July 12, 2013 • Vol. XXXVI, No. 12
Nick Ackerman attempts to catch an egg at the egg toss on Broadway during the Fourth of July celebration, but instead is covered in yolk. See our big Fourth of July 2013 photo spread with a link to Elise's video.
Photo by Elise Giordano
Safe House Program takes hold in Skagway
Abuse situations happen here, often unseen
By KATIE EMMETS
Skagway is blazing a trail in Southeast Alaska with a Safe House Program that will give domestic abuse victims a place to go when they need it.
Any responsible adult over the age of 18 who has successfully passed the screening process can volunteer his or her house. Volunteers can be married, single, divorced, with children or without children.
Houses that have signs in the window will serve as places of shelter for those in Skagway who are dealing with domestic violence, sexual assault, bullying, and other emergency situations.
Those who wish to volunteer for the program will undergo a background check performed by the Skagway Police Department, and Chief Ray Leggett has offered to waive the cost.
Once approved, the volunteers will be trained in the appropriate actions to take, such as calling for emergency services when needed. If the person in the house feels like the situation is threatening, they are not required to let anyone in their house and can talk to the person in need through the door. Volunteers don’t have to have the sign in their window all the time and can put it up at times that are convenient for them. However, they are required to have it up at least one hour a week.
Southeast Alaska Regional Consortium Domestic Violence Health Educator Jackie Mazeikas, who is making this program possible, received a grant from the Indian Health Service to work with Southeast towns to raise awareness about domestic violence. She is based in Haines.
Once she expanded her zone to Skagway, Mazeikas set up an advisory board made up of community members in October. Chief Leggett brought up the safe house concept at an advisory board meeting, and members unanimously agreed it was a good idea.
While she was in Skagway, Mazeikas conducted an awareness survey to gauge resident’s perception of domestic violence.
“When I go into a new community, I go in without any preconceptions and see where the awareness knowledge is,” she said. “I survey about 15-20 people —younger, older, men, women, teens, employed, not employed, municipal workers, people who work at the school — for 1-2 hours and ask them about 12 confidential questions.”
Mazeikas’ study concluded that domestic violence does happen in Skagway, but residents are either in denial or don’t believe it happens in their town.
Lynn Canal Counseling behavioral health clinician John Hischer confirmed the findings of Mazeikas’ study.
Conversations Hischer has with community members prove that most residents don’t believe domestic violence is prevalent in Skagway, but Hischer said he sees patients almost every day that are dealing with its effects.
“Even though I have people in my office all the time that are dealing with it, I see only a small fraction of what’s really going on in this town,” he said. “A lot of it goes unreported.”
Hischer said a lot of those who have experienced domestic violence do not go to authorities because they were either intoxicated at the time of the incident or they don’t want to get their attacker in trouble.
“I think the safe house program would be great because people will know there is someplace out there that is a little less intimidating than the clinic or the police department with volunteers who are trained to help them,” he said. “There are a lot of people who want to get away from a situation but don’t want to get the police involved. This will allow them to at least get away and go someplace safe.”
Hischer said there are many resources in Skagway to help those who are dealing with domestic violence.
“There are always ways to get people out of here and out of harm’s way in a pretty quick fashion,” he said, adding that Lynn Canal Counseling, the Dahl Memorial Clinic and the Skagway Police Department work together and separately to help those in need. “And there are resources to get people away from a violent situation even if they don’t have the money to do so themselves.”
Hischer said there is funding for air travel, room and board, and anything needed to get out of Skagway safely and reestablish themselves.
Hischer said sexual assault is also something that he sees cases of which residents don’t believe happens in Skagway.
“It seems to happen more regularly in the summer as more people are in town and more people are drinking,” he said. “But people should know that it does happen and to get help at the clinic or the police department when it does.”
Jackie Mazeikas lost a sister to domestic violence.
Her sister Becky’s boyfriend was abusive and stabbed her, which resulted in a trip to the hospital. After leaving with stiches, Becky returned to the same situation, which would later result in her death.
“That happened 20 years ago, but it doesn’t fade from my mind,” Mazeikas said. “I often wonder why she went back. Did she think she had to go back? Did she not know she had options?”
With the Safe House Program, Mazeikas wants to make sure people in Skagway know they have options.
“One is one too many,” she said of domestic violence cases. “Nobody ever deserves to be abused. It’s not right, it’s not acceptable, and we need to stand up and say that.”
