March 12, 2010 • Vol. XXXIII, No. 4
SE CHAMPIONSHIP JOY
Jesse Ellis, Kaylie O’Daniel and Kaitlyn Surdyk hold high their first snips of championship net after the Lady Panthers beat Yakutat for the Southeast 2A title in Juneau last weekend. The team takes its undefeated record to State Tournament next week in Anchorage. Several Panthers have been selected All-State along with 2A Coach of the Year Lara Labesky. See extensive coverage in Sports & Rec. and on our SHS Basketball Page, and follow the Lady Panthers in Anchorage on our State Tourney Blog. Klas Stolpe
Found alive and well
Skagway adventurer rescued off Meade Glacier after 3-day search
By JEFF BRADY
Skagway adventure tour guide Kyle Dungan was rescued off Meade Glacier Wednesday afternoon, and by day’s end he was back home in Skagway.
Dungan was found alive about 3 p.m., reported Petty Officer 3rd Class Jon-Paul Rios of the Coast Guard. A USCG helicopter located Dungan but was too heavy to land in the deep snow on the glacier. It marked his location with a smoke flare and a lighter Army National Guard helicopter with Juneau Mountain Rescue personnel landed and picked him up around 3:30 p.m. It was initially reported that Dungan was being taken to Juneau for medical assessment, but he was first taken to Haines.
The Chilkat Valley News reported that he refused medical treatment in Haines and asked to be taken to Skagway. He was flown here by Haines ski-plane pilot Drake Olson just before 5 p.m. Wednesday. Olson was the pilot who first reported Dungan’s plight to authorities early in the week.
Skagway SAR Captain Colin Aikman, who had been monitoring the situation, confirmed in an e-mail early Wednesday evening that Dungan is now “here in town and okay.” He reportedly was hungry and heading home. Dungan could not be reached for comment as this issue hit final deadline.
Dungan had been overdue from a two-week trip alone on the Meade Glacier and the Juneau Icefield. When he was found, the search and rescue operation was into its third day.
Weather had hampered the search since Monday, except for one trip over the area late Tuesday afternoon when the man was not spotted. The weather broke enough on Wednesday afternoon for searchers to find him (see photo below).
GLACIER RESCUE – A Juneau Mountain Rescue team rushes out of an Army National Guard MH-60 Blackhawk helicopter Wednesday to the aid of Kyle Dungan who had been stranded on the glacier since March 7. The Coast Guard, Army National Guard, and Juneau Mountain Rescue had been trying to get to Dungan but were having problems reaching his location due to glacier fog. USCG photo by Air Station Sitka
Dungan, 28, an experienced trail guide with Packer Expeditions and a former glacier guide for TEMSCO Helicopters, reportedly had proper gear for the conditions, but heavy snow since last weekend made things difficult.
He geared up for the trip in Skagway and caught a ski-plane ride in to the area on Feb. 20 from Olson. Staff at the Mountain Shop said he had a radio and batteries with him, but no satellite phone. He had skis, a sled, even a kite.
He was due to meet Olson last Sunday at a designated pick-up point on the Meade, which is located 20-25 miles southeast of Skagway, beginning at the upper end of the Katzehin River valley.
According to the Coast Guard, the ski-plane landed to meet Dungan as scheduled, but he was not at the pre-arranged location. After taking off, the crew was able to locate the man and determine he was approximately seven miles from the pick-up site at an altitude of 4,300 feet.
Due to the rough terrain, the plane was unable to land, but the crew was able to drop Dungan a hand-held radio. He communicated that he was tired, weak and had not eaten for four days. He had reportedly been trying to get to a food cache.
Alaska State Troopers notified the Coast Guard 17th District command center about 10:35 a.m. Monday reporting the situation, and that a Haines heli-ski company was unable to reach the man due to weather conditions in the area. The troopers requested a Coast Guard helicopter crew to assist.
The Coast Guard launched an Air Station Sitka MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter about 2:05 p.m. Monday but it ran into heavy snow and headed to Juneau for the evening. There were accumulations of 5 to 10 inches of snow across the northern Lynn Canal area on Monday. Several feet may have fallen up high on the glaciers.
The snow stopped on Tuesday morning, and two more attempts were made, but the Coast Guard chopper initially could only get within three miles of the search area as glacier fog limited visibility.
