HISTORIC MOVE – Harry Greene, maintenance and operations superintendent at the Sitka Public Works Department, uses a backhoe to lift the Baranof statue onto a wooden dolly with the help of co-worker Mike Callahan, this morning in front of Harrigan Centennial Hall. The bronze statue, estimated to weigh between 400 and 600 pounds, was relocated to inside the Sitka History Museum today. The city Assembly passed a resolution, on a 6-1 vote, in July to move the statue from its prominent  outdoor location to inside the museum.  At the July meeting several members of the public said the statue was a symbol of “historical trauma.”  The statue, created by artist Joan Bugbee Jackson, was given to the city in 1989 by Lloyd and Barbara Hames. Hames family members said earlier this year they supported moving the statue into the museum. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Sitka Faces Choices On CARES Act Fund

By SHANNON HAUGLAND
Sentinel Staff Writer

City hall has been receiving dozens of suggestions a day since word came down that Sitka may get some $14 million in CARES Act funds.

City Administrator John Leach said today it’s important to get help quickly to individuals and businesses who need it, but the city also needs to receive clarity on how the funds can be spent.

“Ultimately it will come down to the U.S. Treasury rules on how we can spend it,” Leach said. “Whether we can line up the public’s need with how the treasury says we can spend it. It may be even longer till we see that funding. Plenty of lobbying has happened.”

The Assembly had a brief discussion about the expected windfall at its regular meeting Tuesday. After floating a few ideas, members decided to hold off until a work session is scheduled.

“It will take an Assembly work session on how to prioritize and how to help everyone out,” Leach said, adding that some things are already known about how CARES Act money can be spent.

“It has to be directly related to COVID-19 response and recovery,” Leach said. “We can’t put it into savings; it has to be spent. ... It will be audited, tracked and if it’s not spent on where the Treasury says it needs to be spent they will want it back.”

(A potential complication to the process is a lawsuit filed Wednesday by a private citizen seeking to block the plan approved by the Legislature for distributing CARES money to municipalities, saying the plan is unconstitutional.)

Leach said he’s hoping the Treasury rules are coming soon, and the Assembly can plan a work session, hopefully before the next regular meeting May 26.

“Knowing so many people in need of it now, that’s why we want to move quickly, and give the green light, and not have any fear of it being taken back because it wasn’t spent correctly,” he said.

Leach wants to work with Sitka Tribe of Alaska on the best use of the CARES Act funds. The tribe expects $6.9 million from CARES, and has been discussing possible relief ideas for its citizens.

“We’re not talking about spending the tribe’s money in any way, shape or form, but depending on how they spend their money ... ,” Leach said. “It’s for us to work together, find out what their priorities are, whether we have overlap and how to spread funding further.”

Assembly members Thor Christianson and Kevin Mosher shared some of their thinking with other members at the Assembly meeting Tuesday. 

Christianson said he and Mosher were working on an ordinance which included utility and moorage relief for those who have suffered financially because of COVID mitigation requirements. 

Mosher said, “My vision would be to hopefully use up the first bunch of this money to do something that would be equitable for everyone in town that is affected, and make it as easy as possible but follow the guidelines.”

Richard Wein said he would prefer a full Assembly work session to get organized, including creating categories, guidelines and priorities, as the “fairest and best way” to proceed. He noted the total amount allotted is equivalent to about $1,600 per citizen – or an extra Alaska Permanent Fund dividend check.

“It’s a lot of money, but by the same token it’s not,” he said. Employing a fishing metaphor, he said, “These CARES grants have already had a ‘chum effect’ around the USS Sitka... This could turn wonderful, or it could be a problem.”

Mayor Gary Paxton listed examples of businesses that have been harmed, including private tourism businesses and nonprofits.

“How you create that mosaic is going to be a challenge,” he said. He agreed that the Assembly should have a work session “as soon as practical.”

The packet for Tuesday’s Assembly meeting included a “white paper” from the finance staff about how the funds can be spent. It’s available on the city website.

In public comments at the meeting, Robin Sherman, program manager of the Sitka Legacy Foundation, said: “To the extent that the Assembly decides to use CARES Act funds to assist households, I encourage you to work with the existing nonprofit organizations that have expertise in this area. We have many nonprofits that know how to distribute food and supplies and provide housing assistance, because they’re already doing it. To the extent that the community wants to support local businesses with CARES Act funds, I ask that you provide the same opportunities to nonprofits.”

Some business owners and representatives also submitted comments that were read aloud at the meeting.

Pat Kehoe, representing Island Artists Gallery, commented on the hardships on small businesses, particularly those dependent on cruise ship visitors.

“Please remember the small businesses that are the backbone of Sitka as you make the tough decision about how these funds are to be spent,” she said.

Frances Donohoe talked about the effects the lockdown has had on her business, Sitka Cirque, and the continued difficulties she will face when she reopens after being closed for the last few months.

Fewer students, a loss in income and increased expenses are among them, she said.

“Take a moment and consider what Sitka would be like without its community arts and after-school programs,” Donohoe said. “Please do not forget us as you decide how best to distribute financial aid.”

 

 

 

 

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August 5, 2020

A Note To Our Readers

Reopening: Phase One:

 

On March 30 the Daily Sitka Sentinel began taking precautions against the coronavirus, which was starting to show up in Alaska.

We closed our building to the public and four key employees started working remotely. Home delivery was suspended to protect our carriers from exposure to the virus.

Four months later, the virus is still with us and the precautions remain in effect.

In appreciation for the willingness of our subscribers to pick up their daily paper at drop-off sites, the Sentinel was free to all readers, and subscriptions were extended without charge.

As of August 1 the Sentinel is once again charging for subscriptions, but the present method of having subscribers pick up their papers at designated sites will continue.

The expiration date of all subscriptions has been extended without charge for an additional four months.

We thank our readers for their support in these uncertain times, and especially those who paid for the paper despite the free offer.

We look forward to the time when we can safely resume home delivery.

To check on the expiration of your subscription or to make a payment please call 747-3219. The subscription email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We also will be mailing out reminder cards.

The single copy price is again 75 cents. The news racks do not require coins to open, but we ask that the 75 cents for a non-subscription single copy sale be paid with coins in the slot.

– The Sitka Sentinel Staff

 

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 9-29-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 12:20 a.m. Tuesday.

New cases as of Monday: 118

Total statewide – 7,721

Total (cumulative) deaths – 56

Active cases in Sitka – 19 (13 resident; 6 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 47 (37 resident; 10 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 288.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

* These numbers reflect State of Alaska data. Local cases may not immediately appear on DHSS site, or are reported on patient’s town of residence rather than Sitka’s statistics. 

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20 YEARS AGO
September 2000

Gilnettings, By Gil Truitt: The Sitka All-Star Team (Team II) of 1939-1956 is revealed here for the first time.  Fermin “Rocky” Gutierrez, Hugh Pace, “Red” Belinski, Harold “Pretty Boy” Morris, George Kucherak, Dorm McGraw Sr., Herb Didrickson Sr., Gorman Shutt, Vic Adamson, Bill Robinson  and Johnny Vander. ... Other gifted players include Tony Herman, Bunny Donnelly, Hal Taylor, Archie Nielsen, Cecil McClain and Richard (Dick) Eliason.

50 YEARS AGO
September 1970

The Alaska Judicial council has selected Sitka as the site of a new branch of the state superior court. The Legislature had created a position for a third Superior Court judge in Southeast, but the city was not specified in the legislation.

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