November 27, 2013 • Vol. XXXVI, No. 21
Book Fair Little Readers
Emily Willis reads the back of a Captain Underpants book to her son Yonder, left, as she holds her daughter, Lupine, during the Book Fair last week at the Skagway School library as part of American Education Week. See more photos on page 5 of our print edition.
Photo by Katie Emmets
Skagway resident in jail after shooting girlfriend
Woman stablized, in Seattle hospital; man charged with second degree assault
By KATIE EMMETS
Skagway resident Tim Forester was arrested and taken to a Skagway Police Department holding cell after shooting his girlfriend with a 12-gauge shotgun at the couple’s house at about 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.
According to Skagway Police Department records, after she was shot, the woman walked to a neighbor’s house, where the neighbor called 9-1-1. Upon arrival, police found Forester, 49, sitting in the street outside of his house. He was unarmed. Neither Forester nor the woman was tested for alcohol, but the odor of alcohol was present in the house, said Skagway Police Chief Ray Leggett.
After finding the 12-gauge shotgun inside Forester’s house, police secured the area making sure there were no other weapons in the vicinity. Officials then called for an ambulance for Forester’s girlfriend, and she was transported to Dahl Memorial Clinic.
After she was stablized, the woman was transported by a waiting Coast Guard helicopter to Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau and then by medevac plane to Harborview Hospital in Seattle.
Calls to Harborview about her condition were not returned by press time.
Her name was not released because the matter is considered a domestic violence case, Leggett said.
Forester was arrested and put in holding at the Skagway Police Department on $10,000 bail and was charged with second-degree assault.
Because he was not yet in Juneau, Forester was arraigned and charged by phone the following day.
“That’s usually what they do for small towns,” Leggett said of conducting a first reading over the phone.
As of Monday afternoon’s deadline for this issue, Forester was still in the Skagway holding cell, because the weather had not allowed planes to fly to Juneau, where he will be taken to Lemon Creek Correctional Center.
Leggett said Forester was charged with second-degree assault for reckless cause of serious bodily injury by means of a dangerous instrument.
After interviewing both Forester and his girlfriend, police determined that the act was not intentional.
“His statements and the victim’s statements are consistent with reckless cause of injury,” he said.
Leggett said he couldn’t reveal what was said during the interviews until the information was filed with the district attorney’s office, and he added that a court date for Forester has not been set.
It is likely the police department had received calls in reference to disturbances at the residence prior to the shooting, Leggett said.
Forester’s record includes a DUI charge from 2002 and a weapons misconduct charge from 2010.
UPDATE (Dec. 2): The woman is listed in satisfactory condition at the Seattle hospital. Forester was flown to Juneau the day after Thanksgiving.
Like it or not, health care act changes are here; panel attempts to guide residents through maze
By KATIE EMMETS
With changes in health care and insurance for all looming, the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is in the process of implementation, and several people in Skagway are willing to help residents adjust.
Lynn Canal Counseling’s John Hischer, Chilkoot-Gateway Insurance Agency’s Debbie Ackerman and Dahl Memorial Clinic healthcare provider Dana Mathis held a November 20 informational meeting for those unclear on what this change will mean for Alaskans.
Hischer began at the beginning and told the nearly 20 people in attendance about the act’s history.
President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” into federal law on March 23, 2010. Shortly after, 26 states including Alaska called the act unconstitutional and challenged it in court. On June 28, 2012, U.S. Supreme Court upheld most of the act’s provisions and ruled that the individual mandate to purchase health insurance is constitutional, however it rejected the portion of the law that would require individual states from expanding Medicaid eligibility.
The passage of the Affordable Care Act requires most U.S. citizens and legal residents to have health insurance. Those who do not purchase the federally mandated health insurance will be fined, with fines rising in the first few years.
In 2014, the first year of implementation, those who have not purchased health insurance will be fined $95 per adult and $47.50 per child, or one percent of the family’s income – whichever is greater. There is a cap of $285 in penalties per family for 2014.
The penalty tax will increase in 2015 and will be $325 per adult and $162.50 per child, or 2 percent of family income — whichever is greater whichever is greater. The cap for 2015 is $957 per family. In 2016 and beyond it will cost $695 per adult and $347.50 per child, or 2.5 percent of total family income —whichever is greater. The cap for 2016 and beyond is $2,085 per family.
There are several exemptions that could apply:
• Those whose income isn’t high enough to file a tax return.
• Members of a federally recognized tribe or eligible for services through an Indian health Services provider.
• Members of recognized health care sharing ministries.
• Members of a recognized religious sect with religious objections to insurance, including social security and Medicare.
• Those incarcerated and not awaiting the disposition of charges.
• Those who would be paying more than 8 percent of their income for the lowest-priced coverage available to them.
• Those uninsured for less than three months of the year.