Finally, during a third attempt that afternoon, the dense fog cleared enough to allow the helicopter crew into the area, but Dungan was not spotted and did not reply on his radio when hailed. The Coast Guard crew returned to Juneau after the search to refuel, arriving at 4:25 p.m.
Weather permitting, the Coast Guard said it would send the Jayhawk again Wednesday morning with the mountain rescue team on board.
Weather again was snowy Wednesday morning, but was starting to clear by mid-afternoon and the successful attempt was initiated by a different route.
Skagway Fire Chief Jeremy Simmons said SAR Captain Aikman and crew were on stand-by in case they were needed.
“We are monitoring it,” Simmons said Tuesday. “We notified State Troopers and let them know we are available. (Dungan) did give us a rough map of his route in case we did need to go up there.”
UPDATE: Dungan has written down his story from his trip journal, and is sharing it with the News. It will appear in the March 26 issue.
Skagway will advertise for new superintendent
By JEFF BRADY
Interim Superintendent Les McCormick has submitted his resignation from the Skagway School District, effective at the end of the school year. The resignation letter was on the agenda for a special school board meeting Thursday night after this issue went to press.
McCormick was evaluated during an executive session on Feb. 25. Board President Christine Ellis said no vote was taken but board members did express that they wanted to advertise for the superintendent’s position.
“No vote was taken but I can say that we are going to post the position and are having a special meeting Thursday to discuss it,” she said early this week.
McCormick confirmed Tuesday that he was resigning “in order for them (board) to go out and take a look.”
He said he would not apply for the permanent position.
McCormick was offered a one-year contract last May for the interim superintendent’s job, after the board reached an agreement with Dr. Michael Dickens to take a one-year leave of absence to deal with his health issues. Dickens had until mid-January to notify the board if he would be coming back to his superintendent’s post in July. He notified them in February that “his plethora of health issues” would not allow him to come back to the job he held and loved for seven years.
Ellis said they will post the superintendent’s position as early as Friday on the Alaska Association of School Boards website.
“We are a little late getting it out there,” she said. “Some other districts are already advertising. We will post our search with AASB and then discuss if we are going to do the rest of it ourselves.”
She said she hopes the board will have a list of candidates by mid-April to begin the selection process.
McCormick said that he had “done what Dr. D had asked me to do and there is no more I can do.”
He added, “It’s been a fun year. We’ve got good kids but there are issues in the district that need to be resolved, and hopefully I got them going down the right path.”
STO submits plan to address possible RIF in high school
By JEFF BRADY
The Skagway Teachers Organization submitted an eight-point plan to the school board this week to address a possible Reduction In Force (RIF).
The plan recognizes a possible RIF of a high school teaching position, but offers ways where teachers and other staff members can take on extra duties in order to cut the budget and keep all teachers employed.
The district is working on a budget for just 72 students next year, and notified teachers of the possibility of a RIF last month. Under its negotiated agreement, the teachers are allowed an opportunity to present an alternative.
“The purpose of this meeting is for staff to present their proposal to the board,” said School Board President Christine Ellis at the beginning of a work session Tuesday night.
STO President Vivian Meyer then read a public letter that had been approved by their attorney, accompanied by a proposed budget and staffing schedule for next year.
After thanking the board for the opportunity, she read the following: “STO believes in the value of highly qualified teachers in the classroom to support student and teacher interactions. Although we recognize the necessity for a RIF of the High School History/PE teaching position in next year’s operating budget, we do not want to lose an additional valued educator.”
Meyer’s letter then stated that they plan to keep all teachers currently employed within the operating budget. “STO hopes that all programs outside the operating budget will be funded by the city,” she read. “We have not included them in our proposal, not because we don’t value them, but because they do not pertain to the operating budget.”
The municipality last year funded the music, technology and pre-school programs, as well as meals and school activities, with sales tax and forest receipts outside of the state-mandated contribution cap for the operating budget.
Meyer then outlined the big items that they proposed to change under the plan:
• Teachers continued to teach high school history as has been done during the current absence.
• Teachers will cover classes of absent colleagues, with money left in case of the need of a long-term substitute.
• Special Ed. aide position will be shared by two certified teachers. She elaborated that this had been done before.
• Virtual High School training and membership fees would be placed outside of the operating budget or paid by parents at a cost of $475 per semester.
• Certified staff would take over the part-time librarian position, but the position could be reinstated if the student count goes higher.
• The two teachers who currently substitute for the superintendent when he is away would offer their assistance at no cost to the district.
