A two-year effort to improve medical care in Delta Junction got a big boost earlier this month in the form of a $400,000 grant that will enable the Interior Alaska Hospital Foundation to open a clinic by March. Now, foundation members have launched a drive to raise at least $150,000 for a pharmacy they’d like to open along with the clinic.
An oil and gas exploration well drilled in the Nenana Basin has not yielded a commercially viable deposit. Doyon Corporation vice president of lands and resources Jim Mery says the nearly nine thousand-foot well, about 16 miles west of Nenana, has inspired the corporation to keep looking.
Mery stresses that the well is only the second deep drilling that’s happened in the Nenana Basin, where Doyon has leases on about 400,000 acres of state land. He says the company is actively planning additional exploration work.
Monica Gokey, APRN-Anchorage
This week we’re heading 80 miles southwest of Bethel to a village the locals call “Kwig.” Andrew Beaver is the tribal administrator in Kwigillingok.
The new motion picture “Icebound,” about the Alaska serum run to Nome, is just one of many films coming to the Anchorage International Film Festival in early December. Also, “The Frozen Ground,” which only had limited theatrical release in Alaska.
HOST: Steve Heimel, Alaska Public Radio Network
- Tony Shepard, founder
- Jim Parker, volunteer program organizer
- Callers Statewide
- Post your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).
- Send e-mail to talk [at] alaskapublic [dot] org (comments may be read on air)
- Call 550-8422 in Anchorage or 1-800-478-8255 if you’re outside Anchorage during the live broadcast
LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.
Alaska has its share of big science projects, to be sure. But to get results, science doesn’t always have to be huge.
In Sitka, a project in its second year is studying the seasonal movement of juncoes and some other sparrows. It started as a way to involve kids in science, and to answer some basic questions about a species so common that we haven’t taken the trouble to study it.
Robert – “I don’t think I’ve ever interviewed somebody at a whisper.”
Gwen – “Sorry, I hope it comes out.”
I find Gwen Baluss a couple of blocks up the street from where I live. She’s sitting just inside a downstairs window in the home of Scott Harris, who works for the Sitka Conservation Society.
She’s poised by the window, which is slightly ajar, holding a thread. When she releases it, a device known as a “hall trap” unfurls, ideally right on top of some unsuspecting juncoes.
“Yeah. It’s not looking good out there,” she said.
Juncoes tend to arrive at backyard feeders in waves, and the latest flock took flight after a cat stopped by.
Harris’s 7-year old son, Tomy, has been kneeling by the window all morning. He understands the hall trap, and what it’s like to be a few inches away from a creature that most of us only ever see at a distance.
“And when it’s in the middle, you let go of this,” Tommy said. “You let go of the string, and then the trap comes down on the bird, and then you just go out and get them. It doesn’t hurt them.”
The cat’s visit has pretty much ended trapping this morning. This is a setback, but only a small one. Baluss’s project has a very limited scope.
“I’m not color-banding any other birds in Southeast Alaska, so Sitka’s actually getting a lot of colors,” Baluss said. “If you see a color-banded bird in Southeast chances are that it came from Sitka, if it’s a junco, chickadee, or song sparrow. Those are the three species that I have the color bands for.”
Baluss is attaching tiny, colored bands to the legs of juncoes – only in Sitka. Anywhere from 1-4 bands per bird – like color-coding with various combinations of white, green, red, blue, and light blue. It’s an inspired strategy.
“That’s the nice thing about color-banding,” Baluss said. “A bird-watcher, or anyone, who happens to see a color-tagged bird could report those, and we would know which bird that was with a fair level of confidence.”
Baluss is a wildlife technician for the Forest Service in Juneau. Her agency, the Sitka Conservation Society, and the University of Alaska Southeast co-sponsor her research.
After lunch it’s time to change venues. We’re in the potting shed of the community garden, behind Blatchley Middle School. The noise that sounds like hail is actually from the marble-sized raindrops Southeast is famous for.
As I arrive, Baluss and Harris have just bagged a bird – literally. They’ve released the trap, and Baluss reaches in, grabs the junco, and stuffs it into a little cloth sack.
After she attaches the bands, she measures the length of its primary feathers, and checks its fat content. Earlier, she told me you can see right through the skin of small birds. She holds up the junco and starts to gently blow apart the downy feathers on its breast.
