STILL SMILING

Road racing newcomer Crystal Ketterman grinned throughout Leg 1 of the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay, perhaps because she was enjoying her first experience on a road bike or maybe because she shared the road with a toga-wearing cyclist. See coverage of the annual bike race in Features below.

Photo by Teeka Ballas

Cochran holds on to defeat Bourcy

Mayor Ok exiting with new borough delivered

By JEFF BRADY
Alaska’s first first class city will soon become the state’s inaugural first class borough, and will be led by a new mayor.
City Councilman Tom Cochran narrowly defeated three-term incumbent Mayor Tim Bourcy in Skagway’s first election as a borough.
The borough formation was foremost on the current mayor’s mind shortly after seeing the final numbers that were phoned into City Hall from the Division of Elections on June 15.
Bourcy was smiling when the News reporter walked in.
“We got our borough and it was a resounding YES.” Bourcy said.
The final tally rang up a 444-23 vote for dissolving the City of Skagway and forming the Municipality of Skagway Borough.
In a tight mayor’s race, Cochran had a 10-vote lead after the initial counting of mailed-in ballots on June 5, and widened that lead to 244-217 after the final batch of 179 absentee ballots was counted in Juneau last Friday. The election will be certified on Monday, June 25.
“I’m pretty happy with it,” said Cochran. “It was pretty close. I figured it was going to be close, I just didn’t know how close.”
Bourcy said he wished Cochran “the best of luck” and that he hopes the new mayor will continue holding office hours.
Cochran said he will switch to a four- days- a week work schedule, so he can have one day a week in the office, or a few days with a few hours a week. “I’m definitely going to spend some time over there,” he said.
Bourcy said the borough was at the top of his list of accomplishments, along with land entitlements, protecting the investment fund and recreation center improvements.
“Overall, I had a pretty good council around me,” he said. “We could not have accomplished what we accomplished without the council working together.”
He said the loss probably had to do with his “taking positions that aren’t necessarily popular, but then having to do them for the community.”
Bourcy took some heat for standing up against the mid-year pay raises – his veto was over-ridden by the city council. He also was steadfastly against the Juneau Road, an issue which divided the community.
Still, Bourcy was respected around the state, leading his peers to vote him president of the Alaska Municipal League. “I think I’m done,” he said, since the position must be held by an elected official. He recently testified in the Legislature for restoring revenue sharing to communities and before a Local Boundary Commission panel on the future of borough formation. He noted that the panel came to the same conclusion the LBC made with Skagway: Boroughs weren’t designed only for multiple communities.
The mayor, whose last meeting was Thursday night, said he was anxious to get his life back after six years as mayor and two years on the council. When asked if he would remain active, he replied, “Probably with my paddle.”
Cochran said he will be meeting with Bourcy soon to begin the transition. He will take office on July 2.
“I’ll get with Tim and go over a lot of what he has done...,” Cochran said, “and continue on with his efforts because he’s done a pretty darn good job, really.”
First up will be the transition to borough status, Cochran said.
Cochran said he will be active in port issues, pursuing some of the contacts he had at a Yukon Transport North conference. “The challenge for us is managing the tourism in addition to the cargo,” he said.
He also wants the new assembly to look at implementing a permanent exemption of groceries from sales tax, and possibly putting a sales tax increase before the voters again.
The incumbents in the assembly race held on to their seats, but leading the voting for the new six-member assembly were former city councilmember Colette Hisman with 362 votes and political newcomer Mark Schaefer with 314. They were followed by incumbents David Hunz 301, L.C. Cassidy 299, Mike Korsmo 291 and Dan Henry 241, who barely kept his seat.
Former member and finance chair Ed Fairbanks was just three votes behind with 238, followed by Dennis Corrington 210 and Mavis Irene Henricksen 189.
The uncontested school board races were won by Joanne Korsmo 380, Darren Belisle 377, Christine Ellis 375, Chris Maggio 345 and Robert Murphy 342.
Cochran added that he’d “just like to thank everyone who voted for me. I appreciate all the support and I hope I can make them glad that they did.”
When his wife Tammy was asked if her husband was still okay to live with after his victory, she replied, “Of course, he knows I’m still the boss.”

