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Posts from the 'Local News' category

NPS Staff Prepare for 2015 Climbing Season

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Last year, climbers attempting Denali had one of the lowest success rates in recent history.  Soon, hundreds more climbers will come to Talkeetna on their way to try to conquer North America’s highest mountain.  More than 700 mountaineers are already signed up for the 2015 climbing season, and that number will continue to grow.  Denali National Park spokeswoman Maureen Gualtieri says that guided groups are not subject to the sixty day advance registration that most climbers are, so hundreds more are likely to register and attempt the climb.  Guiltier says she would not be surprised if the numbers are around last year’s mark of 1,200, but she does not think they will be significantly higher at this time.

Spring also means training for the mountaineering ranger staff.  Maureen Gualtieri says that rangers have completed rope, avalanche, and medical training, and that aviation training is currently underway.  As climbing season approaches, the National Park Service will receive logistical support from the military to set up the various camps on Denali.

In May, the KTNA news department will begin producing Denali Reports for the 2015 climbing season.

Sykes: Difficult Borough Budget Period Ahead

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Next week, the official process for deciding the Mat-Su Borough’s budget for the next fiscal year begins.  While the state budget has not yet been finalized, it will likely result in a loss of revenue, and possibly an increase in expenditure, for the Mat-Su Borough.  KTNA’s Phillip Manning spoke with one Mat-Su Assembly member who anticipates a difficult budget season.

Since January, legislators in Juneau have worked on a state budget at a time when oil prices are down significantly.  At least one member of the Mat-Su Borough Assembly thinks that that body may be in for a similarly difficult situation.

“The teeth-gnashing that we have seen for the past almost three months in Juneau is about to start right here in the borough.  It’s not going to be any easier.” (more…)

Upper Valley Youth Participate in Choose Respect March

Monday, April 13, 2015
Many of this year's Choose Respect Participants were local Students.  Photo:  Cici Schoenberger

Many of this year’s Choose Respect Participants were local Students. Photo: Cici Schoenberger

On Saturday, Talkeetna, Willow, and Trapper Creek held Choose Respect events to raise awareness for domestic violence and sexual assault.  Choose Respect is a statewide initiative that began during the Parnell administration, and includes marches, rallies, and other events throughout the state. In Talkeetna, the Choose Respect march began at the Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafè and ended at the Talkeetna Flag MaterialsRoadhouse.  After the march, the younger participants created flags with messages related to the Choose Respect program and the theme that “hands are for helping, not hurting.”  After the small, colorful flags are strung together, some will be displayed at the Sunshine Community Health Center and others will be sent to Denali Base Camp during mountaineering season.

Local students also participated in a Choose Respect poster contest, which was judged by the Peer Helpers at Susitna Valley Junior and Senior High School.  First and second place winners in each category were awarded Subway gift cards and had their posters displayed at the

Katelyn Hicks' winning Choose Respect poster for the 4th-6th Grade group

Katelyn Hicks’ winning Choose Respect poster for the 4th-6th Grade group


In the Kindergarten and First Grade age group, Jessie Wentworth won second place and Kiara Apple won first place.  In the Second and Third Grade group, Celia Carbone’s poster won second place and Hazel Gunter took first place.  In the oldest age group, Fourth through Sixth Grades, Rachel Fox received second place and Katelyn Hicks’ entry was chosen for first place.

Mat-Su Assembly Votes to Encourage Medicaid Reform, Expansion by State

Thursday, April 9, 2015

This week, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly voted to send a letter in support of Governor Bill Walker’s Medicaid expansion and reform bill.

Matthew Beck, whose district includes the City of Palmer, proposed the letter, saying he believes it will result in long-term savings for the state.

“It looks like it’s going to save the state lots of money in the long run, which will in turn directly have an impact on the Mat-Su, our borough, and our citizens.”

Vern Halter, who represents the area from Meadow Lakes to the Upper Valley, also spoke in favor of supporting Medicaid expansion.

“…The number of jobs it would produce statewide, plus the amount of money that would be coming in federally, I just think is a wonderful thing….Sometimes, I think we need to support the governor, and he’s obviously an advocate of this.  I imagine he studied this quite carefully.  To me, if you had to have more surgeons in the Valley, that’d be a good thing.”

Steve Colligan, who represents the greater Wasilla area, opposed the letter.  Colligan says he is not convinced of long-term fiscal benefit for the state.

“I think there’s some initial savings with federal dollars, but I’m not convinced it’s a long-term great deal for us.  And I’m following the legislation and seeing what the outcomes really are.”