• The maintenance department has determined ways to reduce expenditures.
• In lieu of the current cleaning contract, teachers will clean their own classrooms, the maintenance staff will clean bathrooms and hallways, and the food service manager will mop the McMillen (lunch) room and kitchen. The cleaning contract also could be reinstated if the pupil count is higher.
She then presented a staffing proposal and schedule and how it would impact students, adding that STO hoped the board would take their proposals seriously.
“We are very committed to ensure the high quality of education that Skagway School is known for,” Meyer concluded.
She added that all members of STO and the three non-members had been consulted. Most teachers and support staff were in attendance, along with a few parents. They were careful not to mention names when addressing positions.
Meyer said the expanded staff duties could work with prep period for all teachers at the end of the school day. “It’s the best we could do with three high school teachers,” she said.
The current social studies/PE teacher has been on paternity leave the past two months and is expected to return after spring break. When asked by the News if there had been a resignation, Ellis and Superintendent Les McCormick said there had not.
Board member Joanne Korsmo thanked the staff for the hard work they put into the plan. Meyer said they worked all last week after school into the evening hours. She added that they had used proposed budget numbers given to them in November and confirmed by the business manager.
Ellis thanked the STO for the proposal and said the board would take it under consideration at their next meeting.
There have been several negotiation sessions with the board over the past few weeks, including one this Wednesday. The board was having another executive session on negotiations at a special meeting Thursday as well. The district’ RIF plan was also due to be presented then in public.
Meyer said the STO proposal was changed after one of the previous negotiating sessions, based on some new information, and the attachment for the board justified their proposals in more detail.
“We are definitely in a crunch,” she said, and staff recognizes the loss in numbers. “We hope the numbers come up and we can restore programs.”
“This is dear to our hearts,” added middle school teacher Jo Trozzo, addressing the board members. “Do the best you can.”
Parent and former board president Michelle Carlson urged the board to also consider parent volunteers. In years past, she said parents would have a cleaning party after big events.
“There are a lot of parents out there who are wiling to help,” she said. “I’ll mop. I’ve done it in the past.”
Parent Rosemary Klupar said she was “holding out hope” that the district could attract more kids and that the parents organization could do some fund-raising this summer.
At the Feb. 25 regular meeting, a frustrated teacher and some parents urged the superintendent and board to consult the teachers during the budget crisis.
“The teaching staff is rising to the challenge, but we feel left out of the loop,” said teacher Denise Caposey, saying at that point they had not been asked for input. “This matter goes beyond the economic state of the district. As professionals, you would think we would be consulted in matters pertaining to the operation of the school or anything having to do with the students. Many of us have been working in this school for many years and have valuable insights to share.”
“You are thoughtful board members,” added parent Cara Cosgrove. “I trust you will bring teachers to the table.”
At that Feb. 25 meeting, Meyer said STO was “more than willing to work with you… At the community forum you said you would get together with us and talk budget.”
That’s now happening,
The district’s proposed 2010-11 school year budget will be reviewed in a work session soon, but will not be ready for the March 30 regular meeting (this was reported in error in the print edition, see below). It must be presented to the municipality in April.
UPDATE - The board came out of its executive session March 11 saying it will be able to balance a budget without a RIF this year. This is due in part to a teacher resignation and a new negotiated agreement that sees no raises and an increase in the deductible in the teacner medical coverage, said Ellis. The first budget work session could be scheduled as early as next week (March 29-April 3). Details in March 26 issue.
Idea for Long Bay harbor meets one man blockade
By ANDREW CREMATA
With the Skagway Small Boat Harbor due to undergo the next phase of its expansion, some members of the Ports and Harbor Advisory Board thought it would be wise to seek alternatives to the proposed plan. An alternative presented by the board to construct a brand new small boat harbor facility in Long Bay seemed to carry weight with the borough assembly when they agreed recently to postpone an RFP for engineering services related to the next phase of harbor construction.
However, Bud Matthews, the owner of beach front property in Long Bay, says he will not support any plan to place a small boat harbor in and around his land.
The idea of a facility in Long Bay is not a new one. Ed Fairbanks, Ports and Harbors Advisory Board Chair, said via telephone that Long Bay was the state’s first choice for a harbor location many years ago. He said the Army Corps of Engineers and an entity known as Alaska Public Works concluded that the best, and least expensive, site for a harbor was Long Bay.
