SUNBURST OF SPEED

The action has been hot at the ball fields this summer, even if nature’s thermostat has been turned down a notch of late. See more Little League shots on the Sports and Rec. page.

Jeff Brady

The bears are back

State: bear shot June 5 was a light-colored cinnamon bear

Web Updated June 17, 2008

By JEFF BRADY
A black bear was shot outside a hillside residence in Skagway on June 5, a day before the borough and the state sent out notices warning people about bears in the area.
The warning noted that the “spirit bear (white phased black bear) has been spotted in several spots along the Dyea Road. Please remember this bear is still protected.”
This warning and the light color of the bear that was shot had prompted some in Skagway to draw conclusions, which local police said was wrong until the state inspected the bear’s hide and remains. A Fish and Wildlife officer showed up on June 13 and took the bear over to Haines, and then it was inspected Monday June 16 by a state Fish and Game biologist from Douglas.
On June 17, the state announced it would not be charging the shooter, saying it was a light-colored cinnamon phased type bear and not a white-phased bear as defined by state regulations.
“It was a light color, but it also had a lot of black and brown around the face, paws, all over it,” said Fish and Wildlife Officer Ricky Merritt of Haines.
Thor Henricksen, who lives off the Dyea Road, said the bear he shot was hanging out by his daughter’s rabbit hutch and acted aggressively toward him. But he believed it was a cinnamon bear, not the white-phased bear that won state protection last fall after lobbying by the community.
“It startled me and stared right at me, and put its head down,” he said. “That’s not a good sign.”
He said last summer he was scared by bears, and more and more kept coming around. He said he made up his mind that he would shoot one in hunting season if one showed causing trouble on his property. Hunting season for spring bears ends June 30.
“I feel just awful (about the reactions in town),” he added. “I don't know what it is. It looks to me like a cinnamon bear... It’s not blue and it’s not white.”

SPIRIT BEAR – This photo of the protected white-phased Skagway black bear was taken on the AB Mountain hillside outside a residence on May 31. If you see this bear, call police. Ginny Sorrell

Ginny Sorrell, who lives a little further up the hill, wrote in an e-mail that she usually sees the small “spirit bear” with the black ear tips every few days. On May 31, she sent The Skagway News photos of the bear from that weekend, but as of June 11 said she had not seen it for a while and was worried. She initially said it had been four days, but then e-mailed back that it may have been a week since she had seen it.
Skagway Police Chief Ray Leggett is hoping that someone will spot the spirit bear soon and put concerns to rest.
Merritt said that the bear that was shot “was not close to the color white,” but he could not say for sure if it was the bear people in Skagway considered as the “spirit bear” since he had not seen it.
“There’s probably not a lot of white-colored bears in Skagway, so it is a possibility,” Merritt said.

CORRECTION: The June 13 printed version of this story contained an error in the lead paragraph which said that the borough notice went out two days before the bear was shot. That was wrong. The News often recycles paper in its fax machine, and in this case a sheet of paper with the date June 3 was off to the side from a previous fax. The editor assumed this was the date of the borough's fax. Upon re-checking it this week, and with the borough offices, it was determined that the fax was sent on June 6, a day after the bear was shot. The date is faint on the fax we received. The News sincerely regrets this error and there will be a front page correction in the June 26 issue.

Community opinion released at town meeting
Kids, adults like quality of life in Skagway, reasons vary

By MOLLY DISCHNER
At a town meeting Friday June 8, comprehensive plan consultant Barbara Sheinberg presented the results of the community and student opinion surveys.
The surveys are part of the comprehensive plan’s efforts to include the whole community’s views, said Mayor Tom Cochran. He said the assembly wants a very diverse cross-section of the community giving input so decision-makers know what to do for the next 20 years.
Sheinberg reminded the community the survey was not a mandate.
“This is one piece of input. Another piece is what your elected and appointed officials think,” she said, noting that it is their job to research and study the issues.
The McDowell Group’s adult survey reached 307 residents, and Sheinberg’s student survey reached 49. Sheinberg said those numbers made both surveys statistically valid, so they can assume the entire population has similarly distributed views.