The ACA legislated a federal government assistance program to offset costs of health insurance by granting subsidies based on income, and the subsidies will be granted in the form of a tax credit.
In order to receive the tax credit, an individual must make between $11,490-$45,960; a family of two must make between $15,510-$62,040, a family of three must make between $19,530-$78,120; a family of four must make between $23,550-$94,200; a family of five must make between $27,570-$110,280; a family of six must make between $31,590-$126,360; a family of seven must make between $35,610-$142,440; and a family of eight must make between $39,630-$158,520.
Hischer said the subsidy would come in a lump sum each year to be applied to monthly health insurance payments by the insured.
There are four plans that every insurance company will now offer: platinum, gold, silver and bronze.
The metal naming system is distinguished by the amount of insurance expense that would be paid for by the plan. Platinum would offer 90 percent insurance coverage, gold would offer 80 percent coverage, silver 70 percent , and bronze 60 percent.
The remaining balance would be paid out-of-pocket.
Hischer said there is no lifetime or annual cap on what the insurance companies pay out, but there is an annual out-of-pocket limit of $6,350 for individuals and $12,700 for families, which will start in 2015.
The metal naming system, and a lot of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, was modeled after Massachusetts’ statewide healthcare reform signed into law in 2006 by then-governor Mitt Romney. It was called An Act Providing Affordable, Quality, Accountable Healthcare.
As part of the ACA, all plans must include ambulatory patient services (any service that isn’t administered in a hospital), emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance abuse, prescription drugs, rehabilitative and habilitative services (relearning tasks and learning tasks after life altering changes), preventative and wellness, and pediatric services (including oral and vision). Oral and vision are not included for adults, and will cost extra.
Hischer said some current heath insurance policy holders are receiving cancellation letters and said it’s because their existing plans do not meet the new requirements and/or have a higher out-of-pocket limit than the Affordable Care Act mandates.
“A vast majority of cancellations are happening because people chose a plan for themselves, not for the mass amount of people,” he said. “People didn’t choose things they don’t need.”
Those with existing policies that don’t meet the requirements will need to be insured under an approved plan by March 31, 2014 or face the aforementioned fines.
There were about 20 people at the informational meeting, one of whom was Skagway resident Barb Brodersen.
Brodersen said she doesn’t understand why she would have to pay for maternity and newborn care, and pediatric services, when she knows she will not be having any more children.
“That’s a rip-off,” she said. “A-number 1.”
Brodersen said she would rather not get healthcare and pay the fines.
Tim Cochran said because the fines were lower than any health insurance plan, he wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people opt to not have health insurance and just pay the fines.
Skagway resident Ginny Cochran said she is concerned for those who don’t make enough money to get a tax credit for healthcare and who will still be unable to get a healthcare plan.
“Unfortunately,” Hischer said in agreement. “Some people will still fall through the cracks.”
Those who don’t make enough to receive a tax credit will not be fined for not buying health insurance, but Alaskans who don’t make enough money to receive a tax credit and have less than $2,000 in assets qualify for Medicaid.
“However, for those over 21 and under 65 to qualify for Medicaid in Alaska, the individual would have to be declared disabled,” he said. “That is a process through Social Security which involves seeing physicians paid by Social Security to determine if the individual is unable to work for at least 12 months because of a specific physical or mental disability.”
Hischer said the process takes about six to eight months to complete.
“There are not many options for someone in Alaska who does not qualify for Medicaid and will not qualify for the subsidies for the new health care metal policies,” he said. “Hospitals generally waive some fees for patients who are unable to pay, and they also may work with them on some payment plans.”
Medical payment help could come in the form of prescription drug assistance programs that are widely available through pharmaceutical companies, or, on a local level, through charitable organizations such as the Elks, the Eagles, the Fran Delisle Cancer Awareness Fund, and the Have-A-Heart charity.
Hischer said Alaska’s Denali KidCare would still operate as normal and added the Dahl Memorial Clinic would still offer sliding scale payment amidst the healthcare reform.
“As far as we know, nothing is changing at the clinic,” Hischer said.
Skagway residents who qualify for the sliding scale program can use the monetary assistance for their remaining balance after their health insurance is applied to their total bill.
Because insurance companies are expecting to lose money with this major switch, said Dahl Memorial Clinic billing clerk Donna Powell, it is a buyer’s market when it comes to shopping for health insurance.
There are two insurances companies available to Alaskans: Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska and Moda Health.
Debbie Ackerman said insurance companies are ranked by grades with the highest being A+++.
Ackerman said as an insurance seller, she is told to never insure anyone with any plan less than an A and then added that Premera is an A- company and Moda is a B++ company.
The grades are based on how much money the companies have in their reserves, and normally, Ackerman said, companies that have lower ratings tend to keep rates down to generate more income. Ackerman said this is not the case with Premera and Moda, as Moda’s prices appear to be more than Premera’s.
