October 14, 2011 • Vol. XXXIV, No. 18
Jean and Boyd Worley were treated to a big American flag cake from Jeanne Gonzalez at their retirement party at the USC&BP port of entry on Sept. 30, their last day of work. See story below.
Photo by Katie Emmets
Selmer returns to mayor’s seat
Low voter turnout Oct. 4, new additions to school board
By KATIE EMMETS
Stan Selmer will be the next Skagway mayor, and Dan Henry and Mark Schaefer will continue to serve as assembly members.
Selmer, Henry and Schaefer ran unopposed and easily won their seats in the Oct. 4 municipal election.
Selmer received 237 votes, Henry received 207 votes and Schaefer received 168.
Selmer will serve a two-year term and Henry and Schaefer will serve three-year terms. They will be sworn in before the next borough assembly meeting on Oct. 20.
Andy Miller and Cara Cosgrove won Skagway School Board seats and each will serve three-year terms.
Miller, the only candidate on the ballot for school board, received 227 votes, while write-in Cosgrove received 81. Matt Deach and Mavis Henricksen also ran as write-ins and tallied 78 and 25 votes respectively.
The lack of competition and no questions on the ballot resulted in a fairly low voter turnout of 259, representing 25.4 percent of Skagway’s 1,019 registered voters. This compares with a voter turnout of 474 in the special August election on the secondhand smoking ordinance. Of the 259 who voted, 233 cast ballots at the polls and 26 voted absentee.
Outgoing Mayor Tom Cochran’s last meeting was Oct. 6. All of the assembly members thanked him for his service over the past two terms. Cochran was elected in 2007 when Skagway became a borough. Selmer, who was mayor of the former City of Skagway in the 1990s, will be leading the borough for the first time.
An interview with the incoming and outgoing mayors will appear in the Oct. 28 issue.
Border staples Boyd, Jean Worley retire after 35 years
By KATIE EMMETS
Since the late 1970s, Boyd and Jean Worley have greeted friends and strangers with smiles, respect and warmth.
They will continue to do this, however it will no longer be at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection station.
After 35 years, Boyd and Jean have retired as U.S. Customs and Border Protection supervisor and inspector.
During retirement, Boyd said he hopes to take a few online journalism courses from Penn State, which will help him write the Skagway School sports beat. Jean said she is excited to start diving into the many arts and crafts books that she’s purchased over the years. Quilting, she said, is up first.
In the first week of retirement, Boyd has taken up cooking.
“I told him he has to cook now that we’re retired,” Jean said.
So far, Boyd has made oxtail soup, beef barley soup and a Sally Struthers smothered chicken recipe, which includes onion rings, garlic and sour cream.
And although he has polished the furniture and cleaned some things up, Jean said there is still a lot of organizing to do since they have brought back about five truckloads of personal things from the border station.
The items, which were accumulated over the past 35 years, include Boyd’s boastful pig collection, artwork, magazines, memorandums and humor articles from friends.
When thinking about the border station that they have dedicated so much of their life to, the pair said they don’t foresee visiting often, however they agreed they would always bring back gifts and snacks for station employees on their way home from Whitehorse.
“Maybe even some egg drop soup,” Boyd said.
After a successful 35-year career, Boyd said if he could pass down any piece of advice to those just starting out in the business it would be to treat others with respect.
“Rudeness is a weak man’s imitation of strength,” he said. “The advice I would give is to treat people the way you would like your mom and dad to be treated.”
Ninety-nine percent of travelers crossing through the border are average citizens who deserve to be treated as people, he said, however, customs agents and inspectors must always keep an eye out for terrorism threats.
As a symbol of solidarity, Boyd sent U.S. President Barack Obama an off-duty U.S. Customs and Border Protection baseball cap that had the state of Alaska outlined on it.
With the hat, Boyd included a note telling Obama that even in “remote Alaska” Skagway’s border was at a heightened state of awareness for the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
Jean also made her mark both nationally and internationally during her time at the border station with an essay titled, “Respect for uniform must be earned.”
In the mid 80s, Jean said she was treated rudely by a bank teller in Whitehorse and ignored by a hotel employee in Anchorage because of her ethnicity.
“I thought about us,” Jean said of U.S. Customs agents and inspectors. “How do we treat people who come to us?”
