HOME SWEET HOME

Jean Bounds watches as her son Magellan selects a piece of candy to add to his gingerbread house. The Skagway Library had a healthy idea this year and had children bring in their Halloween candy and use it to decorate gingerbread houses. - DL

Medical Board election thrown out
Allegations fly at recent meeting, Mielke walks

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS

The Skagway Medical Board met tumultuously Oct. 30, with one board member leaving the meeting, a staff member threatening a lawsuit, and other staff expressing hurt there was no apology after a Skagway Police Department investigation into an alleged theft.
Board members John Mielke, Bub Enloe, Barbara Kalen, Frank Wasmer, and newly-appointed member Jan Nelson sat through a meeting that revealed many things.
Among them, that the recent board election was invalid. All of the Skagway Medical Corp. members were not given ballots because the complete member list was found after the initial mailing.
It was decided that another election will be held, with ballots mailed Nov. 14 and due back Nov. 29 at 5 p.m. They will be counted Dec. 12.
Anyone who is a member as of Oct. 30 is eligible to vote. However, there was a membership drive in the Spring, and clinic clients were asked if they wanted to add a dollar to their bill in order to become a member, but some of those people were not listed. It is suggested that people call in or stop by to make sure they are on the list.
The board needs to have seven members in order to comply with the Denali grant, Wasmer said.
It was also discovered that incorporation papers may have never been signed.
Also, there has been an investigation launched by the Skagway Police Department into alleged misuse of the clinic’s credit card to purchase airline tickets to Mexico and California.
Wasmer, who is board president, explained later that he was called by Mielke, who said that the tickets were bought three days after former clinic administrator Cindie Law’s resignation was accepted by the board. Wasmer said he went to Wells Fargo and had the transaction pulled up. A VISA debit card had been used for the transaction. The Police Department conducted an investigation, Wasmer said, staff and board members were interviewed, and some were fingerprinted.
Wasmer said the tickets were purchased on Travelocity’s Web site, and upon his investigation, it turned out the tickets were ones he had purchased for his family. Wasmer said he had traveled for the clinic in March and Law had booked him on the site using the clinic’s debit card and the clinic’s computer. Wasmer said the site must have saved the clinic’s card on his personal account with them. He said his own credit card had expired and the clinic’s card must have been used as a default card.
On Wednesday, Wasmer said he would pay back the clinic that afternoon. He said he has a clinic credit card locked in his safe. Another card that was used by Law was turned in after her resignation, he said.
At the meeting, Clinic staff expressed dismay that they were questioned about the theft of Palm Pilots from the pharmacy and then never told the results, nor did they receive an apology. Wasmer said he owed an apology to them as well as to Law.
The meeting’s agenda did have an item on it that called for a vote of non-confidence in Wasmer. But Kalen said it should be removed from the agenda, and Wasmer said the bylaws call for a recall vote. But then when it was discovered that the election was invalid, the board decided to wait until the next election before it took action on the matter.
Medical Director Kendall Simm questioned Mielke if he perhaps had a conflict-of-interest in that she heard he was contemplating hiring a Physician’s Assistant for the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad as a cost-cutting method.
Mielke said that was something that was being considered, but it was “a ways down the road.” He did not leave the table at the time, but did toward the end of the meeting, and while not officially resigning, only said, “I’m probably in conflict and have been for the last year, so I’ll step away from the table.”
The clinic’s bookkeeper estimated that White Pass supports 25 percent of the clinic’s revenue.
In discussing the clinic’s financial problems, Simm said they may have to drop down to only two providers because malpractice insurance has gone up 25 percent. She also suggested the clinic court a doctor coming out of residency with a huge debt who may want to come to Skagway.
As for other personnel, Simm said the clinic hired a medical records person, Susan Fredricks, through the federal On The Job Training Program, which pays half her salary. The position is federally-mandated to comply with the Health Information Privacy Protection Act. The position was advertised last June and will run for a year unless other funding is found to support it.
Veronica Bush’s grant-writing position with the clinic also falls under OJT, Simm said. Although Bush moved to California, she has helped with filing for grants. Her position is also up in June. Simm said she was reluctant to drop her as it may prevent the clinic from being eligible to receive those funds again.
Candice Wallace said during public comment that she and many members of the community had received Law’s letter of resignation that outlined her concerns with the clinic.
That prompted PA Tim Cristman to reply that he has denied all allegations in the letter through his attorney, and that the letter never should have been circulated.
“The letter should have been retracted and destroyed,” he said. “Legal action against the board is possible.”
Cristman said he had been with the clinic almost two years, he was a police officer from 1990-1994, and that he became a PA with the encouragement of Lila Gunnel (former clinic administrator). He said it was one of the greatest things he could ever do.
But then Cristman added, “I will not be seeking renewal of my contract in mid-February.” He suggested there be a “hostile” audit of the clinic and said the community was aware of the ineptness of the clinic board, and particularly that of its president.
Wasmer said copies of Law’s letter to the board were retrieved from board members and destroyed at the request of Cristman’s attorney.
Wallace said she received hers by post.
Kalen said the board should be more open, then “everybody knows what you’re doing and you avoid problems.” She also suggested an audit.