“The people of Skagway rejected it,” said Fairbanks, who added that most residents thought Long Bay was too far away to drive considering the poor condition of the road at that time. He said the current harbor site was then selected and the two agencies funded its construction.
Fairbanks said the board had concerns about the current harbor expansion plan and desired to investigate alternatives. He said the current expansion plan would result in the loss of the parking lot, which would be moved north, absorbing Pullen RV Park. He said the biggest concern of the board lay with the loss of Skagway’s uplands.
“It’s a small town with small land area,” said Fairbanks. He explained that the board was trying to think far enough ahead to weigh the demands of future growth and development. “The land area gets a lot smaller if the ore industry takes off.” Fairbanks said the board revisited the idea of a harbor in Long Bay with future expansion in mind. He explained that a second harbor in Long Bay would provide separate locations for different types of users.
“I’m absolutely against it,” said Bud Matthews via telephone.
Matthews said there were many obstacles to constructing a harbor in Long Bay, not the least of which was his complete opposition to the entire plan, and the fact he owns the entire beach. Matthews said the area was popular with locals and visitors alike, and that he always welcomed people to enjoy his land responsibly.
“Local people have picnics (in Long Bay); they go fishing on the shore. There have been a lot of parties over the years.” he said.
He said other obstacles included the need to put in a new road, pipe in water, and a lack of parking.
Matthews said he is hoping to rally people who are against the plan, and expressed concern that his rights to land ownership in Long Bay could be compromised.
“I can understand his objection,” said Fairbanks. “I believe he has ownership over there.”
Fairbanks said nothing firm was in the works for a Long Bay harbor, and that the board just wanted to study the feasibility of the idea. “We want to lay the ground work to see what could happen,” he said.
On Feb. 18 the borough assembly tabled the question of whether to authorize an RFP for the next phase of harbor expansion after a statement by Fairbanks was read by P&H member Mavis Irene Henricksen stating that the harbor expansion project should not continue until the idea of a boat harbor in Long Bay was explored.
The P&H board had Long Bay on its agenda at its meeting this Wednesday, after this issue’s deadline.
Borough Manager Tom Smith said this week that there were numerous obstacles to harbor expansion into Long Bay, and indicated the current plan for harbor expansion would proceed as planned.
“If you have 20 or 30 million bucks you can start working on it,” said Smith, concerning the feasibility of constructing a harbor in Long Bay.
Smith said the RFP for the next phase of harbor expansion would be back on the agenda at the next assembly meeting on March 18.
Moose on the loose: rare sighting at north end of town
Leona Moran was surprised by an unfamiliar sight on Sunday March 7, while driving north on State St. As she
approached 21st Ave. a large form moved swiftly across the road in the direction of the Skagway River. The figure was none other than a female moose that was apparently in a hurry.
“It didn’t stop at the side of the road, but just kept moving fast like something was chasing it,” said Moran. She said the moose turned south on Alaska St. but by the time she drove to where she last saw the speedy mammal it had completely disappeared.
Reports of the unusual sighting quickly spread around town but despite efforts by a few intrepid moose seekers, including the editor of The Skagway News, the mysterious, misguided moose was missing. – AC
Team Alaska’s entry in the recent Air Canada International Snow Sculpture Challenge in Whitehorse brought home first place in both Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice and sculptors Bruce Schindler, Pete Lucchetti, Ken Graham and Patrick Johnstonewere rewarded with gold nuggets. The sculpture, “Inuit Dreams”, depicts an Arctic Native’s face, complete with a face piercing called a labret, and behind the portrait a rising sun, distant mountains and a depiction of him ice fishing and an underwater scene full of marine life. Photo by Dimitra Lavrakas
BOROUGH DIGEST (complete digest in print edition)
Bib clinic move on March 18
The Dahl Memorial Clinic moving day into the new Elmer and Jenny Rasmuson Community Health Center will be next Thursday, March 18.
Staff members are already moving small items as time permits. The big item to move over is the X-ray machine.
DMC will not be pre-scheduling appointments that Thursday, but providers will be at both clinics to see patients and for emergency care, noted the staff in an e-mail to the News.
The clinic staff hopes to be installed in the new clinic and receiving patients there on Friday, March 19.
