KTNA Studio – Dave Totten, artist

Photo by Deb Wessler

Photo by Dora Miller

KTNA Studio

KTNA On Air Studio, Jan 2013

Photo by Deb Wessler

Photo by James Trump

Winter Black-capped Chickadee

winter chickadee

Photo by Robin Song

Fish Lake morning

Fish Lake morning

photo: Robin Song


Posts from the 'Local News' category

East Talkeetna Residents Will Vote on Flood Service Area This Year

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

This October, East Talkeetna and River Subdivision residents will vote on whether to join the Talkeetna Flood Control Service Area.  The service area is a special tax district, currently levied at 1.39 mills.  The Borough Manager’s proposed budget would reduce the mill rate to 1.07 for the area.

The proposed expansion would be bordered by the Alaksa Railroad, the Talkeetna River, and a combination of Twister Creek slough and the ridge line.

The issue of annexation came up after it was discovered that East Talkeetna is not covered by the existing flood service area.  According to Mat-Su Borough officials, that designation is required in order for the borough to do flood mitigation work or act as a pass-through for state and federal flood control funds.  FEMA funding after a flood is not affected by the designation.  Taxes raised through the levy are also available for flood control, but the amount is not sufficient to do major work.  The flood service area’s current revenue is about $22,000 per year.

According to borough code, a majority of voters residing in the proposed expansion zone who vote in the borough election must approve the annexation for it to take place.  The Talkeetna Community Council conducted an advisory vote on pursuing the expansion last October.  On a vote of 48-10, the council was advised to proceed.  This year’s borough election will be on October 6th,

Inadequate Flow Causes Problems at Talkeetna Boat Launch

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The changing landscape of rivers in the Upper Valley is causing concern for business owners and residents in Talkeetna.  One issue is the filling of the Talkeetna Boat Launch with silt.  That issue, and the planned solution came up at Monday’s Talkeetna Community Council meeting.  KTNA’s Phillip Manning was there and has this report:

Upper Valley residents sometimes pride themselves on the area’s “wild” rivers.  The Talkeetna, Chulitna, and Susitna are not dammed at any point, and allowed to flow in their channels freely.  Over time, those channels can shift.  At Monday’s Talkeetna Community Council board of directors meeting, Talkeetna Boat Launch operator Aaron Benjamin told the Council about the problem he has seen growing in recent years.

“Right now, the Talkeetna river has been moving to the far side, as everybody knows, and the channel that the launch is in is getting less and less water every year.” (more…)

Redpolls dominate local Birdathon

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Thirty-four birders enjoyed mostly sunny skies and snow-free hiking for the annual Talkeetna-Trapper Creek Birdathon held on Friday and Saturday. The informal event is a competition, as well as a group effort, to find and identify all the resident and migrating bird species in the area.

Local birders turned up a total of 62 different species, one more than last year. The highest count was ten years ago, with 85 species for a group total.

Birdathon participants remarked on the amazing numbers of common redpolls. Lack of birch seeds last year meant that these small finches were very scarce, but the recent bumper crop of their preferred food brought flocks that seemed to fill the landscape and soundscape this spring.


Crowdfunded Elementary Art Program Puts on Show

Monday, May 4, 2015

Upstairs Wall

Disclosure: Phillip Manning serves on the board of directors for the Denali Arts Council, which is hosting the art show discussed in the story.

The value of art education has been established through numerous studies and personal accounts.  Many schools, however, are not able to directly fund art programs for their students.  Talkeetna Elementary does have an art program, which is funded through grants and local crowdfunding.  KTNA’s Phillip Manning spoke with two of the people involved in the program, and has this story:

It’s a lovely, sunny Saturday afternoon in Talkeetna.  Many people around town are clearly taking any excuse they can not to be inside, but there is a large group that has gathered around and inside the Sheldon Community Arts Hangar.  The Hangar regularly displays Alaskan art, but this show is different, because every piece on display was made by students at Talkeetna Elementary School.  To explain the show, I spoke with art teacher Bekah Mathiesen. (more…)

Mat-Su Borough Preliminary Budget Released

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Mat-Su Borough preliminary budget has been released, and the total figure is slightly smaller than the budget that ends on June 30th.  KTNA’s Phillip Manning has seen the budget, and has this report:

In total, the Fiscal Year 2016 budget comes in at $400,722,754, which is about $4.3 million smaller than last year.  About two-thirds of that money goes toward education.  The rest is divided up in various operating and capital areas for the borough.

Also included is a proposed increase in the areawide mill rate.  At a presentation to the Mat-Su Borough Assembly on Thursday, Borough Manager John Moosey said he has planned for a mill rate increase since early in the budget process, and that an increase, plus a borough-wide increase in property valuation would help bring in more money for the general fund. (more…)

Troopers: Both Men Involved in April 18th Shooting Have Died

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Updated at 2:10 pm.