Those shopping for insurance plans can calculate how much they will receive in subsidies before signing up for insurance in the Health Insurance Marketplace at http://kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator/ and can sign up for health insurance in the marketplace at https://www.healthcare.gov/health-insurance-marketplace/.
Hischer said those applying will need to enter information about income and household size and will need social security numbers for family members, and existing policy numbers.
Plans and programs applicants are eligible for will be shown side-by-side on the computer screen for comparison. Applicants will also find out if they can receive lower costs on monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs. Plans will start as early as January 1, and there will be an open enrollment every year from October 1 – December 7 in order to update information and change plans.
In the meantime, people are still having problems with the government’s website which have been causing delays in filling out or completing applications. Those problems are supposed to be fixed by the end of the year.
Port Commission wants state DOT to have input
from Skagway on new floating ferry dock design
By DUSTIN STONE
Ferry terminal modifications and liquefied natural gas research were the main topics of conversation at the Nov. 13 Port Commission meeting.
After reviewing an Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities/Federal Highway Administration “Request for Comments,” containing a brief proposal for replacing the “the concrete float, restraint (mooring) system, and vehicle transfer system,” at the Skagway ferry terminal, the commission voted Chairman Tim Bourcy draft a letter to the Assembly stating the Port Commission’s support for the project. The letter will also include the commission’s concerns regarding ownership and design of the new dock. Because of the multi-use nature of the dock, said Bourcy, the commission feels it is in the municipality’s best interest to retain partial ownership of the facility and take an active role in its design.
A similar letter, written by Mayor Mark Schaefer, was sent to Captain John Falvey Jr., General Manager of the Alaska Marine Highway System. The commission also continued discussion of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) research project that, according to the minutes from the previous month’s meeting, “explores how the Port of Skagway may be impacted or developed to utilize this expanding product.”
According to Bourcy, the commission is interested in researching LNG as a commodity that could be shipped through the port of Skagway, as well as its potential use as an alternative shore-power source for cruise ships. Commissioner Steve Hites, attending via telephone, provided the commission with some initial research into the use of LNG as shore-power in ports around the world. The commission also discussed the possibility of funding dredging of the small boat harbor through the Gateway Project by using the dredged material as fill in Ore Dock renovations.
SNOWY WALK – Skagway School student Dawson Clem walks a path through several inches of new snow that fell on Skagway Nov. 21 during the first significant snowfall of the year. By afternoon, however, most of it was gone or turned to ice. - Jeff Brady
Manager hiring process to begin this month
The Manager Hiring Process Evaluation Committee has determined a job description and salary for the borough manager position, and was poised to move forward with the search, assuming the Skagway Borough Assembly approved the description and a hiring timeline Tuesday night after this issue was printed.
The borough is seeking a new manager after the assembly fired George Edes in September.
The proposed job description was compiled and streamlined from the job matrix survey results. The job matrix was given to department heads and assembly members for job priority rankings. Interim manager Tom Healy also filled one out.
According to the proposed job description, the position of borough manager is a full-time administrative position that will be salaried between $110,000 and $140,000 depending on experiences and qualifications.
Some of the manager’s duties include directing and managing the development and implementation of municipal goals, objectives, and policies. The manager must be able to plan, direct and manage Skagway’s capital projects; and oversee and participate in the development of the municipality’s budget. Experience in tourism-based economies and port management is a plus.
It is essential that the manager effectively and transparently communicate with the assembly, borough staff and Skagway residents.
Benefits would include medical and dental health coverage, participation in the Public Employee Retirement System, paid sick and annual leave, and elective life insurance.
After approval from the assembly, the committee will widely distribute the job flyer, which will include the job description and ask those interested to send a letter of intent resume and four professional references to the administration office via e-mail.
On January 10, the search committee will meet to review the letters and narrow the applications down to ten. They will then send the 10 candidates application packets, which must be returned as hard copies and postmarked by January 31. On February 4, the assembly will receive the packets and narrow down the applicants to five semi-finalists. The semi-finalists will undergo a background check, and phone or video interviews will be conducted before March. After the last phone interview, the assembly will chose candidates for in-person interviews. The mayor and assembly will conduct the interviews in open session.
Assemblyman Tim Cochran, who is on the manager search committee, said any discussion by the assembly will be conducted during executive session.
Though there is a timeline for the search, Cochran said there will be no deadline for having the position filled.