Quality of life
For Skagway residents, 61 percent rated their quality of life as high (defined as 8-10 on a 1-10 scale), according to the survey, with another 37 percent saying it was medium (4-7 on the same scale). Likewise, 48 percent of students rated their quality of life as high, and 44 percent rated it as medium.
For adults, the top two contributing factors were the small town and close community, and the people, family, and friends in Skagway, with 43 and 40 percent of respondents mentioning those factors. Respondents were asked the quality of life question first, and allowed to give as many responses as they could think of.
Common responses from adults included good jobs (26 percent), beauty of the area and nature (24 percent), recreational opportunities (23 percent), and a safe community or low crime (21 percent), the report says.
For students, it was those last two that made Skagway a place they want to live.
“A lot of [the students] talked about feeling safe here, which I thought was pretty notable,” Sheinberg said.
In the student survey, 37 percent said that one of the two things they enjoyed most about Skagway was the small town atmosphere, safety, or a similar response, and 25 percent mentioned opportunities for structured activities and recreation, with 14 percent stating that outdoor recreation, hiking, and scenery were enjoyed.
Unlike adults, only one percent said jobs were what they enjoyed about Skagway. School (4 percent) and the Kone Kompany (3 percent) beat that, she said.
Sheinberg suggested that mapping students’ favorite places in Skagway would help the community see what paths were important to them.
Students’ favorite places reflected their like of recreation, she said. The Skagway Recreation Center was a favorite of 18 percent of students, with Lower Dewey Lake and Seven Pastures coming in at 12 and 11 percent, Sheinberg said. Other top answers included more recreation sites, she added.
Community member Mavis Irene Henricksen said that Lower Dewey Lake was not just a favorite spot for students, but of everyone in town and people who had moved away and came back for a visit.
When asked how they thought the quality of life in Skagway was going to progress over the next five years, 56 percent of students and 45 percents of adults said they thought it would be the same. Adults were more optimistic about the future, Sheinberg said – 26 percent expected their quality of life to improve, and 22 percent thought it would get worse. For students, the numbers were an even split between getting better and worse, she said.
Sheinberg said it was important to look at why students feel that way.
“When kids in town are feeling poorly about being here, I think you’ve got to listen to that,” she said.
Attendee Elise Decker agreed, and said she was sad 22 percent of youth think their quality of life will decline in the next five years.
Despite that, Sheinberg said the number of students planning to return to Skagway was impressive; 79 percent said they plan to work in Skagway in the summer as young adults, and 39 percent said it was either highly likely or somewhat likely that they would live in Skagway as an adult.
“Forty percent is not an insignificant number that are saying they’ll come back,” she said.
Sheinberg also said that some adult quality of life responses were ambiguous, specifically those regarding health care and groceries, and she thought people might have been responding that an improvement in those things would improve their quality of life.

Community Projects
Both students and adults were asked about projects and improvements to Skagway.
Students generally supported more recreation opportunities (29 percent), Sheinberg said, with a swimming pool (24 percent) and movie theater (17 percent) coming in as the second and third preferences.
When asked what they would spend money on if they were the mayor, Sheinberg reported that 18 percent said they’d add more youth activities, 16 percent wanted to build a swimming pool, and 12 percent supported economic improvements.
Cochran pointed out he can’t spend money like that, he needs assembly approval.
Sheinberg also summarized the adult responses to proposed projects, which were listed in a rotating order to avoid biasing respondents.
“It gives you a pulse on the community, and the many projects in front of you,” Sheinberg said.
Adults very strongly supported recycling, expanding the Jerry Myers fish hatchery, and developing the port for non-cruise ship use, Sheinberg said. She said that while some don’t think that recycling is a good move economically, it might be worth it solely to reduce what is going into the incinerator’s landfill.
Projects that earned strong support (generally with three-quarters supporting) were expanding water and sewer north of the 23rd Ave. bridge, West Creek trail expansions, funding for arts and culture, and offering borough land at a reduced rate to businesses that create new year-round jobs, she said.
Sheinberg said the projects that were supported, but also had a significant amount of opposition were an artists co-op, an annual competitive grant program for the arts, and creating a new freight transfer facility.
And the project that was opposed was a covered amphitheater at Dyea or Yakutania points, she said.
When Steve Jaklitsch asked why nothing about the proposed Juneau road was asked, Sheinberg responded that a large committee drafted the questions, and when it came to cutting them down to the number to ask, they didn’t feel the road was as high of a priority for the town to be asking about.
Cochran also it is the state’s decision, not Skagway’s, and it is not an issue worth dividing the community over again. He said they wanted to see how people felt about things the borough can accomplish.

