SANTA TO THE RESCUE

The Skagway Fire Dept. outdid itself this year, delivering Santa to the yuletide tree lighting on a fully decorated engine, complete with reindeer doing the Wave. See more Yule shots from the 2004 Yuletide Celebration . Jeff Brady

Skagway overwhelmingly supports ‘manager plan’

A whopping 77 percent of Skagway voters said “No” to a special Dec. 14 ballot proposition that asked, “Shall the manager plan be repealed?”
When all votes were counted, 238 were against the measure and 72 supported it. A total of 260 voted in person on the day of the special election, and another 47 absentee and three questioned ballots were counted at a canvass meeting a couple days later. Only a couple of improperly signed absentee ballots and a questioned ballot from a voter who did not register in time were not counted.
City Council certified the results at its regular meeting on Dec. 16.
“I’d like to thank the city manager for showing an incredible amount of restraint and dignity in what I believe was a personal matter,” commented Council member Dan Henry.
City Manager Bob Ward noted that he did not get the 79 percent former manager Skip Elliott garnered in a similar vote in the 1980s. He submitted a commentary for this issue (see page 2) to further state his feelings on the outcome.
Ward has been manager for eight years without a contract and can be fired by the Council at any time.
Council member Mike Korsmo said it was time to dust off the city manager’s evaluation form, and Mayor Tim Bourcy suggested an annual review and Council vote in January “in response to the people who got the special election on the ballot.”
Bert Bounds, the chief sponsor of the ballot proposition, was working on Prince of Wales island and could not be reached for comment before this issue’s early deadline. Bounds’ main argument for repeal of the manager plan was that switching to a strong mayor form of government was more democratic.
However, opponents, including several former mayors, said the city had made great progress under the current form of government. – JB

OFF RAMP - This would have been the view of a ferry passenger trying to walk to the dock last Friday before the walkway was reattached.

Ferry walkway falls to rocks in storm
Fairweather damaged on way back to Juneau

By JEFF BRADY
Strong winds, even by Skagway standards, tossed up waves that caused damage to not only the fast ferry Fairweather, but to the Skagway ferry terminal’s passenger ramp last week.
The covered ramp used by passengers to walk down to the ferry dock was separated from the terminal walkway some time between 4 p.m. Thursday Dec. 16 and 7 a.m. Frida, Dec. 17, when it was discovered by the city garbage collector, said Skagway terminal manager Gary Hanson.
The north end of the ramp was on the rocks, while the south end had dug into the concrete dock. Hanson’s best “guess” was that a wind-driven wave surge during high tide somehow forced the ramp to roll off its track on the floating dock, and when the tide went back out, the ramp hung up and dug into the concrete. Then a number of forces caused it to separate from the steel stanchion holding it to shore, Hanson said.
Gusts greater than 70 mph were reported throughout the region that Thursday afternoon, and one “rogue wave” in Lynn Canal caused damage to the Fairweather at about 4 p.m. on its southbound voyage between Haines and Juneau, according to a state DOT press release.
The vessel was carrying 101 passengers at the time, including the Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Office in Juneau. At no time during the voyage were the passengers in any danger, said a Coast Guard press release.
The incident is under investigation, but the Coast Guard said the vessel’s master reduced speed during the voyage and crewmembers took steps to ensure the safety of the passengers.
The damage was discovered after the ship was safely docked in Juneau. Damage was confined to a void space located at the forward part of the vessel between the two catamaran hulls. Several of the internal structural frames were found damaged along with an 18-inch tear in the vessel’s hull plating. All damage is approximately 14 feet above the waterline. After Coast Guard marine inspectors examined the damage, the Fairweather was prohibited from carrying passengers or vehicles until satisfactory repairs have been completed.
The state expects the vessel to be off line for about two weeks, as parts from the manufacturer will not arrive to beef up the support structure behind the cowling until the day after Christmas. A fax from the Skagway office said all sailings of the Fairweather have been cancelled through Jan. 4, meaning ferry service to Skagway will be down to just mainline vessels on Fridays and Mondays over the holidays.

A crane borrowed from the seawall replacement project lifts the ferry walkway back into place.

