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Jan 06 2016
UA Representatives to Visit Kodiak to Discuss Future of Fisheries Research Facility
Wednesday, 06 January 2016
Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Budget concerns surrounding the University of Alaska Fairbanks Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center on Near Island has led to the fear of its closure. That’s one topic that UA President Jim Johnsen and the leader of the task force assigned to the issue will address in Kodiak when they drop by this week to meet with local groups. Johnsen, who joined the university in September 2015, says he’s not aware that closure was ever an option. He explains KSMSC’s future was one of the first matters that landed on his desk.

“There was a recommendation from the chancellor at the time, the former chancellor, at University of Alaska Fairbanks to transition this facility, not close it, to transition it over to Kodiak College.”

Which is under the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Johnsen says the possibility of the change then became public.

“Which it ought to. As a public university, it’s expected and encouraged that these issues come out, and so, I started getting feedback from friends and colleagues in Kodiak saying ‘Hey, we think this is a bad idea. We think you outta have a look at this. A fresh look at this.”

That’s one of the reasons he put together a committee of different members from the academic community, including from UA and Kodiak College. He tasked them with giving a recommendation to the chancellors of UAA and UAF on the facility’s future by March 1, and the chancellors in turn will give feedback to Johnsen on what direction to go with KSMSC. Johnsen assigned Vice President of Academic Affairs and Research, Daniel White, to lead the task-force.

White says he’s met with the committee once to discuss objectives and they will meet again after White stops by Kodiak to speak with local groups. One of those will be the KSMSC Policy Council.

“It’s important to me to hear from them. They know KSMSC very well. Most of them are from Kodiak or from the industry, and they know the industry well. And so they, I think, that group in particular, knows very well what KSMSC’s opportunities are, what its challenges are, and I want to hear firsthand from them.”

He says he also wants to hear ideas from the various representatives he’ll meet with. He says there are many examples of universities and communities - or businesses - that have joined together to support

“There are various types of public-private partnerships. Could be a private company. It could be a consortium of companies that are working together with the university. Various universities have consortia that are developed specifically to help manage facilities, research facilities in particular.”

While in Kodiak Thursday and Friday, White will also meet with the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly, Kodiak City Council, and a local task force that has gathered to discuss the facility’s future. If you’d like to hear from White and Johnsen and give public comment, you can join the borough assembly and city council at their joint work session Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. in the Kodiak Public Library multi-purpose room.                          
 
Jan 05 2016
Raising Citizens on Stevens' Mind as Session Looms
Tuesday, 05 January 2016
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Jay Barrett/KMXT
When the Alaska Legislature gavels in later this month, Kodiak Senator Gary Stevens will be seeking to advance a piece of personal legislation that he hopes will bring young folks to the polls – someday, after they've register to vote.

“Well, I'm still working on a little bill that I'd like to see passed that has to do with helping kids in our school districts become aware of what it means to be a citizen and how to become a voter and all that sort of thing. I think that's an area we've really fallen down on the last few years. When I was in high school I could hardly wait to vote. And it was such an important point in life to be able to go to the ballot box and vote for your candidate. I think that's not quite as important,” Stevens said. “Kids don't see that these days, and we really need to help them. I mean that's what's going to keep our democracy going, our federal government is having people who are involved, and listen and care and turn out to vote.”

Stevens, a retired educator himself, says he wants to make the process inexpensive and user-friendly for the teachers.

“If fact, we're trying to make it at no cost to help teacher figure out how can I – if I'm teaching say, an English lit. class, how can I work something in about the importance of voting and being a citizen,” he said.

As far as voting goes, another idea that is being floated in advance of the legislative session is a way to register voters when they apply for their Permanent Fund Dividend checks.

“I think it's a great idea. More people should be registered. I know there's some political opposition to it, but it just does not make any sense. If you can get more people registered, that's great,” Stevens said. “Of course the next step is to get them all to vote. So I'm all in favor of that. Voter registration, we need to simplify it as much as possible.”

The legislative session begins in less than two weeks. 
 