Residency, demographics, and housing
The older you are, the longer you’ve tended to live in Skagway, Sheinberg said. The average length of time someone had lived in Skagway was 20 years. The percent of people who had lived in Skagway for ten years or less and more than 20 years were the same – 38 for each, she said.
Sheinberg said the survey reported that 88 percent of adults are working. This number differs from some state labor data, but she said the survey counts those who are self-employed as working, where the state’s data doesn’t always count them. Of those who are not working, most were retired, she said.
Sheinberg also highlighted some of what stood out in the data in terms of housing.
The median income in Skagway is $54,000, she said, but the average was $70,000. $54,000 was also the average income for younger individuals, she said, and half of younger people are making less than $50,000 a year.
Those younger people are the ones who are trying to get financing for affordable housing, she said.
She also mentioned that the house price they can be approved for is often less than the cost of a house in Skagway, but that a community housing trust or other non-profit could be created to help make housing affordable for younger residents.
Residents who live in Skagway year-round are more likely to own their own home, as are older people.
Home-owners are also more likely to be satisfied with their housing. The largest complaint among those who were unsatisfied was that housing is too expensive, she said.
Most renters do so year-round, she said, and 23 percent of renters (31 people) said they are planning to build or buy their own home in the next five years.
Sheinberg pointed out that even if all of those respondents have a partner who also answered yes, that still means 15 new homes in the next five years. That would assume that the other half of Skagway, those not surveyed, are not planning to build any houses, she said.
Of respondents, 22 percent own rental housing. But the exact number of units was unclear, because it is unknown which respondents were stating the same units another respondent mentioned, she said. That is one number that also can’t necessarily be doubled, Sheinberg said.
Tina Cyr asked whether municipal tax data would include numbers on rental units, to get an exact figure. Borough Clerk Marj Harris said that information currently isn’t pulled out of tax data.
Sheinberg said the survey also looked at senior housing. Few thought it was a concern, but she said that the number that were interested – 31 – might be enough to justify a unit, even when cut to 15 for the possibility that two people responded about the same interest.
The survey also looked at transportation and environmental issues. The full results will be posted at www.skagway.org on the comprehensive plan update steering committee page.

Budget holds at $4.581 million despite big boost in health insurance premiums; big projects stay funded

Two Stories

Assembly works to complete record budget; more than $17.5 million in capital projects planned

By JEFF BRADY
The Skagway Borough Assembly is working on the final phase of its 2009 fiscal year operating and capital budgets, which will both set records.
The bottom line of the operating budget remains at about $4.581 million with a Service I mill rate of 8, while the capital budget weighs in at close to $17.56 million. Of that, $9 million will be set aside for the new Rasmuson Community Health Center, which is funded with $4 million in state, federal and non-profit grants.
At one point, before the assembly started trimming at the budget’s second reading on June 5, the capital budget sat at nearly $18 million.
“There are 19 capital projects on this list... $18 million worth.” said Mayor Tom Cochran. “That’s incredible for a town this size.”
He said the assembly needed to look at the budget responsibly and consider its impacts, noting that major projects take a lot of oversight, even when funded with grants.
“Our staff hasn’t gotten any bigger,” Cochran said. “If we continue at this pace, we have to take a hard look at the burden on our staff.”
Borough Manager Alan Sorum informed members that the project list would have to be cut back due to an anticipated 31.4 percent increase in health insurance premiums (11 percent more than first budgeted). They also had been asked to fund Lynn Canal Counseling at the same level as last year ($45,000) rather than cut it to $32,000.
Responding to several in the audience who asked for funds to complete a new skatepark (see separate story), Cochran said, “It’s a balanced budget at this point. We have to take away if we add something.”
Sorum had prepared a “take away list” for the assembly to consider:
• Reducing the school sprinkler project by $150,000 (from $400,000 to $250,000), since bids were coming in lower than expected.
• Removing $55,000 for Pullen Creek restroom improvements and tying the project in with the state-funded seawalk final phase for utilities and landscaping.
• Reduce the fire department heating project from $65,000 to $35,000 since SFD had been advised to replace its furnace and install fans rather than switch to a boiler system.
• Remove $65,000 for Rec. Center landscaping, putting off the project till 2010 to allow for the $200,000 skatepark this year.
“These four take out $300,000...” Sorum said. “I think it’s a good place to be.”
After nodding their approval to those line item changes, assembly members added $13,000 back into the operating fund for counseling, and the following smaller projects, some of which carry forward from the current fiscal year:
• $35,000 for AB Hall painting.
• $8,600 in carry-over funds for trail maintenance.
• $7,500 in carry-over funds for tree planting.
• $6,200 for the Upper Lake trail project match.
After the subtracting and adding were done, the budget was back at “the status quo,” members noted.
However, during another discussion on a fire department recommendation to eliminate a seasonal maintenance position in favor of a full-time, part-time position, Assemblymember Dave Hunz objected, saying it could have “ramifications.”
Fire Chief Mark Kirko said the position would be at the same 30 hours per week, but they would be able to have 24 hours a week of maintenance and six hours a week to coordinate training. An amendment to approve the change passed on a 5-1 vote.
After the fully amended budget was ready for a vote, Hunz joined the rest in approving it unanimously on second reading.
The budget will have one more go-round of committee hearings before a third reading and public hearing on June 19.