Jean said just because they are in uniform doesn’t mean they have to be rude to people.
“I wrote it when I was pissed,” she said.
After constructing the essay, Jean sent it to Anchorage for it to be published in the U.S. Custom’s Alaska district newsletter.
“I was trying to impress on other inspectors to treat everyone fairly,” she said.
Boyd said the constructors of the publication were so impressed with the essay, they sent it to be published in other states’ newsletters.
It even made its way around the world.
Jean had a man call her from Korea who praised her writing and told her he was using it to teach inspector classes.
The pair has left their mark on Skagway citizens and repeat passers-through from Whitehorse, who, Boyd said, will be what he’ll miss most about work.
Boyd said he began considering retirement last year when he thought about waking up early for work during the winter months.
Beginning November 1, the morning shifts at the U.S. Customs start at 7 a.m., a shift, he said, that young people should be working.
“I’m 71 and she’s 69,” Boyd said of he and Jean. “It’s time to retire.”
Because they were married, Boyd was unable to supervise Jean and they were forced to work different shifts.
Since the pair moved to Skagway, Boyd worked during the day with Saturdays and Sundays off, and Jean, at night, with Mondays and Tuesdays off.
“Maybe that is what kept the marriage together,” he said jokingly.
But now, after 35 years, Boyd and Jean are able to wake up next to each other, at 8 a.m., and go for walks together in the evenings — things, they agreed, they have always wanted to do.
Barb Kalen sings with the angels
Life-long Skagway resident Barbara Dedman Kalen died at her home on Tuesday night, October 11.
Kalen, who was a month shy of her 87th birthday, had been having heart trouble recently but was able to pass away at home. Her daughter, Betsy Albecker, said her mother died peacefully while listening to some of her favorite music.
Kalen was a founding member of the Skagway Arts Council and was the head of the organization for many years. She created the popular International Folk Festival, and musicians from all over SE Alaska and the Yukon would gather round Kalen and her autoharp every April to sing the closing number, “Good Night, Irene”.
For most of her life, Kalen also operated Skagway’s oldest family business, Dedman’s Photo Shop, taking it over from her mother, and then passing it on to her granddaughter. She also wrote newspaper columns and chronicled life in Skagway with her camera.
Albecker said a memorial service will be planned for next spring. A complete obituary will appear in the Oct. 28 issue. – JB
Tidelands lease negotiations in limbo
By JEFF BRADY and KATIE EMMETS
On the afternoon of a Sept. 23 deadline to respond to a new tidelands lease “letter of intent” from the Municipality of Skagway, White Pass president Eugene Hretzay wrote that the company agreed with the contents of the letter, except for four provisions. And then gave the borough a deadline of Sept. 30 to accept them.
But on the eve of a municipal election and a change in leadership, the municipality let the deadline pass and forwarded the issue to the next administration.
The proposed agreement would have White Pass give up the western portion of the 1968 tidelands lease, which contains the Skagway Ore Terminal and various subleases, in order that the municipality would qualify for state and federal funds to improve dock and terminal facilities.
White Pass would retain the eastern Broadway Dock section of the lease as well as management of cruise terminal operations on the Ore Dock.
But the two sides are in disagreement over the terms. White Pass initially wanted the Broadway Dock section for 50 years after the current lease ends in 2023. In its Sept. 16 letter, the borough offered 20 years with two five-year extensions. White Pass, in its Sept. 23 letter, countered with 40 years.
The company also wants to retain cruise terminal operations at all docks until 2063, whereas the municipality would have the company’s Ore Dock cruise operations stop in 2023. White Pass also does not want the borough at the table when decisions are made regarding berthing priority.
The other outstanding issue regards compensation. While the municipality’s Sept. 16 letter offered to leave it open to future negotiations to come up with a figure, the White Pass’s response was that the company be “compensated for all lost net operating income for the terminal lease until March 19, 2023.”
Hretzay did not respond to repeated requests to comment or explain the company’s positions.
The assembly did not hold a special meeting prior to the Sept. 30 deadline, and the stalemate was barely addressed at the Oct. 6 regular meeting.
Outgoing Mayor Tom Cochran, who sat in on several negotiation sessions over the past six months, asked to be part of future port discussions, but said it may be time for outside help.
