AP&T files Chapter 11
Official says it was the last thing they wanted to do

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
The red flags went up the week of Dec. 9 when an Alaska Power & Telephone Co. employee made the rounds of local businesses asking for outstanding invoices. By Dec. 18 it was official.
AP&T filed for debt reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, but none of AP&T’s subsidies are affected, said Senior Vice President Stan Selmer.
“It means we fully intend to operate all our regular businesses,” said Selmer. “The customer will remain our top priority.”
The company “experienced a number of financial and operational difficulties related to some of its non-regulated activities, particularly arising out of its acquisition of Summit Alaska Inc., an Anchorage-based paving company,” according to a Dec. 18 press release. “Over the past few months, AP&T attempted to negotiate a reorganization of its debt outside the courts, but these efforts have been unsuccessful.”
None of AP&T’s subsidiaries are directly involved in the parent company’s court proceedings and are excluded from this action, said President and CEO Robert Grimm in the release.

AP&T's Skagway office was open as usual on Dec. 19, the morning after the parent company filed Chapter 11.

“Customers who receive service directly from Alaska Power Co., Alaska Telephone Co., Bettles Telephone, North Country Telephone, AP&T Long Distance, AP&T Wireless, or indirectly from BBL Hydro or Goat Lake Hydro, should experience no change in the cost or quality of their service as a result of this action,” Grimm said.
Selmer said some suppliers and vendors may experience some delay in being paid if the bill predates Dec. 18, but expenses have to be reviewed by the court. After Dec. 18, Selmer said, they will be paid in the normal course of business.
Layoffs? Selmer said while the company did have layoffs earlier in the year, jobs have been lost in those companies AP&T cut from their portfolio.
In Skagway, there were resignations.
The company will have to come up with a reorganization plan that the court will consider, Selmer said, and hopefully emerge a stronger company.

RELATED STORY - Selmer to resign Council seat, see below.

New Skagway Medical Corp. board elected
Board members face a mountain of work

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
The Skagway Medical Board reconstituted Dec. 12 with seven members: Doreen Cooper, Bub Enloe, Jan Nelson, Leslie Dodd, Karen Gee, Bob Dill, and Barbara Kalen.
This election went more smoothly than the last effort, which was thrown out when the member list used on the mail-out ballot was found to be incomplete.
The newly-elected members must now wrestle with a formidable debt load, plus figure how to run the clinic more efficiently, possibly with one less provider.
At the meeting, Nelson said officers should be selected despite the absence of newly-elected board members Dodd and Dill. Nelson made himself acting president, with no objection from the board, after former board president Frank Wasmer stepped down.
The three-hour meeting Dec. 12 did have a quorum despite Dill and Dodd being absent, Nelson pointed out.
“They knew what was going on, they should have been here,” Nelson said.
But board member Doreen Cooper wanted to wait for the others.
“We have a quorum,” Nelson said.
After Enloe’s suggestion to hold a secret ballot was not accepted, from the audience Wasmer said the board used to make up a slate of officer candidates and then voted. That method didn’t really happen as nominations flew around the table as well as refusals to being nominated. Individuals were nominated and voted on, individually.
Nelson was elected president, Enloe, vice president; Cooper;,secretary; and, Gee, treasurer.
Unsuccessful candidate Candice Wallace’s request to review clinic financial records came up. Kendall Simm, chief of medical staff, said the corporation’s attorney said the information was not public. The board can allow it, however, if taken to a vote, the attorney said.
There was concern by board members that Simm would spend too much time looking for records and be drawn away from her real job as chief of staff and health provider. The board did agree to allow Wallace to see the information after Simm said she has been compiling the same information for the Bartlett Hospital certified public accountants who were coming in to look at the books.
Cooper asked why Wallace wanted the information, and Wallace said because of the rumors about alleged malfeasance, and that staff have been hurt by those rumors.
An executive session prior to the meeting with members of the old board decided to accept the verbal offer at the board’s last meeting from Physician’s Assistant Tim Cristman to not ask for a renewal of his contract. Cristman’s name was not mentioned, just referred to as “a provider.”
Cristman, who was present at the Dec. 12 meeting, said he was never notified of the executive session, and that he had a right to be there. He said he would put the verbal refusal to renew his contract in writing by the next day.
No public vote was taken on the Cristman matter, because the board had changed within several hours’ time, and most members were not present at the executive session.
“I’m not going to vote something I wasn’t there for,” said Cooper.
“Then let’s table it,” said Nelson.
Cindie Law, former clinic administrator, said the board needs to look at an example like the Juneau clinic that went to the city and asked for bail-out money and the city refused. Recently, the Skagway City Council gave the clinic $55,516 to help with outstanding debts.
“...They asked people for cuts in pay, applied for grants, possibly brought in a billing team,” Law said. “They found creative ways to bill for seniors, they tuned their business, and in one year they had $9 million plus billing to Medicaid.”
Law said when she was administrator she was discouraged from applying for grants and told that it “looked bad” if the clinic had too many grants.
“The less we go to the city, the less they’ll tell us we have the lease for one month at a time, and maybe more if we like you,” said board member Karen Gee.
The city leases the clinic building to the Skagway Medical Corp. for $1 a year. However, City Manager Bob Ward said the previous board failed to sign the usual yearly lease.
“And we’re not going to sign one, not until we investigate the clinic’s options” said Ward last Tuesday by phone. “We have withdrawn the offer.”
The board met again Dec. 18 for a work session to look at what needs to be done and what committees should be formed.
VOTING RESULTS
*Doreen Cooper, 59; *Bub Enloe, 54; *Jan Nelson, 50; *Leslie Dodd, 46; *Karen Gee, 40; *Bob Dill, 40; *Barbara Kalen, 38; Candice Wallace, 37; Frank Wasmer, 15; Betty Ricklefs, 5; Terese Connolly, 4; Niki Hahn, 4; Steve Parsons, 3; Dawn Brown, 3; Sharon Bolton, 2; Bert Bounds, 2; Katherine Selmer, 2; Gary Hisman, 2; Colette Hisman, 2; John Tronrud, 2; John Jackson, 1; John O’Daniel, 1; Reed McCluskey, 1; Debbie Steidel, 1; John Mielke, 1; Debbie Ackerman, 1; Rose Perotto, 1. *Elected

