April 8, 2011 • Vol. XXXIV, No. 6
BSC Champs of the Next 25
The Buckwheat Ski Classic kids race starts with a howl during the 25th anniversary event. See a blow-by-blow account of Andrew Cremata’s first time racing in Sports and Rec and more photos on the BSC 2011 Page.
Photo by Jeff Brady
Bar Wars IV: A New Hope?
ABC board denies duplicate license; owner going ahead with hotel expansion, may apply again
By ANDREW CREMATA
A battle that began last fall between local bar owners culminated on March 24 when Beth Smith’s petition for a duplicate liquor license was denied by the state. While Smith expressed disappointment with the decision, she is hopeful that her ongoing efforts will be met with more favor next year.
At the hearing of the state Alcohol Beverage Control Board, Smith presented her case for a duplicate liquor license that would allow her to sell alcohol at both The Pizza Station, and The Wood (currently the Corner Café).
The four members present also heard testimony from Jan Wrentmore and Mike Healy, owners of competing bars the Red Onion Saloon and Skagway Brew Company respectively. Wrentmore’s attorney Dan Bruce also spoke at the hearing.
Healy said he kept his comments short. “I told them I thought my liquor license would be devalued by issuing the duplicate license,” he said via telephone.
Bruce said his primary argument was that Smith was asking for something not allowable under state statutes. He claimed that a duplicate liquor license should only be allowed when the two separate bars are located under one roof.
The Pizza Station and The Wood currently are housed in separate buildings.
Bruce said Wrentmore (who was unavailable for comment) spoke about the dangers of bad precedents and a proliferation of bars if the board were to issue the permit.
Shirley Gifford, chair of the ABC, provided details of comments made by the board at the hearing.
Board members expressed concern that the duplicate license could devalue existing licenses, and that they were typically issued for hotel bars or separate fixed bars.
One board member said there was one case in Anchorage of a bar housed in a separate building being given a duplicate license. Bruce explained by telephone that the commissioner also said that case would not be used as a precedent in regards to Smith’s application.
The board voted 4-0 to disapprove the issuance of the duplicate liquor license.
Smith said she was disappointed with the outcome but, “They’re forcing me to work harder and that’s not a bad thing.”
Smith said she was optimistic for the future due to the fact she was told by the ABC board to apply again when proposed changes to the property were completed.
Some of those changes include the construction of small cottages in between the two restaurants that will act as an extension of the hotel, which currently sits atop the Station.
Smith said it made sense to get the bar away from the hotel. She added that she hears complaints from locals that it is not a “real hotel,” but her efforts to make it better have “been blocked.”
Smith’s conditional use permit for her property is still a matter of contention between the municipality and Wrentmore’s attorney. While municipal officials have stated that a conditional use permit was granted, Bruce has maintained that the permit was not issued according to code and is invalid.
Currently, almost every bar in Skagway, including the Red Onion and Brew Co., must obtain a conditional use permit from the municipality. Smith was originally denied her permit by Skagway’s Planning and Zoning Commission, but the ruling was overturned by the Board of Adjustment.
Bruce maintains that the BOA failed to issue the permit because they neglected to follow local code. The municipality has stated that the permit was granted lawfully and is valid.
Bruce had threatened to seek redress through state superior court if the municipality did not revoke the conditional use permit for the Smith’s property.
Municipal Clerk Emily Deach said her office has not received anything official from the court contesting the validity of the permit.
Bruce said he has not seen an actual permit, but has only been provided with a letter of determination. When asked if he still had plans to file with the court over the contested permit, Bruce said that until he saw the permit there was no way to tell if the Smiths even had a permit.
Smith said she was proceeding with the knowledge she did indeed have a permit as she has not been told otherwise by the municipality. She said construction on cottages would start this summer and hopefully create a “resort type atmosphere.”
“We’re going to regroup and reapply next year,” said Smith. “We’re not down and out.”
White Pass balks at ‘site control’ request again
Rep. Thomas will not block port funding in capital budget, let municipality negotiate
By JEFF BRADY
White Pass is not budging on the Municipality of Skagway’s request for site control at the Ore Dock in order for the borough to have easy access to $10 million in port funds in the governor’s capital budget.
