Pattycake bakers play during “Gingerbread Christmas” at the Skagway School’s annual Christmas Program on Dec. 9. The short play boasted a huge cast of K-4 students and elaborate costumes. Link to our Christmas Concer photo spread. Photo by Dimitra Lavrakas

Council bails out medical clinic – reluctantly

Weather conditions prevent clinic from getting advice

Chief of Staff Kendell Simm met with the Skagway City Council in a special meeting Nov. 25 about the clinic’s request for money to pay its outstanding bills.
The clinic has $197,000 in receivables, but the money has been slow in coming because insurance companies and Medicaid have not paid promptly. Clients have also been paying their bills late.
Fourteen percent of patients do not have health insurance, Simm said, and 20 percent have Blue Cross.
“I think we need more accountability looking at this, I don’t feel comfortable,” said Mayor Tim Bourcy. “I do want to keep the doors of the clinic open, but I don’t feel confident throwing money into a hole.”
Simm outlined a plan for collecting debts and saving some money in operations, but had to remind the Council that it will take time.
The Council did approve the emergency request from the clinic for $55,516, which was the minimum needed to keep the clinic’s doors open until February.
In the meantime, Simm will be meeting with representatives from Bartlett Regional Hospital and the state Division of Health and Human Services to look at the clinic’s systems and see where improvements can be made.
Simm wants to upgrade the pharmacy computer system so it can dial in for pre-authorization from a patients’ health insurance companies, that would make sure those prescriptions are covered.
Also, patients will be asked to bring in their insurance cards so they can be Xeroxed and put on file. Simm also wants people to inform the clinic if they have co-payment and to bring in Medicaid stickers.
There is also the possibility of either Bartlett or Southeast Alaska Rural Health Care taking over the management of the clinic.
Simm said a grant has been applied for to do a telemedicine project with Bartlett that may also pay for another provider.
But the fog has prevented any of the advisors from coming to Skagway. Simm said they are all on hold until the weather clears, and are still willing to offer their assistance.
The Skagway Medical Board election results were tabulated at the corporation board meeting Thursday night after this issue went to press. –DL

City, federal, state, Native agencies confer on Dyea flood control

Cooperative approach may be most affordable

A recent meeting between the National Park Service, the city of Skagway, the Skaqua Tribal Council, the state and private landowners pointed toward a cooperative flood control effort in Dyea.
July’s flooding of West Creek and the Taiya River in Dyea was caused by the collapse of a lateral moraine bordering a glacial lake below the West Creek Glacier. It caused the creek to flood homes in Dyea, and wear down banks of the Taiya, flooding the campground and threatening the original Dyea townsite.
While there are no future plans for action, said Bruce Noble, superintendent of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, the park is beginning to look at the use of engineered log jams.
They “look like Mother Nature put them there,” said Noble of the connected logs that would direct the Taiya River’s flow.
But all that would cost a lot of money – almost $4.5 million, Noble said.
“That’s a lot more than we could pay for, “ he said. “We’re going to keep working to cut the price down.”
In the meantime, the state Division of Emergency Services has been dealing with recent flooding on the Kenai Peninsula, and has not had time to make a decision regarding Skagway’s request of $190,000, a spokesperson said last week.
The city’s request was submitted late last month after all the bills from the July 23 West Creek Flood were gathered and tallied. – DL

Tina Cyr honored with Helen B. Clark
Award for Skagway Community Service

A smiling Tina Cyr poses at the Yultide Ball after receiving her award. -DL

Tina Cyr was named the recipient of the 2002 Helen B. Clard Award for Skagway Community Service at the annual Yuletide Ball.
Cyr was recognized for her service to the Skagway Chamber of Commerce and the Skagway Convention and Visitors Bureau board over the past decade, and for being the backbone behind the success of both Yuletide and Fourth of July festivities.
“Selling raffle tickets, organizing people and events, recruiting others to get involved – all are just a part of the time and energy she has put toward these events,” said her nominating statement. “She gets involved!
“But perhaps what we have most to thank her for is all the tireless hours she has spent making sure Skagway receives the national and international attention it deserves.”
Cyr had been nominated twice for the award, said Skagway News publisher Jeff Brady, who sponsors the award. She was selected by a committee of past winners who reviewed new and past nominees.
Given a special recognition certificate this year was nominee Lynn Herbig, who was recognized for spearheading the annual Easter Egg Hunt for the Skagway Childcare Council, and for chairing the local Breast Cancer Awareness Fund, which has has paid out almost $30,000 for cancer screenings and follow-up tests for local men and women, and has given another $20,000 in donations to cancer victims.