Gwen – “So, looking at his fat, I’m kind of doing the see-through skin trick again. The kind of yellowish stuff you see there is fat. Well, actually some of it is corn that he just ate. Stuff in his crop that you can see.”
Robert – “I’ve been interested in birds since I moved to Sitka but I never knew that they were see-through. That you could actually see their last meal heading down the pipe.”
Gwen – “Yeah, if they’ve eaten a lot.”
Baluss has banded 44 juncoes in two days, despite the weather. One ruby-crowned kinglet, one white-crowned sparrow, one fox sparrow, and one song sparrow. Last year she did almost one-hundred birds.
And these few birds have already taught us something important. Except for a few slate-colored juncoes that move in each winter from Canada, our local juncoes were always thought to be year-round residents.
One-hundred-forty-four banded birds say otherwise.
Gwen – “In that last year, of all the birds that we color-banded, none were seen in Sitka in the summertime at all. So they moved somewhere. Perhaps just out of town where people weren’t hiking. Perhaps much farther than that.”
Robert – “From what you’ve learned so far, it’s likely that people will be seeing these banded birds, not necessarily in Sitka, they might be seeing them up to the north, seeing them up in Whitehorse?”
Gwen – “Yeah. Hopefully most of them will survive the winter and breed somewhere, and communities in Southeast and in Canada will keep an eye out for them.”
So does this mean an entire population of songbirds moves out of Sitka in winter, only to be replaced by an identical population moving in? That’s a pretty big conclusion, even for small science.
This week we’re headed 77 miles southwest of Bethel to the village of Kwigillingok. Andrew Beaver is the tribal administrator for the Native Village of Kwigillingok.
“My name is Andrew Beaver, I’m the tribal administrator for governing body, Native Village of Kwigillingok. I’m also a church elder.
I’m only ninety year young, I don’t feel that old, and I have 13 grandchildren. And I’m married and I have my own, my own children, that are grown adults now, supporting themselves.
I feel I’m still in my mid-age. Like in 40, 45, 40 year old. Because I’m very active; I go out to tundra and enjoy the nature. I don’t stay put in once place.
Personally, I enjoyed going out doing subsistence [for fun]; it’s part of our recreation, like a we enjoy the natural environment, um, and that’s natural. Like when I’m stressed out at work, I work for my tribe in the office, and I can go out into nature, nature environment, and be out there. And many times my stress feelings are [done with] out there, and by the time I come back I’m no longer stressed out. I’m ready to go back to a stressful work.
We’re pretty much done with our summer subsistence fishing. We dried salmon and we eat some of them…. and right now we’re in the process of drying smaller fish, and right up to freezing, when the ice is thickened up on the river we dipnet for tom-cots and that’s part of our winter food supply.
Unusually it’s warm. By this time it should be frozen. The river still is pretty open. There’s a thin ice on lakes, and this is not normal. Last year it was frozen by this time of the year.
I think we’re pretty much adapted to any season, unusual season like this. We’re, right now, we’re still doing our subsistence activities, like before freeze-up, we continue with that.
We don’t have any restaurants or hotels, but we have places where people can sleep — like families open their doors, bringing strangers in. The school also opens their doors to have somebody stay there at minimum cost. But we have a general store with mostly canned foods and limited food or refrigerated. It’s not like in city. But, uh, the necessary basic needs for community.
I think our community is keeping their language, Yup’ik language; that’s our first language and 99 percent of our population speaks our language fluently. And our second language is English, not that much.”
The Bethel City Council once again declined a hard look at raising water and sewer rates. Mayor Joe Klejka was behind a memorandum to have staff write up ordinances that would make the water and sewer operation cover its costs. Eric Whitney made the motion to enter the memorandum, but that’s as far as it got.
The city currently has to transfer money earned by the port to cover costs. Vice Mayor Rick Robb in his comments said the timing might not be right.
“There is a lot of concern about raising people’s bills at a difficult time, we have some problems with that, especially as the city currently has a surplus of money due to excise tax and other things and to turn around and bring up raising bills, maybe we can use some of that excise tax in a different way. I just throw that out there as an idea,” Robb said.
Bethel resident Sherry Neth receives piped water. She expressed interest in being metered, and only paying for what her household uses. She spoke to the idea of reducing the steep costs of water delivery.