But the pressure appears to be off, for a while.
Rep. Bill Thomas this week said that, after talking recently with borough lobbyist John Walsh and Assemblyman Mike Korsmo in Juneau, he is inclined to “leaving (the $10 million) in there” when the capital budget comes before the House Finance Committee next week. Thomas is co-chair of the committee.
Thomas had told borough officials earlier in the legislative session that he wanted to see government site control before public money went into expanding and improving the dock to allow both cruise ships and ore ships to dock at the same time. The dock is part of the tidelands lease that the borough has with White Pass until 2023. While the two parties have talked about renegotiating or extending that agreement to insure future port business with Yukon mines, the borough in the last month separately tried to get White Pass to relinquish site control of the proposed project area, about 3.44 acres, as an addendum to the current tidelands lease.
In a second letter on March 22, Mayor Tom Cochran wrote that if White Pass did not relinquish site control by March 31, then there would be “no further negotiations toward a new lease.”
White Pass president Eugene Hretzay responded on March 28 that they had not changed their stand to have negotiations on site control and a new tidelands lease occur concurrently.
“If we read your letter correctly, you are asking us to grant you site control and then, ‘We’ll talk about a new lease,’” Hretzay wrote. “Negotiations are a two-way street and your position does not take into account the business realities we face. You are asking us to forfeit approximately 12 years of revenue from the Ore Dock with no assurance that we’ll recoup this or even settle a new lease.”
Hretzay then described the estoppel agreements that the borough signed off on last August, which were required for the company to receive loans from Wells Fargo Bank Alaska. It allowed for a renegotiation of the lease, provided that a new lease is not changed to end earlier than the current expiration date and includes all the real property defined by the current lease. Hretzay said he doubted the bank would approve of the borough’s request, nor his board of directors.
This week, the mayor said it was probably time for a change in direction.
He said that he would talk with the assembly this week about forming a negotiating team that could meet with Hretzay when the White Pass president returns to town at the end of the month. He said it has been difficult sending letters back and forth to Toronto, and then calling special assembly meetings every few days.
“We need a new strategy,” Cochran said. “We need to get some people together to hammer things out with White Pass and bring it back to us.”
He said the borough’s biggest issue was getting the $10 million from the state for the Gateway Project, and it appears that will happen.
“White Pass never came to us wanting a new lease until we pushed it,” he said. “We finally got their attention… but now it’s like they flipped it around and want a post-2023 lease.”
The borough has been working on drafts that would split the lease, giving White Pass the Broadway Dock, and the borough the Ore Dock. But the draft was put on hold until the site issue concerns were addressed.
Cochran said he thought site control would have been a “win-win” for White Pass and Wells Fargo, who would have had more valuable collateral from an improved structure.
Thomas said that the borough will have five years to use the money from the governor’s budget, but he will leave it up to Skagway on how to deal with White Pass, whether through a new lease or exercising imminent domain.
“I think we can hammer out something in that time,” Cochran said. “Hopefully sooner (than five years).”
On Tuesday, Thomas said the $10 million is a large capital project for a community, and the only capital project his district is getting in the general fund this session. He said it will be hard to put any other money toward Skagway for a while.
The governor’s capital budget will be heard by the committee next week. The session ends April 17.
Keeping a charitable secret
‘Have-a-Heart’ program honored in Disney magazine
By ANDREW CREMATA
While the spirit of giving has always thrived in Skagway, it’s never been that easy to keep a secret. When teachers at the Skagway School found out they were the recipients of a $5,000 donation for their Have-a-Heart program, the excitement had to be put on hold and lips had to remain sealed.
Junior high teacher Jo Trozzo said she read an article last May in Disney’s Family Fun Magazine that outlined details for the Family Fun Volunteers Contest: School Edition. The contest would offer four grand prizes of $5,000 to schools that teach kids how to help others through charitable community work.
Trozzo thought the school’s Have-a-Heart program would be perfectly suited for the award. The program is in its fifth year and it is an outlet for teachers and students to provide aid to someone in need.
Have-a-Heart sponsors various charitable events in Skagway, and school teachers’ work with students to support these events and decide who the recipient will be each year.
Trozzo said that teacher Vivian Meyer spearheaded an effort to act on the application process.