Jan 05 2016
Wind Damages Historic Barn in Pasagshak
Tuesday, 05 January 2016
coplee_barn.jpgDamaged barn on Coplee Ranch in Pasagshak. Photo by Chris Flickinger

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

High winds damaged a historic barn on Coplee Ranch in Pasagshak on Wednesday. According to the NOAA daily climate report, the highest wind speed that day was 45 and the highest gust speed was 62, which was enough to bring at least part of the aging structure down.

Ranch co-owner Chris Flickinger says a few of the ranch's 235 head of cattle were in the barn when it fell, as were some other livestock. He says the winds pushed the barn over in the early morning.

“That was about 3:05 in the morning when my dogs woke me up, I think when the big crash-in happened, because that’s when I looked at the clock and was like, 'What in the world was that?' But then you could hear ‘em and they would hit the one mountain across and you could hear a roar, and then they would hit. It was just going in all directions that night.”

He says the animals all managed to escape the collapsing barn unharmed.

Flickinger, who has co-owned the ranch since 1999, says the livestock are mostly grass-fed and raised without growth hormones.

“We sell mostly a two-year-old steer, which is an altered bull, as a beef animal. Folks come out and harvest 'em. I weigh ‘em up on a scale and follow the market, and there is a fresher aspect to it. It hasn’t been through freezing and millions of miles or hundreds of miles travel to get to destination.”

Flickinger and his father plan to rebuild the historic barn on the ranch, which once belonged to Joe Zentner.

Barbara Hoedel says her father, Norm Sutliff, came to Alaska in 1939 and became friends with ranchers in Pasagshak, including Zentner.

“My dad loved to hunt, and so when they started hunting bear, my dad was one of the ones that went with 'em and hunted bear. In the very earliest days, I can remember the stories of him hunting with Tom Nelson and they hunted on horseback with dogs.”

In the 1950s, Zentner purchased a plane in order to hunt the bears that were killing his cattle. Hoedel says in those days, hunting bear from the air was legal.

“They actually had hired hunters – state hunters – that came in and hunted the bear. But my dad was oftentimes the gunner, and Dave Henley was the pilot, and they went out and shot bears that were in the herds of cattle in the spring and in the fall.”
 
But the Kodiak wind took its toll on the plane in Pasagshak. In a period of particularly bad weather, the wind ripped away at the aircraft’s wing, tail, and fabric, and Zentner took those sections to the Kodiak Baptist Mission shop for repairs. The plane needed long-term protection, so according to “Now It Can Be Told” by Wanda Marie Fields, Sutliff went to work in his shop and built the beginnings of what would become Zentner’s hangar, and which would later become Flickinger's barn.

And while the hangar protected Zentner’s plane from the rain and wind for 20 years, there hasn’t been anything to protect the hangar itself from the weather. Flickinger says they patched the building up over the years, but he was too late in attending to the rotting sections.

He says they’ll rebuild the structure, and it should take about two weeks with added help. That they’ll get from the Kodiak Baptist Mission, the same organization Zentner turned to for his repair needs all those years ago. Zentner says they’ll probably start rebuilding sometime this month.
 
Jan 04 2016
Kodiak High School May Play Host to Kodiak's Newest Restaurant
Monday, 04 January 2016
mann_and_students.jpgMann (far left) works with students at Kodiak High School. Via Kodiak Island Borough District

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Kodiak High School’s culinary arts program can be everything from a one-year elective to a four-year course that prepares its students for the food industry. That’s a lot of budding talent. Culinary arts teacher, Chef Samantha Mann, says you may soon get to taste the result of the students’ hard work.

“What we’d like to do with the more advanced students is, as their second semester project, open an actual restaurant using the school as the facilities and let them design the entire restaurant from start to finish. As in making the menu, figuring out how much each recipe costs, preparing each dish.”

She says the project would give students the chance to experience every part of the restaurant, from working on the service side to preparing the menu. Mann is well-versed in the ways of the business, especially from the kitchen side. She worked at a Peruvian restaurant in Portland she calls one of the busiest and most popular places to eat in the city. She says it was fun, but chaotic.

“I was working the night shift in the pastry department, so I was plating desserts, I was prepping desserts for the next day, and 12 hours is a really long time to work. And it’s a physically demanding job. The restaurant was in an old warehouse, so it was three floors, so constantly you’re running up and down the stairs. There’s hot ovens. There’s freezers. There's noise and tons of people.”