“We decided not to list a date,” he said. “If we don’t have someone or several people standing out, we will have to go through the process again. We don’t want to limit ourselves to time.” – KE
P&Z forwards plants garden definition
The Planning and Zoning Commission voted to send a Code Amendment Proposal, defining “community gardens” in the municipal code, on to the assembly for approval. In the Nov. 14 meeting, Permitting Official David Van Horn submitted the proposal for commission review. According to the proposal, put forward by Assemblyman Steve Burnham Jr., “to not define or mention community gardens in municipal code makes farmers’ markets difficult to permit and enforce properly as well as being a liability to the municipality.” The amendment would add parameters defining what is and is not a community garden to the municipal code. These parameters include minimum and maximum sizes and plot monitoring by Public Works or another designated municipal official. If passed, the amendment would also require community gardens operating in Skagway, including the existing garden, to obtain a permit. “Without (community gardens) being defined,” said Van Horn, “they are technically unallowable. I’ve created some regulations I feel are not very restrictive. The current garden could meet the parameters without any significant monetary hardships.” Amenities like water and restrooms are also mentioned in the current draft of the proposal, however, it was agreed upon by the commission that the language should be changed to make amenities conditional, dependent upon the location and zoning of individual gardens. Public comment on the West Creek Area Master Plan draft was also on the agenda for the meeting. Because no members of the public attended, discussion was brief. The commission had set up the hearing for anyone who may have missed the Nov. 1 round of public meetings on the draft plan. Comments were due Nov. 22. – DS
Wyatt Belisle, left, and Danny Brady listen to Dylan Healy talk about his career as a chef at Skagway School’s 2013 career day. KE
New girls’ basketball coaches this season
O’Daniel were hired by Skagway School to co-coach the girl’s basketball team during the 2013-14 season.
Both Mason and O’Daniel played basketball at Skagway School and said they are excited about coaching this year.
“We have a young team, and I’ve never worked with this group of girls before,” she said. “But Kent (Fielding) has said great things about them.”
Fielding supervised the girls’ team last summer in open gyms.
Mason said the girls have good attitudes and the willingness to learn, which she said is the key.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing how they come together as a team,” she said.
Mason started her basketball career in third grade playing in Skagway School’s intramurals. She played three years of middle school basketball for the Panthers and during her freshman year, she played on the boys’ team. She finished out her high school years at Juneau Douglas High School where she played point guard, and went on to play NCAA Division II basketball at University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Mason said she has coached players from 6 to 18 years old at team and individual team camps at UAF.
O’Daniel said he is excited to coach the girls’ team and added that he’s been working with most of the girls since they were in second grade through intramurals. He has also been coaching the girls for the last six years at summer camps and coached four years of middle school basketball.
O’Daniel also helped coach the boys’ team two years ago when Mark Jennings was the head coach, and he again helped out Fielding with the co-ed team last year.
O’Daniel’s first coaching job was given to him by Boyd Worley in 1981.
“I coached intramurals, and Lisa Whitehead was my center,” he said. “And now I get to coach her daughter, Kara, so that’s really exciting.”
O’Daniel said he also looks forward to coaching his daughter, Hannah, who is a senior this year.
“To be able to have the opportunity to coach your own kid and spend that much time with them is a gift,” he said. “Especially because this is her last year of high school and she’s our baby.”
O’Daniel said he is looking forward to this season, and added that he will be working with a good group of girls who listen, are motivated and want to do the best they can.
“I know we will be up there with the Yakutats and the Klawocks,” he said. “And I can’t wait to see how we improve throughout the season.” – KE
Switch on for LED lights
The Skagway School has sent out a request for proposals for lighting upgrades to an LED system for the gym, library and shop in hopes of saving energy and money in the years to come.
The school is seeking 60,000-hour minimum life expectancy bulbs that have an immediate response when turned on. The bulbs in the library must have a dimming capability.
The RFP comes in response to a February 2013 Alaska Energy Engineering, LLC energy audit which detected several energy- and money-saving changes.
During the November 19 School Board meeting, two issues from the report were addressed: heating and lighting.
As a first step to fix these issues, Superintendent Josh Coughran had new boilers installed. The boilers provide heat to seven air handling unit systems, unit heaters, and perimeter hydronic systems. In addition to meeting the heating demands of the school, the boilers have the capacity to compensate for all hot water needs.
Coughran said the next step will be to replace the lights in the library, shop and gym with more energy-efficient LED lights.
“It could be the difference in the winter of needing to run diesel or not. It could save the ratepayers of Skagway and Haines money, too,” said Darren Belisle, Skagway School Board president.
Belisle also said that, if they weren’t going to replace all the lights at the same time, he recommends they do the gym first, because it’s the biggest space and uses the most energy, and then the library and shop.
Tim Cochran, the Skagway Borough Assembly’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee chair, said the school could also save money if it could override the heater.
Cochran mentioned that during last year’s school Christmas program, the heater was very loud. When someone asked the maintenance worker if he could turn it off, he said there was no way to override the system.
“A lot of times athletes complain about it being too hot in the gym and needing to open a door,” he said. “If the door is open it’s letting the heat out and wasting money. There should be a way to override the system.” — ZW