“I’m a helper,” said Trozzo, who typed out the application and sent it in to the magazine.
More than four months went by without a word. Then, in early January, Meyer walked into Trozzo’s room holding the printout of an email. Trozzo was having issues with her computer, but Meyer kept insisting that she read the email. Trozzo eventually took the note from her hand and read it.
“It said, ‘Congratulations, you’ve been awarded $5,000 for your charity – and you’re not going to tell anyone,’” said Trozzo.
Keeping a secret in Skagway has never been easy, but the teachers kept those who were in the loop limited to just a few key persons. The magazine also wanted to conduct an interview for the article and needed two students who were active in the Have-a-Heart program. Rosalie Westfall and Kara Whitehead were chosen to join Trozzo and Meyers for the conference call.
The magazine article focuses on the school’s charitable efforts, including some uplifting dialog from Whitehead and Meyers.
Trozzo described the interview as “one of the most emotional and heartwarming things I’ve ever been a part of.”
When a picture was needed to accompany the article, school children were brought to the gymnasium for the shoot but were not told what it was for. Elementary teachers were provided details but also had to be sworn to secrecy.
Amazingly, the secret held out until publication of the April issue of Family Fun Magazine, copies of which began circulating around town two weeks ago.
“It’s really unbelievable they kept a secret in Skagway for that long,” said Assemblywoman Colette Hisman at the last school board meeting. She has helped with several fundraisers at her restaurant, The Sweet Tooth.
Meyer was in Seattle when she first saw a copy of the magazine.
“I started yelling, ‘We’re famous! We’re famous!’” said Meyer, who saw the magazine in a Barnes and Noble Bookstore. “I thought they did a good job. It was really great and amazing that we got one of the four big awards.”
Meyer reacted by showing the magazine to everyone she came across, including her dentist.
“The process was fun,” said Meyer. “They have no idea about what small-town Alaska is like. Keeping the secret was fun too.”
Meyer said Trozzo deserved the credit for getting the application process rolling, and expressed passionately that all of the teachers from Kindergarten through eighth grade deserve credit for making Have-a-Heart a success.
Some of the students were also excited about appearing in a magazine read by millions of people. Denver Evans said she liked being in the magazine and also enjoyed her charitable work with the school.
Five year old kindergartner Austin Bricker said he enjoyed being in the photograph and would be willing to “do it again.” Bricker said he “worked in concessions” at one recent fundraiser and that he felt like he did a good job.
“It got really busy at the end of the shift,” he said.
Whitehead said she thought the whole experience was “neat,” and was surprised to see the photo when the magazine came out.
“I didn’t think we would actually be in there,” said Whitehead.
Have-a-Heart will select a recipient for this year’s charitable efforts in May. An upcoming walk and fish fry will add to the amount already earned by teachers and students.
Trozzo said the whole project teaches children that charitable work is something that you do “because you can and you should.”
“The whole thing is really good,” said Trozzo.
Mike Tranel named new Klondike superintendent
Mike Tranel, a career National Park Service ranger and manager, has been named superintendent of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical. He will start his new job on May 8.
“Mike has had a great deal of experience in Alaska, working successfully with communities and partners while at Denali National Park and as a special assistant for the Alaska Region stationed at NPS headquarters in Washington, D.C.,” said Sue Masica, NPS Alaska Regional Director, in a statement. “His management experience and desire to return to Alaska make him a great fit for Klondike Gold Rush.”
Originally from Montana, Tranel, 52, graduated from the University of Notre Dame and obtained a master’s degree in geography from the University of Iowa before joining the NPS in 1985 as a park ranger at Ocmulgee National Monument in Georgia. He also served as a ranger at Gulf Islands National Seashore in Mississippi, as chief ranger at Timpanogos Cave National Monument in Utah, and in progressively more responsible planning positions at Denali from 1993 to 2008.
He left Denali as its chief of planning, having helped the park complete its first backcountry management plan and other major planning work. Since 2008, he has been in Washington, D.C., representing the Alaska parks in a mix of legislative, regulatory and policy issues. His work there included regular discussions with the Alaska Congressional Delegation and staff members, major partner organizations, and the leadership of the National Park Service and Department of the Interior. He has also served as acting superintendent at Jewel Cave National Monument in South Dakota and at Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina.
