Children react to the Magic Show performed by Jeff Brown of Juneau at the Yuletide Carnival on Dec. 8. He also made the funny hats and animals out of balloons. His visit was sponsored by the Skagway Fine Arts Council. Link to our Yuletide events page to see more photos. Photo by Dimitra Lavarakas
Our kids send out hearts, hands to Afghani kids
Money raised will go to Kabul orphanage
By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
Asked if they had ever heard of Afghanistan before Sept. 11, Skagway School 4th and 5th graders said they never knew it existed.
When they read about the plight of children in an orphanage in Kabul in their Social Studies class, they responded.
They dont have any heaters, said Brian Beckner. They have rice for breakfast and tea for lunch and dinner or the other way around.
At first they wanted to make individual quilts for each child in the orphanage, but decided to make a big quilt and raffle it off, said their teacher, Mary McCaffrey.
Everybody did a square or a star, said Lindsey Gladden.
So far theyve raised about $650 and hopefully more before the quilt is raffled off on Dec. 28 at the annual Alumni Basketball Game.
Thats not all the kids have done. Theyve sent a dollar each to the fund for the victims of Sept. 11.
Skagwayans on active duty Josh Sims, Michael Ackerman, Jake Sims, Gretchen Eddy, Eric Olson, and Jamie Westfall have been recipients of mail and care packages.
With the diffculty of getting money to the right place, they hope to send it right to the orphanage.
We have the number, and hope we can send it all there, said Gladden. Were hoping to get $1,000.
That wont be the end of it though. The amount they finally raise will be used in their math classes figuring how much the U.S. currency will translate into Afghani money and how many pounds of rice it will buy, McCaffrey said.
Hunz & Hunz bid approved
Flood control right-of-way signed
By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
These guys are really working me, said Mayor Tim Bourcy reacting to the string of abstentions from councilmembers trying to figure out if their votes on awarding the Fire Hall concrete apron reconstruction or the flood control right-of-way agreement between the state and the city constituted conflicts of interest.
At the City Councils Dec. 13 meeting, member Dave Hunz, who owns Hunz & Hunz Enterprises, asked to be excused from voting on the flood control agreement because his property is involved and he is one of the signatories.
Having Councilmember Hunzs name on this could lead to the appearance of impropriety, but his name on this document does not lead to financial gain, said City Manager Bob Ward.
But Councilmember Stan Selmer agreed Hunz should excuse himself, and Hunz pushed himself away from the table.
The vote was four yes votes: Councilmembers Selmer, Colette Hisman, J. Frey and Mike Korsmo, and one abstention by Hunz.
The Fire Hall concrete apron bid discussion also saw Hunz abstaining and pushing himself away from the table, because his company was a bidder.
Jokingly, Hisman, owner of the Sweet Tooth Cafe, said Dave did eat at the Sweet Tooth today, as if to imply she should abstain.
And later on in the discussion, Selmer said he should abstain because his wife works for Hunz & Hunz, and his son, for the other bidder, Hamilton Construction.
Ward pointed out that Hamilton failed to fill out the bid form to specification. Hamilton bid $18,500 and Hunz, $25,790.
Ward said the council could waive the irregularities , award to Hunz or start the bidding process all over again.
Selmer raised some concerns about Hamiltons cost overruns on past city projects.
We had a fixed bid, and then the city manager reacted to an overture and we ended up paying (more) money, said Selmer referring to an extra $6,000 charged by Hamilton for the Stardancer Ramp removal. The city has since negotiated the additional cost down to half that amount.
There was the harbor dredging with an overrun of tens of thousands..., added Selmer. Im not sure if this is a proper bid given recent history.
Selmer said both bids were now exposed, and asked what should be done.
Looks to me theres a simple solution, said Frey. Reject all. Its hard to sit at the table with a member of the council (bidding) and it looks like an old boys network.
A move to put the bid out again failed 1-3 with Hunz abstaining. Frey cast the only vote for the motion. The council then voted to award the bid to Hunzs company 4-0 with one abstention.
Rec. Center oil spill dug up; at least 84 gallons spilled
A post-Thanksgiving fuel oil spill at the citys Recreation Center resulted in about 84 gallons spilled, said Grant Lawson, director of the Public Works Department.
On Nov. 24, Dan Rossi, who was looking after the center while director Chelsea Nilsen was on vacation, arrived about 8:30 a.m. to find an outside pipe on the east corner spewing fuel. He placed a garbage can under the spill to catch it.
A morning dog walk turned into a toxic nightmare, said Rossi last week. The dog ran up to it, and I went after it and smelled the fuel oil.
Rossi called the Fire Department, and Fire Chief Martin Beckner responded and turned the valve off.
Good thing Dan came along, said Lawson. The whole tank could have been on the ground.
The tank was dipped and measured on Nov. 23 by Fossil Fuels, the citys fuel oil company, and it registered at 709 gallons.