Mann says she learned a lot, but the pace could be exhausting. She later moved to Juneau and worked at a hotel downtown.

“And I was making over their pastry program, kinda redoing it so that their pastries would come in-house instead of being ordered and, a few months into that job, Stewart McDonald, superintendent, comes into the Baranof looking for me and asks if I would perhaps be interested in a job in Kodiak.”

And, as you can guess, she was.

Mann says working at the high school is busy, but not hectic, and it gives her the opportunity to be more creative. It helps having a shiny new kitchen to cook in.

She says she and her students gained access to the kitchen in the new high school wing a couple of months ago. Previously, they’d been in the wielding shop, where they took advantage of the lack of cooking appliances by doing the year’s bookwork. She says along with steam boxes and equipment to make pasta, the kitchen also a gas stove, which is useful for classes.                          
                                                                                              
“A lot of my students have never cooked with gas. They’ve used only electric stoves, and gas is just so much more efficient in keeping a steady heat. There’s not the lag in time to heat up and the lag in time to cool down, so watching those kids who are good cooks, but a little intimidated by gas, and then they get to use it and play around with it and see the differences.”

You may soon find yourself sitting down at a table with a plate full of food from that kitchen.

Mann says her restaurant concept is a pet project and still in the brainstorming stage. However, the idea has gotten support from members of the high school community like the superintendent, and a culinary arts program restaurant may be well on its way to becoming the new spot in town.
 
Dec 31 2015
City Releases Audio and Video of Police Encounter with Pletnikoff
Thursday, 31 December 2015
1.4 MB | Download MP3 | Open in popup

 
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Nick Pletnikoff, on the ground, about to be pepper sprayed by Kodiak Police Department Sgt. Francis de la Fuente on Sept. 16, 2015. KPD bodycam footage 
 
Jay Barrett/KMXT
The city of Kodiak released video and audio recordings and other documents associated with the case where three city police officers are suspected of using excessive force in subduing Nick Pletnikoff, an autistic young man, in September. He was suspected of trying to rob a rental car, but he was not charged after officers determined that was not his intent.

Here is the beginning of the incident, when Kodiak Police Sargent Francis de la Fuente first encounters Nick Pletnikoff. 

“Do you have an ID on you?,” de la Fuente asks. 

“No, I don't,” Pletnikoff responds.

Immediately de la Fuente tells Pletnikoff, “put your hands behind your back,” and then tells him to, “stop resisting!”

The audio cuts out on one of the officers' body cameras at that point for six seconds, but is picked up by another, just as de la Fuente and Officer Kathleen Gambling fall to the ground with Nick. At that point, Officer Phillip Christman is assisting, and encouraging Nick to comply. The audio is about a minute and a half jumble of the officers telling Pletnikoff to stop resisting and him saying he was sorry and asking if he can go home.

The officers were called to the scene, on Stellar Way, when a father and adult son from Oregon, in Kodiak for a sport-fishing trip, called 9-1-1 after Nick tried to enter their rental car. Police had been dealing with a rash of unsolved car, home and business break-ins and were reportedly suspicious of any such activity. Pletnikoff had just checked his family's mail box, across the street from the bed-and-breakfast where the men were about to check in. Judy Pletnikoff, Nick's mother, watched the police videos this morning.

“The speed of the escalation is shocking. I think it was six seconds until they grab a hold of Nick, and by 30 seconds they got three guys on top of him on the ground. It was really fast and pretty brutal,” she said. “A lot of pushing his head into he ground and then they pepper spray him point blank right in the face. He's already down, by three people.”

Judy Pletnikoff came upon the scene on September 16th as it was de-escalating and EMTs were treating her son, but on the tape, she said she saw that her son was trying to be as cooperative as he could.

Family attorney Josh Fitzgerald said he found out in the data released by the city that one of the police officers did know Nick Pletnikoff and of his developmental challenges.

“And he actually put away his pepper spray, based on his knowledge of Nick, but he doesn't communicate that to the other officers,” Fitzgerald said. “So we know one of the officers did know exactly who he was and that he was someone with special needs, which is certainly disturbing to learn.”

Judy Pletnikoff said she hopes her son Nick never has to see the tapes and be forced to think about that encounter again. 
 
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