December 28, 2012 • Vol. XXXV, No. 23

Secrets for Santa

Wynter Radey-Morgan whispers what she wants for Christmas in Santa Claus’s ear before the Santa Train on December 8. See more Skagway Yuletide photos in our December print editions (online gallery coming soon).

Photo by Katie Emmets

Southeast communities disagree with Parnell’s Alaska Class Ferry amendment, ask for more details
Skagway Borough Assembly to talk about its position on Parnell's decision


After several years of planning for a single Alaska Class Ferry, Governor Sean Parnell recently came under fire by Southeast communities after announcing that the Alaska Marine Highway System would shift the project toward building two smaller ferries.
Parnell has been criticized for making the announcement without consulting his Marine Transportation Advisory Board, and it caught members by surprise.
In his December 4 announcement, Parnell attributed the change to the Alaska Class Ferry concept to funding efficiency.
Marine Transportation Advisory Board member Mike Korsmo of Skagway said Parnell’s news caught him off guard.
“It came as a complete surprise to me and the other MTAB members,” he said. “We didn’t know about the change before the announcement was made.”
Korsmo said he heard about the Alaska Class Ferry amendment from his friend in Ketchikan on the day the announcement was made.
“He said, ‘They’re building two ferries,’ and, not knowing what he was talking about, I said ‘Good. We need about six,’” Korsmo said. “Then I got an e-mail from the deputy commissioner about the announcement and realized what my friend was talking about.”
The MTAB board will meet in January to discuss the change and any new information available, but as of right now, Korsmo said he has some concerns.
The originally proposed 350-foot ferry was supposed to run in the Upper Lynn Canal, so it was being designed to operate in severe weather.
Korsmo said winter weather conditions have been delaying the 235-foot MV LeConte, and recently a lot of people have been getting seasick because of the large swells. If the smaller ferries are designed to be 235-feet, Korsmo worries the vessel running in the Upper Lynn Canal wouldn’t be as efficient as originally planned.
In a December 14 Southeast Conference Transportation meeting, Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Deputy Commissioner for Marine Operations Mike Neussl said there is no design for the shuttles, but they are imagined to be in the 250 to 300 foot range with a vehicle capacity of about 40 cars. There will be fewer amenities, no crew quarters and limited or no food service.
Neussl said the route envisioned for Lynn Canal would be Auke Bay to Haines round-trip daily or twice daily with four shuttle ferries a day between Skagway and Haines.
Eventually the Alaska DOT envisions a third shuttle with one home ported in Juneau, one in Skagway and one in Haines, he said, adding that this would increase both the frequency of service and travel options.
Korsmo said MTAB and the Department of Transportation have been planning a single Alaska Class Ferry for “quite a few years,” and plans have gone through extensive system-wide and public involvement.
“We’ll have to go back and do it all over again,” he said.
On December 21 Haines Mayor Stephanie Scott sent a letter to Parnell asking him for detailed explanations of his new plan, and although Skagway Mayor Stan Selmer was asked to sign the letter, he said he couldn’t without consulting Skagway’s ad hoc marine highway committee and the Skagway Borough Assembly.
“If I signed that letter, I would be doing what is being objected to of the governor’s actions,” he said. “It wasn’t because I didn’t support it, I just didn’t have the support of the people who have been working on this for the last couple years.”
As of now, Selmer said, there is no official recommendation or stance on the project from the Borough of Skagway and there won’t be until the assembly meets again in January.
Selmer did say, however, that he would prefer Parnell to suspend his discussion until his advisers had a chance to look over the plans in detail and give him input.
Parnell said he changed the plans because the project was getting too costly.
Construction estimates for the originally proposed 350-foot vessel were starting to exceed the allotted $120 million budget, so Parnell asked that funding for the ferry be directed toward constructing two smaller vessels.
“With declining oil production and declining state revenue, we have to be smarter with the people’s money while meeting Alaskans’ marine transportation needs,” Parnell said, adding that he has and will continue to support an increased mainliner service. “By setting a new course, Alaskans can build two smaller Alaska Class Ferries and stay on budget, and at the same time provide the same or better level of service Alaskans expect from our marine highways.”
Even though the AMHS produced record levels of revenue last year, costs continue to accelerate for the maintenance of the fairly old fleet, he said.
“Building smaller Alaska Class vessels will have a major positive impact on our ferry system capacity,” he said. “The smaller vessels will provide much-needed backup service should other vessels experience mechanical problems.”
Parnell said the two ferries could also add flexibility to the system when special community events require extra transportation.
Alaska Ship and Drydock in Ketchikan will still be the construction manager and general contractor, and Parnell said design work would commence as soon as possible.
The Department of Transportation has recently encored another change with Parnell’s appointment of Pat Kemp from Juneau to commissioner.
“Pat’s decades of experience are a true asset for the state,” Governor Parnell said in a release. “His leadership and critical thinking are well respected. The Department of Transportation will be well served with Pat at the helm.”