Services Sat. for ‘Grandma’ McMillen
Skagway’s oldest resident, beloved retired teacher Elma McMillen, died about 2 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10, in Whitehorse, Yukon, where she had been hospitalized for a week.
Mrs. McMillen, known to everyone as “Grandma,” was 93. Funeral services in Skagway will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14 at the Elma McMillen Room in Skagway School.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Elma McMillen Scholarship Fund at Wells Fargo Bank Alaska.
An obituary will appear in the Dec. 24 edition.

Lynne Ruff dies in Arizona
Retired Skagway elementary teacher Lynne Ruff died on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2002 in Arizona after a brief illness.
A private ceremony was held on Dec. 11 outside the family’s winter home in Apache Junction. A memorial service is being planned for Skagway in May. An obituary will appear in the Dec. 24 edition.

Tagish meteorite still a wonder to scientists

Chilkat Valley News
The Tagish Lake meteorite that wowed residents when it fell from the sky nearly three years ago is continuing to yield secrets of the solar system.
The space rock, collected from the frozen surface of Tagish Lake in the Yukon Territory in January 2000, is thought to have originated in the asteroid belt surrounding the planet Jupiter. With an estimated age of 4.6 billion years, it’s believed to contain some of the oldest material ever to fall from the sky, according to Brown University space scientist Dr. Takahiro Hiroi.
“We don’t know how much accuracy we have, but 4.6 billion years is a pretty good guess. There are some grains of material in there that are very primordial, older than the sun,” Hiroi said.
Hiroi called the meteorite the “Rosetta Stone” of space objects. The stone was found in 1799 near Rosetta, Egypt , bearing inscriptions in Greek, hieroglyphics and demotic (everyday language) characters that enabled the deciphering of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.
It’s especially valuable because it was carefully collected a week after it fell, never touched by human hands, and kept frozen by the man who found it while driving on the lake.
“It’s kind of hard to express, but it’s the first of its kind,” Hiroi said. “There may have been similar meteorites that have fallen, but we’ve never had one as pristine or as large as this one.”
Hiroi said the meteorite’s relatively soft landing and quick recovery makes it much more valuable than the space rocks found in Antarctica, the world’s most fertile meteorite ground.
“We get lots of meteorites in Antarctica, but this is far more precious because we knew so much more about it from the beginning,” he said.
Scientists use spectrophotometry, which analyzes reflected light to determine the composition of the space objects, to place the meteorite’s origin.
In a September 2001 article in Science Magazine, Hiroi wrote that the meteorite most resembled the asteroids located in the outer solar system. Tracking by two U.S. military satellites of the fireball helped confirm the 200-ton object’s size and space trajectory before it hit the atmosphere.
It contains about 100 parts-per-million of organic materials. The chemical makeup of the meteorite matches fewer than one-tenth of one percent of the meteorites recovered to date.
Johnson Space Center researcher Michael Zolensky said the meteorite contains material, including evidence of water, found on Jupiter’s moon, Europa.
A recent find of tiny bubbles in the rock suggests origins near water, Zolensky said.
“We recently found hollow hydrocarbon globules, little balloons a few microns in diameter, that make perfect little cells in which organic compounds could travel protected through space,” Zolensky said.
The bubbles in the Tagish Lake samples are empty, he said. A description of the recent find is being published in the next edition of International Journal Astrobiology, he said.
The rocks will likely drive research for decades to come, he said.
“They’re still studying rocks that fell in Mexico and Australia 30 years ago,” Zolensky said.
The Tagish Lake meteorite streaked through the sky at low altitude abut 7:45 a.m. Jan. 18, 200. It was plainly seen by Haines, Skagway and Yukon residents for about 10 seconds. It left a contrail that lasted 30-45 minutes over southern Yukon, and was followed by a sonic boom that touched off seismographs in Haines Junction, Whitehorse and Dease Lake.
Teams of researchers hustled to find more space rocks after the initial discovery. They found approximately 500 fragments on the lake’s ice. Thousands more are believed to have fallen on the ice and surrounding hills, but none have been found on land.


• WHAT THE HECK: Dummies are everywhere!

• YULETIDE 2002 - Cool Yule photos.

• SPORTS: Volleyball and wrestling teams at Regionals

• OBITUARY - John Wayne Carlson

• CONCERT - Annual Christmas Program at Skagway School

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