The Alaska State Troopers say that both men involved in an overnight shooting on April 18th have died.

Troopers say that 57-year-old Billy Kidd of Willow died of his injuries in an Anchorage hospital.  Previously, Kidd had been listed in critical condition.  The other man, 33-year-old Andre Lafrance died at the scene of the incident, and was identified shortly thereafter.

According to the Trooper report, Kidd called 911 shortly before 1:00 am on Saturday, April 18th, and reported that he had just killed someone.  It took Troopers hours to find the scene in the Montana Creek area by using information from Kidd’s cell provider.  When they arrived, Lafrance was deceased, and Kidd was in critical condition.

Based on the investigation so far, Troopers believe that Kidd shot and killed Lafrance, then shot himself.  No information on events leading up to the shooting has been released as of Thursday morning.

Troopers say that the next of kin for both Billy Kidd and Andre Lafrance have been notified.

Alaska State Trooper spokeswoman Beth Ipsen says the investigation will continue.  In an email statement, she says that reports are still being written, and results from evidence tests to analyze.  Ipsen adds that there are likely many questions that will not be answered, since the only two men believed to be at the scene are now deceased.

Trooper Helicopter Picks Up Stranded ATVers near Petersville

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

On Tuesday, the Alaska State Troopers picked up two stranded Upper Valley residents in the Petersville area.

According to Troopers, Kricket Porter of Talkeetna placed a call around 11:30 on Monday night and stated that she and her boyfriend, Talkeetna resident Steven Schneider, were stuck in a swampy area of Oil Well Road.  They had reached the area by ATV, but were unable to drive it back out.  Porter and Schneider had set up a shelter for the night, as they were also unable to walk out of the area.  Porter told the Troopers she would check in periodically.

Around 6:00 on Tuesday morning, Troopers say that the couple had not been in contact, and an ATV that was dispatched to locate them was unable to negotiate the poor trail conditions.  A helicopter rescue was called for, and Troopers eventually found the couple, though not in their reported location.  Porter and Schneider were picked up by the search and rescue helicopter and returned to their home.  Troopers say both had minor injuries and declined medical attention.

Talkeetna Sewer and Water Rate Increases Proposed

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Mat-Su Borough Manager John Moosey has submitted the administration’s budget proposal for the coming fiscal year.  Included in that proposal is a rate increase for the Talkeetna Sewer and Water System.

Talkeetna Sewer and Water currently has an annual deficit of over $80,000.  Last year, CRW Engineering Group conducted a state-funded study on the health of the system as well as a financial analysis.  The new budget proposal includes the rate increases suggested by that report.

The rate structure for sewer and water customers will not change.  Residential users will be charged a flat fee, and commercial users will be charged a higher flat fee, plus a fee for usage over 8,000 gallons.  As part of last year’s assessment, four alternate water rate structures were proposed.  Terry Dolan, Public Works Director for the borough, says the rates themselves, and not the structure, were the problem.  Additionally, he says that alternatives that involve more comprehensive metering are likely to be met with distrust by local users, since the meters have had a number of issues since their installation.

If the borough follows the recommendations in the financial assessment, this year’s increases will be repeated for the next five years.  The rate hikes amount to 13% per year for water and 6% per year for sewer.  If the changes go into effect without amendment, that means a residential user will pay about $8 more per month than the current rate.  Commercial users’ base rate will increase by just over $10 per month, plus an increase of seventy-nine cents per thousand gallons of water used over 8,000.  If the rate increases continue for five years, as called for in the assessment, commercial and residential users will pay about 60% more for their sewer and water bill than they do today.

The assessment also notes that the proposed rate increases will bring the system close to the operating break-even point, but that there will not be additional funds left over to build a repair and replacement reserve.  In the current budget proposal, Public Works Director Terry Dolan lists the improvements recommended by the assessment among the priorities for his department.

U.S. Army ‘Sugar Bears’ Fly Supplies to Denali

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


On Monday, Army helicopters flew the last round of supplies to Denali base camp for the 2015 climbing season.  The unit, dubbed the “Sugar Bears” is well-known in Talkeetna, and has a history in Alaska of combining training and supply runs.  KTNA’s Phillip Manning went along on the flight and has this story:

There are signs all around of the imminent beginning of Denali climbing season.  The temperature is warming, the mosquitos are back, and the Sugar Bears are in town.  Sugar Bears is the nickname of the U.S. Army 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment’s Bravo Company, based at Fort Wainwright.  If the name conjures up images of breakfast cereal, there’s a good reason. (more…)