"I think it would be wise to hire a third party to further negotiations with White Pass,” he said.
Assemblyman Paul Reichert agreed, saying he would like to see consultants brought back in. “I don't think negotiations are dead in the water,” he said, but the parties need to figure out how to go forward.
UMBRELLAS OUT – Visitors armed with umbrellas gather in front of AB Hall during a regrettably typical rainy September day. Jeff Brady
NEWS SPLASH: Aug.-Sept. wetter than normal
By KATIE EMMETS
Skagway ended its summer season with a lot of tour, trip and newsie cancellations due to a large amount of wet weather.
Last month, Skagway saw a September with 6.53 inches of rain, 2.2 inches higher than the average amount of rainfall for that particular month, said Pete Boyd, meteorologist with the National Weather Service located in Juneau.
Boyd said September 25 was the day with the highest rainfall amount for the month with 1.66 inches. The highest single day of rainfall recorded in Skagway for the month of September was 3.13 inches in 1923.
August also saw a lot of rain with 4.81 inches of rainfall, which Boyd said is 2.73 inches above average for the month.
September 2010 had 2.67 inches, 3.86 inches less than this year’s amount and 1.66 inches lower than average, and August 2010 had a total of 1.09 inches, .99 inches lower than average.
Boyd said low-pressure systems coming from the Gulf of Alaska are to blame for the large amount of rainfall over the last 60-plus days.
“In this particular year, there seemed to be one low-pressure system after another that came up from the gulf and into the panhandle,” he said.
A low-pressure system, Boyd said, is a weather creator with air spinning around counter-clockwise. He addressed them as the “big swirly cinnamon bun looking objects” that are seen on news weather reports.
“Alaska Gulf is known as the place low pressure systems come to die,” he said. “They come up from the Pacific and spin around and hit us. It’s one of the reasons why we are so rainy here.”
Boyd said when the south wind comes from the gulf the weather will be rainy, but when the north wind blows in from Canada, weather is more likely to be dryer.
“This September, we just had one low-pressure system coming up after another,” he said. “August had a few rainy days with a lot of precipitation, but September had a consistent amount of half-inch days.
BOROUGH DIGEST (complete digest in print edition)
Municipality sells tower plot to AP&T
After eight months of negotiations, the municipality sold a 10,000 square foot plot of land to Alaska Power and Telephone at a $20,000 cost for the site of a new microwave tower.
The communication tower, which was constructed June 1, provides back up for the underwater cable that runs to Haines.
In early September, the ordinance was brought to the assembly, but members chose to table the ordinance for further discussions because they said the assembly was under the impression that the initial discussion in February resulted in a lease agreement being drawn up, not a land sale purchase
“I’m still going to vote no,” said Assemblyman Dave Hunz. “It still doesn’t meet the 40,000 square foot requirement in the residential conservation zone.”
Hunz added that when the municipality is ready to divide and sell the remaining land, it would be difficult to do so with AP&T land right in the middle of the plot.
Although he didn’t agree with the land sale as it was written, Hunz wanted to assure the municipality would have the option of buying the land back first when it is no longer in use by the communications company, and made a motion that the land would be repurchased for a $1 price.
At the meeting, AP&T Manager Darren Belisle said he thought Ordinance 11-26 finally included the language and the arrangements the municipality wanted to see in order to sell the land.
The ordinance passed with a 5-1 vote with Hunz opposing.
Bear-proof garbage can discussion
After several weeks of hearing about bears rummaging through garbage cans and trash strewn through alleyways, Skagway Public Safety Commission chair Tim Cochran held a public meeting to discuss options and allow residents to weigh in with opinions.
In an October 11 meeting Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park bear specialist Dave Schirokauer said he found a bear-proof garbage can rating system online.
The research, which is conducted at a Montana Zoo, gives the tested cans a one- to five-star rating depending on both time it takes the bear to penetrate the can and the can being user-friendly. A can that gets one star is a can that takes the bear over 30 minutes to get into and a five-star can is one that takes the bear over an hour to get into.
Although they have not gone through the rating system, Schirokauer said there is a 55-gallon drum with a bear-proof lid that is manufactured in Talkeetna that he said is very popular in the interior.