Medevac insurer’s license pulled by state
No new AMT clients being accepted until situation resolved
By KATIE EMMETS
Those in Skagway wanting to purchase emergency medical transportation insurance from Apollo Medi Trans will have to wait until the company renews its license with the State of Alaska and becomes compliant with all requirements.
Apollo MT Chief Financial Officer Robert Bonestroo said the company has been providing the State of Alaska Division of Insurance with information it has requested and is waiting for it to be processed.
Bonestroo said Apollo MT was not given a timeline of when its license would be renewed, but until then, it cannot sign up new insurance policy holders or renew insurance policies that are expiring or have expired in the last six weeks.
Alaska Division of Insurance Deputy Director Marty Hester said Apollo MT’s license is not active at the moment and said he couldn’t comment as to why.
Dahl Memorial Clinic Administrator Shelly Moss said the clinic has been operating normally with medevacs.
“Nothing has changed as far as patient care,” Moss said. “But we are hoping that Apollo fixes their situation with the state soon.”
Moss said she was told that this was a temporary situation and will be resolved as soon as possible.
She is not aware of any Skagway residents needing to be medevaced who didn’t have an Apollo MT insurance policy in the last six weeks.
In an unrelated matter, the State of Alaska has fined Apollo Medical Transportation Association $20,000 for operating as a membership program, which is not allowed in Alaska.
According to its website, Apollo MTA was not an insurance company but a membership association with prepaid benefits. It helped support pre-hospital care nationwide and included member benefits that could be either nationwide or worldwide.
“We couldn’t sell that type of membership in this state,” Bonestroo said, adding that programs like this are legal in other states in the Lower 48.
“We had to refund all of our members and a fine was levied against us,” he said.
Hester said Apollo MT is underwritten by Unified Life and is required to adhere to the state’s requirements for insurance companies, while Apollo MTA is not underwritten and does not need to adhere to the same standards.
According to a Division of Insurance Stipulated Agreement, in 2012 Apollo MT owner Eric Sterling submitted an inquiry to the division questioning the legality of Texas-based Medical Air Services Association emergency transportation membership program in Alaska at the time. Mid-year, while the division was investigating MASA’s membership program, Sterling began marketing and issuing emergency transportation memberships that were comparable to MASA’s program without telling the division.
In August 2012, the division and MASA entered into a stipulated agreement and order, which stated the company had been selling insurance in Alaska without the necessary certificate of authority.
“Even after his inquiry and receipt of the MASA settlement, Dr. Sterling and Apollo continued to market an association membership program,” the agreement stated.
The division found that Apollo MTA has been operating without a certificate of authority that is required and according to the agreement, Apollo MTA has to immediately stop offering and marketing its membership program in Alaska, terminate any existing membership and refund members, pay a $20,000 civil penalty and will be required to pay $15,000 if Apollo violates Alaska’s insurance laws in the next 15 years.
Bonestroo said Apollo MTA only has 20 members and none of them are located in Skagway. The MTA program had membership benefits.
The large ‘hoop’ green house at Jewell Gardens is filled with grown vegetables, just in time for the Southeast Alaska Garden Conference next weekend. Katie Emmets
Southeast Garden Conference coming to Garden City of Alaska
Jeff Lowenfels featured speaker here July 19-21
By KATIE EMMETS
For the first time ever, the Southeast Alaska Garden Conference will be held in the Garden City of Alaska.
The conference, which takes place July 19-21, is hosted by Skagway’s Garden Club and will feature workshops geared towards gardening, composting, and edibles in the North Country.
Charlotte Jewell, Skagway Garden Club founder and 2013 conference chair, said she is excited to have the conference in Skagway and even more excited to have Jeff Lowenfels as the keynote speaker.
Lowenfels is a northern gardener from Anchorage whom Jewell first heard of in the early 80s when he hosted a gardening show on Alaska Public Television. Since then, Jewell has seen him speak three times at two garden conferences in Alaska and one in Washington.
“He’s a great speaker,” she said. “He’s fun and entertaining, and he’s a North Country gardener who’s into organics.”
Lowenfels specializes in soil and co-wrote Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web. He also writes a garden column for Anchorage Daily News, which is the longest running garden column in the United States. For his Sunday workshop “Compost has a food web, too: demystifying composting once and for all,” Lowenfels will be using microscopes donated by Skagway School to view microbes and compost tea.
“Jeff has traveled all over Alaska speaking about gardening, but he has never been to the Garden City of Alaska,” Jewell said, adding that she asked him to come to Skagway last year while at a garden conference in Anchorage.