“The stories told by Klondike Gold Rush are fascinating, and the park has an incredible array of resources such as historic buildings, the Chilkoot Trail, and museum collections,” Tranel said in a NPS press release. “I know the park has a great staff and I’m looking forward to working with them and with our partners in the community.”
He continued, “My family and I are excited about living in Alaska and getting settled in Skagway. We’ve visited there a few times in the past several years and love the small town atmosphere, the beautiful setting, and the historic character of the town.”
Tranel takes over the superintendent’s position from Susan Boudreau, who became superintendent at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve last fall. Tranel will arrive in Skagway in late May with his wife, Mary Tidlow, an architect with the NPS Washington Office, and daughters Abigail and Olivia. Another daughter, Kelsey, is a student at Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage and has worked with the Alaska Region’s Youth Conservation Corps program.
Klondike Gold Rush NHP was established in 1976 to preserve key resources connected to the 1898 gold rush that brought thousands of gold seekers to Skagway, over Chilkoot and White Pass Trails and on to the Canadian gold fields near Dawson City. It is the most visited National Park site in Alaska, attracting about 800,000 people a year.
Thirty-two Skagway residents took to the street March 31 to show their support for ending the epidemic of domestic
‘Choose Respect’ march, rally makes statement against violence
By JEFF BRADY
Governor Sean Parnell’s “Choose Respect” initiative was observed all over the state on March 31, and in Skagway more than 30 people marched up Broadway behind a banner and heard speeches at the Elks.
What began as a movement a year ago in 10 communities spread to more than 60 this year. Speakers cited the numbing Alaska statistics and then called for people to “don’t be silent” when they suspect abuse is happening.
“We rank among the top five percent in the nation and this is one place where we do not want to win,” said local organizer Kathy Hosford. “It’s time to start eradicating it and get everyone involved so victims don’t feel like they’re responsible for anything that happens.”
Stan Selmer noted that in the past decade there were 37,899 reported domestic violence offenses, 4,929 cases of sexual abuse of a minor, and 4,053 sexual assault cases. All total that averaged out to 12 reported cases per day across Alaska.
“How can this be?” he asked. “Why is Alaska leading the statistics in percent of incidents based on our population in almost every category?”
He urged citizens to get behind the “champion” of the movement, Gov. Parnell, and work to reverse the statistics.
Robert Gorder, deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, represented the governor. A former police chief from Sitka, Gorder said the statistics are just what has been reported. The “scariest part” is what does not get reported, and many of those incidents usually occur inside homes, he said.
The message on how to end this culture of violence was best stated by Skagway High School student Brandy Mayo, who plans on majoring in social work in college next year and obtain degrees that will put her on the front lines of the problem.
“This heightened trend of abuse in our state leads to lower self esteem, higher depression and suicide rates, and a continued cycle of abuse that we are passing on to our children,” she said. “Is this really the legacy that we want to impart?”
When an estimated one in 87 cases get reported, something is wrong, she said.
“When we take part in a society where people who have already suffered enough are too afraid to come forward, is that not a form of abuse in itself?” Mayo continued. “If we do nothing to solve the problem, we are just another part of it.”
This starts with talking to victims and getting them help, and confronting suspected abusers or reporting suspicions to authorities.
“We all need to work together to pull the abused people out of the shadowy attics or basements that society has hidden them in for so long and bring them to the forefront of this nation’s attention,” Mayo concluded. “We must force people to face the problem they would rather ignore, because abuse is a problem that should not exist at all.”
Selmer said he hoped there would be more than 130 people next year, and listed some resources: Skagway Police (911), Rev. Ryan Mandeville (983- 2260), Dahl Memorial Clinic, 983-2255 or 2025, Juneau AWARE (800-478-1090) , and the Alaska Children Alliance (907-688-0163).
Gorder thanked everyone for coming to support the effort.
“Your presence gives victims and survivors courage to seek safety,” he said. “We want to send a strong and clear message to victims and survivors that they are not alone and they are not to blame. Your presence says there is no shame in asking for help. Your presence says that as individuals and a community we will end this epidemic of domestic violence and sexual assault.”