LBC denies city’s appeal, Skagway will go to court

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
The city will go to court with the Local Boundary Commission after an unsuccessful attempt to appeal the commission’s decision to deny Skagway borough status.
Just in case the LBC refused its Request for Reconsideration of the board’s decision not to allow Skagway to become a borough, the City Council voted to earmark $30,000 for a legal fight. The council planned to vote on an ordinance appropriating the money at its Nov. 7 meeting, after this edition went to press.
In a teleconferenced meeting at the Council Chambers Nov. 1, Mayor Tim Bourcy told the commission, “The community of Skagway is disappointed in the way this was handled. The way the final report was written by the Department of Community and Economic Development was biased and full of misinformation.”
Bourcy went on to say that the standards applied to the Skagway borough petition were broad, yet at no point in the preliminary or final report were those principles applied
The city argued that the commission exceeded its authority by adopting “Fundamental Principles Relating to Borough Government” without notice to the city or other petitioners, public hearings, and without complying with Title 44. The commission is obligated by law to comply with Title 44 which outlines the legal method to adopt regulations.
The city also contends the commission ignored law in the way it interpreted and applied the decision of the Alaska Supreme Court in Mobile Oil Corp. vs. Local Boundary Commission that dealt with the “limitations of communities” doctrine. That doctrine does not apply to Skagway, the city contends.
Most importantly, is that the city argues it was denied due process because the commission imposed a borough size on Skagway, yet the Alaska Constitution has no subjective size requirement, nor has the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that boroughs must be a certain size.
The reconsideration request also commented on a perceived bias on the part of the commission and DCED:
“The DCED and the Local Boundary Commission demonstrated a consistent and unyielding bias against the Petitioners and demonstrated a clear intent not to give the Petitioners a fair hearing and demonstrated a clear intent not to analyze the Petition fairly and objectively. DCED opposed the Petition before it was even submitted and maintained that bias throughout the proceeding. The Commission intended to use this Petition solely as a vehicle to adopt its ‘principles’ in violation of Title 44 and to impose its arbitrary interpretation of Article X Section 3 of the Alaska Constitution.”
The commission did not address any of the city’s arguments, only commission member Alan Tesche said there were several errors in the Petition for Reconsideration, but did not take the time to elaborate.

