Petersburg Pilot -

2012 Year in Review


Submitted File Photo

Year in review: The Petersburg-based cutter Anacapa made international news in early April by sinking a high profile piece of Japanese tsunami debris the “ghost ship” Ryou-Un Maru that drifted unmanned across the Pacific to the Gulf of Alaska.


An elderly man was hit by a vehicle while crossing the street at Gjoa and Nordic Drive. The gentleman was crossing inside the crosswalk and was grazed by the vehicle’s mirror as it passed. The victim was thrown approximately 20 feet. He was on crutches at the time.

Rock-N-Road Construction was granted a contract to demolish the Romiad Building to make room for the new library. The building was demolished for $22,499.

The Petersburg City Council discussed condemning LeConte RV Park for several code violations. Petersburg City Manager Steve Giesbrecht stated that the issue was in the hands of the city attorney and they were trying to figure out which steps to take, up and including condemning the property and taking it over. Owner Charles Davis said, “I would say it has more to do with private politics, and it all comes down to time and money and I never have enough of either.”

Petersburg law enforcement officials confiscated $62,000 in drugs to be distributed in Petersburg. Juan Carlos Murillo-Garcia, 37, was arrested on charges of misconduct involving a controlled substance and was held on $50,000 bail. The drugs seized were heroin and methamphetamine. The heroin had an uncut street value of $36,000 and the methamphetamine had an uncut street value of $18,000.

Petersburg and Wrangell maxed out the available power from the Tyee Hydroelectric Project as temps plunged to zero during the evenings. Petersburg Municipal Power and Light Superintendent Joe Nelson explained that diesels were not required to supplement the peak loads but as the refurbished Tyee generators operate, their output will diminish slightly over the next 20 years.

Representatives of Petersburg Municipal Power and Light pushed to relocate the plant to Scow Bay. PMP&L Superintendent Joe Nelson explained that he was instructed by the city manager to make plans to move the plant. The cost to build a new building with shop space, equipment storage and administrative offices, plus add 20 percent additional diesel capacity was $20 million.


Architects Jensen, Yorba, Lott, Inc. recommended a new police station to the Petersburg City Council instead of remodeling the existing building. A new 10,750 square foot building will cost $6.34 million to construct.

Bookkeeper, Tammi L. Avenson, 49, was sentenced to six months in jail for a second degree felony theft case involving attempted falsification of business records for Rock-N-Road Construction. At the time of the theft, Avenson is believed to have taken over $65,000.

An unemployment hearing prompted questions regarding the finances of Petersburg Indian Association. Susan Harai, former director of the Indian Reservation Roads Program, claimed there was a $300,000 to $360,000 deficit and discrepancy involving the IRR grant monies. Harai resigned her position without cause and the PIA accounts were found to be in great shape.

PIA Administrator, Will Ware, rebutted accusations made against him at a public unemployment benefits hearing. The allegations of missing IRR grant money being used for other PIA projects was based upon misinterpretations and mislabeling of accounts according to Ware. Ware stated that he and the board have endured a severe case of character assassination, based upon false allegations.

Deputy Attorney General Richard Svobodny attended a town meeting in Petersburg regarding the dismissal rate of cases in Petersburg. Petersburg Police Chief Jim Agner explained that the dismissal rate of Petersburg cases is a symptom of the problem which is the lack of service.

A breakdown in communication and a lack of service from the district attorney’s office in Juneau left the community and its leaders frustrated after a town hall meeting. Major topics of discussion for the evening centered around charges of domestic violence that are routinely pled down to misdemeanor disorderly conduct, illegal drug-use cases, minors consuming alcohol and those who get caught supplying alcohol to minors. Superior Court Judge William Cary stated that the administration of justice is served when there is a district attorney present. A solution was presented by City Council Member Don Koenigs that the people of Petersburg pay the salary of an additional attorney in the Juneau office or share a prosecuting attorney with Wrangell and Kake.