The Skagway incident was at the bottom of the state’s press release on the Fairweather. The damage here could have been worse. No fuel spilled as the fuel line to the dock remained intact, Hanson said. Petro Marine blew out the line Friday morning so it could be removed for the ramp repair to proceed. The water line did break, however, and electrical service to the dock was disrupted. The car ramp was not damaged, and passengers were able to use it to get to the dock and onto the ferry that came in Friday night. The only glitch was it took a half hour to lower the ramp into the ship using a portable electric generator, Hanson said. He hoped an electrician would have power restored before the next ship on Monday evening.
Repairs to the passenger ramp began Friday and it was re-attached by Sunday.
“We’re lucky the crane was here,” Hanson said. The crane is being used by Trucano Construction and local subcontractor H&H Entrerprises on the Skagway seawall replacement project on the east side of the harbor. An Alaska Marine Lines forklift also was brought over to assist in lifting the ramp back into place. A work crew added length to the track on the ferry dock which should prevent future incidents, Hanson said.
Extra ferries may be added while the Fairweather is down. For updates, visit the ferry system web site at : http://dot.alaska.gov/amhs/ or call the Skagway terminal at 983-2941.

Swimming in support
Conceptual designs to follow pool survey

By JEFF BRADY
While a recent survey shows support for a Skagway swimming pool, building one that meets local needs at the lowest possible cost is at least four years away, according to city officials.
But conceptual designs are beginning to materialize three years after voters, by a 385-150 margin, supported research on the construction and operation of a swimming pool.
The Recreation Board did its own research on the issue for a couple years. Then City Council this year hired the McDowell Group to complete a community survey on pool preferences, and Minch Ritter Voelckers Architects to come up with designs to match those preferences.
The phone survey of 104 randomly selected households was conducted in early October, said Heather Haughland of the McDowell Group, who shared the findings at a Dec. 7 meeting. The survey, with a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 9.2 percent, showed high interest in a pool by 62 percent of those surveyed, moderate interest by 21 percent, and low interest by 25
percent.
Other survey highlights:
• Average use would be 11 times per month, with youth using it 17 times, adults 11, and seniors 5 times.
• Interest in activities: recreation/funs swims 65 percent, hot tub 57, lap swimming 53, sauna 49, aqua aerobics 44, steam room 36, other water sports 35, pool rental for parties 34, lessons 29, youth swim team 24, masters swimming 16, no use 18.
• Importance of pool features (combined percent marking important or very important): smaller pool for warm-ups, lessons, children 72 percent, ability to hold school or club meets 71, diving board 59, child care 58, hot tub 56, sauna 48, water slice 38, steam room 29.
• Of the above, the preferred features broke down like this: smaller pool 40 percent, hot tub 27, having meets 22, diving board 21, child care 20, sauna 11, water slide 10, steam room 6, other 4.
• Twenty-five percent said they purchased an annual Rec Center pass, and of those, 80 percent said they would be willing to pay an additional user fee for pool use.
• Funding sources preferred for pool operation: combination of city general funds and sales tax increase 38 percent, none/no subsidy 29, general funds 15, sale tax increase 12, don’t know 3.
Rich Vitter of the architectural firm was also there to show what four other communities had done with pools, and give the public a sense of the costs and feasibility. All of the pools showed operating income well below expenses. For example, the Haines pool brings in $33,800 and costs $135,100 to operate, and the Craig and Wrangell pools cost even more. The deficits are covered by their governments through various taxation measures.
City Manager Bob Ward, in a subsequent meeting with the Recreation Board last week, said a lot was learned from Vitter on certain pool elements and how they drive up costs. For example, if you add a diving board, you add depth, more water to heat (for every degree, add at least $10,000), and a bigger insurance premium. If you want school or club meets, you need a bigger deck, which means a bigger building to heat.
However, the school district’s main concern is “water safety and survival” for youth, said School Board member Chris Maggio. Rec. Board chair John L. O’Daniel added that if there was significant interest in swimming competitively, a team could train here and swim in meets elsewhere.
With this in mind, the board favored a 20-meter pool with four lanes, which would be 3 feet deep on one end and 8-10 feet on the other end. This part of the pool could also be used for water aerobics, swimming lessons, scuba diving, kayak courses, life guard courses, water polo, and other activities.
Adjacent to the lane pool, using the same body of water to heat, would be a leisure pool area that would be easily accessible for seniors and children, with a hot tub overlooking it for parents to see their kids.
“It was also determined recreational pool use is going to be the driving force behind revenue,” Rec. Center director Katherine Nelson wrote in a report to City Council. “A hot tub is necessary and should be strategically located for pool viewing. In addition, a water slide for entertainment and fun, and a lazy river for therapeutic reasons are other design ideas we felt important to make this pool a success.”
The pool building would be located just east of the Rec. Center, joined by the old school hallway that accesses the mechanical room, which would be used to service both facilities. A full-time maintenance person would likely be needed, as well as two lifeguards on duty during pool hours. Left unanswered were whether a saline treated pool is cheaper and easier on the eyes than chlorine, and if family changing rooms could be added to appeal to more families.
City Council member Mike Catsi said the board had presented enough pool program information for McDowell and the architect to come up with a couple of designs and cost breakdowns. At the City Council meeting last Thursday, members had no objection to taking this next step.
Once that information comes back to Council, they could settle on a design and cost to present to voters in October. However, Ward told Rec. Board members that a pool project was at least four years away.
Ahead of it on the city capital projects priority list are flood control, a new clinic, and harbor expansion.