“Trucks [will] get more expensive and the more miles they have to travel, the greater the wear and tear,” she said. “I want to encourage looking at the infrastructure and and if as rates go up if some of that could be an investment toward improving infrastructure, that will in the end decrease the long term cost to the city,” Neth said.
Major Joe Klejka is urging the council to be proactive on getting control over the precarious sewage lagoon. He said agencies won’t give the city grants until the water and sewer rates cover their costs. Meanwhile, the lagoon needs protection from erosion as it generates large waves in the second cell. The port, which has been subsidizing the water sewage system, needs dock work done.
“To just wait for catastrophic failure makes me really nervous’ Kleika said. “I don’t think that’s the right way to go, maybe someone will bail us out, but it won’t be pretty when it happens, whether it’s the dock or the sewer lagoon. I think we need to go forward. I was hoping that this action memorandum would get the conversation going, because it is important. It is cost increases and it is difficult times.”
The city is about a half million dollars short on an annual basis.
The council approved a record keeping master plan that allows for electronic records. The previously approved system required all paper records.
The state disaster office has pushed back the start date for those affected by the October Kenai flooding to register for individual grant assistance.
The Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management said this week they now plan to open disaster assistance centers, as well and online and telephone registration during the week of Dec. 8, the Peninsula Clarion reported. Officials had initially planned to do so the week of Dec. 2.
Officials say the delay would allow out-of-state contractors to arrive and be properly trained on procedures.
On Nov. 18, Gov. Sean Parnell declared the Oct. 28 flooding on the Kenai Peninsula a disaster.
Kenai Peninsula Borough officials estimated that 120 homes were affected by the flooding and that $2.1 million in damages occurred to private.
The chairman of the Marine Transportation Advisory Board says replacing the troubled Tustumena ferry is the board’s top priority.
Chairman Bob Venables of Sitka said at a recent board meeting that the Tustumena is important to the transportation infrastructure of Western Alaska. The Tustumena was out of commission for nearly a year. It returned to service last month, six months later than expected.
The Alaska Journal of Commerce reports that the Alaska Marine Highway System has contracted with a Seattle marine engineering firm to help with the process of replacing the vessel.
The system’s general manager, Capt. John Falvey, said the cost will likely be several hundred million dollars. He said the state’s Vessel Replacement Fund has enough money to complete pre-construction work.
Environmental groups are asking the state and the federal government to exchange or purchase land to create a permanent wildlife buffer along the eastern border of Denali National Park. The request comes in response to a park service study that shows a decline in the number of wolves viewed by visitors who ride the bus along the park road.
A state court judge says he’ll personally review further procedures by the state Department of Natural Resources in a dispute over a water rights application. At a hearing today, ( Wednesday), Superior Court Judge Mark Rindner gave DNR a timeframe for moving forward on processing the Chuitna Citizens Coalition’s application for an instream flow permit.
Last month, Judge Rindner told DNR the agency’s delay in processing the 2009 application, was “unreasonable” and violated the Coalition’s constitutional right to due process. At that time, Judge Rindner gave DNR 30 days to get started.
At today’s [Wednesday's ] hearing, the court set a schedule for DNR to take the first step in adjudication of the permit. Valerie Brown, an attorney with the Trustees For Alaska, which represents the Coalition, says publishing notice of the application is the first step under state regulations.
“And DNR didn’t do that. They sent a letter asking for a point of contact. So, today the hearing was about whether or not they [DNR] had to immediately publish notice, and the judge said that he was going to let them collect sixty more days of information before he decides if they have to publish notice or not. “
Earlier, Brown had filed a contempt of court motion against DNR, while the state agency filed a counter- motion for clarification. Judge Rindner did not find DNR in contempt of court. State attorney Colleen Moore says a letter DNR sent to the Coalition this month suggesting that further information is needed, is in compliance with the court’s October ruling.
Moore declined to be recorded, but said the state agency has until December 6 to formally request further information from the Coalition, which then has 60 days to answer. A second court hearing is set for early February.
Moore also told the court that prior to the November 13 letter to the Coalition, a second application was received at DNR requesting water use in the same stream that is in the Coalition’s request, and that now DNR will have to process both applications together, since they are for water from the same stream.
The Coalition wants an instream flow permit for a salmon stream in the Chuitna River watershed, which it says will be damaged if a proposed coal mine in the area becomes reality. Attorney Brown:
“The fact that the judge is not going to allow DNR to continue to delay is a very good thing for us, because we have been waiting a long time for this, and Chuitna Citizen’s Coalition would really like to secure fish protection with this instream flow application.”