UNOFFICIAL RESULTS from final count at Div. of Elections on June 15; election will be certified June 25

Flying finale
Skagway Air Service will shut down June 30

By JEFF BRADY

Another local institution is about to go away, but on its own terms. Skagway Air Service has announced that it will close at the end of the month after 43 years in business.
Company vice president Mike O’Daniel said it was an “emotional decision” but one that he and owner Ben Lingle had to make after having difficulty this spring attracting a qualified person to replace long-time mechanic Ed Ibbotson.
Ibbotson has been drawn away to deal with a family health matter, and O’Daniel said he and others have filled in to keep the planes flying. But finding a permanent replacement has been frustrating – even offering full benefits and housing has not been enough to hold someone. He said airlines across the state are having problems attracting skilled people.
Add increased flightseeing competition in Skagway this summer, skyrocketing fuel and insurance rates and the loss of medevac service, and the decision was not hard for the local airline to make.
“We’ve done everything we ever wanted to do,” O’Daniel said. “Most of my friends in this business have been shut down either through bankruptcy or by the FAA,” he said. “At least we are going out on our own terms. Benny said never quit when you’re at the bottom.”
Spending more time with family is also a priority.
“You get to the point where you work longer and longer hours, and you want to enjoy life,” O’Daniel said.

Lingle, 80, started the airline in the summer of 1964 with Eric Selmer and Gil Meroney, but ended up being the sole owner. Lingle retired from flying several years ago but still keeps office hours in the summer. O’Daniel, 60, joined his step-dad’s crew in 1977 and started flying commercially in 1979. O’Daniel became vice president after the company incorporated.
O’Daniel said they mulled over the decision for about a week before finally making the call to shut down at the end of the month. His first priority was taking care of the four year-round employees on the payroll, helping them find permanent jobs. The summer staff have also been able to find work, he said. Now they are all dealing with the many faithful customers, a number of whom were shocked by the announcement after word spread through town last Friday.
O’Daniel has talked to a lot of friends over the past few days.
“Everybody starts with saying how sad it is, but it is not a bad sad,” O’Daniel said. “Sad would be someone coming in and telling you that you can’t operate any more. Then after talking to them for 10 minutes, they say ‘you have earned it.’”
O’Daniel thanked Scott Logan and Dennis Bousson of Skagway and Tim Malone of Haines for helping the company get through a transition period. He’s also called on the other carriers serving Skagway, notably as Juneau-based Wings of Alaska and L.A.B, to pick up some of their Skagway business.
He said it will be nice to go out of business “with a little class.” No parties or farewells are planned at present. He’s just looking forward to getting several days off in the summer for the first time in 30 years, working on his Nares Lake cabin, fixing a fence, painting a house. “I’d like to go see what Eagle, Alaska looks like.”
The Skagway Air offices on Broadway will be taken over by the family-owned Skagway Hardware, and the 10 planes will eventually be sold off, he said.
O’Daniel said he will miss “helping people with their problems,” such as flying an alternator up from Juneau and hand-delivering it to John Garland this week.
“We inherited that from Benny,” he said. “He made us appreciative of those little things.”

Benny Lingle and Mike O’Daniel stand next to “698,” the oldest plane in their fleet, with 17,622 hours through June 19. It has some great stories to tell. It arrived new on Dec. 31, 1973 and went into service the next day, carrying the Juneau band “Country Knights” back home after playing the New Year’s Eve dance at the Elks. The band chipped in to buy a 400-pound pig during a service auction, and wanted to fly it to Juneau with them. “Not in my new airplane,” Lingle told them. But seeing how they were now in a jam, Lingle bought the pig from the band. He then took it over to Jack Brown’s garage, but got a call later that the pig had eaten everything inside the garage. They finally butchered and cooked it in Wes Nelson’s smoker, which had been used that summer for salmon. Those who ate that particular pig recall it had a funny taste. It either tasted like fish, or something worse, as the swine had resided at the old city dump. – JB

