Beach, Florida; a sister: Sandra Atkinson, Bellevue, Wash.; grandsons: Kobe Beck, Luke, Aiden and Ethan Ayers, and a granddaughter, Jenna Ayers; a sister-in-law, Chris and husband Gary Davis; a brother-in-law, Cliff and wife Debbie McDonald, a mother-in-law Elaine McDonald; as well as many nieces, nephews, cousins and many friends.
Janet was preceded in death by her mother, Ethel, father-in-law, John “Pop Pop” McDonald, aunt Ruthie Davis, and nephew Jeff Robertson.
Janet was our angel as well as Mom, Gramma, wife and soul mate. The family would like to thank her daughter, Sarah, for all her loving care and tireless devotion during Mom’s battle with cancer. A special thanks to Western Washington Oncology and Radiant Care, the many doctors, nurses and especially Dr. Sui, for letting us have her for Kobe’s football games and one last Christmas.
Janet was a proud Elder of the Shoalwater Bay Tribe. A traditional Tribal ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, January 24 at the Shoalwater Bay Tribal Gym. Following the ceremony there will be a celebration of Janet's life with a potluck at the Westport VFW.
Memorial donations can be made to the American Cancer Society on behalf of Janet McDonald.
A card of condolence with a private message may be sent to the family at
Cremation arrangements were entrusted to Fern Hill Funeral Home, Aberdeen.
– Submitted by the family

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