State attorney Moore says the agency is not reluctant to process the Coaltion’s application, and that DNR’s problem is a lack of staff time to process all applications in a timely manner. Moore says at this time, more than 300 instream flow reservations are pending at the agency, most of them from other state agencies, although about 30 of them have been filed by private citizens’ groups. HB77, legislation pending in the Senate rules committee, proposes to limit water reservations permits to only public entities, excluding citizen requests.
Bilge water is the nasty stuff that collects at the bottom of a boat. It can contain engine oil and anti-freeze, and releasing it in state waters is illegal. But even though it’s a crime, the state doesn’t get too many chances to prosecute it. Last week, the Department of Law scored a rare legal victory when a bilge water case was decided in their favor.
When someone dumps their bilge water, it’s hard to nab the perpetrator. The evidence literally dilutes as the crime is happening. Unless, of course, the evidence freezes. That’s exactly what happened in Seward on January 20, 2012. State attorney Carole Holley explains.
“Seward boat harbor employees found an oily sheen around the edges of the vessel, and the reason why this was so easily determined is because there had been a hard freeze in the night that sealed the vessel up in ice,” says Holley.
The boat was the motor vessel Dutch Harbor, and the man operating it was Allen McCarty. While there’s no way to get an exact amount of bilge water released, estimates put it at 200 gallons.
To prove McCarty was responsible for the pollution, the state’s environmental crimes unit teamed up with the Coast Guard. They took samples of the contaminated harbor water and of the bilge water still on the boat. Then, they compared them to see if they shared a similar composition.
“What they determined when they sent it to the U.S. Coast Guard’s laboratory in Connecticut was that there was a match,” says Holley.
McCarty was charged with unlawful discharge of oil, water pollution, and failure to report the release of hazardous substances. Last week, a jury found him guilty of all three counts. McCarty was fined $5,000, required to pay for the cost of the clean-up, and ordered to complete 50 hours of community service.
As the state’s environmental crimes attorney Holley says that part of why the state prosecuted the case was deterrence. There have been situations — like in Kodiak a couple years ago — where bilge dumps were identified, but the offending vessel was never found. And if enough people get away with discharging bilge water in a given area, it can have a real environmental impact.
“When you multiply it by a hundred Mr. McCartys, you have a lot of toxic materials that’s being put into the water,” says Holley.
McCarty’s attorney was also struck by how uncommon prosecution of this sort of crime is, but for different reasons. Paul Stockler says he can’t think of anyone who’s been in state court over bilge water violations. The most similar trial he can come up with is that of Captain Joe Hazelwood, over the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Stockler disagrees with the court’s decision, and is preparing to appeal it. He says his client was prosecuted for something he didn’t do. Stockler is also skeptical of the state’s evidence against McCarty.
“A person testified from back east that it was a match, whatever that means. So, he’s saying that the substance in the water is consistent with the substance in the bilge,” says Stockler. “I think their science is lacking.”
Holley’s confident in the test results, but says it is McCarty’s legal right to appeal. And in the meantime, she hopes that future violators think twice about dumping their bilge.
Seward Ship’s Drydock was only supposed to spend a few months fixing up the Tustumena ferry. Instead, it took them a year to finish extensive repairs on the 50-year-old vessel. The shipyard is now seeking millions of dollars in extra payment from the state of Alaska.
The first World Cup event of the season in cross country skiing is scheduled to start this Friday in northern Finland. Four Alaska Pacific University skiers will race, Kikkan Randall, Holly Brooks and Sadie Bjornsen and Rosie Brennan. This will be an eventful season for the team, building up to the winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in February.
Holly Brooks kneels on the floor of her living room and digs into a grocery bag, looking for a jar of cheap peanut butter.
“You can buy it some places in Europe, but it’s just not the same.”
Brooks also has a Costco size bottle of Cholula to stuff into her World Cup bag, along with everything else she needs for the next four months. Four years ago, Brooks was a World Cup newbie. But now she is familiar with the routine of living on the road in Europe for months at a time. She says she’s ready to start racing:
“This time of year it’s like this mixture of excitement and anxiousness and a little bit of stress and everything all rolled into one,” Brooks says.
Brooks teammate, Kikkan Randall, feels the same way.