Tribal house construction, dedication, other projects ahead in 2003

By LUCIE STRAUB
The mystery of the missing tribal house has been solved. The dedication of the Skaqua Traditional Council house will happen next summer and communities of Southeast Alaska and the Yukon will be invited to witness the event.
Council President Lance Twitchell says getting the building on track has been “an exhausting process, but will be the biggest thing that has ever happened to the Native community.”
The dedication was supposed to happen last year, but was held up in a “paper war” between Twitchell and the USDA. But all the funding is in place and the war is over, point to Skaqua Concil. Construction of the house, which stalled after foundation work was completed a year ago, will resume in January or February, he said.
Also in the works is the environmental planning. This fall, Marion Twitchell was hired as environmental planner and Mike Catsi was hired as an environmental specialist. She is making a lot of agency contacts, and Catsi is laying most of the groundwork for a local program.
“We try to fill in the gaps that the city leaves, and try to take some pressure off the city in environmental issues.” Catsi said.
Catsi is working on several projects within the planning. He is focusing on recycling in Skagway, creating a larger and more efficient program than what is already present.
In dealing with the flooding in Dyea, Twitchell and Catsi attended a recent meeting mainly as spectators, because the problem was already being handled by the Park Service.
Another project that is being worked on is watershed communities. The Southeast Conference is willing to sponsor four watershed communities for four years, and the village council has applied to be one of them.
“It’s a way that the communities can protect their own backyard. It puts Skagway back in control of its environment.” Twitchell says.
A lot of focus would go into salmon restoration and setting up a baseline data to track pollution in the town. Currently, Pullen Creek is considered “an impaired water body” by the Department of Environmental Conservation because of elevated levels of metals from the former ore hauls through town on the railroad and highway. Catsi wants to see if the Council can help improve the creek and get it off the list.
Catsi is adamant that their main purpose is for education. “We don’t want to be seen as ‘greenies,’ but as people who are trying to make things right.”
“We’re focusing on education,” Twitchell said. “We don’t want to be the people who tell on you, but try to educate you. The primary goal of the Skaqua Council is to enhance the lives of its members.Then we focus on the community. We want to be known as an organization who cares about the year-round members of the community.”
Other projects that the Skaqua Traditional Council have still in the sketching phases include putting out special handbooks on how to handle different wastes, year-round daycare for low-income families, commissioning totem artists, and trying to further the preservation of the Tlingit language.
Twitchell also said all events of the Council will be open to the public.

A great teacher, forever remembered
One by one, many of the former students of Elma K. McMillen came to the podium Dec. 14, and spoke her praises. About 200 crowded the McMillen Room for her funeral service.
Mrs. McMillen, “Grandma” to most, died Dec. 10 at the age of 93. An obituary appears alongside one for fellow beloved co-teacher Lynne Ruff, who also died the same week. A service for Mrs. Ruff will be held in Skagway next May.
Here are some of the remembrances for Mrs. McMillen:
“Even though she could no longer see you, she knew your voice ... and would sit in the church entryway and carefully fold bulletins and greet people.” - Rev. Karen Parsons.
“She loved people and she loved God .... She’s never been alive more than today.” - grandson Mark Ross.
“I hope that I have as good a friend as Elma had in Connie (Conard).” - Stan Selmer.
“You could never have a bad day if you talked to Grandma ... The greatest thing about her is that she never quit being a teacher.” - John Mielke.
“She told us boys to move down in front, and look where we are today ... She did a lot for my sister (Kathy) who become a teacher ... She was always firm, fair and friendly and set the standard for it.” - Mike O’Daniel
“No one else that I knew has had that broad an influence on that many people. Thanks for letting her come to us.” - Doug Warner.
“Saying no to her never worked (if you were asked to help) ... Connie, on behalf of all of us, we thank you for letting us share her with you.” - Ron Ackerman.
“She lit up like a Christmas tree (in the hospital) when she saw my son ... One of the last things she said to me was ‘love your children.’” - Steve Smith
“For the forty, eleventh, hundredth time, I’m going to tell you....” - Elma K. McMillen
– Compiled by Jeff Brady

Selmer resigns
AP&T troubles keeping him in Wash.

