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Aug 03 2015
Drums of Waste Dumped Around Kodiak Island
Monday, 03 August 2015
drum_via_facebook_friends_of_kodiak.pngPicture of one of the drums. Via a post by Jennifer Culbertson on Friends of Kodiak/Facebook

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Someone has dumped drums of hazardous waste in the Buskin River State Park. That’s according to Preston Kroes, an Alaska State Park Ranger, who says they discovered two 55-gallon containers last month.

“Either sometime over the night on July 12 or early morning July 13, a couple of barrels were dumped along the Buskin river approximately 80 feet from the river,” says Kroes. “And they contained what originally we thought was just diesel fuel, and it turned out to be diesel salt water, more consistent what would have been from a vessel’s bilge.”

Kroes says some of the drums spilled and required cleanup. And there have been more tossed around the island.

“The ranger investigating it all had determined that around the Kodiak borough there had been an additional 18 other barrels kind of in the same timeline dumped, and we’re kind of going under the assumption that they were from the same subject that was doing all the dumping,” says Kroes.

He says there could be somewhere between 18 and 21 drums in total and that park rangers are not certain about the motivation behind the illegal disposal. 

“We’re assuming it was just to save the cost from the dump fee. It could have just been that that’s what they thought they needed to be or that was their only option. We’re not sure.”

Kroes says that if you have any information, you should call 486 6339 and ask for Park Ranger Jennifer Culbertson or leave a message on her extension.

 
Aug 03 2015
Borough Assembly Gives Priority to Four Vital Nonprofits in Grant Discussion
Monday, 03 August 2015
Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Discussion about nonprofit grant money dominated the first part of the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly’s work session last Thursday night. Assemblymembers evaluated the spreadsheet of possible grants with the new budget in mind and Assemblyman Larry LeDoux expressed concern about agencies’ shrinking funds.

“We see some very critical institutions that serve health and safety in our community being severely reduced. Brother Francis Shelter going from $70,000 to $49,000,” says LeDoux. “And at the same time, we see new applicants who were not there who are not necessarily related to health and safety receiving substantial amounts of money.”

LeDoux suggested they identify and agree on organizations that are vital to the community’s continued well-being and give them priority, to which the assembly agreed. After careful deliberation, they settled on the four nonprofits to be included on that list, which are Brother Francis Shelter, the Kodiak Island Food Bank, the Kodiak Women’s Resource and Crisis Center, and Senior Citizens of Kodiak.

They then decided to decrease the other nonprofit grants accordingly. Meagan Christiansen had helped compile the spreadsheet for this year and asked for a clarification of the decision.

“You took the FY15 amount and reduced it by ten percent?” Christiansen said. “Salvation Army was given a 10,000 dollar amount and now you want the rest of them to be based on a percentage of their overall – take what’s left, take those requests, and measure the percentage of the overall, and reduce it proportionally.”

Mayor Friend confirmed that she was correct.

Borough Manager Bud Cassidy says the borough assembly is restricted in how much money they can provide nonprofits, and it turned to the bed tax fund balance for museums and other organizations that attract visitors from out of town.

“There’s $390,000 worth of money the assembly is going to distribute among nonprofits,” he says. “So, there are four of them as it turns out that they decided are more tourism oriented. Instead of taking it out of the nonprofit fund, they’re going to take it out of the tourism fund, so what that means is that there’ll be more money for nonprofit groups.”

Cassidy says there’s no set deadline for the final spreadsheet and they could move forward at the next regular meeting on August 6 or after.
 
Jul 31 2015
Symmons Appointed to Vacant Kodiak Island Borough Assembly Seat
Friday, 31 July 2015
Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Only one candidate for the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly sat at the table at last night’s special meeting, where he faced assembly members, the mayor, and others to answer questions as part of the interview process.

The seat became available after Carol Austerman resigned last month. Up until a week ago, Dennis Symmons and Mel Stephens were both up for appointment, but at last night’s special session, Assemblywoman Rebecca Skinner expressed confusion over Stephens’ apparent withdrawal.

“It’s the seventh in the eighth memo, he says for the record, I did not withdraw my application,” she said.