The Local Boundary Commission recommended that the proposed Petersburg Borough boundary follow natural lines and exclude Tracy Arm. Petersburg filed a petition with the Alaska State Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development to dissolve the city and for the incorporation of a borough with the Commerce Department April 6, 2011. The petition was accepted for filing Aug. 5, 2011 and the LBC began its review at that time. According to City Manager Steve Giesbrecht, this recommendation will take about 406 square miles out of the proposed plan that includes the Tracy Arm watershed.

Petersburg police arrested two in connection with home invasion and assault. George Dean Marlow III, 24, was arrested on charges of a first degree felony burglary; a second degree felony assault; criminal mischief and a misdemeanor while Taylor Homer, 23 was arrested on charges of first degree felony burglary; second degree felony assault; criminal mischief and a misdemeanor. These arrests came after the investigation of alleged home invasion, assault, robbery and possible sexual assault in three separate, but related cases.

Plans for major road reconstruction for the downtown area have retailers nervous about the effects this project will have on business. The project that is scheduled to begin in September and end by October 2013 will disrupt business practices in the downtown area. The two-season project is proposed to only affect one block at a time beginning with East Dolphin and Nordic from Dolphin to First Street and ending at Nordic and from Fram to Haugen Street.

Regardless of the possible lost revenue, the Petersburg City Council unanimously approved a Tax Free Day scheduled for May 5, 2012. The intent of this practice is to stimulate commerce by allowing consumers to purchase goods and services, while avoiding the six percent local sales tax.

District Attorney David Brower proposed a four-pronged approach for increased presence in Petersburg. First, to promise to keep in touch with the Petersburg Police via phone and email. He would also propose to keep track of all phone calls and emails between his office and PPD; attorneys assigned to Petersburg will fly in on Sunday, instead of on a weekday to allow time to contact police and possible witnesses before court and to also look into the possibility of having pretrial hearings the week before the Petersburg Court calendar. Senator Bert Stedman said that he would continue to monitor this issue and if the service in Petersburg did not improve, he would intervene.


Petersburg Police Chief Jim Agner warned the community that a jump in heroin use in the community could cause property crimes to increase as well. Agner estimated that Petersburg consumes as much as $750,000 a year in heroin and with that level of heroin use, the money has to come from somewhere. If a person has a $300 per day habit, they will come up with that $300 a day. Agner also stated that home invasion crimes usually involve people in the drug culture.

ASCR McGraw Construction, of Sitka, won the bid for phase three of the Water Treatment Plant upgrade project that will cost $1.39 million.

Petersburg was promised capital on several projects for fiscal year 2013 including a commercial drive down dock for $5.6 million, the North Harbor rebuild for $3.5 million, crane dock upgrade for $800,000, dry storage building replacement for $400,000, new police station planning and design development for $350,000, hospital roof replacement for $275,000, Sons of Norway Hall upgrades for $250,000, Sandy Beach shelter and restroom improvements for $65,000 and shooting range facilities repair for $50,000, but a $40 million road from Kake to Petersburg met with controversy and the City was asked to take a stand against the road. Petersburg Mayor, Al Dwyer stated that he found it interesting how the government can put a road in a city that has an ordinance against roads.

Petersburg Indian Association Tribal Administrator, Will Ware gave his letter of resignation after two years of service to the organization. PIA Board President, Ronelle Beardslee, also resigned citing health reasons.

The Tongass National Forest Service decided to allow the Tonka Timber sale on Kupreanof Island to proceed. This sale will provide an estimated 38 million board feet of timber and create up to 183 jobs. These jobs will include stevedoring, road construction, barging and transportation, fuel delivery and mill jobs.


Petersburg City School Board presented a balanced 2012/13 budget to City officials. The projected operating budget of $8.7 million will still need to be sent to the state for approval. PCSD Superintendent Rob Thomason explained that the district is also planning, with the City, to phase out the timber receipts, or Secure Rural School funds. District spending is maintained at a 70/30 percent split and this allocation provides for 70 percent spent toward instructional activities and 30 percent in other types of operating costs such as insurance and heating costs.