Skagway City Councilmember Stan Selmer submitted his resignation Dec. 18, saying the time he has to spend in Port Townsend, Wash. dealing with the AP&T crisis interferes with fulfilling his responsibility to the City Council.
“I can no longer predict or guess if I can get back for meetings,” he said by phone from the company’s headquarters.
Selmer e-mailed his resignation to Mayor Tim Bourcy and City Manager Bob Ward that afternoon.
He didn’t know if he would run again for council, saying, “I always leave my options open, I can’t commit until I know what shape AP&T will be in.”
As mayor or city councilor, Selmer served through the 1960s, 70s, 80, 90s, and 2000s.
“I can’t see holding up meetings because I can’t be there,” he said.
Selmer said so far this year he did miss one meeting in October and one in November.
“Obviously, I’d not be there this Thursday (Dec. 19),” he said last week.
The City Council meeting scheduled for Dec. 19 was canceled due to lack of a quorum, with Councilmembers Dan Henry, Mike Korsmo and Selmer out of town. But it has been re-scheduled for Dec. 26 at 7 p.m.
Mayor Tim Bourcy said Selmer’s resignation will not take effect until after that meeting.
“I did not want to go through December without a meeting,” the mayor said. “Stan will be there and tend his resignation effective the first of the year.”
Bourcy said he understood Selmer’s need to resign and will miss him on the Council.
“Obviously it’s a loss when you have somebody with Stan’s experience step away from the table, but I understand he has a lot of serious issues with AP&T and didn’t want to hold up the city business, and I respect that decision,” the mayor said.
A replacement will not be appointed until the Jan. 16 meeting.
“I have a couple people in mind,” Bourcy said. “But if others are interested I would love to hear from them. I’ll have someone to appoint and ready for Council to concur at the first meeting in January.”

STATE NEWS

Gov. Murkowski restarts Juneau Access EIS
Gov. Frank H. Murkowski, through his chief of staff, Jim Clark, on Dec. 16 directed the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to restart the Juneau Access Environmental Impact Statement, according to a press release from his office.
“Access to the capital city is an important issue for all Alaskans that has been stalled for several years, so I have directed DOT to resume the EIS process,” Murkowski said. “I have asked DOT to review the progress made to date, and proceed with the document. This is an open, active project, on which a minimum level of work and assessment has taken place since 1999, when the previous administration decided it was not a priority. As far as we are concerned, all the options and routes will be assessed. We will pick up the DEIS at the point where it was suspended.”
Skagway Mayor Tim Bourcy said Juneau Access “is definitely gaining speed” but cautioned the state on proceeding with a road.
“The state has serious fiscal problems, so we need to discuss those first,” Bourcy said. “Until the budget gap is addressed, talking about roads is fool-hardy.”
Work on the EIS document will begin immediately and proceed in a manner consistent with the Federal Highway Administration Guidelines for National Environmental Policy Act process, the state press release noted.

Link to editorial on this issue

Murkowski reinstates snow removal budget
Gov. Frank H. Murkowski has directed the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to restore highway and aviation operations and maintenance services to the same level as last year, according to a Dec. 11 press release from the Governor’s Office.
For Skagway, this means the one full-time and one half-time positions will be reinstated, said Frank Richards, statewide maintenance and operations engineer for DOT&PF.
However, both Raymond Hosford and Wayne Perry were out of state, but their jobs will be here waiting for them if they choose to go back to work, Richards said.
Murkowski also authorized DOT&PF to submit a supplemental request to the Legislature to cover the added costs that will be incurred.
Chief of Staff Jim Clark appointed Mike Barton to serve as acting commissioner at DOT&PF. Barton, 63, served as commissioner of DOT&PF during the last year of the most recent Hickel administration.
“I am pleased to be able to announce that Mike Barton has agreed to once again take the helm at DOT for an interim period until we name a permanent commissioner,” Clark said.
Barton assumed his duties Dec. 12.

OTHER STORIES...

• EDITORIAL: New governor, new road ahead?

• OBITUARIES: Elma K. McMillen and Lynne M. Ruff

• SANTA TRAIN: All aboard with Santa and his Elves!

• SPORTS: SHS hoop previews and J-Hi highlights

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