Local News

A look back at Ketchikan news from 2012

This year blew in with a windstorm that knocked out power to about two thirds of Revilla Island.

The January storm downed a few power poles, but trees falling onto electric lines were blamed for most of the outages. Nearly 5,000 customers were affected.

In Ketchikan’s court system, there were several significant cases in 2012. Devin Rossiter was convicted in a January jury trial of second-degree murder for the 2011 stabbing death of Nick Stachelrod (Stock-ul-rote). Rossiter was sentenced in May to 52 years, 16 suspended.

The biggest case of 2011 came to a close this year when former city and borough mayor, City Council and Assembly member Jack Shay received a 35-year sentence in August to seven counts of possessing child pornography.

Shay had been charged with 91 counts, but most were dropped in exchange for his guilty plea. The 81-year-old Shay had a large collection of pornography, according to prosecutor James Scott, as well as noncriminal, but disturbing videos.

“When Jack Shay went to ballet performance, he videotaped the pelvises of the underage performers,” he said. “When he went to swim meets, he focused on those areas of little girls’ bodies. When Jack Shay was grand marshal of our Fourth of July parade, he used the opportunity to videotape up girls’ skirts sitting on the cement curb.”

Also in court news, 29-year-old William Buxton of Metlakatla faces trial in early 2013 for the alleged stabbing death of his auntie, 67-year-old Leona Meely. That incident took place in late September.

In government news, the Whitman Lake hydroelectric dam project was a regular topic of conversation throughout 2012. The cost of construction had been estimated at $16 million, but in August, the lowest bid came in at $27 million. Through value engineering, the city was able to get the total project cost down, but funding still was about $2.5 million short.

The city considered scrapping the project, but the Ketchikan Gateway Borough stepped in and offered a grant through the borough’s economic development fund. City Council members seemed relieved to not give up on the project. Council Member DeAnn Karlson:

“There’s been a lot of time, effort and money invested into this project to date and I just think it really behooves us to take some time to really understand the options, and investigate whatever options might be available, because these are really serious decisions that have to be made,” she said.

That grant was approved and accepted in late December, just in time for the city to send out the revised designs for federal approval. Construction must start by March 16th.

Redistricting in 2012 meant that Ketchikan gave up the distinct House District 1, Senate District A designation; instead becoming House District 33 and Senate District Q.

Partly through redistricting, and partly through voter preference, Ketchikan ended up with a new state House representative, incumbent Republican Peggy Wilson of Wrangell. She beat two Ketchikan candidates, Republican Kyle Johansen and Democrat Matt Olsen.

Bert Stedman of Sitka remains Ketchikan’s representative in the Senate. He beat fellow Senator Albert Kookesh of Angoon.

Two major construction projects were completed in Ketchikan in 2012. The new downtown fire station opened in May, but the official grand opening was during the Fourth of July holiday. That project cost about $12.7 million, with state funds supplementing voter-approved construction bonds.

Construction on the Ketchikan Public Library’s new building was completed this fall, and library staff members are getting the $12 million facility ready to open on Jan. 2nd.

On Prince of Wales Island, a borough formation study was big news in 2012. That $30,000 study is the first step toward potentially creating a POW borough.

Craig City Manager Jon Bolling says the effect on island schools will be a large part of the report.

“Certainly the effect on the school districts here of forming a borough will be a central question to the whole process,” he said. “It will describe the effects to the school districts if a borough is formed on Prince of Wales, and because that’s such an important issue to some folks, we want time spent on that and the contractor is prepared to so.”

Juneau-based Sheinberg Associates is conducting research now on the topic, and will submit a draft report to the POW Community Advisory Committee in late January.

And lastly, a tribute to veteran newsman Tom Miller, who was one of the founders of KRBD radio. Tom died in late May, and is missed by all who knew him.

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