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Posts from the 'Local News' category

As Airport Tree Clearing Resumes, Some Locals Redouble Opposition

Friday, March 31, 2017

As tree clearing continues for the Talkeetna State Airport Expansion and Improvement Project, the methods being used are not sitting well with some locals. The project has been in development for nearly two decades, and involves paving new parking areas for aircraft and a new taxiway as well as resurfacing existing aprons and taxiways. KTNA’s Phillip Manning has more:

Recently, large pieces of equipment were used to cut down a majority of the trees on the airport side of Second Street in East Talkeetna in addition to cutting at the airport itself.

Talkeetna business owner Holly Sheldon Lee opposes the airport expansion, and says Talkeetna lacks the infrastructure to deal with what she calls “industrial tourism.”

“One of the main reasons that we are not in a position to expand the airport is that our infrastructure is broken, broken by overgrown tourist industry that has evolved here. We are now overrun with 300,000 people in our 100-day summer season with no utility support.”

In addition, Holly Sheldon Lee says the Alaska Department of Transportation and its contractors are breaking promises by moving ahead with the clearing on the grounds of the airport and for an eight-foot-wide walking path along the road.

Last August, work temporarily paused on the project, and officials from the Department of Transportation, including Commissioner Marc Luiken, visited Talkeetna to discuss the project with area residents who were concerned about the large-scale tree clearing going on at that time. One repeated request by some in attendance was to alter the nature of the path along Second Street. Many believe it would be possible to “meander” the planned walking path to avoid cutting some of the trees lining the street. Tom Schmidt, who helped engineer the project, said at the August meeting that space contraints limited the path’s placement. (more…)

Mat-Su Borough Departments Present Budget Proposals

Friday, March 31, 2017

by:  Casey Grove – Alaska Public Media

From public safety to platting, the Mat Su Borough’s various departments have unveiled their latest round of budget requests.

Overall, the borough expects a more than 12 million dollar shortfall between proposed spending and expected revenue. That gap represents nearly 10 percent of the budget.

Borough Manager John Moosey says the biggest chunk of that deficit is due to the governor’s veto of school bond debt reimbursement. Moosey says continued decreases in state funding are inevitable.

“We are realizing that this is our new environment, where we can expect very little help from the state and we’re very concerned about operating in this economy, where we’re shedding jobs and business opportunities.”

Moosey says the borough will be able to use surplus money it has saved from years’ past to bridge the gap. He says the borough’s tax cap means Mat Su residents should not expect much of an increase in property taxes, which is its largest revenue source.

“On the taxpayer, it’s a great thing. For operation, it just means it’s a little bit tougher, we have to be a little bit more creative and maybe not do everything we want to do. So we’re trying to find new and creative ways to kind of meet those needs and prioritize on things that, ‘yeah, this was great to have in the past, we might not be able to do this anymore, or we might not be able to do as much as in the past.”

The budgets now go to the borough assembly for discussion and revisions.

Mat-Su Public Works Submits Budget Proposal, Plans Inspection of Talkeetna Sewer and Water System

Friday, March 31, 2017

As part of its operating budget proposal, the Mat-Su Borough Public Works Department is asking for an increase in the budget for the Talkeetna Sewer and Water System. KTNA’s Phillip Manning has more:



As part of his department’s budget presentation to the Mat-Su Borough Assembly earlier this week, Public Works Director Terry Dolan included an increase of about $30,000 to the Talkeetna Sewer and Water System’s operating budget, as well as a capital budget of nearly $400,000.

Dolan says the operational budget increase comes in large part from the need to address maintenance issues within the system. Currently, the borough is in talks with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation regarding violations of the sewer lagoon’s permit, and Terry Dolan believes a past lack of maintenance is at least partly to blame.

“This is one of the major things that has us in trouble with DEC. Maintenance at the lagoons has been ignored for years. We have five miles of ductile iron pipe in the ground, most of which hasn’t been inspected in thirty years.”


Valley Coalition, Mat-Su Borough Partner to Keep Waste out of Landfills

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

by:  Katie Writer – KTNA

Correction:  The original headline for this story stated that the Zero Waste Coalition is planning the upcoming roundtable.  In fact, the Mat-Su Borough is hosting the event.