Children address the Skagway Recreation Board about the need for a new and improved skate park. -MD

With community support and testimony from kids, $200,000 budgeted for new skate park

By MOLLY DISCHNER
The borough assembly left the $200,000 skate park appropriation untouched after hearing from SRC director Katherine Nelson and other community members on the importance of the facility.
$200,000 will cover all the costs of the new 4,800 square-foot park, from laying the foundation to installing the events, Nelson said.
The new park will feature recycled plastic events, she said. At the community meeting, Nelson said the events are made of modular pieces, so they can be reconfigured to provide new events later.
Veteran skater Ryan Rapp supported purchasing the events when Nelson mentioned them at a community meeting.
“You’re going to spend more money than building a ramp, but it’s going to last longer,” said Rapp, who said he had used similar events in the past.
In an email, Nelson said she was working with Karl Croft, a representative from Skatewave Modular Skatepark Systems, to produce some possible designs. Croft also worked with Anchorage and helped build the 10,000 square foot skate park there, using the same type of recycled plastic events, she said at the meeting.
Nelson said that Croft’s low-end quote was $67,493, and the high-end was $115,250. That included the cost of the events and shipping them to Skagway. Although the assembly agreed to leave the skate park in the budget, they removed $65,000 for landscaping the SRC field. Nelson was hesitant to lose any of the SRC’s budget, but Mayor Tom Cochran said there was a “give and take” in the budget, and something needed to go to leave the $200,000 in.
Kristin Ray, who attended the community meeting, testified to the assembly that she thought the skate park gave youth in Skagway more to do, and was a good move for the borough. Ray does not skateboard, but attended the meetings with her fiancé Philip Wagner, who does skateboard, and said she might have to learn now that she was helping with the new park.
One of the youths Ray mentioned, Riley Westfall, spoke to the assembly right after her. Westfall, who is going into eighth grade, told the assembly he had taken a survey of people ages five to 70 about whether or not they supported a new skate park, and heard an overwhelming yes.
Both Ray and Westfall said the new park would allow both novice and advanced skaters to use the park more, and provide safer events.
In calling the June 3 community meeting, Nelson responded to the assembly’s request to see community support for the skate park before finalizing it in the budget. About 20 people showed up, half youth, some of whom also attended the assembly meeting.
At the community meeting, Nelson created a seven-member committee to help plan the new skate park, organize skaters to review possible designs, and start fundraising.
The committee and any interested community members will meet June 23 to go over the design options and talk about fundraising ideas, Nelson said in an e-mail to those who attended the first community meeting.
Fundraisers being planned include a wine tasting (scheduled for May 2009), burger feed, applying for a Tony Hawk grant, letters to local businesses, and skateboarding lessons.
Nelson said the money will be used to offset the cost of the park. She said her goal is not to use the entire $200,000 approved by the assembly.
The new skate park comes after years of nickel and diming the old park, Nelson said.
Nelson said the current park has been on every SRC board meeting agenda for the last five years, and is the result of volunteers putting it together and repairing it piece by piece over the last 10 years.
The board considered moving the events to the ice rink and building a cover over them, but decided against it due to cost, and because the ice rink is already used year-round, she said. She added that not all of the events would have survived the move.
At the community meeting, boarders said the current park would not work for a growing skateboarding community. Rapp said the asphalt foundation was too rough to move quickly on, and the events were too cramped. Westfall said the space was too small for advanced and beginning skaters to skate together comfortably.