“It just helps to kind of get there. Start focusing on the things you need to do to get ready for the first race,” Randall says. “It’s like all of the sudden you get to go into autopilot. So there’s always anxiousness. You always have butterflies in your stomach, but once you get there and kind of get in the routine, then I think, it always just gets better and better for me.”
Randall is starting off this season as the world champion. If that isn’t enough pressure, she is the clear favorite to win gold in the skate sprint in Sochi. But Randall has proven again and again that she thrives under intense pressure. And she says she feels like her whole career has been heading in one direction- up:
“Well we’ve definitely built the season around the best performance at the Olympics. And the World Cup is basically just a bunch of dress rehearsals leading into the Olympics.” Randall says. “If it was only about the Olympics that would be riding an awful lot on a couple races. So I’m excited about the World Cup and I definitely hope to perform well all season, but with the best performance coming at the Olympics.”
Randall is a veteran on the World Cup and is preparing for her fourth Olympics. On the other hand, her APU teammate Sadie Bjornsen is getting ready for her first full season on the World Cup, along with her first Christmas away from home. Last season, Bjornsen was plagued by injuries. She says she’s looking forward to seeing what she can do this year.
“I’m really excited to see what can happen racing weekend after weekend,” Bjornsen says. “Having ups and downs but knowing you have a whole season ahead of you to have a better or worse result, so that will be nice.”
APU head coach Erik Flora designed the training program that has quickly vaulted the APU women’s team into the international spotlight. He says most of the difficult work of preparing for the season is over now and he expects his skiers to do really well.
“There’s still lots of training from here to the Olympics. But the bulk of the training is done,” Flora says. “Now it’s time to kind of refine and hone race skills and kind of get into the racing groove.”
Flora says four years ago, the U.S. women’s cross country team basically had no chance to bring home an Olympic medal from Vancouver. This February though in Sochi, the team could medal in at least three races, the skate sprint, the classic sprint relay and the 4×5 relay. Holly Brooks is looking forward to the challenge:
“Something really exciting is going to happen. And there’s all kinds of possibilities of what that could be,” Brooks says. “You know, we’re going to have some stories, when we come back to Anchorage at the end of March and we look forward to making everyone here in Alaska proud.”
The Thanksgiving season is known in America for its big family meals. For many people in Southcentral, that meal is able to happen because of the generosity of a number of individuals and organizations.
“Green beans, apples, peas, corn, stuffing, butter, potatoes, apples, turkeys, and all kind of little homemade cakes and cookies…anything you’d need for a Thanksgiving dinner.”
That’s Food Pantry Director Shirley Lungaro describing what was on offer at the Upper Susitna Senior Center on Saturday afternoon. The Thanksgiving Blessing event is one of two major holiday food distributions. The second will happen next month in preparation for Christmas. Shirley Lungaro says that hundreds of people will have Thanksiving dinner thanks to the collaborative event.
“We’re expecting at least 150….That’s just us, here. I don’t know how many Trapper Creek is going to serve. I imagine fifty to a hundred up there.”
Distributing that many baskets means a lot of food. Volunteer Dave Ward talked turkey with me. He says that the Upper Susitna Food Pantry was distributing over two tons of food, about half of which was the traditional bird. In order to get that food to the families that needed it, over thirty volunteers turned out, including many students. In addition to volunteers who signed up, Shirley Lungaro said some arrived on the day, ready to help.
“We have been so blessed this year with volunteers. As a matter of fact, I sent some of them home, earlier, because we had so many here. They said they would come back this afternoon and help us break up.”
The Upper Susitna event was just one of half a dozen Thanksgiving Blessing distributions on Saturday. In all, the Food Bank of Alaska says that 1,963 baskets were given out in the Valley. Executive Director Mike Miller was at Talkeetna’s distribution, and says it’s good for him and his staff to attend the local events.
“On a day-to-day basis, we work with twenty-five partner agencies in the Valley, and soup kitchens and food pantries. We’re usually one step removed. we’re helping the people who are helping the people. This is an event where we get to go out and see things going on first-hand and work with the folks who are doing it. It’s really grounding, and it really brings it back to why we’re here; there are people in our communities that are dealing with hunger on a daily basis.”
The Anchorage Thanksgiving Blessing was held Monday, and Mike Miller says the number of families who received baskets is up from last year.
“For this year…we had a total of 8,038, which is right in the range we were expecting. That’s up from 7,497 from the year before, so about a seven percent increase.”