SCHOOL REPORT (complete report in print edition)
Little drama at budget work session
The borough assembly and school board met in its annual budget work session two weeks ago, and the school budget has moved to the assembly table for approval. It was on the agenda for the April 7 meeting after this issue went to press.
The school district asked for cap funding of $1,255,091 and an additional $482,708 for programs outside the operating fund. Mayor Tom Cochran opened the work session by saying that he did not want a repeat of last year’s multiple meetings and budgets.
“The drama was just insane,” he said, urging the assembly to listen to the elected school board and then decide to fund the request, fund more, or fund less.
School Board President Christine Ellis agreed, saying they were not prepared to make any changes at this time. “It’s basically what we need to educate our kids,” she said. “We could do more.”
Parents Denise Sager, Christy Murphy and Angie Grieser supported the budget and asked for more. They said families are looking at other options.
Superintendent Jefferie Thielbar said the board scrutinized the budget line by line at their meetings. It is based on an enrollment of just 60 students. The next few years look better, as there are more than 45 children in the pre-K age group, but for now the borough is being asked to make up the loss in state funding due to the low enrollment projection next year.
“I don’t think we’re here to fund the cheapest school in Alaska,” Thielbar said. “I think we’re here to fund it to the point of being the best school in Alaska.”
Assembly Finance chair Dan Henry said funding the school was the municipality’s top responsibility, and they are not in a bad financial position. He supported the budget as presented.
Mike Korsmo and Paul Reichert discussed keeping the technology program intact or putting more money into it, and there was a concern that the music program was being cut too much.
Assemblyman Dave Hunz questioned the line items for electricity and heating, saying they were “way over” what was spent in previous budgets, but Thielbar said he could not predict what the prices will be. “We don’t want it to fall short,” he said.
They also discussed the high costs of benefits, keeping tabs on carry-overs, and the risk of making low projections.
Board members reiterated that the district could have asked for more but are trying to be responsible based on the number of kids in school next year.
“We’re not padding this thing, because it is definitely not padded,” said Stuart Brown.
At its March 25 meeting, the school board made no changes to the budget. Since there are no teaching staff cuts in the budget, it approved all of its tenured teacher contracts. There still is no new negotiated agreement with the teachers, but it is expected to be ready in April.
Brown questioned why the budget submittal deadline was moved up to Feb. 15 this year, when the assembly had not done anything with it until recently. Assembly liaison Tim Cochran explained that the municipality had 90 days, and it had just received its sales tax revenue figures from the previous year.
“I thought we came up with an agreement,” Cochran said. “You wanted more time, and we wanted more time with you.”
Brown said he had hoped the process would have been speedier and resolved before the contracts needed to be issued. Cochran said the dates may need to be changed again.
The assembly may be checking the numbers Thursday night.
Local resident Candice Wallace submitted a letter to the board pointing out posting errors in the January and February financial reports and questioned how they could build a budget when the accounting is not accurate. She sent a copy to the borough.
Brown said new business manager Cindy O’Daniel is in the process of correcting things, and Thielbar said any mistakes that are missed would also be caught in their annual audit.
“We should be audited, and we are,” the superintendent said. – AC & JB
More math requested for school schedule
The board on March 25 got its first look at a draft high school schedule for the next school year. Several parents at the meeting were in support of having more math classes instead of putting teacher Dottie Demark in charge of overseeing individual projects for two periods.
It was suggested to make room for a calculus class as well as a business math class. The calculus gap was created when the upcoming senior class missed out on taking algebra in eighth grade (it is now allowed). It was suggested that they could double up the periods for pre-calculus in the fall, and then move into two periods of calculus in the second semester. Demark said it could be done, and she could lighten up the homework since they would be getting two periods a day of instruction. “It would be a disservice not to offer (calculus) to them,” she said.
Thielbar said that schedule may not work with some seniors since it would conflict with other required courses for graduation. For those who are not needing calculus for college, a business math course could be offered, possibly through the VHS program, but he said those students need to be self-motivated.
Parent Kay Ackerman said a teacher needs to be with students taking any math course. Demark said most students already had taken an applied math course. She said it was just an off year where calculus was not offered.