New tax ordinance wording raises eyebrow
An ordinance amending how taxes are collected from sales made outside of the municipality passed its first reading at the March 4 Borough Assembly meeting. The ordinance states that collecting of sales tax would be required for all retail sales made outside the municipality by a retailer who both maintains a physical presence in Skagway and where the delivery of the goods sold occurs within the municipality.
Borough manager Tom Smith’s report stated, “The concern of outside sales has been an ongoing concern including discussion at the Finance Committee.” Smith recommended the assembly approve the first reading.
Assemblyman Dave Hunz voted against the first reading of the ordinance, citing that he did not agree with the wording.
New Fire Chief Simmons approved
The Fire Department’s Selection Committee recommendation to appoint Jeremy Simmons as Volunteer Fire Chief was unanimously approved by the borough assembly. The approval met with a round of cheers from Fire Department personnel who attended the meeting en masse.
The assembly also approved the department’s new job description for an Emergency Services Administrator. The job descriptions states that the position works under the direction of the Fire Chief and “assists in the overall planning, administration and operation of the daily business functions of the Fire Department.
The job includes benefits and will start at a pay grade of $26.03 per hour.
Skagway gets in on Alaska ACT, booth; Gov. Parnell will attend Seatrade in Miami
In a letter to the assembly, Tourism Director Buckwheat Donahue said the CVB had recently become a member of Alaska ACT, a group formed to lure cruise ships back to Alaska.
Donahue’s letter stated that an “offensive” speech had been removed from the group’s web site. Donahue called it an “unfortunate misunderstanding.”
Donahue asked the assembly to make a donation to Alaska ACT in an effort to offset their expenses toward hosting a booth at the Seatrade Cruise Shipping gathering next week in Miami.
Mayor Tom Cochran said he did not think anyone at the assembly table, including himself, ever had an issue with the removed speech, and supported a contribution toward the booth.
Assemblyman Hunz said he would like a report from someone who would be attending the meeting. Assemblyman Tim Cochran said that Skagway Street Car owner Steve Hites would be in attendance and could provide a report.
The assembly agreed to donate $2,500 toward the booth.
Governor Sean Parnell announced this week that he would be attending Seatrade, becoming the first Alaska governor in more than a decade to attend and participate.
SCHOOL REPORT (complete report in print edition)
Robotics team invited to World Festival
Teacher Vivian Meyer announced at the Feb. 25 School Board meeting that Skagway’s “X-Treme Blotz” had been one of the 15 robotics teams from the United States invited to participate in the Smart Move World Festival in Atlanta, Georgia in mid-April.
The Skagway team finished second in the state in January at the First Lego League competition in Anchorage, and was one of 84 teams from around the world invited to go to the international event.
Team members are Riley Westfall, Rosalie Westfall, Trevor Cox, and Kiara Selmer.
“It’s an incredible honor,” said Meyer, who helps coach the team with her husband John Westfall and Greg Clem. She said their name was submitted in a lottery for the world festival.
The selection was based on the team’s FLL values: respect, compassion, courtesy for others, and honor and integrity within themselves during the season, she said. “We were recommended and asked to come.”
“That is amazing!” said Board President Christine Ellis.
“We’ll have to sit down and figure out how to finance sending our kids to this prestigious event,” added Superintendent Les McCormick.
Funding for the team’s travel to Atlanta for the April 14-17 Smart Move World Festival was up for approval at the March 11 special meeting after this issue went to press.
DDF team fifth in two events at State meet
Brandy Mayo took fifth in Expository Speaking, and teamed up with Alexis Grieser for another fifth place performance in Duet Acting at the ASAA State Drama, Debate and Forensics meet in Anchorage last weekend.
Coach Teagan Baldwin said 20 teams from around the state participated, and there was a lot of competition. Skagway’s two-person team did well. Complete State DDF results were not yet posted as of Wednesday, but they should be up soon under the DDF link at www.asaa.org.
Mayo’s speech was on the Plastic Island that is moving around the Pacific Ocean. The duet piece with Grieser was based on the story, “Anything For You” by Cathy Celesia. Baldwin said it was a “funny little skit” about two friends who give each other advice, calling it “a little scandalous.”
Skagway will get a chance to see these and other DDF team performances soon. Baldwin was off to Juneau to chaperone Skagway kids at the regional science fair this week, but when she returns she plans to schedule a fund-raiser for Mayo’s upcoming trip to the National Catholic Forensics League competition in Nebraska at the end of May. Mayo won in Original Oratory at a NCFL meet in January, qualifying her for nationals. – JB