Assuming an average of a fifteen pound turkey per basket, that means over seventy-five tons in poultry alone. Mike Miller says a project of that scale requires a massive undertaking and a lot of help.
“It’s an amazing amount of effort for Food Bank staff, for literally hundreds of volunteers, dozens of agencies, dozens of businesses who donate money, turkey, time. It’s really a huge, community-wide event.”
Listing all of the partner groups would not fit into this story, since Mike Miller says there are over 300 of them. The volunteers both in the Valley and Anchorage are already gearing up for next month’s events.
Gathering ingredients for a Thanksgiving feast may seem simple to folks living along Kodiak’s road system – simply go to the grocery store. But things are not quite as easy if you’re living in Karluk, a village on the west side of Kodiak with less than 50 people.
Karluk has no local store, and all of the residents’ groceries have to be ordered from shops in Kodiak, and then flown in by small planes. This way of getting groceries proves to be more complicated, and a little more expensive around the holidays.
“The dried goods we have mailed out, so it’s just postal rates, but anything that’s cold or frozen we have to get shipped out at 90, I think it’s 92 cents a pound,” said Russ Scotter, a teacher at the Karluk School. He has been living in Karluk for seven years. Scotter celebrates Thanksgiving, and his traditional dinner includes a turkey, albeit an expensive one.
“We have to put in order in, to Safeway, and then they have to fly it out, and because it’s a frozen turkey, usually, it comes on the plane, and then we pay 90 some cents a pound, just to get it out here,” he said.
Ronnie Lind, a long time Karluk resident, also celebrates Thanksgiving with his family.
“The cost of the turkey is probably the price that everybody pays for it in Kodiak,” Lind said. “It’s no less than a total freight cost, it’s probably more than $100.”
Other villages on Kodiak also get turkeys sent out for Thanksgiving. April Carlough, the assistant manager at Island Air, said there are more flights for people going to visit their families for the holiday, and she sees a rise in grocery orders around this time of year. Carlough also said because the turkeys are frozen, the shipping prices would be a little higher than regular prices.
“It just depends you know. If it was just one turkey, then it would be, like $24, to any one of the villages.”
Kodiak Area Native Association, or KANA, used to run a program to send turkeys out to the village elders during Thanksgiving, and Island Air brought them out. The program is not running this year, but a KANA spokesperson said that they hope to bring it back in the future.
Sharon Andrews used to be the Postmaster in Emmonak. Between 2010 and 2012 she stole several registered mail packages that each contained large amounts of cash inside.
In May of 2010, she took three packages that contained $44,000. In September that year, she took another package that included $25,000, and in October of 2012, she took five additional packages, which contained $93,100 inside.
All of the packages were supposed to be forwarded on to the AC Store in the nearby village of Kotlik.
Andrews, 54, pled guilty to four felony charges that she stole mail as an officer or employee of the U.S. Postal Service. Chief U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline sentenced her to four months in prison and three years of supervised release.
She also has to pay most of the money back—$164,700 dollars. She had already paid back the difference, from some of the stolen money that she had kept.
She told the court that she burned most of the money out of anger from people in the village using it on drugs and alcohol. She admitted to spending a little of it on a used car and other items.
Registered mail is tracked and insured. Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder says while it wasn’t obvious who had stolen the money there were receipts showing a limited number of people who would have handled the mail.
Billy Strickland of Bethel has been chosen to run the Alaska School Activities Association. He’ll be starting the job as Executive Director next summer. Strickland has been working in the Bethel area for 25 years.
“What I think it gives me is a lot of insight in terms of some of the challenges for running programs in Rural Alaska,” Strickland says.
His Southern drawl is deceiving. He moved to Bethel when he was just 14 and he’s been here ever since except for when he left for college. Upon returning to the area he immediately got involved in coaching. It started with Native Youth Olympics for five years but he says he probably knows basketball better than anything other sport because he’s had a hand in coaching that on and off for 22 years.
“It’s a bug,” Strickland said. “When you coach you coach because you can’t not coach, almost. It’s a mission.”
For the past 12 years Strickland has also been the Dean of Students and Activities Director for Bethel Regional High School. Before that he taught high school social studies and accounting.
As ASAA executive director, he will manage seven staff and be responsible for authorizing 33 activities across Alaska.