Kariel Young transferred to Seattle after accidental shooting

WASILLA - Nine-year old Kariel Young, who was accidentally shot and paralyzed from the waist down June 6, was transferred the morning of June 13 from Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage to the trauma unit at Children’s Hospital in Seattle, Wash., because her condition was not improving.
Kariel had a spinal tap and CT scan June 12 and it is believed she may have meningitis, according to a press release from Tara Mallory, spokesperson for the Nelson/Eliason family.
Young comes from a long-time Alaskan family. Shannon Eliason-Nelson from Sitka is her mother. Eva and Richard Eliason of Sitka are her grandparents. Brett Young of Sitka is her father. Jay Nelson from Skagway is her stepfather.
“This is the scariest moment of their lives. They will need as much support both financially and emotionally as we are able to give,” Mallory wrote. Shannon is traveling with Kariel to Seattle, and because of financial reasons, Jay is returning to work.
When Shannon learned Amber Mathews of the Fish Co., Cindy Godbey (Dawson Dolly) of the Klondike Gold Dredge and others wore buttons that say, “I’m working for Kariel today,” and donated the day’s tips to the Kariel Fund at Wells Fargo, Shannon’s voice cracked and she cried.
“Only here in Alaska, do I ever say thank you,” she said. Several donations will be raffled off soon thanks to Bert Bounds, Westmark and the White Pass & Yukon Route.
“This family is a strong, close, proud, hard working Alaskan family that needs our communities to come together for them,” Mallory wrote.
For direct donations, Wells Fargo account number 8912205021 is open for Kariel. Businesses that would like to make a tax-deductible donation can send checks to Eagles Auxiliary in Skagway with “Kariel Young Fund” listed in the memo area of the check.
“The Eliason/Nelson Family wants to thank you for your support during this very scary and sensitive time,” Mallory wrote. The Eliason/Nelson family will provide updates periodically.

Power rates going up due to lower growth demand

Alaska Power & Telephone is seeking a penny rate increase for its Goat Lake Hydro unit to become effective on July 2.
The rate increase request was filed with the Regulatory Commission of Alaska earlier this month, asking for a change in the power sales agreement GLH has with Alaska Power Co. from $0.07666/kWh to $0.08666/kWh. Both are subsidiaries of AP&T.
AP&T Upper Lynn Canal manager Stan Selmer said the rate increase is being sought because the power growth in Haines and Skagway has not kept up with estimates over the past few years.
“When the project came online in 1997 we had normal recovery costs, however it was determined shortly after that the earlier costs to repay the bond debt were going to be too onerous on the rate payers, so we filed for rate stabilization which kept earlier costs hopefully the same as the later costs,” Selmer said. “But this was based upon estimated power growth for Haines and Skagway. That power growth has not kept up with estimates.”
The .07666 cents rate has been charged the past seven years, and the new .086666 cents rate is for the next seven years.
“We anticipate rates after 2014 will reverse the other way, so that by 2015 rates will be lower than .07666 cents and by 2030 Goat Lake will be less than 5 cents,” he added.
Selmer said the spreadsheets for power use in Haines and Skagway going back to 2000 don’t reflect the numbers AP&T anticipated. Although the anticipated opening of the ore terminal and new housing developments in Haines and Skagway give them hope, the company “can’t afford to wait.”
He added that “there is some joy in Mudville.” If the company were still generating with diesel in Haines and Skagway, the cost would be 21.7 cents per kilowatt hour. There was a 30-day period in the spring when they had to switch over to diesel due to the heavy snowpack not melting fast enough.
“Next year this time, if construction (on the new Kasidaya hydro project) goes as well as we hope, we should not have to run diesel again,” he said. – JB