Schirokauer said in order to ensure all residents are using bear-proof garbage cans in Juneau, the trash company rents the canisters to its clients for a set amout of money per year, adding that is something the municipality could think about doing.
Residents who attended the meeting agreed that in order for the garbage cans to be effective, mandatory implementation must be municipality-wide.
“For it to work, everybody has to be onboard,” said resident Liz Lavoie. “The (bear-proof) dumpsters are great and nothing can get in, but what good do they do when there’s a Rubbermaid (garbage can) without a lid right next to it.”
Skagway Police Chief Ray Leggett said the department has enough problems with residents not putting lids on their garbage cans and if the bear-proof cans are not made mandatory, he thinks most residents will not follow suit on their own.
“We need to give options that have the least amount of work and say ‘it’s mandated, here it is, do it,” he said.
Cochran also brought up the mass exodus of seasonal workers who, he said, appear to not care where their garbage goes because they are leaving town.
“They leave half-full bottles of apple sauce and half-full bottles of ketchup and celery sticks,” he said. “And bears are coming into town year after year at this time of the season. It’s a learned activity.”
Cochran said sending a drafted letter to Skagway’s summer companies informing them of the potential risks of throwing away opened food might alleviate the problem. The proposed letter would go out at the beginning of the season and also at the end of the season as a reminder.
The commission has agreed that they will continue to look at the bear-proof garbage cans and make a recommendation to the assembly when they have a concrete plan. – KE
School Board President Christine Ellis, right, swears in new school board member Cara Cosgrove, left, and student member Rori Leaverton, also standing, at a special Oct. 11 meeting. Seated is board vice president Darren Belisle. Katie Emmets
SCHOOL REPORT (complete report in print edition)
New members sworn in
The Skagway School Board swore in two new members during an October 11 special meeting.
The Skagway Municipal election votes resulted in Andy Miller and Cara Cosgrove winning seats on the board.
Cosgrove said she lived in Skagway year-round from 1989 starting a family with Bruce Weber (former school board president), building their house and raising their children. The write-in candidate has not always had her kids in school here.
“While we felt that Skagway School provided an ideal elementary education, the instruction given at the Junior High, and High School level did not, in our opinions challenge students to the best of their abilities,” Cosgrove wrote in an e-mail. “Therefore, in November of 2003, we drove south in search of a school that met our requirements.”
Cosgrove said hers was not the first family to do this, nor would it be the last.
“I believe that change will come if those in charge at Skagway School will embrace a need to raise the bar,” she wrote. “It is my goal to call attention to each opportunity to do so, and to work beside them whenever they choose to follow through.”
When he was a junior at Skagway School, Cosgrove’s son signed up for Spanish II.
“He was placed in front of the Rosetta Stone computer program for an hour each day where images helped him to push the right buttons to earn himself an A,” she said.
Cosgrove said her son was instructed to do the same for Spanish III. Though he passed the course with an A, Cosgrove said he did not possess the basics for conversational Spanish.
“So we teach our students to skate, hand out Spanish credit like candy at Halloween and send them off to college,” she wrote. It costs nothing to either eliminate this program, or to bring in volunteers who can test competency throughout the course. Who is the watch-dog at Skagway School that will take action against these low standards?”
Rather than boast that Skagway School is the best in Alaska, where Cosgrove says SAT scores rank below average nation-wide, the school should start comparing the students nationally to districts with similar demographics and reconfigure standards.
“We don’t need additional resources,” she wrote. “Competent staff are currently in place; our students will raise the expectations that we set forth; the community of Skagway never hesitates to volunteer their time and talent. I believe that we can do better and I’d like to work toward that goal.”
Miller, who was visiting Disneyland with his family, was sworn in by telephone quickly before the firework display started.
Rori Leaverton was sworn in as a student member, which the board said they have done in the past but haven’t in a few years.
In the meeting, the board appointed the following positions:
• Christine Ellis — President
• Darren Belisle — Vice President
•Stuart Brown — Treasurer
• Andy Miller — Clerk
• Cara Cosgrove — Member
New hires at school
Kathleen O’Daniel has been hired as the part-time special education aide, and Duppy Ticarro and Gregg Kollasch will be co-coaching the wrestling team. – KE