A Skagway Volunteer Firefighter blasts water on the 1898 Moore office building on Aug. 2. JB

Historic relic burns up on hot morning

Skagway Volunteer Firefighters were called out just after 6:15 a.m. Aug. 2 to the old Pullen House annex at the east end of 6th St. Abandoned since the 1960s, the old building had been boarded up to keep people out, but the boards came down a lot and people got in, said property owner David Brena.
According to a National Park Service survey of historic buildings, it was constructed in 1898 by Capt. William Moore as an office building on 5th Ave., and was moved in 1903 to this location next to his home, which later would be sold to Harriet Pullen when Moore left Skagway. "Ma" Pullen used it as an annex.
Maxine Selmer, Pullen's granddaughter, watched the fire from Broadway. She grew up in the old building in the 1950s, which had two apartments with bay windows and a big hump in the floor, she said.

Firefighters set up their hoses as the 1898 Moore office building, also known as the Pullen House annex, burns hot and high. JB

The fire was extremely hot and flames rose 100 feet into the air. Firefighters had the blaze under control by 6:40 a.m. and kept it from spreading to the nearby McCabe Bldg., Alaska Power and Telephone's offices, and the forested hillside just across the railroad tracks where Ma Pullen's grave overlooks the property.
Bob Dill of the fire department said a cause has not been determined, but it did not appear to be “spontaneous combustion.” —JB

Borough informational meeting turns into debate

Questions arise over Haines ties of Boundary Commission staff member

At an informational meeting July 25, residents were given the opportunity to ask Dan Bockhorst, local government specialist for the Local Boundary Commission, questions about the city’s borough proposal and procedures for the commission and its consideration of Skagway as a borough.
While the meeting did provide information for the attendees, it did not leave them feeling better about the Department of Community and Economic Development’s recommendation to deny the city’s request to become a borough.
Bockhorst said he and his commission did not support the borough because, “It lacks, in our opinion, regional character.”
If denied, it will not change the status of Skagway, he said. “Skagway will remain in the same status quo it has been for the past 41 years,” he said, adding that there is no current interest by Haines in annexing Skagway in their borough government.
Tourism Director Buckwheat Donahue asked Bockhorst why Skagway did not meet regional characteristics necessary to become a borough.
Bockhorst responded by saying regional characteristics include provisions to multiple communities, socially, culturally and economically. Provisions also include relationships and ties to other communities of Skagway residents and residents of adjoining communities, he said.
“The differences between Skagway and Haines are acute,” Donahue responded.
In a regional context, there seems to be sufficient social, cultural and economical similarities between Skagway and Haines, Bockhorst said.
Mayor Tim Bourcy questioned Bockhorst’s previous position as Haines city adminstrator and whether his ties to Haines may have influenced the DCED’s recommendation to deny the city’s proposal.
“I think it has nothing to do with the proposal,” Bockhorst responded. “There is no conflict. I don’t know how much time has to pass before that issue is laid to rest. There is no improper influence as a result of me working for the city of Haines 22 years ago.”
Bourcy then referred to Bockhorst’s visits to Haines twice last winter and how he never called or visited Skagway.
“I am struggling with those ties you say we have (with Haines) when you don’t visit,” Bourcy said. “I don’t think you have been playing straight with us.”
Last October Bockhorst helped Bourcy with a timeline of the borough process.
“At no time from that moment on did you contact us.” Bourcy said, explaining that Bockhorst talked to others about the position of Skagway, but not Skagway directly.
“I’m a little bit concerned with your approach with this process,” Bourcy said. “We believe we meet the standards.”
In the middle of Bourcy asking questions, Bockhorst responded by saying, “Are we in a debate here?”
Former Skagway Mayor John Mielke said, “I think there are issues here that haven’t been brought up,” and he pointed to Skagway’s ability to take care of itself.
“The LBC was designed to look at things from another perspective,” Bockhorst responded. “If I lived in Skagway, Councilmember Mike Korsmo also questioned Bockhorst about a paragraph from the commission’s report which referred to Skagway as not being able to promote the maximum form of self-government.
“How can you advance it?” he asked.
If Skagway were a borough, there would be no change in jurisdiction with services provided or the number of people being serviced, Bockhorst said.
“Skagway does operate as a mini-borough government,” Korsmo said.
“But we could feel better,” Korsmo said, referring to Skagway’s fear of being annexed by Haines.
“I would want to model Skagway as a borough if I were in your position,” Councilmember Dan Henry said. “If we were a borough, there would be security for Skagway not to be annexed by Haines.”
“(The commission’s recommendation) was disappointing but not surprising,” City Manager Bob Ward said.
The formal hearing on the proposal before the entire commission will be held in Skagway on Aug. 31.