Friend responded, “The way I read it was that Mel just thought it was inappropriate that he had his name in there… I took it as he was pulling his name off.”

The original memo Stephens wrote last week explained that he would be out of town this Thursday due to a misunderstanding about dates. He referenced borough code that would inhibit him from being interviewed and sworn in during the required window of time after Austerman’s resignation.

The memo suggested he would be ineligible and it would therefore be “inappropriate” for him to be appointed, and Stephens stated in a recent memo that therefore he did not withdraw. The assembly clarified that Stephens was not in the running and interviewed the sole candidate, Dennis Symmons.

 “I’ll start off with ‘why do you want to serve on the assembly?’” asked Mayor Friend.

“Being involved in the service district just kept opening my eyes more and more to what was going [on] locally,” said Symmons. “It just seemed like something better could be done – better, better, better. And I watched, I sat back and I watched. Whether I could be part of that better or not – watch, watch, watch. Ten years ago, I probably would have felt inadequate to participate. Today, I do not. Today, I want to be part of that betterment.”

Symmons elaborated on his desire to be involved in the community in an answer to another of Mayor Friend’s questions.

“What type of public service or volunteering have you done in the past?” asked Friend.

“Services District 1 has been the height of it,” said Symmons. “Never gave back to the community until I got on Service District 1. And it’s been really good. The more I’ve given back, the more I like that. At the risk of sounding like a taker, I did not realize how much I’ve taken, harvested my life, until I started giving back. And it’s to this community that I will live the rest of my life in.”

At the end of the interview, the assembly agreed unanimously to appoint Symmons to the vacant seat. Symmons stayed at the table for the rest of the special meeting and into the work session that followed as an official assembly member. He will serve until the October municipal election, when the seat will be on the ballot for a one-year term.
 
Jul 31 2015
FAQ About Labor Rights Translated to Tagalog
Friday, 31 July 2015
Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Not all employees in Alaska speak English proficiently, but the State Department of Labor and Workforce Development wants to make sure that all of them understand their rights. The department recently released several translations of its employee “frequently asked questions” pamphlet in different languages, including one in Tagalog.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Kodiak has a significant Filipino population. In 2010, Asians were the largest racial minority in the Kodiak Borough at almost 20 percent of the population with Filipinos making up around 17 percent.

The statewide supervising investigator for the Wage and Hour Administration, Joe Dunham, says the 23 questions in the pamphlet are an overview of basic wage and hour laws for overtime and minimum-wage eligible employees.

“What is minimum wage? What about overtime? Who gets overtime, who does not get overtime? Can I be paid salary? What about my final paycheck?” says Dunham. “Can they make deductions from my wages without my permission? So, it’s just simple everyday wage and hour questions that most of us come into contact with those questions at any particular job.”  

While wage theft and labor abuse can occur, Dunham says some workers’ ignorance about United States labor laws could also be a matter of cultural difference.

“What turns out to be common in their culture turns out to be a violation in ours and very often, neither the employer nor the employee even knows about it,” says Dunham. “These questions are just something where employer-employee can look at this and say ‘Wow, I never knew that, maybe I should call up the Department of Labor and sit down and talk about it.’”

In the case that an employee feels they are being taken advantage of, they can report the issue to DOL investigators. Staff is also available to answer questions. To contact the Anchorage office, call 269 – 4900.
 
Jul 30 2015
Symmons Wants to Bring More Public Participation to Meetings
Thursday, 30 July 2015
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dennis_symmons_mug.jpgJay Barrett/KMXT
Tonight at a special Kodiak Island Borough Assembly meeting one item on the agenda is the interviewing and swearing in of a new assemblymember to fill the seat vacated by Carol Austerman when she resigned last month.

Initially, two candidates applied for the position, which would only last through the October Municipal Elections, but one of them, former Assemblyman Mel Stephens, withdrew from consideration. That left Dennis Symmons, who has served on Service District One and has run unsuccessfully for assembly before, as the last man standing. Symmons spoke with KMXT's Jay Barrett this morning about his reasons for seeking office.

Tonight's special assembly meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. in the borough building conference room. It will not be broadcast. A regularly scheduled work session will immediately follow. 
 
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