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KODK is back on the air. Thanks to Steve and John at APBI in Anchorage who helped us get a loaner transmitter and to Joe Stevens and Willy who ran up the mountain in this nasty wind after running a bunch of tests to get it ready to do it's thing...90.7 FM is back bringing you spectacular alternative public radio programming in Kodiak.
Sep 22 2015
KIB Assembly Amends Mobile Home Park Code
Tuesday, 22 September 2015
Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Jackson Mobile Home Park once again made it onto the agenda at the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly’s regular meeting last week. These same ordinances have been through two work sessions and a regular meeting, and borough assessor Bill Roberts stood in for the borough manager in explaining the ordinance.

“It is changing some of the title 17 sections on mobile homes to make it less stringent, to lessen some of the impact of making a new mobile home, and also allowing mobile home parks in areas that they weren’t allowed in before, namely R2 and R3.”

The changes in the code include removing the definition of a mobile home as being a “single-story” structure, relaxing restrictions on how much space mobile homes can occupy, and adjusting the required size of play areas.

Assemblyman Dan Rohrer asked about mobile home dimensions.

“In travel mode, it says they need to be 8 feet or more in width and 40 feet or more in length. I just kept thinking about that fact that as we’re looking at evaluating what trailers exist in Jackson Mobile Home Park, there’s at least 3 or 4 that are about 33 feet in length, and that’s how they came from the manufacturers, so you’d need to tell me what impact that would have as we look at moving some of the mobile homes.”

Community Development Director, Bob Pederson, explained that wouldn’t be a problem.

“I think we’ve made it very clear on the record from the get-go and specifically in the non-conforming ordinance that you adopted a month or so ago that we don’t want to in any way impede the folks that are able and can find a place to move their mobile home from Jackson from going elsewhere in the borough either in a lot or in a mobile home park, so under the nonconforming part – they’re covered there.”

The motion carried 6 to 0.  

Roberts also gave a semi-annual update for the assessing department of the borough.

“First of all, what is the basic function of the assessing department? That is to find, to discover, and to catalog all real and pursable, taxable property in the borough, and we do this so that we can value it for ad valorem taxes. We also administer programs like exemption programs that are mandated by the state or any that are mandated by our own local codes.”

He says this year he’s closer to his goal of training staff.

“So, what has that given us? Well, of the three field operatives, the three appraisers, two of them currently are certified by the state of Alaska Association of Assessing Officers. This is an association that’s similar to a lot of fee appraiser associations. They require certain hours in classroom, certain hours of experience, and a proficiency.”

Roberts says they’re also doing well in producing revenue.

“We have increased the assess value of the borough approximately 33 percent. Now, some of that is from natural growth, but quite frankly, since the collapse of the financial markets we haven’t had a lot of growth for new construction here, so a lot of it has been due to the reassessment. What does 33 percent mean? It’s roughly 3.2 million dollars a year in revenue for the borough.”

He says they’re working towards the goal of every assessing department, which is to be 100 percent fair and equitable. The next assembly work session is scheduled for September 24 and the next regular meeting for October 1.
Sep 22 2015
KPD Responds to Allegations of Police Brutality
Tuesday, 22 September 2015
Jay Barrett/KMXT
Late in the business day on Monday the Kodiak Police Department faxed a brief statement to the press in response to allegations of use of excessive force in the case of Nick Pletnikoff. He is the autistic young Kodiak man who last Wednesday was pinned to the ground by three officers and pepper sprayed while handcuffed.

Distributed around 5 p.m. Monday evening, the statement was ostensibly from the chief of police, though Ronda Wallace's name was not on it. Kodiak City Manager Aimee Kniaziowski told KMXT the announcement was faxed from her office in city hall, rather than being e-mailed from the police station, as most announcements from the KPD are. It was not posted to Nixle, the city's public mass e-mailing service.

The statement says "no specific facts will be released at this time," but that the department has already conducted its initial review and it had found the three officers involved acted professionally.

The statement goes on to say that the three officers, who were not named, were not quick in the use of force against Pletnikoff, but when they did, it was "minimal and necessary" to keep the officers and the community safe from him.