The Alaska Marine Highway ferry Matanuska ran into the Ocean Beauty Seafoods dock as it negotiated a turn in Wrangell Narrows. The ferry was prepared to dock at the Petersburg ferry terminal on its southbound trip. Heavy damage was caused to the face of the Ocean Beauty dock. Dock pilings were broken and the hydraulic crane was dangling over the water. The second floor office walls and walkways were crushed by the hit as well.

Governor Sean Parnell signed three budget bills into law for Fiscal Year 2013 for approximately $870 million to go to transportation. The controversial $40 million Kake-Petersburg Road was among these budget items.

The Petersburg City council voted to draft an ordinance adopting a new utility rate hike for water, wastewater and sewer service.


Ocean Beauty Seafoods decided to forego fish processing for the season due to the damage the facility sustained when the M/V Matanuska ran into the dock in May. Ocean Beauty’s Excursion Inlet facility will process the fish that would have gone to the Petersburg plant this summer.

Three days of public hearing before the Local Boundary Commission ended with a vote of four to one to approve the proposed Petersburg Borough.

An ordinance to change policies within The Petersburg Volunteer Fire Department prompted the request for Fire Chief Jerrod Cook’s resignation. Five senior members of the Fire Department rewrote the draft ordinance which governs how the department functions, with authority given to the department head over the fire chief.


Petersburg Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chief Jerod Cook gave a rebuttal to the controversial allegations that were made by the Police Chief Jim Agner. Cook argued the accuracy of information given responded respectfully to accusations of sex in the new fire hall, along with intoxicated firefighters on scenes. Cook stated there was no proof of such action and would have done something about it if he had known.

Requests were made by the Petersburg City Council for an appraisal of the Reid Marine property to be performed along with the preparation of a business plan to assess the possible benefits for the facility to the City.

After much discussion by the Petersburg Parks and Recreation Department and the Petersburg Hockey Club regarding damage to the community gym flooring, hockey will continue to be played in the facility regardless of chips and excessive wear and tear. The possibility of re-designing the facility to accommodate all aspects of the community was discussed at length. No decision was made at this time, but play will continue for the hockey club in the community gym.

The North Harbor Rebuild Project was projected to cost $2.2 million more than the $7 million budgeted for the project. The project is still slated to begin in September, according to City Manager Steve Giesbrecht.

The Petersburg City Council discussed raising the sales tax cap from $1,200 to $1,700. Citywide sales for fiscal year 2012 were $95,570,231.29 and after exemptions the total sales were $2,752,594.84 which is an increase of over $200,000 from fiscal year 2011. According to Finance Director Jody Tow, assuming sales generated are above the proposed $1,700 will generate an additional $353.000 in sales tax revenue.


Former Petersburg City Manager, Bruce Jones, was hired by Petersburg Indian Association as their new Tribal Administrator. According to Jones this position will be much like being a city manager. “The Tribal Council will set my priorities and I will follow those through along with day-to-day business,” Jones stated.

The Alaska Department of Law has added a lawyer to the Juneau office after receiving complaints from Petersburg about short staffing in the district attorney’s office. According to Deputy Attorney General Richard Svobodny, this increase will aid Petersburg and the rest of Southeast in holding violators of criminal law responsible for their conduct.

The City of Petersburg awarded Jensen, Yorba, Lott, Inc. with the bid for the design and plan development for the Petersburg Police Department and Jail Facility at a cost of $465,000.

Five funding options were proposed to the Petersburg City Council for the acquisition of the Reid Marine Property. Option one included raising the sales tax rate from six to seven percent. Option two included raising the sales tax cap from $1,200 to $1,700. Option three included the use of $250,000 from the Property Development Fund; $200,000 from the Economic Development Fund; $200,000 from the General Fund and to raise harbor rates to finance the remainder of the purchase. Option four included combining the Reid Marine Property with the North Harbor shortfall and issue a general obligation bond for $3.6 million and option five suggested postponing the purchase and adding this acquisition to the capital projects request for the legislature.

PND Project Engineer, Dick Somerville provided five options to the Harbor Board in order to reduce costs of the North Harbor Rebuild Project. All of the changes suggested dealt with equipment and the reduction of costs in the amount of finger floats and the materials used on these floats. There were also base bids with alternatives to be added in the future suggested by the engineer.