Gary Matthews is retiring as ASAA’s director after 21 years.
“I think it’s the best job in the state,” Matthews said..
Matthews said the organization is often linked with sports and for good reason. It sponsors all high school championships throughout the state except for NYO. They certify coaches and license about 1,000 sport officials a year but Matthews said they do a lot more than that.
“We sponsor and oversee the student government association, we have two statewide music festivals,” Matthews said. “We have a debate, drama, and forensics state championship. We have a rural language declamation or people used to call [it] foreign language, which is a contest where kids recite poetry in certain languages and answer questions. We also have the only on-line all-state art competition in the country.”
Strickland was chosen by the organization’s board of directors and Matthews thinks they made the right choice. He says Strickland’s Rural Alaska background will be an asset.
“And the statewide perspective, that’s a big thing,” Matthews said. “Having a broad perspective and an appreciation for what goes on all over the state is very important. I think Billy brings that to the job.”
It won’t be easy for Strickland to leave Bethel. He says he’s leaving behind a job that he loves.
“I’d always kind of envisioned when I retired that I would be the blubbering idiot on the back of the plane leaving Bethel not knowing when I would be coming back,” Strickland said jokingly.
He does know, at least for the next school year, he will be visiting because his daughter and wife will stay here through his daughter’s senior year. He also knows that he will be seeing many local students when they make their way to statewide competitions in Anchorage.
Juneau’s Enroll Alaska agent Mike Clark has so far seen about 24 people, and appointments continue to come in.
After a delayed launch in Juneau, Clark started helping people sign up for health insurance at Bartlett Regional Hospital last week. “We have a backlog of about 75 people that have been wanting to get enrolled and I just see that increasing as we get closer to the December 15th cut off for January 1 starts,” he said.
Clark has seen individuals, families, and a couple small businesses owners – people from across the income spectrum.
“There are people that are eligible for subsidies, there are people that aren’t eligible for subsidies, there are people that are eligible for Medicaid, there are people that are just researching if they can get a better policy than their employer offers – a lot of shopping going on right now,” he said.
Clark said his normal schedule at Bartlett will be Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons, 1 to 5 .pm. With the holiday this week, Clark will be available for appointments on Friday afternoon.
Enroll Alaska’s Chief Operating Officer Tyann Boling said a second Juneau agent will be located at Walmart, hopefully, within the next two weeks, “Next week is the week that the website is supposed to be functioning better and we are going to be making a trip to Juneau and getting one of our other gents up and on board and then he will be working at the Walmart.”
Boling said healthcare.gov is still experiencing problems, making it difficult to sign people up for an insurance plan.
Clark said he’s had some positive experiences with the website but hasn’t completed an enrollment in Juneau yet.
Forty minutes wasn’t enough time to decide Tuesday’s game between the University of Alaska Anchorage and UC Riverside.
With the score remaining locked at the end of regulation and after the first 5 minutes of overtime, the UAA Seawolves pulled ahead and held on to win 83-75.
After a slow start, where the Seawolves shot 8-38 from the field, and only 2-12 from beyond the three-point line, the Seawolves trailed by 14 points at the halfway point.
UAA Head Coach Ryan McCarthy said going into the second half, the team was focused on remaining positive.
“We locked down defensively, and we just talked about controlling the things that we could control, which are defense and rebounds,” McCarthy said. “Ultimately, that led to fast-break baskets.”
“The game picked up in a faster pace, which is more our style, and that definitely went in our favor to bring the game into overtime.”
UC Riverside Head Coach John Margaritis gave credit to the Seawolves, saying his team was outplayed.
“If you weren’t ready to play, you paid,” he said. “They crashed the boards – they had 21 offensive rebounds; they beat us from point A to point B; they hit threes.”
UC Riverside didn’t make a single three-pointer, which Margaritis says was in large part to a stingy defense from UAA.
UAA junior guard Alli Madison, who finished the game with 17 points and 12 rebounds, said their defense was a major factor in the outcome of the game.
“That’s a lot of game plan,” she said. “We ran a zone that we’re zone that we’re pretty talented at when work hard, and in that second half we were a little motivated to get out and pressure and I think that’s really want did it in for them.”
UAA will face Georgetown University at 5:00 p.m. Wednesday night for the Great Alaska Shootout Championship.
The Seawolf men’s team will open up their tournament against Texas Christian at 10:00 p.m. Wednesday.