Mollie Boyer of Valley Community For Recycling Solutions visited Susitna Valley High School on Tuesday. Mollie has been working with the Student Advisory Council, which is school district wide, for over a year. With the involvement of both the Su Valley high schoolers and middle schoolers, they are moving forward with the school district on recycling. KTNA’s Katie Writer spoke with Molly about what’s new with recycling in the Susitna Valley.

Recently, the Mat-Su Recycling Coalition changed their name to the Zero Waste Coalition. They are focused on three committees, as outlined by Mollie Boyer of Valley Community for Recycling Solutions.

One of the goals of the Zero Waste Coalition is public outreach. Part of public outreach is the upcoming Recycling Roundtable event sponsored by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Solid Waste Division.In addition, the Mat-Su Borough is offering a free composting class on April 1st.

More details can be found at the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Solid Waste Division Facebook Page, by email at solidwaste [at] matsugov [dot] us or by calling 907/861-7600.

Mat-Su School Superintendent Resigns

Monday, March 27, 2017

After a sudden resignation, Alaska’s second largest school district finds itself in need of a permanent superintendent for the second time in under a year. Yesterday afternoon, the Mat-Su Borough School District announced that the school board would hold an emergency special meeting with less than four hours’ notice. The agenda for that meeting included naming an interim superintendent. A resolution justifying the meeting’s emergency status cites the “impending immediate resignation” of current Superintendent of Schools Gene Stone.

After passing the resolution, and more than ninety minutes of executive session, the school board reconvened its public meeting and voted unanimously to accept the resignation of Gene Stone, effective April 3rd. Stone was named as superintendent last May after the departure of Dr. Deena Bishop for the Anchorage School District.

Superintendent Stone did not speak publicly at the meeting. Mat-Su School Board President Dr. Donna Dearman says Stone tendered his resignation for personal reasons. She did not elaborate, and asked that the privacy of Stone and his family be respected.

Dr. Monica Goyette, current Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, will take over as interim Superintendent of Schools for the Mat-Su. Goyette has an 18-year history with the district.

Borough To Begin Budget Process on Tuesday

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Mat-Su Borough’s budget process is about to get underway, and following along may be easier than in years past.

At 1:00 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly will hear budget proposals from borough departments. Last week, Borough Mayor Vern Halter and Borough Manager John Moosey participated in a teleconferenced town hall sponsored by AARP in order to hear the priorities of borough residents.

Recently, the borough updated the portion of its website covering meetings. One of the new features included in the update is a live video stream from the assembly chambers in Palmer. This provides an additional method for following meetings remotely. Previously, Radio Free Palmer’s audio stream was the only way to listen in on assembly meetings without driving to Palmer.

Departmental budget presentations are just the first step in a process that is anticipated to be complete by May. In recent years, that process has included special assembly meetings outside of Palmer, including one in Willow for the last two years. In those years, the Willow meetings have seen triple-digit turnouts.


Troopers seek information about Willow burglary

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Alaska State Troopers are asking for the public’s help with information regarding a burglary in Willow.

Troopers say a 36-year-old Willow woman reported the burglary around 5:30 on Friday afternoon. An estimated $10,000 worth of property, including multiple firearms are claimed to have been stolen from the Lo-An Drive residence.

Troopers ask that anyone with information call them at 352-5401 or Crime Stoppers at 745-3333.

Mat-Su Assembly Approves Expansion of Talkeetna Community Council Area

Wednesday, March 22, 2017
The yellow area in this map was added to the Talkeetna Community Council area on Tuesday. Click to enlarge. Photo courtesy: Matanuska-Susitna Borough

The yellow area in this map was added to the Talkeetna Community Council area on Tuesday. Click to enlarge. Photo courtesy: Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Correction:  A previous version of the story incorrectly stated that the expansion incorporated the entirety of the Greater Talkeetna Road Service Area.  A significant portion of the GTRSA lies within the Susitna Community Council area.  This story has been changed to reflect that.

On Tuesday, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly has approved the expansion of Talkeetna’s community council boundary to the east.