After her initial invitation, Jewell said it took about six months for the Skagway Garden Club to figure out how to realistically bring him here and decided that a garden conference would be the perfect avenue.
This year’s Southeast Alaska Garden Conference is an offshoot of the garden conference started in Juneau in 1992 by Juneau’s Southeast Alaska Master Gardeners. The conference ran each summer until 2010 when the Master Gardeners didn’t want to host it anymore. In 2011 gardeners in Haines got together and decided to pick the conference up, and it was revived in Haines last summer.
Jewell said her hope and the hope of gardeners participating in this conference is that it would rotate to different Southeast towns throughout the years,
“I learned so much going to Juneau and Haines for conferences,” Jewell said. “It is inspiring to network with other Southeast gardeners and see what they are doing in their communities.”
But Skagway isn’t a newcomer at showing off its gardens.
After the Klondike Gold Rush, those who lived in Skagway wanted to beautify their town and tried heavily to implement gardens. To stimulate interest in gardening, jeweler Herman Kirmse held a garden contest in 1902 and awarded his pieces to the first and second place winners. The contest took place annually until 1906 and was replaced with an agricultural fair in 1912. In the 1980s, when the Skagway Garden Club resurrected the contest, Taiya River Jewelry owner Casey McBride wanted to carry on tradition by awarding a piece of his gold jewelry to the competition winner and Charlotte Jewell gave the second place winner one of her ivory carvings.
The Skagway Garden Club’s competitions lasted for about 15 years in conjunction with the Eastern Star Garden Show, which continued for 10 years after the competitions ended. This year’s conference will be the first garden event here since the Eastern Star Garden Show disbanded in 2010.
The three-day Southeast Alaska Garden Conference costs $99 and includes ten speakers, workshops with North Country garden specific topics and a few meals. Lunch on Saturday will be in the Westmark Inn’s Chilkoot Room and will feature Alaska gardener Laurie Constantino, who will give a talk on Alaska’s wild edibles. Later that evening, conference participants will get a tour of Jewell Gardens, view a glass blowing demo and eat dinner at Poppies. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park will also be a component of the conference and will have talks about Skagway’s historic gardens and showing of its herbarium.
Lowenfels’ keynote address in AB Hall will be open to the public for a fee, and Jewell said she encourages any resident who is interested to attend and listen to what Lowenfels has to say about gardening in Alaska.
Books by Lowefels and Constantino also will be available at the News Depot, with a portion of proceeds going to the Garden Club. Constantino will have a signing on Friday, July 19 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. and Lowenfels will sign books after his talk.
FISH HAPPENS – Maverick, 5, looks longingly at a gutted salmon during the Pat Moore Memorial Game Fish Derby on Sunday. See more in this edition's Sports & Rec. Elise Giordano
Robotics Primer: Camp teaches students, coach tricks with new EV3
Skagway’s state champion FIRST Lego League robotics team received some special instruction during a camp last week in their own classroom.
Paul Keeney, a coach from Anoka, Minnesota who has been teaching Lego Mindstorms robotics programming camps for several years, spent a week with the Skagway kids.
Keeney said he has been coming to Alaska for eight summers, but this was his first trip to Skagway. He brought with him a prototype of the new EV3 robot brain, which will not be available to the public from Lego until August or September. The Skagway team has one on order, but they were able to experiment with the new robot on test courses.
ABOVE LEFT: Camp coach Paul Keeney helps student Micah Cookprogram a series of turns, utilizing the EV3’s new gyro sensor. JB
ABOVE RIGHT: FLL students, from left, Madison Cox, Micah Cook, Danny Brady, Jessica Whitehead, and Dawson Clem watch as the EV3 maneuvers on the ‘Labyrinth Challenge’ mat during last week’s camp at the Skagway School. JB
The EV3, which is about twice as thick as the previous NXT robot used by teams at competitions, has new gyro and infrared sensors in addition to improved color-line and touch sensors. This enables it to move more freely and at a smoother gait.
Skagway kids enjoyed programming it, and Keeney learned a lot by watching them.
“This is a really good group, a fun group,” Keeney said, noting that he is also a member of the Lego Education Advisory Panel. “That’s why I have the EV3 early before it is being released to the public. For example, we learned that it will work on just 1% power.”
Look for the Skagway team in action with their new EV3 when the season starts up in the fall. – JEFF BRADY
• FOURTH OF JULY 2013 (photo spread & video)