Pullen Pond weir vandalized

Skagway School student Aaron Kilburn puts bars back in the Pullen Creek weir after vandals removed them the first time. HJB

When Rex Kilburn went to the fish weir at Pullen Pond to routinely check on his holding cages July 29, he was not expecting to see the weir and holding cages vandalized with the king salmon set free. Nor was he expecting to find them vandalized again three days later.
“There’s always been slight cases of vandalism,” said Kilburn, who manages the Skagway School’s Jerry Myers Hatchery. “I don’t think anything as severe has happened in a long time.”
Eight female and six male kings were set free July 29, Kilburn said. The damage included the displacement of approximately 75 of the poles that construct the weir, the relocation of the male cage from under the bridge and the cutting of holes on the sides of the cages, possibly made by wire cutters, he said.
The cages were repaired and one female and 10 males were in the holding cages by the end of the day, he said.
When Kilburn checked the cages Aug. 1, he found someone went back and used wire cutters to take part of the lid off the male cage, he said, however, none of the fish were freed in the attempt.
The Skagway Police Department said it has no leads as to who or why the weir and cages were damaged, but the investigation is continuing
Ben Kirkpatrick of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said the damage to the fish weir is considered vandalism and penalties would not fall under the jurisdiction of Fish and Game.
“I pick up garbage here regularly,” Kilburn said, referring to the new broken beer bottles he found the first morning he discovered the vandalism.
The beer bottles led Kilburn to believe the vandalism may have been caused by some drunken teens. Kilburn said he also thought it could be someone that didn’t know what they were doing who believed they were doing something good by setting the fish free.
“They didn’t know we’re trying to make a successful return of the kings,” he said.
As of August 6, three females and 10 males were in the holding cages.
Prior to the vandalism, Kilburn said the cages were almost to the point where they couldn’t hold any more salmon and he was about to stop collecting.
Kilburn is an elementary teacher at Skagway School where he includes the fertilization process and the hatchery as an educational tool in his curriculum.
The curriculum was run at the high school level last year but there wasn’t enough interest in and it was brought to the sixth grade level, he said.
Students help with the hatchery during the school year and help during the summer if they’re around, he said. After the fish are collected in the holding pens, they are killed and the eggs and milk are taken. The eggs are fertilized and go to the incubator house where they sit in the incubator trays and wait to hatch, he said.

Reward for convictions in vandalism
During the weekend of Aug. 3, unknown individuals broke the access hatch off the top of one of the city’s water tanks. It is unknown what the intent of this action might have been.
The water that was in the tank at the time of event has already circulated through the system. Nonetheless, the city will be running tests on a sample of water taken from the tank on Aug. 5. Results were to be made available Thursday. At this time there is no reason to suspect the introduction of toxins into the water supply, and no protective measures at the tap are suggested, said City Manager Bob Ward in a press release.
Additionally, the weir and holding pens in Pullen Pond for the capture of breeding stock for the school hatchery and the city’s cooperative agreement with the state, DIPAC and Burro Creek have been damaged on two occasions. In one instance, the salmon were released.
In an effort to apprehend those responsible for these incidents, the City of Skagway is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individuals involved. Anyone having such information should contact Skagway Police at 983-2232.


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