The expansion keeps the Talkeetna River as the northern boundary, and the Sunshine Community Council as the southern boundary for as far as it extends. The newly included area is largely undeveloped, and stretches into the Talkeetna Mountains. Many neighborhoods closer to the Talkeetna Spur Road are also now part of the Talkeetna Community Council area, and the expansion means the entirety of the Greater Talkeetna Road Service Area is now inside either the Talkeetna or Susitna Council area. Only those living inside a council’s area are considered members and thus allowed to run for its board of directors.

Consideration of expansion by the Talkeetna Community Council began after the Mat-Su Borough Planning Department sent notice that council boundaries were being reviewed. Last year, a committee of Talkeetna Community Council, Inc. met and discussed various options. The one they settled on, and which the Assembly ultimately approved, matches up with the Talkeetna Comprehensive Plan. During discussions at TCCI board meetings, some members expressed a desire to make sure that the decision of which council the area would end up in was left to the local community. (more…)

Local Trail Expertise Helps Make the Oosik a Success

Tuesday, March 21, 2017
A competitor in the Oosik's 50km race makes his way through the Talkeetna woods.  Photo:  Phillip Manning

A competitor in the Oosik’s 50km race makes his way through the Talkeetna woods. Photo: Phillip Manning

by:  Katie Writer – KTNA

The 2017 Oosik Classic Ski Race and Tour has concluded, and hundreds of skiers from the Upper Valley and elsewhere have returned to their lives. KTNA’s Katie writer spoke with one of the event’s long-time participants and organizers about this year’s Oosik.

The 12th annual Oosik Classic Ski Race and Tour has come and gone. The ever-popular ski event has tripled in size since its inception in 2005.

While the costumes and festive atmosphere add to the day’s fun, a different 25/50K course makes each year’s race unique. Nordic skiing legends such as Olympian Adam Verrier and Norwegian Trond Jensen are fond of the Oosik’s rustic appeal. Unlike the typical well-groomed wide track of today’s

A sample of this year's festive Oosik costumes.  Photo:  Phillip Manning

A sample of this year’s festive Oosik costumes. Photo: Phillip Manning

nordic race courses, the Oosik trail is challenging and often unpredictable.

As Denali Nordic Ski Club founder, Chris Mannix explains.

“It’s this single track through the woods; you’ve got to communicate with other skiers as you pass. It’s a throwback to the early days of Nordic skiing, and I think that’s one of the attractions.”

Chris Mannix attributes the key role of the Trail Meister to the success of the event.

In the beginning, Chris and his brother, Art Mannix were not only the race organizers, but also the trail crew. They utilized Fish Lake for the start and finish area. Since then, a number of knowledgeable local woodsmen have played the role of the Trail Meister, including Mike Wood and Bill Barstow.

Putting in a ski trail entails much more than dragging a groomer up rivers and through the wilderness.  There is a tremendous amount of physical labor involved in brushing out trails, building bridges over creeks, and packing down a continuous 25-50 kilometer course.

Some years, the rivers are open, even in December. In recent years, there has been barely enough snow and race organizers teetered on the edge of calling off the race.

This year’s Trail Meister, Wade Hopkins utilized the zone up and around the Talkeetna River, including Whiskey Creek and up towards Papa Bear Lake.

The Oosik has had a reputation of being flat. More than one year, the course sent skiers for a majority of the miles up the Chulitna River. As beautiful it was to look up at Denali, the lack of variation of terrain led to boredom for the skiers. Not this year. With the steep and winding descents of the Talkeetna Ridge Trail, even the most experienced skiers were challenged.

“Yeah, I biffed big time at the bottom of that hill. It didn’t go smoothly for me, and I’ve been skiing that hill since the ‘80s.”

The flats that followed by the airport and various feed stations gave the skiers time to recover before the last grueling 3-kilometer climb to the finish at the Alaskan Lodge.

“The atmosphere that surrounds the Oosik is one of the things that make it special. Some other races, you get off the course, maybe chat for a few minutes, grab some food to eat, then off you go—you go home. But…Adam’s original intent was to make it more of an end of season get-together for Nordic skiers across Alaska.”


While the race is over, numerous local skiers and mushers are out enjoying this year’s Oosik trail as long as the snow conditions permit.