One long walk
Donahue completes stroll to Dawson City

By ANDREW CREMATA
When Tourism Director Buckwheat Donahue walked over a century of miles last March from Skagway to Whitehorse, there was only one regret that he carried away from the journey.
“I wished I could have kept on going,” said Donahue, who recently returned from an even longer journey.
This time he walked to Dawson, 332 miles further than simply hoofing it to Whitehorse, and all this in just 16 days.
Donahue, 53, began walking on a treadmill after recovering from three consecutive episodes of congestive heart failure during a 10-day period in the autumn of 2003. These simple beginnings were a catalyst for the idea of walking to boost awareness. Donahue explains, “Our generation, the baby boomers, we are all facing health related issues in the near future.”
His idea has already had an effect on some. During his walk to Whitehorse, CBC radio in Canada followed the progress of his endeavor. Just past Carcross, Donahue met a woman who commented, “I think what you’re doing is cool. My husband just sat around after his heart attack, but after he saw you he said, “If a guy that fat can do it, I can too.”
Donahue has lost 45 pounds since his heart episodes and tells the tale of his recent walk to the north. He relates, “For most of the trip I had nice weather. The highs were about 25 and the lows were from 10-15 a night.”
“I had support from Big John (O’Daniel) for five days and I have friends in Whitehorse who also lent support. I spent about five nights on my own. When it was nice I slept in the back of my pickup, but if it got below five degrees I slept in the front seat.”
Donahue would plan his day of walking ahead of time. When the day began he would drive to the day’s destination, hitchhike back to his starting point, and begin walking.
He continues, “One night, in Moose Creek, John is preparing dinner when a car pulls up. It is two teachers from Pelly Crossing who came up after school to walk with us for a few miles – Kindness was everywhere.”
One might expect that part of the adventure of walking a lonely northern road in the winter would be the early sunsets and the unknowns that lie in wait in the darkness. Donahue said, “After 3 it is night time, so you’re walking in the dark.”
Donahue almost passively describes the deer, wolf and elk he saw on his trip, but he saves his praise for one particularly cold night where he forgot his footsteps and let the scene surpass his senses.
“On Dec. 1, Wednesday, I counted the cars that were passing by and in 9 hours of walking there was not even one vehicle per hour,” said Donahue. “That night was one of the most incredible nights I have ever seen without northern lights.”
Donahue describes the landscape where the moon was so bright that he wore his sunglasses at times. This glaring moon shone down on the hoar ice “like miniature crystals everywhere. A light wind would blow making snow fall from the hoar frost.”
The moonlight bounced from each snowflake that fluttered through the air like a million crystals in motion. Each backlit crystal cast an outline onto the snow-covered ground forming a million, moving black shadow silhouettes fashioned from the falling flakes.
Donahue is all smiles at the telling of the story. “I was unaware of time passing or even walking,” Donahue said.
The next day, one of the Pelly Crossing teachers by the name of Mia gave Donahue his ride to start the day’s walk. Donahue relates, “She had seen the beauty of the night before, and we couldn’t stop talking about it – I was just lucky.”
The weather turned for the worse on the last two days of the walk. Donahue describes the cold with a wince, “It was five-below when I woke up on Dec. 3, and down to minus-15 on the (Dec.) 4, and I was walking into the wind. I did the last 4 to 5 hours in minus-30.”
On Saturday night, after five days without a shower, Donahue decided to use the bathtub at Bombay Peggy’s. He said, “It has a real 1898 feel, with a hotel and bar and cast iron bathtubs. I never take baths, I am more of a shower guy, but I put in the scented salts and the bubble bath and just soaked.”
“Later I went to the bar for dinner – I can just feel this guy sitting next to me at the bar is staring so I introduce myself. He says, ‘Man, you stink!’ I thought to myself, Oh, gosh, it’s the bubble bath. He was complaining about the flowery smell.”
Still smelling fresh, Donahue walked into Dawson about 2 p.m. on a Sunday. “Dawson is like Skagway,” he said. “The population is small in the winter... The only vehicle on the street was my truck.”
Donahue broke the silence with one of his trademark howls, which was promptly responded to by one of Dawson’s own howling residents, a nearby dog. Donahue began a canine conversation, trading howls with the dog until it sounded like most of the dogs in Dawson were aware of his arrival. They were all shouting out with glee.
Was Donahue happy? “I wanted to jump for joy,” he said.
Donahue dreams of walking from Key West to Nome, but the realties of this dream depend on many factors. He said, “I want to emphasize that this is hypothetical. My board (The Convention and Visitors Bureau) and City Council have legitimate concerns that need to be addressed. Right now this is just a dream.”
If Donahue’s dream becomes a reality he hopes his walking may ultimately be more beneficial than mere inspiration for recovering heart patients. He would like to see the fruits of his steps benefit the community of Skagway, specifically the clinic.
“Skagway has been nice to me. Walking is a way to promote it.,” he said.
Donahue’s own visit to the hospital happened while visiting Juneau and made him realize that if he had faced the problem in Skagway the clinic staff would not have had the technological advances available to them that helped save his life.
He said, “The clinic has really improved in the last few years. Maybe (by walking) we can get new equipment with the latest technology and train people to use it to save someone like me... Maybe walking from Key West to Nome I can raise a little money.”