Things that go bump

November begins as a month of natural wonders

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
Things went bump in the daytime Nov. 3 about 1:15 p.m. when Skagway shook from the effects of an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter Scale, 45 miles southeast of Denali National Park.
On Broadway, customers and employees of various establishments stood in the middle of the street, avoiding any possible falling buildings, and admired the swaying telephone poles and electrical lines.
At the Skaguay News Depot, manager Wendy Anderson looked back to see the chandeliers swinging back and forth inside along with the large historical posters in the windows.
People reported feeling nauseated, but regained a feeling of well-being once they figured out what it was and went outside.
Michael Yee and Jessica Medlin said they had hiked to Lower Lake and although they didn’t feel the quake, they saw the lake’s water run like a bore tide up to one end and then back again.
The Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska issued a report that the quake’s location, shallow depth, and magnitude did not pose a threat for a tsunami.
But if there were a tsunami warning issued, how would the people of Skagway be notified? Fire Chief Martin Beckner said it’s unlikely that a tsunami generated by an earthquake would hit here.
“We’re not centrally exposed, we’re not on the west coast across from Japan,” said Beckner. “Any surge from the ocean would have a hard time making it up the canal.”
Beckner said a tsunami threat in Lynn Canal comes more from underwater slides like the one that took out the Railroad and Ferry docks in 1994. There is a plan in place to notify residents, he said, similar to the one used to contact the Dyea residents after the West Creek flood this July – notification by phone and police visits.
There was no reported damage in Skagway from the quake, but it did cause cracks in highways closer to the epicenter. According to the Alaska State Troopers, the Parks Highway at Mile 258 had a three-foot drop in the pavement, and the Alaska Highway in the Northway area is passable.
The Richardson Highway suffered ripples for 200 feet and pavement breaks at Mile 197 that run from six inches to two feet in width and as deep as five feet. At Mile 216.5-217, the road is impassable except for four-wheel drive vehicles using the ditch. The north side has dropped about two feet, and a crack is reported to be over two feet to eight feet in depth.
The Tok Cut-off also sustained some heavy damage and the state estimates repairs to all highways will cost $20 million.
It was the largest Interior quake since 1947, when a 7.2 was recorded near the same area, and one of the 10 biggest quakes ever recorded in Alaska.
But November holds another surprise for Skagwayans. This one is at least predictable.
Nov. 18, the annual Leonid meteor shower begins close to midnight, with the best viewing in the wee hours of the 19th, 4-5:30 a.m.
It’s the annual time when the earth passes head-on through clouds of debris and dust from comet Tempel-Tuttle. An estimated 2,000 meteors an hour will speed across the sky – maybe more. It will be decades before a shower of this magnitude happens again, according to the National Aeronautics and Science Administration.
November is also a great month for viewing the Northern Lights. Last year at about this time, we had rare red auroras. So far, October and the beginning of November have offered great viewing, warm weather and no wind.

OTHER STORIES OF NOTE...

GN Hotel addition appealed to court
Dennis and Nancy Corrington have filed an appeal in Juneau Superior Court contesting an action of the city council, sitting as the Board of Appeals, which has prevented them from adding a glassed-in entry on the Golden North Hotel’s east front.
The court document contests the Board of Appeals’ approval of a Planning and Zoning Commission vote to reconsider its vote on a decision by the Historic District Commission.
P&Z approved of the project on its first appeal of an HDC decision to deny the project, but P&Z then took a reconsideration vote and remanded the decision back to the HDC, where it was further denied.
The Board of Appeals voted unanimously in September to uphold Planning and Zoning’s ultimate decision to remand the project back to HDC.
The Corringtons will again face the Planning and Zoning Commission on Nov. 21 at 5 p.m. on their appeal of the HDC’s ruling.
No court date has been set. – DL

UPDATE: At the Corringtons' request their appeal has been postponed to May 2003.

Belisle appointed to School Board
The school board accepted the resignation of Tom Cochran from the board at its Oct. 29 regular meeting. After hearing testimony from Darren Belisle and Bob Carlson, the board tied on which person to appoint to Cochran’s vacant seat. His appointment will last until the municipal election in 2003.
Julene Fairbanks and Dawn Kilburn supported Carlson, while Chris Ellis and Chris Maggio supported Belisle. Eventually, Kilburn changed her vote to Belisle.
Ellis and Maggio said they were impressed with Belisle’s commitment to longevity, and they were looking for someone who would stay on the board for some time. Belisle now joins the ranks of former and current AP&T employees who have served on the board – Cochran and Lynette Roseberg.
Belisle said he is “passionate for kids” and wants to keep things positive at the school. - LS

OTHER STORIES:

• ELECTIONS 2002 - How Skagway voted in the Nov. 5 general election

• SPORTS: Wrestling and volleyball updates

To read every story in The Skagway News, you have to subscribe to the real thing. Cost for an out-of-town subscription is just $35 a year second class mail or $45 a year first class mail. We take credit cards. Call us at 907-983-2354, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. weekdays Alaska time, or just mail a check to Skagway News, Box 498, Skagway, AK 99840.