Centennial Masons

Masons marched from the Elks Lodge to the Masonic Lodge May 29 to celebrate the centennial of the Masons' presence in Skagway. See story below. Photo by Dimitra Lavrakas

Taylor will be retried
Trial set for June 18 in Anchorage

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS

Former White Pass & Yukon Route President Paul Taylor will go to court again June 18 to face the same charges he was convicted of in 1996 as a result of a fuel spill up the rail line.
“You can’t believe how disappointing this is for us,” said Taylor. “We thought it was over. It’s emotionally and financially draining. And here we are again, and we don’t know how it’s going to turn out.”
He said another trial at this time of year will be very disruptive to everyone involved, including those people who have been subpoenaed to testify.
Taylor still feels there’s not enough evidence to uphold the conviction.
But prosecuting U.S. District Attorney Charles Brown said by phone from Anchorage that he believes the evidence is still there to uphold the U.S. District Court’s original conviction, and he will proceed with the trial.
After a two-month trial in late 1996, Taylor was found guilty by an Anchorage jury of two felony counts of giving false statements to federal investigators. A year later, Taylor was sentenced to nine months in prison and fined $10,000.
However, Taylor won a lengthy appeal. A 2-1 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals’ judges in August 2000 reversed the conviction based on what they considered the outdated application of a rule that admits testimony of previous wrongdoing.
Judge Russel H. Holland, new to the case, will be on the bench.
The charges stemmed from an incident in October 1994, when a backhoe broke a fuel line at Six Mile on the railroad tracks, and spilled oil. Representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Environmental Conservation flew into town to investigate.
At his 1996 trial, Taylor was acquitted of seven other counts: failure to report a spill, negligent discharge, conspiracy, three counts of giving false statements, and obstruction of justice.

School Board picks Hunz
Vote may not have been legal

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS

The Skagway School Board met in a special meeting on May 29 to select an interim board member to take Michelle Carlson’s seat after her recent resignation.
After discussion about the potential candidates, board members Don Hather, Dorothy Brady, Chris Ellis and Dawn Kilburn narrowed the candidates down to Tom Cochran or Bill Hunz.
After the vote between applicants resulted in a tie vote, Hunz suggested the board write its votes down and vote again.
The 3-1 vote on pieces of paper resulted in Hunz being chosen as the one to serve until the October municipal elections.
However, at the end of the meeting, former board president Bruce Weber questioned the legality of the secret ballot.
Later, Weber said there was a period of six months in which to challenge the election if the board does not hold another special meeting and vote again.
Members of the news media also questioned the action.
The state statute (AS 44.62.310) covering open meetings of governmental bodies states: “...Except when voice votes are authorized, the vote shall be conducted in such a manner that the public may know the vote of each person entitled to vote.”
Hather said there certainly wasn’t any attempt to do anything illegal. He had checked with Hunz, who formerly served on the board, and Hunz was of the opinion that because the discussion wasn’t about money then it was all right to have a secret vote.
“I guess I have a hard time seeing what it would change, the outcome would be the same,” Hather said.
He said if the board needed to do it again, it would.
Hather in past meetings has repeatedly defended public disclosure, making sure the board is “doing the people’s business out in the open.”
On Tuesday, Superintendent James Telles said the board could not have a special meeting because several board members will be out of town for several weeks and that the matter would most likely be dealt with at the board’s regular meeting on June 26.
In the meantime, the school’s attorney is researching the issue.
Ellis was chosen as the interim board president until the fall election and the board reconvenes and chooses its officers. Hather also announced that he would resign before the fall election.

Black bear killed at Dyea Road residence
Different bear broke into home two days in a row