The short statement, though it sheds no new light on the incident, closes with an acknowledgment of “the importance of an open and transparent dialogue with the community," and says it will provide “more specific details after completing a more thorough review of the incident.”

KMXT has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the city to obtain audio and video recordings made by the officer's body recorders and dash cams, which are classified as public records under state law.
Sep 22 2015
Judy Pletnikoff Describes Finding Her Son Handcuffed, Bruised and Bleeding After KPD Encounter
Tuesday, 22 September 2015
Nick Pletnikoff. Photo via Kodiak Tags 
Jay Barrett/KMXT
Last Wednesday evening, a little after 5 o'clock, 28-year-old Nick Pletnikoff went down his street to check the mailbox. As a young man with autism, it's one of the few unsupervised tasks in his day that he's comfortable doing. At some point on his short trip, three as-yet unidentified Kodiak Police officers arrived, and, for as-yet unknown reasons, took him down to the ground and pepper-sprayed him while handcuffed.

Judy Pletnikoff, worried that her son hadn't returned from the mail box, went outside to find a number of emergency vehicles, and found Nick handcuffed, bloodied and bruised. Like any mother, she wanted to know what happened.

“I didn't get any answers, and I asked maybe three or four times who had their hands on his neck,” she said. “But he had been pepper sprayed and he was crying and he said, 'I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry.'”

Judy Pletnikoff demanded the handcuffs be removed and pressed the police officers for an explanation to the situation.

“I said, 'Why did you do this?' And they said, 'He would not answer our questions.' And I said, 'He has autism. He would really struggle to answer your questions. He lives right there,'” she said “And I saw they had his ID and could see where he lived.”

Judy Pletnikoff said a Kodiak Fire Department medic wanted to take Nick to the emergency room in the ambulance, but she didn't want her son to be further traumatized. 

“So I let the medic come in and we got him showered and showered and showered. He was in an extremely large amount of pain,” she said. “He was bleeding, bruised, and thouroughly sprayed. Just bright red and burning. My hands burned just putting my arm around him.”

Kodiak defense attorney Josh Fitzgerald, working with Angstman Law Office of Bethel, has been retained to investigate the incident for the Pletnikoff family.

“We think that these three officers that had him down on the ground and then pepper sprayed him were likely not justified in doing that. We think think that there aren't facts that support that kind of conduct,” Fitzgerald said. “But, we are waiting to see the video, which we understand has been preserved, and audio recordings and things that were at the scene, but we think that this young man did not deserve to be injured at all, and certainly not in the way that he was.”

The Kodiak Police Department issued a brief statement on the incident Monday evening. It is detailed in a separate story.
Sep 21 2015
One Silent Man, Hundreds of Angry Facebookers, Protest Treatment of Special Needs Man by KPD
Monday, 21 September 2015
Kodiak resident Brent Watkins silently demonstrated outside the Kodiak Police station Friday, Sept. 18, 2015, two days after a friend with learning disabilities was contacted by three Kodiak Police officers. Jay Barrett/KMXT photo 
Jay Barrett/KMXT
A Wednesday evening incident described in the Kodiak Police Department's publicly-released blotter simply as “Suspicious Circumstances, all OK,” nevertheless prompted a firestorm of hundreds of outraged comments online and one man silently protesting in front of the police department on Friday.

That man was Brent Watkins, who held a 6-by-8-foot sign that read “Heroes don’t beat up handicap kids.” He described the incident on Steller Avenue.

“This kid is a not a drug user, does not drink, completely sober kid. He's got challenges – he can't express himself very well. On the street he grew up on here in Kodiak, Steller, it's a real short street, everybody knows him,” Watkins said. “He went out to check his mail (and) stopped and looked at a car on his way back. Three officers responded, claiming he was trying to steal the car. Apparently while he was down, he was handcuffed, then on the ground, knee to the head and maced in the face.”

The young man Watkins is referring to is Nick Pletnikoff, who has a developmental disability.

“Oh he’s a heck of a kid. Always pleasant, always ready to say hi, greets you if he knows you,” Watkins said. “But he can't express himself really well, and that’s where things went south.”

Watkins pointed out that the kind of training police officers across the nation get likely contributed to the rapid escalation of the KPD's encounter with Pletnikoff.