Barb Brodersen holds up her award, an antique wood type letter “B” with an engraved inscription on the back. JB

Barb Brodersen named Helen B. Clark Award winner

Barbara Brodersen was presented the 2004 Helen B. Clark Award for Skagway Community Service at the annual Yuletide Ball.
“It might be easier to list off the activities in Skagway that this year’s award winner isn’t involved in, but that wouldn’t give you the panoramic view of what this bundle of energy does for this town,” said News publisher Jeff Brady, reading from Brodersen’s nomination statement.
Brodersen was recognized for her volunteer work for various organizations and the Breast Cancer Walk and her participation in many community events, where she often is dressed in costume. She’s the bunny at the Easter Egg Hunt and one of the elves helping at the Santa Train and Christmas Eve program for the children. She also was a major force in getting the Yuletide Celebration started, from organizing events to getting everyone to light up the town.
Aside from helping with events, one of her crusades over the past few years has been getting as many people as possible certified in CPR. Recently after there were two incidents of choking children in the police blotter, she worked with the police chief on organizing a class for new and expectant mothers at the fire hall, holding babies as the moms practiced on models.
“It’s a great thing that she and her husband John make Skagway their home,” Brady said. “Skagway is a better place thanks to Barbara Brodersen.”
When the award was announced, Barb was at the door taking tickets. She brought John up with her to collect the award and thanked him for supporting her volunteer efforts.
A special recognition certificate was given to Jeremy Simmons, who was recognized for his countless hours with the Fire, Rescue and EMS squads as well as work with kids, the Alpine Club, and various city boards.
The award is sponsored annually by the Skagway News Co. which gave the first award for volunteer service to the late Helen Clark in 1988. Past winners make up the selection committee and review nominations.

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

K.C. Mayo is a blur at the annual holiday skate at the Skagway Rec. Center during the 2004 Yuletide Celebration. Andrew Cremata

OTHER FEATURES THIS ISSUE

• IN THE YULETIDE GROOVE: Pictures from Yuletide 2005 and Skagway School's "Classy Christmas Concert"

• SPORTS ROUNDUP: Crystal Ketterman wins match at State; Volleyball team drops two; Hoop reports

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