When the school district changed from six periods a day to seven, it also had to increase its graduation requirements from 22 to 26. The board adopted first reading March 25. It will be phased in over the next four years. The required courses remain the same; four elective credits were added for the extra period over four years. The district also will be watching how the governor’s scholarship plan makes it through the Legislature, Thielbar said, and they may have to revisit the requirements again to make sure students have a shot at qualifying. – JB
A RARE SITE IN DYEA – Seals hauled out on one end of a tidal island and hundreds of gulls on the other end. The event occurred during a high tide last Sunday at the mouth of the Taiya River. Thousands of birds and marine life have converged in upper Lynn Canal rivers this spring to enjoy lampfish and an early eulachon run. Jeff Brady
BOROUGH DIGEST (complete digest in print edition)
No-smoking likely going to vote
A petition that would bring Skagway’s public smoking ban to a referendum in the fall has been delivered to the municipal offices. If certified, the petition would open the door for a public vote on the non-smoking issue and postpone the implementation or dissolution of the ordinance until October.
The smoke-free ordinance was to go into effect in most workplaces on April 20, after being passed by the borough assembly Jan. 20 with a 6-0 vote. Michelle Carlson spearheaded the petition and was able to obtain 146 signatures before submitting it to Municipal Clerk Emily Deach late last week.
Carlson said she was motivated to start the petition after numerous people expressed frustration over the ordinance not being brought to a public vote.
“People wanted a vote, and that’s why I did it,” said Carlson.
Carlson said other people helped gather signatures, but they “did not hit the pavement real hard.” She added that she was certain more signatures could have been gathered but she wanted to get it submitted in time to put the implementation of the ordinance on hold.
She said that if the ordinance were ultimately ratified then it would give time for local businesses to address needed changes to accommodate smokers.
Deach explained that she had until this Friday to certify the petition. The process requires she review each name on the petition to ascertain whether they are current registered voters. State code requires that 25 percent of the total number of people who voted at the last regular election sign a petition requesting a vote. That means only 98 of the signatures need be valid for the petition to be certified.
Carlson said the petition had nothing to do with the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, where she is employed as the bar manager. Representatives from the club spoke against the ordinance at multiple public meetings before the ordinance was passed, and at one point threatened to sue to municipality if it was approved.
Originally, representatives from the Eagles asked that clubs be exempt from the ordinance, but assembly members agreed that employees should be protected from second hand smoke no matter where they were employed.
Eagle’s trustee Will Godbey said via telephone that the majority of club members wanted to be allowed the opportunity to build a non-smoking room on premises, an option the ordinance did not allow.
“The petition is the only way they will get a chance to give their vote,” he said.
Godbey reiterated Carlson’s remarks that the petition was solely her idea and was not a directive from the trustees of the club.
If the petition is certified the public vote on the non-smoking ordinance will be held during the next regular election on Oct. 2. – AC
The Skagway News sports three 2010 Alaska Press Club awards
The Skagway News landed three awards in this year’s Alaska Press Club competition for stories in 2010:
• Andrew Cremata repeated his dominance of the Best Sports Column award, taking first place for his “Fish This!” column for the fourth time in five years. This was among all media in the state.
• Jeff Brady took third place in Best Alaska Outdoors Story among all media for “Father and son on the Chilkoot: Trail power to the 10th”. Judge Peter Potterfield commented, “A rare, long newspaper feature story, this piece shows us how an adventure in the backcountry can bring a father and son closer together. What’s missing in dynamic writing is made up for in heart, as the story reminds us why living in Alaska is so extraordinary, and how sharing wilderness with our children is a powerful gift.”
• Brady also took first place among small newspapers for Best Sports Feature with his ringside report on “Belly Bowl I: Battle at the Brew”.
The News will be fully staffed again starting in May with the return of former intern Katie Emmets as our year-round reporter/associate editor. She replaces Gayle Deaton who had to leave suddenly at the end of 2010 to deal with a family matter. The News also will have a summer intern reporter, Mark Abadi from the University of North Carolina. Brady plans to use the extra time to train with Team Skagnificent for the Yukon River Quest at the end of June and complete work on his book, “Skagway: City of the New Century.” He thanks local writer/photographer Cremata for helping out this winter.