“If the first reaction from the training that our officers have is to go directly to violence, if we can no longer distinguish between a handicapped person and somebody that's on drugs or drunk and a true threat, then our training needs to be looked at very carefully,” he said.

Watkins said the public response to his silent demonstration was largely supportive.

“I’ve had a few negative folks and several people have stopped by to ask what's going on. And the focus has been we need citizen oversight, and the training that these guys are receiving is not working,” he said. “And people have been, when they reailze this is not an anti-cop kind of statement, it’s just ‘get a discussion going, we’ve got to change things.’”

The response from passing Kodiak Police officers, Watkins said, wasn’t quite as positive.

“I’ve had a couple cops flip me off and a few give me the finger-gun thing. Flipping me off? Eh, that’s just an opinion. In uniform, probably not the best time to do it, but it's just an opinion,” he said. “The finger gun thing? That speaks to where the attitude goes from the training here. It’s wrong. It’s just wrong.”

Kodiak Police Chief Ronda Wallace has been out of town, though the KPD did issue a statement late Friday acknowledging the public uproar and that the chief’s office is reviewing the situation and will be making an official statement today. 
Sep 21 2015
Invasive Species Breeding in Buskin River
Monday, 21 September 2015
crayfish.jpgCrayfish. Photo by coniferconifer / flickr

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Crayfish, crawfish, crawdads – these are all names for an invasive species that appears to have flourished this summer.

That’s according to Kodiak Soil and Water Conservation District project coordinator, Blythe Brown, who says they’ve caught a lot of crayfish this year compared to the roughly one per year they’ve found in the past. They went into the project last year hoping to find out whether crayfish were breeding and, this year, they did a little bit of experimenting with traps.

“The crawdad that was found last fall was quite large, so we thought well, maybe our traps, the openings’s not large enough, so we enlarged the traps, talked to other people from other places that had grown up with crawdads and they said, well, try a oily, stinky dish or something. Some bait that they might like better. So we tried herring this year and it worked.”

Alex Hughes is a Fish and Game technician who volunteers with KSWCD.

“I’ve caught crayfish my whole life. I grew up in the Midwest and that was kind of the thing – I’d just go out and play in the river behind the house and catch frogs and crawdads and snakes or whatever that way. It’s just kind of just fun. I like to do it for the fun factor.”

He says based on their studies at the Buskin river, crayfish are successfully breeding.

“I’ve caught a couple of them just visually, flipping rocks and looking through the river especially up near the weir, near the lake. Found a couple there. I just put out traps to try to catch some more. It’s been an ongoing issue for the past several years. And the technicians that were working on the project over the summer, I think they caught a total of 18 for the summer, and now we’re trying to revive the project a little bit in the fall and catch what we can.”

Hughes says the species of this crustacean found in Kodiak, the signal crayfish, are originally from the Pacific Northwest and, as with many invasive species, they’re not certain how they got to Kodiak. They could have been shipped live to Kodiak for eating, school projects, pets, or bait.

“I’ve seen crawdads used for fishing bait before. And a lot of it is, a lot of times for large-mouth bass or sometimes panfish even. I suspect that someone brought them for that reason, but no one really knows the answer. It could’ve been a pet, it could’ve been used as a potential fishing bait. Yeah, they don’t really know how they got in the system. They just know that they’re there now.”

He says he’s concerned that if the crayfish population continues to flourish, it could spread from the Buskin River into other systems.

“We don’t really know the implications of that. What that’ll mean to the juvenile salmon that are growing or the eggs that are buried in the sediment of the river. Our worry is that the crayfish could start to sort of uncover those eggs and eat them. So, we’re trying to solve this issue before it expands into something that is more difficult to control.”

KSWCD asks that if you spot any crayfish, you remove them from the body of water if possible and report the sighting. You can do that by calling 486 5574.

Correction 10/7/2015: A former version stated that crayfish are originally from the Pacific Northwest. Not all crayfish are native to that area. Blythe Brown clarified that the kind of crayfish being found in Kodiak is the signal crayfish, which is native to the Pacific Northwest. And she also adds that besides shipping the crayfish over live as bait, people may order them for eating, school projects, or pets.

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