Children’s advocate Linda Calver receives 2012 Helen B. Clark Award for volunteer service

Three new nominees received recognition this year

Linda Calver, whose “children are synonymous with Skagway,” was named the winner of the 2012 Helen B. Clark Award for Skagway Community Volunteer Service at the Yuletide Ball.
Reading from her nomination letter, News publisher Jeff Brady told the audience that “Long before (Calver) was a grandma to all these children and ran her own day care, she volunteered her time and talents to the youth of our city.”
He then described how at the “Old School,” Calver was known to make and decorate individual sugar cookies for students, make homemade fudge and red candied apples to sell at the carnival, sewed outfits for the annual doll raffle, initiated numerous fundraising projects on behalf of the students, and “once volunteered to be in Blaine Mero’s first school play as a school marm (how fitting) and overcame her stage fright.”
When the chamber of commerce chose an education theme for Fourth of July in the 1990s, she single-handedly recruited volunteers and students to decorate it, Brady said.
“She took great pride in the school and made certain it was represented in a positive light,” he said.
Even in retirement, one can find her selling concessions on behalf of kids during Fourth of July festivities, making sure student groups have a giant stocking to sell at Christmas, and being a line judge at volleyball meets. She also sewed 150 Christmas stockings for U.S. soldiers, and helped make quilts for orphans in Bolivia as part of the school’s “Have a Heart” program.
“And she asks for nothing in return,” Brady concluded. “She truly epitomizes what the Helen B Clark Award represents: volunteering for neither personal gain nor recognition.”
Calver took the stage again to a standing ovation and quietly accepted her award, a large antique wood type letter “L” with an engraved inscription on the back.
Three new nominees for the award this year also received recognition certificates:
• Jennifer Castle, an active and friendly volunteer and planner for many organizations in town.
• Wayne Greenstreet, a calm volunteer leader within the Skagway Volunteer Fire Department.
• Jan Wrentmore, a 30-year community volunteer for a number of causes, fundraiser host, and a great supporter of the arts.
The late Helen Clark was the first recipient of Skagway’s community service award 26 years ago, and agreed to have it named for her so generations would remember her volunteer spirit. The award recognizes outstanding volunteer deeds in the community.
Every November, nomination statements are accepted from the public. Then a selection committee of past winners goes over the nominations from the past few years and chooses a winner.
The award is sponsored by The Skagway News Co.

Above, Jeff Brady presents Linda Calver with the Helen B. Clark Award at the Skagway Recreation Center’s Yuletide Ball on December 15. - KE

Hamilton low bidder on Dyea Road contract

Hamilton Construction, LLC of Skagway has been awarded the state’s upcoming Dyea Road Improvements project, which will see widening of three narrow sections of the road between Long Bay and Dyea, including a rebuild of the dangerous “Hackett Hill” section.
Hamilton’s low bid of $2,559,734.50 was about a million dollars lower than the Alaska Department of Transportation engineer’s estimate of $3.632 million. There were two higher bids, $4.193 million from Steve Manning Construction of Redding, Calif., and $4.499 million from Southeast Road Builders of Haines.
The bids were opened on Nov. 18, and the contract was officially awarded about a month later. A DOT spokesman said it typically takes two weeks or more to prepare the contract paperwork.
The project is not due to be completed until May 2014, but work by the contractor Hamilton Construction will commence early in the new year.
Owner Jeff Hamilton said they plan to start work on Jan. 15, 2013 as stated in their bid. They will tackle the “Drops” and “Narrows” sections first, and then Hackett Hill.
Hamilton said they will be allowed up to four hours of closure time per day if needed, but their schedule needs to be approved first by DOT. Once approved, he said the schedule will be posted with copies to local media.
They will work until May 1, 2013, shut down for the summer tourist season, and then work all next winter to get the job done by its due date in 2014.