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS

A problem black bear was shot and killed by a local hunter at a residence on the Dyea Road on May 27, the day after a bear broke into the same residence, and was scared off when shot with a non-lethal bean bag.
“The bear was shot with the bean bag just to startle the animal and let him know his actions weren’t copacetic with human factors,” said Police Chief Dennis Spurrier.
That was the last time that particular bear was seen, said Spurrier. The police have no idea how the bear broke into Ken Russo’s home, he said, and they had to pry off some plywood to give it an avenue of escape.
“The following day, he (Russo) reported it as the same bear as we had contacted the previous day,” Spurrier said. “He didn’t actually see it, but heard it as he was approaching the house.”
The bear on the 26th was a cinnamon-colored black bear, and on the next day, it was a black bear, Spurrier said. There was no indication how the black bear got in on the 27th, he added.
Spurrier said it was decided the bear had crossed the line and he was now associated with the house.
“Once a bear has done that, it has basically signed its death warrant,” he said. “It became a situation where we needed to take action because it was a public safety issue.”
Spurrier said police called in a local hunter, rather than shoot the bear and take the time to harvest the meat themselves.
“I don’t have the overtime to send officers out to deal with a problem bear,” he said. “A hunter showed up and he must have heard the radio traffic.”
Local hunter Monte Mitchell said he offered his assistance.
“The Fish and Game came into the Police Department and told the Police Department they could and should commission someone within their season (bear hunting season) and (bag) limit to come in and take the bear,” said Mitchell. “Three minutes later the radio call came across ...”
Mitchell said he shot at the intruding black bear and it ran off into the woods, right toward another bear. One of the bears then stood up, and Mitchell shot and killed it.
“Both were what I call chocolates, one stood up so there was no differentiating between the two,” he said.
The other bear ran away and has not turned up. There was no blood trail, Spurrier said.
Spurrier said this was the first time in his memory that a problem bear has been killed in Skagway.
“Fortunately, we’ve never had this situation before,” he said. “We’ve been very lucky in the 20 years I’ve been working here that we’ve never had to destroy a bear. We’ve used other means – car horns, sirens, bean bags, cracker shells.
“It’s just one of those things that’s bound to happen one of these days. Hopefully, this will be the last one we’ll have to handle in this manner. These two bears crossed the line.”
Polly Hessing, assistant area biologist and animal biologist with the state Department of Fish and Game in Douglas, said in the past Skagway has approached the agency with its bear problems and has worked well with the department on them.
“It’s a very tough problem, we people usually don’t do anything until the horse is out of the barn,” she said.
She cautions rural dwellers to rethink how to contain their garbage and make sure their doors open out so bears can’t lean on them, pop the latch and get inside.
Russo had no comment on the incident.

Masons circle around the cornerstone to hear speeches.

Masons celebrate 100 years in Skagway
Time capsule dedicated with many Masons in attendance

On a big ship day with many visitors on the street, the commotion caused them to ask what was going on when members of the White Pass Lodge No. 1 marched with their brothers on May 29 from the Elks Lodge to the Masonic Lodge on Fourth Avenue.
It was a birthday party, with the Skagway Lodge celebrating its centennial. The first meeting took place at the Elks Hall on Nov. 30, 1900, but that meeting was held “under dispensation” from the Grand Lodge of Washington.
The meeting notes, offered local lodge member Carl Mulvihill, describe the turnout:
“...despite the fact that the boys had to fight not only a blinding snow storm, but a Lynn Canal Zephyr in addition to get to the Lodge, we had a fine attendance.”
The Lodge received its charter on June 13, 1901.
It is an ancient society, one that dates back to the late 1300s, said Mulvihill, who serves as secretary. Skagway’s lodge is “proud of it historical position of being the oldest active Masonic Lodge in Alaska,” wrote Mulvihill in his history of the Lodge used in the commemorative brochure.
With pipers in attendance leading a double line of marchers in full regalia, the men lined up in the yard next to the Lodge to dedicate a plaque placed on the familiar stone pyramid that is symbolic of the order. The pyramid also holds a time capsule containing a Lodge history book, silver Master’s coin, a 100-year pin, a Yukon Lodge #45 pin, a White Pass #1 pin, a bronze coin, and three newspapers – The Skaguay News, October 10, 1897 replica, the 2001 Skaguay Alaskan, and The Skagway News, May 25, 2001, which previewed the event.
One after one, Masons came up and measured the stone and declared it “plumb,” “square” and “level,” and said the “craftsman did his duty.” Corn was then scattered as a sign of plenty and the stone was anointed with oil.
All of this was somewhat bewildering to those not familiar with Masonic tradition.

The White Pass No. 1 F & AM cornerstone.

A secret society by necessity for fear of persecution from religious and political fanatics of the day, Mulvihill said, the Masons still maintain a distance, but do contribute to the community in concrete ways.
There are organizations affiliated with the Masons: the Order of the Eastern Star, an organization for both men and women, but by charter must be headed by a woman; the DeMolay for boys; and Job’s Daughter for girls. There are also offshoots of Masonry like the Shriners, that support hospitals for burn patients and children with physical handicaps – all at no cost to the patient.
Mulvihill said the society was most likely started by stone masons, and the steps within the organization are similar to those of a guild. You are an apprentice first, then a fellow craftsman, then a master mason. Over the years, non-masons joined, but the craft’s tradition of the square, plumb and level have remained. –Story and photos by Dimitra Lavrakas

• 6th Annual Breat Cancer Awareness Walk

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