The final vote was four in favor and two opposed.  Assembly Member Barbara Doty, who is a medical doctor, was not present at the meeting.

Talkeetna Trooper Post Will Close Due to Budget Cuts

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

AST BadgeCORRECTION:  The original version of this story referenced three potential post closings.  Only two posts, Talkeetna and Girdwood are currently planned for closure.

According to Colonel Jim Cockrell, head of the Alaska State Troopers, Talkeetna will lose its trooper post this summer.  Cockrell confirmed the decision to KTNA on Wednesday.

“At this time, the decision is to move our Troopers out of the Talkeetna Post, close down the office base, and house them out of the Mat-Su West Facility south of Big Lake.”

The reason for shutting down the Talkeetna Post, which is currently located near the junction of the Talkeetna Spur Road and the Parks Highway, comes down to budget, according to Colonel Cockrell.

“Even if we could squeak by this fiscal year…we’ve been instructed that we’ll see at least another five percent–or more–cut next year for the next four years, up to a twenty-five percent reduction in our overall operations.”

Under the current plan, a trooper will still be assigned to cover the Upper Valley during each shift, but he or she will be based out of the Mat-Su West Post.  Colonel Cockrell says it’s unfortunate that there will no longer be a permanent presence in the area.  He believes that being part of the communities they serve is something that Troopers do well, and the Trooper covering the Upper Valley will not necessarily be the same, day-to-day.  Cockrell says that means less ability to be part of the community.

“You certainly lose some ability to, I guess, mingle with the communities and after hour functions, stuff that when you have your families and stuff there you would normally partake in.”

Colonel Cockrell says the Alaska State Troopers’ lease on their current location ends on May 31st, and that the move would take place around that time.

Borough Assembly Hears Talkeetna Sewer and Water Financial Report

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

At Tuesday’s Mat-Su Borough Assembly meeting, Borough Public Works Director Terry Dolan presented the financial analysis of Talkeetna’s sewer and water system, and gave an indication of what the new rates may look like.  KTNA’s Phillip Manning has more.

Last year, a grant from the state legislature paid for an assessment of Talkeetna’s sewer and water utility.  That report covered the operation and condition of the system as well as the finances.  On Tuesday, Mat-Su Borough Public Works Director Terry Dolan presented the fiscal portion of the assessment to the Borough Assembly.  The report shows a significant annual gap between revenue and expenditure.  Dolan says that does not come as a surprise.

“We knew at the beginning, but they verified that the revenues do not cover the cost of operating the water system.  The difference is about $80,000 on the water side of this.  And, the study also noted that there are no budgetary provisions for things like major maintenance or renewal and replacement, which are normal functions of a public utility.” (more…)

Alaska Legislature Enters ‘Twenty-Four Hour’ Rule

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Alaska State Legislature has appointed its conference committee for the state operating budget.  The conference committee is formed when the House and Senate come out with different versions of the state’s budget.  It is the job of the committee to attempt a compromise.  Both the House and Senate appoint three members of their respective finance committees to the conference committee.  In both cases, the respective finance co-chairs and one member of the minority caucus were selected for the committee.

Since the committee has been appointed, the legislature is now under what is called the ‘twenty-four hour rule’.  Under the rule, committees may meet to discuss bills with only twenty-four hours’ notice.  Normally, committee schedules must be announced by Thursday the week before the hearing will take place.  This allows committees to be more flexible in their scheduling, and means bills could begin moving quickly, since a committee can shift from one bill to another multiple times in the course of a single week.

Gavel to Gavel has created a video to help answer questions about the rule.  It can be found on the Gavel Facebook Page.

Talkeetna Recycling Committee Broadens Fundraising

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Talkeetna residents raising funds for a local recycling program have made significant progress.  At Monday’s Talkeetna Community Council board of directors meeting, board treasurer Katie Writer said that local funds have begun to come in at a faster pace, and there is the possibility of help from other organizations.  Writer says the fundraising committee’s goal is $25,000.  With that money, the committee would pay for two refurbished three-bin trash containers and allow for additional funds for outreach and education.

Thus far, Katie Writer says that over $1,800 has been raised locally, and an unnamed entity has offered a $1,000 match for additional donations.  Those donations have come through the designated account at Matanuska Valley Federal Credit Union, through the committee’s crowdfunding site, and from cash donations at the Talkeetna transfer site. (more…)

Spring 2015 Fundraising Drive

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


TODAY, April 9th!

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