'Pleasant' selection of clinic bids results in Dawson at $5.987 million

By JEFF BRADY
The new Edward and Jenny Rasmuson Community Health Center can be built for about $2 million less than engineers estimated, according to an array of bids that came in last week.
The Skagway Borough Assembly settled with Dawson Construction, the low base bidder at $5.93 million.
Three of the five bids were in the $5.9 to $6 million range, while the highest was $7.48 million. The latest engineer’s estimate for the project was $7.84 million.
“Most were all very pleasant bids for us...” said Mayor Tom Cochran. “This is very good news for the community and tax payers.”
After checking work references and doing “due diligence” for all companies, Borough Manager Alan Sorum said Ketchikan-based Dawson and Sitka-based McGraw Custom Construction ($5.935 million) “were worth looking at.”
Two local companies were not considered. Doland Construction was in the ballpark with a bid of $5.995 million, but Hamilton Construction was the highest at $7.84 million. Wolverine Construction of Anchorage’s base bid was $6.2 million.
Sorum said references were good for either of the two low bidders, but said “Dawson’s recommendations were ecstatic.”
Dawson, based in Bellingham, Wash. and Ketchikan, has built several schools in the Northwest. It completed the Skagway School in the mid-1980s, and most recently the new Haines High School. It also constructed the new SEARHC clinic in Juneau.
John Poljacik, a former Skagway resident who worked on the local school project and now heads the firm’s Kenai office, will be the project manager, said Dahl Memorial Clinic Board President John Warder.
“This is a great project that fits our team very well,” said Dawson supervisor Michael McCallum, who attended the meeting.
Sorum recommended Dawson’s base bid with two additives: $25,000 for a heated entry sidewalk, and $32,000 for a heated sidewalk leading to the building. Another $50,000 for an additional five parking spots was rejected, leaving a total of $5.987 million.
Local construction manger Joe Coveno earlier urged the assembly to fund all three additives, so there would be easy access to the facility in the winter. His wife is pregnant with their first child, he said, and that given the current baby boom in Skagway, there is a need for adequate health care.
He said the facility would “make it an easy choice to settle down and stay in Skagway.... It would be nice to do (the project) once, and do it right.”
The new health center will utilize most of six lots on 14th, between Broadway and State.
Warder said there had been issues with Planning and Zoning on the additional parking which would be close to the stream on the property, but he said the current plan has 12 parking spaces, two of which will be for the handicapped. He said the board had decided the additional parking could be put in later if the need was there.
“We’ve never had that many parking spaces filled (at the current facility),” he said.
Assemblymember Colette Hisman said the area could be used for employee parking. She ended up being the lone vote against awarding the contract.
Assemblymember Dave Hunz, who also owns a construction firm, said that the cottonwoods in the area should be taken out, regardless. He said the borough was getting a good price on the whole project.
In other bids before the assembly:
• a janitorial contract for the rec. center and fire hall was awarded to loan bidder Simon Claydon for $493 a week.
• a $50,900 Emergency Medical Records system bid was rejected, after the state agreed to fund EMRs at the urging of the Alaska Primary Care Association.

Disabled cruise ship misses call

Cruise West's Spirit of Alaska, scheduled to stop in Skagway Monday, touched bottom in the Tracy Arm on June 4.
The ship's 41 passengers were transferred to the Spirit of Endeavor in Juneau, which traveled to Skagway late last week, said company spokeswoman Jerrol Golden.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Levi Read did not know the cause of the ship's accident, although he said the accident was serious enough that the ship was not allowed to continue on.
"That's under investigation," he said.
The ship was towed to Juneau after a preliminary inspection on site, and is currently in Juneau undergoing a coast guard investigation, said Read. No injuries were reported, he said.
Golden said the ship was having repairs done in Juneau and should be running again next week. – MD

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

EASY DOES IT – A WP&YR passenger car that derailed downtown on May 30 is set back on the rails by a front end loader. Trains were held up about two hours due to this mishap. Earlier that week, an axle on an engine broke up the line, which caused a half day of delays. Since this incident, the trains have been on schedule. Jeff Brady

• FRAN DELISLE CANCER WALK - Raising awareness, money

• SPORTS & REC.: Little League photos, Field Notes, YRQ and KCIBR previews

• GRADUATION: Presenting the Class of 2008

• OBITUARIES: Mary Jane Hanousek, Dr. William Godbey, Frances 'Lady Elmo' Godbey

HEARD ON THE WIND: New ships and new, shiny wind... (June 13, 2008)

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