The spill was calculated by the amount collected and emptied from the garbage can approximately 79 gallons. Taking into consideration the estimated 126 gallons used to heat the building since the measurement, the level in the tank after the spill was 474 gallons.
The additional five gallons Lawson recovered by hand after scraping up the absorbent material put down to soak up the initial overflow.
In his report to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Lawson said the reason for the spill was the float switch on the fuel transfer system malfunctioned causing the day tank to overflow to the building exterior.
He also noted that about 25 gallons went unaccounted after all the calculations were done.
Lawson said it was lucky the ground was hard so the oil didnt have a chance to soak in.
The approximately 21 cubic yards of contaminated soil dug up and all the absorbent materials were put into heavy super sacks and hauled to the city incinerator where theyll be burned, one yard at a time, along with the citys collected solid waste.
Rossi said the Rec. Center now has new trash cans because the old ones were trashed after the incident.
Princess and RCCL merge
Some locals say no effect, others disagree
By BILL McALLISTER
Courtesy of The Juneau Empire
A fast vehicle ferry should replace the Malaspina in Lynn Canal and the Alaska Marine Highway System should move to a hub and spoke system in the northern Panhandle, linking small towns directly to Juneau, according to a study released in December.
The study by The McDowell Group, a Juneau-based research and consulting firm, is a starting point for state officials in determining how to amend the Southeast Transportation Plan.
The plan to date hasnt been specific about transportation improvements for Lynn Canal because of controversy about a proposed road to Skagway. Gov. Tony Knowles suspended work on an environmental impact statement for the road, and Juneau voters narrowly endorsed improved ferry service over the road in an advisory ballot question in 2000.
The McDowell report agrees with the organizing principle of the Southeast plan, which is to match service levels with demand and use high-speed vessels to make day trips and eliminate overnight crew costs.
I think that fleshes out where the department was going anyway, said Joe Geldhof, a lawyer for marine engineers who was a leader in last years campaign to support better ferry service instead of a road. This is welcome news and hopefully this will tone down the rhetoric of people who have been throwing bombs at the Marine Highway System for years without any basis. ... Ive always thought the Marine Highway System is doing the best they can under difficult circumstances.
But the Southeast Conference, an advocacy organization of governments, businesses and individuals throughout the region, is going ahead with its own study of how to operate the Marine Highway System in a more business-like fashion, said Executive Director Loren Gerhard. Its not intended to criticize anybody whos currently operating or who had a part in implementing the system.
And Murray Walsh, transportation chairman for the Juneau Chamber of Commerce, noted that the state has yet to operate a fast vehicle ferry.
Thats the linchpin of the whole thing whether fast vehicle ferries can be had at a reasonable price, Walsh said. Were all still waiting to see how the first one turns out. ... Its kind of a nail-biter right now.
The state hopes to award a contract for a fast vehicle ferry in January, said Capt. George Capacci, general manager of the Marine Highway System. It would be deployed as a Sitka-Juneau dayboat in 2004. The state is going through the bidding process a second time because the final bidder in the previous round, who offered to build the ship for $35.99 million, was found to be nonresponsive to specifications in the request for proposals.
Nevertheless, the McDowell report calls for a fast vehicle ferry in Lynn Canal as soon as possible. Even before then, the state should deploy a shuttle between Haines and Skagway, the firm advises. That way, the Malaspina could alternate dayboat service between Haines and Skagway, cutting its daily operations to 12 hours or fewer.
At the summer peak, the fast vehicle ferry could make two runs a day, the report says. Each week in the winter, the Lynn Canal communities could expect one mainliner and three to four fast vehicle ferry trips.
Walsh said hes disappointed that the report doesnt address the possibility of a new ferry terminal at Cascade Point, in Berners Bay, which would reduce travel times.
In the northern Panhandle, McDowell would change the whole concept of routing, from a circuit to a hub-and-spoke. A fast passenger-only ferry could serve all communities except Yakutat, supplementing the LeConte. Routes would be based on linking small communities with Juneau as directly as possible, rather than making trips among them.
Better service is actually less frequency, Capacci said.
McDowell recommends first leasing a fast passenger-only ferry and then buying one later, if it proves successful. Eventually, a fast vehicle ferry also could be deployed.
Gerhard said he has heard concern in Angoon about the potential loss of freight and baggage capacity in moving the LeConte to hub-and-spoke service.
The LeConte is the pipeline to those communities, Gerhard said. Theyve just got to be careful with the details.
The Department of Transportation will decide within a couple of months whether to modify the McDowell recommendations in adopting the second addendum to the Southeast plan, Capacci said. Then a decision will have to be made about how high to rank the improvements in Lynn Canal and the northern Panhandle on the priority list for the region.
Itll all have to compete, Capacci said.
Gerhard said the department can move relatively fast on some of the improvements, such as the Haines-Skagway shuttle. Capacci said the vessel would cost about $10 million.
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