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Galley Tables

Apr 13 2015
State Recorder Closing Six Offices - Kodiak Included PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 13 April 2015
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Kayla Desroches/KMXT
The recorder's office in Kodiak, which certifies property purchases, will likely be one of those closed across the state due to budget cuts. There are 34 recording districts across Alaska and they are served by 11 offices, which will be cut down to five.

Elizabeth Bluemink is the Communications Coordinator for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and says that, department-wide, DNR faces the net loss of 81 positions and 6 of them are in their recorders' offices. She adds that most of these offices are single staffed. The other six to be cut besides Kodiak are Ketchikan, Valdez, Sitka, Homer, and Bethel.

She says the current employee at Kodiak has the option to move to Anchorage, and that there are other choices for people who need the services of a recorder's office. There will still be the five locations left open.

“We will be down to Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks, Palmer, and Kenai. And these offices already serve recording districts throughout the state, so basically they will be covering areas that will no longer have their own office.”

Patrons can record by mail or internet. Bluemink says DNR gradually made “Simplifile” e-recording available over the last few years. 

She says the new budget for the coming fiscal year begins on July 1st and DNR is preparing to make the transition now. 
Apr 13 2015
Stevens: Ferry, Education, Broadcasting Cuts Inevitable PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 13 April 2015
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Jay Barrett/KMXT
With just one week left in the regular legislative session, it's crunch time in the state capital. The state operating budget is in conference committee for changes between the House and Senate versions to be hammered out, and the capital project budget is just getting finalized. Kodiak Senator Gary Stevens still thinks the Legislature will get its work done in the voter-mandated 90-day session.

"If we get stuck and need a little more time we can easily do it. The constitution says we can go 121 days, but now that we're trying within the 90-day framework, if we get stuck and have to go a couple days over, that's okay, we can do that constitutionally."

Significant cuts to the Alaska Marine Highway System are being contemplated, and Stevens says no matter the final budget figure that comes out of the Legislature, the picture is not good for ferry-reliant communities.

"We know there's going to be some reductions there. It's just to try and work it out mainly to make sure that people have the opportunity to get off the island, to make sure that the fisheries, the processors use that to ship fish out have that available as well. But the reality is, it's going to be less service than we've had before. So we're trying to work out the details and make sure it doesn't harm anybody any more than necessary. But it's going to be a tight, tight time for all of us."

And though several public radio stations in Alaska would lose even more money in federal funds if the state match is taken away, Stevens says the cuts are inevitable.

"We all depend on public broadcasting. Having had Bristol Bay in my district before, and now back having Homer and Kodiak in the district, I know it's very important to all those communities, but even particularly when you get out to the smaller communities farther to the west, it's just crucial to them to know what's going on. So I know how important it is, but I can't promise you there's not going to be reductions - there are."

As far as capital project money for Stevens' District P, there is $15.5-million in it, but all of it is federal pass-through money. The one item that used state funds - a million dollars for EVOS Trust habitat acquisition on Afognak Island - was zeroed out. That leaves $10-million for runway, taxiway and apron rehabilitation at the Yakutat airport, and $5.5-million for fixing erosion problems on the Chiniak Highway.

The Legislature is scheduled to wrap up its 90-day session on Sunday. 
Apr 10 2015
Some Reservations May Be Cancelled as Ferries Face Cuts PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 10 April 2015
Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska
Thousands of people have booked ferry sailings that will likely be cut due to budget reductions. But for now, the ferry system isn’t letting them know. 

Alaska Marine Highway Chief Mike Neussl says more than 9,300 people are booked for sailings that probably won’t happen.

About 2,500 vehicles are also scheduled for those sailings. 

He says about 30 percent of those affected are Alaskans and the rest are from out of state.

But ticket-holders have not yet been notified.

“I am reluctant to pull the trigger (and) cancel those runs that we’ve already sold tickets on and re-book all those passengers because of the possibility that some of that service may be restored if funding is restored,” he says.

Neussl explained the situation to the state’s Marine Transportation Advisory Board during a meeting Wednesday in Juneau.