An hour-long, region-wide power outage experienced in both Petersburg and Wrangell was due to rifle shots into an insulator on one of the main power delivery towers on Wrangell’s backchannel. Repairs were made and hydropower was restored.

Petersburg Mayor Al Dwyer announced his intention to step down as Mayor and many other council and board positions were announced up for grabs.

The Local Boundary Commission finalized their decision that Petersburg’s Borough plan meets state requirements and voters will get their chance to have their say on behalf of the borough formation.


United States Postal Inspector, Petersburg Police and Southeast Alaska Cities Against Drugs (SEACAD) intercepted 19.93 grams of heroin as it was being mailed into the community. The heroin was reported to have a street value of $18,000. Jeffrey Kyle Smith, 49 was arrested on the charge of misconduct involving a controlled substance.

Due to road construction, the annual Humpy 500, sponsored by Petersburg Fisheries will be held in the PFI cookhouse.

As the Petersburg City Council discussed the order in which the 2014 Capital Projects List would be prioritized, the Petersburg Police Department took the top spot on the list with the North Harbor taking the second place.

The Alaska Permanent Fund dividend for eligible Alaskans was $878 this year. Qualifying Alaskans could expect the arrival of their funds on Oct. 4. There were 646,000 qualified residents this year. The total payout for 2012 was just over $567 million.


Petersburg voters returned with a resounding no to the purchase of the Reid Marine Property by an almost two to one vote.

Petersburg police arrested 22 year old Levi O’Connor after alleged threats prompted the lockdown of Petersburg City Schools, Petersburg Medical Center, Petersburg Children’s Center and several downtown businesses.

Petersburg Police Department officials held an armed standoff with 30 year old Jace Cunningham after Cunningham threatened to shoot anyone who got in his way. PPD held Cunningham off at Fredrick Point North for over an hour before he surrendered himself and his weapon to authorities.

After only two and one half months of service, Bruce Jones, Petersburg Indian Association Tribal Administrator was terminated by a four to two vote of the tribal council.

Mark Jensen and Don Koenigs announced their intentions to run for the position of Petersburg Borough Mayor. Both Jensen and Koenigs filed all paperwork required by the state for this borough election.


The Petersburg Vikings sent nine swimmers to state competition: Abel Aulbach, Vince Kowalski, Ian Fleming, Evan Marsh, Skipper Erickson, Grace Weller, Shalie Dahl, Eva Kowalski and Shania Dahlberg along with the boys 200 and 400 meter freestyle relay teams.

Heidi Agner was presented with Petersburg’s first Medal of Honor for her role in the standoff at Frederick Point North.

Residents gathered to honor U.S. Marine Donald “Harry” Kito with the dedication of the formerly known Falls Creek Bridge in Kito’s memory during a Veterans Day celebration.

The City and Harbor will fund the North Harbor Rebuild Project with $1.26 million coming from the electric funds; $600,000 from the harbor fund by way of the raw fish tax that the harbor will receive and another $200,000 from the property development fund.

Submitted File Photo

Year in review: In May the Ocean Beauty Seafoods dock in Petersburg was heavily damaged after the Alaska Marine Highway ferry M/V Matanuska hit the dock while negotiating a turn in Wrangell Narrows prior to docking at the ferry terminal.

Petersburg Al Dwyer passed his gavel and his duties to Vice Mayor Mark Jensen during a regular Council meeting.

Over 2500 ballots arrived in the mail asking voters in the proposed Petersburg Borough boundaries if the City of Petersburg should be dissolved and a Petersburg Borough shall be incorporated.

Rae C. Stedman Elementary School will receive a facelift thanks to the district Capital Improvement Projects.


Petersburg Indian Association tribe members questioned the PIA Board regarding hiring and firing practices, business and statements made regarding members of the tribe.

The Alaska Division of Elections posted the unofficial results of the Petersburg Borough election which shows the yes votes winning by 108 votes. Another count will take place Dec. 28 and the final count will take place Jan. 2 just before certification on Jan. 3.


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