• KGRNHP FEATURE: Reed McCluskey retires after 35 years with the NPS

TROUBLE NO MORE – A snowy Hackett Hill, the area of the Dyea Road Hamilton Construction, LLC, will be rebuilding. Construction will begin in January. Jeff Brady


Skagway's new legislators excited to represent community
After last year’s lengthy redistricting process, Skagway was placed in Alaska House of Representatives District 32 and gained two new legislators, who are both excited to represent Skagway.
Both Democrats, Rep. Beth Kerttula represents House District 32, and Sen. Dennis Egan’s Senate District P includes District 32.
“Skagway is a great place,” said Kerttula, adding that she has always wanted to hike the Chilkoot Trail.
Kerttula has been representing downtown Juneau for 14 years, and she was eager to add Skagway to the mix.
“I’m excited to represent what I think is going to be the most beautiful district in the House,” she said with a smile during a recent interview in the state capitol. Other communities in District 32 include Douglas Island, Downtown Juneau, Lemon Creek and the new communities of Petersburg, Tenakee Springs and Gustavus.
Kerttula was born in Alaska and was raised in Juneau and Palmer.
She was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives in 1989 and is currently the House Minority Leader.
Her father, Jay, was the state’s longest- serving legislator and the only legislator to have served as both House Speaker and Senate President.
Egan also has familial ties to the state, as he was born in Alaska, raised in Juneau, and his father, Bill Egan, was the state of Alaska’s first governor.
Egan served as the City and Borough of Juneau Mayor for five years beginning in 1995, after previously being elected to the CBJ assembly in 1989 and serving for six years.
In 2009, he was appointed to the Alaska State Senate to replace Kim Elton by former Governor Sarah Palin and ran unopposed for election to a full term in 2010.
Egan said he worked in Skagway for a month when he was younger as a concrete batch plant operator, and remembers fondly going to Moe’s Frontier Bar every night.
Egan and Kerttula said they have spoken to Skagway Mayor Stan Selmer and borough lobbyist John Walsh in the past, so they are familiar with the municipality’s legislative history.
“We know there is going to be some kind of port request,” Egan said. “And we’re looking forward to hearing about other issues, wants and needs that are important to Skagway.”
Both Egan and Kerttula will be making a trip to Skagway on January 11 to meet with municipal officials. There will be a public meet and greet at City Hall from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
“I’m coming to Skagway before the session specifically so I can sit down with everyone and talk about Skagway’s budget priorities and major issues,” Kerttula said.
Selmer said he thinks it’s great to have Kerttula and Egan representing Skagway.
“I will miss working with Albert Kookesh and Bill Thomas, and I
appreciate all the work they have done for us,” he said. “But I believe Skagway will be very well represented with Egan and Kerttula.”
Sen. Kookesh (D-Angoon) and Rep. Thomas (R-Haines) lost their bids for election last month in their new districts. – KE

Above, from left, Sen. Dennis Egan; Kerttula’s Chief of Staff, Aurora Hauke; Rep. Beth Kerttula; and Egan’s legislative aide, Alida Bus, pose for a picture at the Alaska State Capitol Building in Juneau. KE

Parnell’s FY14 budget $1 billion less than last year, does not include community projects
Governor Sean Parnell released his FY2014 budget on December 14, and it totals $6.49 billion in state general funds and $12.8 billion when federal funds and the Permanent Fund are included.
It is about $1.1 billion less than Parnell’s FY13 budget.
As the FY14 proposed operating budget is written, Skagway is receiving Alaska Marine Highway System Terminal Modifications in the amount of $4.5 million to modify ferry dock floats.
Borough lobbyist John Walsh said that if Skagway receives money for additional projects, it would come as a result of requests by the municipality to their legislators.
The FY14 budget focuses on resource development, public safety, education, and transportation and infrastructure but does not include any individual community projects.
Walsh said Parnell has put $500 million into this year’s budget to be appropriated for community projects statewide.
Walsh said Parnell is giving legislators the freedom to decide which community projects to fund, but he’s also saying they are getting less money for those projects.
Walsh said the Alaska State Senate, which has a Republican majority, released a statement that said it received the budget cutbacks well.
If the $500 million were divided equally between all 40 Alaska House districts, each district would receive $12.5 million.
“Between Petersburg, Skagway and south Juneau, it wouldn’t be hard to chew up $12.5 million quickly,” Walsh said.
The lobbyist’s direction now will be to lobby for projects on Skagway’s capital project priority list, he said. Projects were ranked in order of necessity in September and are as follows:
Skagway’s Small Boat Harbor ranked at number one, the Port Gateway Project at number two, a Public Safety building at number three, a Liarsville bike path at number four, Main Street sidewalk replacement at number five, Main Street repaving at number six, and boat harbor storage and repair at number seven.
The municipality will fill out capital funding request forms for the projects and will submit them to Representative Beth Kerttula and Senator Dennis Egan by the February 4 deadline.
Walsh said he plans to be in Skagway when the legislators visit on January 11. – KE