SACKS FULL OF SMILES

There was no fear on the faces of these girls during one of the Fourth of July sack races on Broadway. See more color and additional photos on our Fourth of July 2004 page. Jeff Brady

Police shooting incident

Death of dog concerns some citizens

By GREY HUDDLESTON
Some Skagway residents are asking whether the June 25 shooting of an agressive dog by a local police officer was necessary, while police claim the shooting was both legal and justifiable.
The victim of the shooting was Maggie, a black and white Stratfordshire bull terrier owned by TEMSCO dock worker Dan Fangmeier.
A police report states that officer Hoyt Stepp was patrolling near the ball field at 3 a.m. when he saw the dog running loose. When Stepp followed the dog into the ball field in an attempt to impound it, he noticed Fangmeier sleeping along the field’s east fence near the dugout.
As Stepp attempted to wake Fangmeier, the dog attacked him twice, prompting him to pull his sidearm and deliver two fatal shots, according to the report
“When I woke up, my dog had been shot twice and was bleeding to death,” said Fangmeier.
The incident prompted a police investigation, and has raised the hackles of some community members who aren’t sure that Stepp’s actions were justified.
The police report states the dog has been aggressive towards other animals in the past, but Fangmeier said he didn’t know where the police got that information.
He said that while his dog has barked and growled at other dogs, it has never resulted in injury. “She has never been aggressive toward a human, even in situations when I’ve been threatened, and she’s never injured another dog, period,” Fangmeier said. “I find it hard to believe that she was aggressive to the point where gunshots were necessary.”
Some think Stepp should have employed a less-lethal option. “It is unsettling to know that a trained animal control officer with other methods of restraint available shot a dog twice and let it bleed to death. This is an unfortunate incident, and it is my hope that other methods will be used before an officer draws his gun,” said Paws and Claws president Katherine Mosely in a written statement to the News.
But Dennis Spurrier, chief of police when the incident occurred, said using a gun may have been Stepp’s only alternative.
“The officers do carry less lethal tools, but those tools are not guaranteed to neutralize a threat. The tasers have not been designed for use on animals, and some dogs don’t react to pepper spray,” Spurrier said.
Spurrier’s investigation into the incident found that Stepp had not violated any departmental policies or state statutes concerning the use of a firearm. “This incident was not even remotely in violation of any of these laws,” he said.
Spurrier said Stepp’s actions were justified, and that it was frustrating to hear community members second-guess the actions of an officer.
“There was only one person that knows what happened in the ball field that night, and I support his decision 110 percent. Given the circumstances, I would have done the same thing myself,” Spurrier said.
Though Fangmeier was in violation of city leash laws, he was not charged. Both Spurrier and Mosely said the incident could have been avoided had the dog been properly secured. “This is a sad reminder to keep your dog under control at all times,” Mosely said.
Fangmeier said he has received an outpouring of kindness from local citizens following the shooting. “I’m extremely thankful for all the people in the community that offered their kind words of support,” he said.

City wants public comment on increasing helicopter traffic
The city has recommended to the U.S. Forest Service a broad period for public comment on the issue of increased helicopter landings on local Forest Service land.
City Council discussed the issue at its July 1 meeting following a request from the USFS for input. The Forest Service currently limits the maximum number of landings that can be authorized in a given year at 4,460, and the number of proposals for new landings is rapidly approaching this number. The land affected is largely on the east side of the valley, and includes Laughton and Denver Glaciers.
Most council members were opposed to increasing the amount of helicopter landings permitted, citing noise and environmental concerns. “We went through an entire EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) for this, and I think I’m comfortable with where we’re at,” said Mayor Tim Bourcy.
“It’s unbelievable how noisy this place is during the summertime,” said council member Jay Frey.
But council member Dave Hunz expressed concern about stifling expansion of local tourism. “As our tourism industry grows, we need to grow and expand. If we shut the doors every time someone wants to expand, we’ll see lower numbers off the cruise ships,” he said.
In the end, council members decided that public comment should be solicited if the Forest Service were to increase the number of permitted landings, and instructed City Manager Bob Ward to relay that decision to the Forest Service.
“I don’t think we need to limit growth, but there’s a lot of air traffic around here,” said council member Monica Carlson.
The Planning and Zoning Commission also is dealing with a helicopter expansion issue. On Thursday, after this issue went to press, the commission considered revised requests for conditional use permits from Alaska Mountain Guides for commercial heli-hike operations on Mt. Cleveland and Mt. Carmack northeast of the city, as well as Harding Glacier across the bay from Skagway. – GREY HUDDLESTON

NEW/OLD COUNCIL TABLE

The Skagway City Council on July 1 sat for the first time behind its new council table constructed by local carpenter Don Corwin. It was modeled after the old judge’s bench, which is now an information table outside the magistrate’s office upstairs in the McCabe Building. The city would like to restore the benches as well, and has set up a donation can in the meeting room for that project. “We’re well on our way to having the finest council chambers in Alaska,” said City Manager Bob Ward. JB

Last police chief interview Friday

The police chief hiring committee interviewed finalist Ray Leggett of Texas on July 1 during his four-hour visit to the city. The committee will interview the other finalist, Bill McLendon of Kansas, on July 9.
“We should make a decision shortly thereafter,” Ward said. Chief Spurrier will continues on in a part-time capacity under contract until the new chief arrives.”

UPDATE: The committee recommended the hiring of Leggett. More details in July 23 edition.

Seawall cost rising, fed help sought
The city now has 95 percent drawings from architect Tryck, Nyman and Hayes for the seawall project, but its projected cost has risen from $2.5 million to $3.2 million, Mayor Tim Bourcy announced at the meeting. With contingency and project supervision, it could weigh in at about $3.5 million, a million over what the city budgeted for with FY05 sales tax funds.
City Manager Bob Ward said the higher cost is due mainly to the rising cost of steel, which will be used for the sheet pile. Members discussed ways of saving money on the project, such as acquiring fill by combining the project with dredging for the boat harbor expansion project, and hiring a separate project manager outside the engineering firm.
Bourcy has a request in to the federal government to assist Skagway with the project, and he will be soliciting letters of support from local businesses and organizations.
The drawings can be inspected at City Hall.

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

Representing Alaska
Kassie Moe, 13, of Skagway (left) received an all-expense-paid trip to San Diego in May after writing the winning essay from Alaska on endangered animals that was featured on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. Her picture and essay on the Spectacled Eider can be found on the TV show’s website, www.wildkingdom.com. Just click on the Kids Summit link.
Kassie, who is home-schooled, said her dad, Mike, saw an item about the contest on TV at his mom’s house and told her about it. She wrote and edited the essay in a day and sent it off. The essay described the Northwest Alaska bird and how to save it.
As Alaska’s representative to the Kids Summit, Kassie and her dad visited the San Diego Zoo, Wild Animal Park, Sea World and the Hard Rock Cafe, where she had her picture taken with popular Animal Planet hosts Matt Galott and Mario Lopez (above) and Jim Fowler and Peter Gros of Wild Kingdom.

OTHER STORIES THIS ISSUE...

• PHOTO PAGE: Skagway Fourth of July 2004: "Land of the Free, Home of the Brave"

SPORTS FEATURE: "Skagway Siblings" finish Yukon River Quest in under 3 days

• HEARD ON THE WIND: 'Baked Alaska' and more!

• SPORTS ROUNDUP: Softball, Little League and Runaround results

•ARTS & EVENTS: Kris Ide pens "Skagway Stories"

• OBITUARY: Gerald L. Pennington

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