He said travelers will be contacted and, if possible, rescheduled as soon as it’s clear how deep the cuts will be. He acknowledged some will be angry.

Board member Maxine Thompson of Angoon says that could impact future business.

“The wide-range fallout is not good for Alaska. They may start saying, ‘Don’t come to Alaska. You won’t be able to go from here to there because their transportation system is so iffy,’ ” she says.

Neussl says he’s been ready to notify travelers several times, but didn’t because lawmakers suggested they might add more money.

Now, he’s less than optimistic.

“If the funding doesn’t happen, we have a plan in place to essentially lock the reservation system to prevent a massive amount of chaos and probably crashing the system with everybody trying to re-book on their own,” he says.

“And we’ll do an organized process of the reservation staff contacting every one of these itinerary holders, in the order that they made their reservations, to rebook them – or attempt to re-book them on a different vessel (with a) different time,” he says.

He says the latest proposed budget cut, from the Senate, would remove about $11 million in marine highway funding.

Add lost revenue from canceled sailings and other factors and the deficit could double. The total reduction is close to 10 percent of what the governor proposed for ferry spending next year.

State Transportation Commissioner Marc Luiken says he’s given ferry officials instructions on how to rework the schedule.  

“As we look at the impacts of the budget, as they make decisions on what runs to cut, those type of things … the place where I want to see the least amount of impact is on Alaskans,” he says.

The House and Senate operating budgets list different reductions for the marine highway system. The difference will be worked out in a conference committee of leaders from both chambers. 
Apr 10 2015
Borough Assembly Discusses Fireworks and Landscaping PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 10 April 2015


An example of consumer fireworks. Via Steve Harwood / Flickr 
Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Fireworks and landscapes were among the topics of discussion Thursday evening at the Borough Assembly work session. Complaints of firework noise coming from Mill Bay Beach brought a neighborhood resident to the table.

Joanne Shaker says the Mill Bay Beach area is just too populated for fireworks.

“I have nothing against fireworks, but there are beaches that are far away from houses,” says Shaker. “If I lived at Kalsin Bay and there were like three other houses around me, I would have no complaint. I would figure people were gonna come out and shoot fireworks because nobody lives out there. But when you can look in someone's window when shooting off a firework, maybe you should go somewhere else.”

Assembly members agreed firework noise create a problem, and they had remaining concerns, including ordinance enforcement should they ban fireworks on Mill Bay Beach and other beaches in town. Assemblywoman Carol Austerman says she's heard quite a few comments about fireworks in the last few years.

“I've only ever gotten calls from residents in Mill Bay Beach and Mission beach,” says Austerman. “They've told me the exact same thing, which is they've called the State Troopers. The State Troopers don't come for hours, because they're either not on duty, there's not enough people, and that's the response we've gotten from them historically is that their response to a noise complaint is at the very bottom in the list.”

The general consensus was it bore further discussion and the borough reserved the fireworks decision for an upcoming work session.

The assembly also brought in Matt Gandel, the Borough Engineering and Facilities Project Manager, to talk about the Long Term Care Center Landscape project. Gandel says they cleared the area of trees and put up a guard rail, and now they're working with a landscape architect to make the land more attractive. Here's Gandel talking about the Rezanoff side of the property.

“The plan consists of cutting the stumps that are remaining below grade, but leaving them in place to keep the roots stabilized in the hillside, bringing in top soil, doing some live stake plantings and then basically hydro seeding the whole hill,” says Gandel. “The hydro-seed mix is a combination of grasses and wildflowers to give it the pretty colors you see in the pretty pictures.”

Gandel says they will plant a row of rose bushes on the Mill Bay side, as the city owns most of that property. He says landscaping is the last task in the Long Term Care project and that it should be finished by the end of summer.

Apr 09 2015
Alaska Fisheries Report PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 09 April 2015

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Coming up this week, Kodiak's ComFish Alaska was jam-packed with info and toys for fishermen, and we find out how a tiny fish in Southeast is connected to the world economy. We had help from KMXT's Kayla Desroches in Kodiak and KCAW's Rachel Waldholz in Sitka.

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