Track washout on WP&YR short-lived

A section of WP&YR track washed out along Bennett Lake on June 7, disrupting the new Carcross service for a few days. The washout at Mile 41.7 was caused by heavy run-off from the mountainside, said WP&YR President Gary Danielson, and was filled in by track crews.
Service resumed along that section of track on June 11. Passengers booked for the Carcross service still were able to see historic Bennett, he said. The railroad’s northbound passengers went into Bennett and then were bused from Fraser to Carcross, while the southbound passengers saw Carcross and then rode the train in from Log Cabin, before continuing on to Skagway.
The track was fixed in time for two special groups.
Trains Unlimited, an exclusive group of 130 rail fans, rode several different trains during their visit June 13-17, and a PBS film crew for Great Railway Journeys of the World shot new footage of the railway. It will air in the fall or early next year, Danielson said.
After a slow start in early May due to confusion over the new tour selling disclosure laws, Danielson said numbers have come back strong.
– JB

CITY: No third reading of budget

Prior to tackling the second reading of the budget at the regular Skagway City Council meeting June 7, the floor was opened to the public. Collette Hisman asked that if the school music program is scheduled to receive city funding outside of the budget that there be a third reading of the budget. Sorum said that if the program is funded, $70,000 should come from the timber receipts fund. This request will be made at the June 21 meeting, after this issue went to press.
The Council took up the issue of a third reading; Councilmember Hunz moved to extend consideration of the budget to a third reading. Councilmember Dan Henry said he did not think another reading was necessary.
“This budget is in excellent shape,” he said, adding there has been “a refreshing amount of participation at all the different committee meetings.”
Korsmo pointed out there are several budgeted items that require expediency and the June 21 meeting could be too late, and Sorum said adopting the budget would allow City Hall to move forward with other issues, such as a new administrative position and implementing the 330 grant stipulations.
Hunz said the most recent version of the budget was not made available to the public until a few days prior to the meeting.
The council considered holding a special meeting for the third reading, but Bourcy said he would rather not hold a special meeting at the cost of the community. He said he was pleased that department employees received a pay increase while the mill rates decreased. Service Area I will be set at 8 mills, Service Area II at 6.60 mills, Service Area III at 5.28 mills, Service area IV at 3.44 mills and Service Area V at 1.44 mills.
Hunz’s motion for a third reading failed.
One expense was added to the city budget during this final reading. The Council increased City Hall’s undesignated expenses account by $8,500 to cover the evening reception the city will host during the Southeast Conference. The Council then unanimously adopted the FY08 budget. – CD

Sen. Murkowski heads to Skagway to meet constituents, hike Chilkoot Trail

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski will be visiting Skagway next weekend to hear from constituents and enjoy the area with her family.
Murkowski will be at City Hall Saturday, June 30 to hear concerns and answer questions. She will meet with the new Skagway Borough Assembly at 11:30 a.m. and then be available to take questions from the public from 12:15 to 1 p.m.
Following the meeting, Murkowski and her family will depart from Skagway to hike the Chilkoot Trail. – CD

CVB to e-mail exchange rates

In response to recent publicity on CBC about Skagway merchants and exchange rates, the Skagway Convention and Visitors Bureau will be sending mass emails with the buy and sell rates at Wells Fargo Bank each Monday morning.
Though the CVB cannot stipulate what merchants charge for exchanging Canadian money for U.S. money, Director of Tourism Buckwheat Donahue wrote in the first such email June 18 that the weekly updates are meant to avoid confusion.
“Yukoners are our friends and neighbors and usurious rates of exchange hurt this relationship,” he wrote.
Monday, June 18, one U.S. dollar bought $1.03 Canadian dollars and one Canadian dollar bought $.89 U.S. dollars at Wells Fargo Bank.– CD

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

BUDDY SYSTEM – Petra Catsi and Alexandra Weber lead a group of walkers during the annual Fran Delisle Cancer Awareness Walk-a-thon on June 9. See more photos in Features. Photo by Chelsea Bennett

• PLANTS, BASKETS & WALKING: Beautiful day for annual Native Plants tour and Fran Delisle Cancer Awareness Walk

• KCIBR RACE FEATURES: Pedal to the Medal - bike relay racers ride from the Yukon to Haines for fun; Cycling on the job

• FISH THIS!: The inescapable evolution engine, featuring Larry Csonka

HEARD ON THE WIND: People are really worried about how they look, even in Skagway

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