Covid

JACK BARNWELL/Kodiak Daily Mirror

Peterson Elementary school nurse Hayley Yawn prepares a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Aug. 26. 

Against all expectations, 2021 turned out to be just as hectic and in many ways even more crazy than 2020. There were many highs and lows throughout the year, including changes to the school’s curricu- lum, a record-breaking salmon season and the continued stress of COVID. As the New Year approaches, there are many things worth reflecting on.

 

COVID-19 

The island has seen several spikes in COVID-19 throughout the year. Since January, four people have died due to problems associated with the virus, bringing the total death count up to nine. In October Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center declared that it had entered crisis standards of care and over a dozen FEMA workers from the Lower 48 were brought in to assist the hospital in its response to the pandemic. 

In August, the Emergency Services Council lifted a mask mandate that it had implemented last year. In 2021, the ESC once again created a mask mandate after COVID-19 cases continued to rise. This mandate was lifted in November after weeks of protests at City Council, Borough Assembly and Board of Education meetings. The Kodiak Island Borough School District still has a mandate in place.

There have been several vaccine clinics on the island, which have been run by the Kodiak Emergency Operations Center, Kodiak Public Health Center, KANA, the Kodiak Community Health Center, the Kodiak Island Ambulatory Care Clinic and Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center. Around 68% of the island has received at least one dose of a vaccine.

 

SCHOOL BOND DEBT REIMBURSEMENT 

School bond debt reimbursement was significantly reduced this year. The state Legislature funded major school maintenance at $21.6 million and 100% school bond reimbursement for the current fiscal year. Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed the maintenance and reduced school bond debt reimbursement to 50%; the state later reported to the borough that it would only reimburse 36.8% of the debt. In December, Dunleavy revealed a plan for 100% school bond debt reimbursement in his budget for the fiscal year 2023. If the money from the state does not come through, the school district can potentially have a deficit of $713,000 for the next year. 

 

COACH CHARGED WITH SEXUAL ABUSE OF A MINOR 

Nathan S. Benton, 47, was charged with four felony counts for sexual abuse of a minor in February. Benton, who resigned from duties at the wrestling club in the fall of 2020, has been a coach in Kodiak for decades. The alleged incident that prompted these charges took place in 2020.

 

FORMER KANA CEO DISAPPEARS IN HELICOPTER INCIDENT

Andy Teuber, the former chief executive officer of Kodiak Area Native Association and later the ​​Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, was reported missing in March after his helicopter was reported missing over the Gulf of Alaska near Kodiak  An investigation found no traces of Teuber, who had recently resigned as ANTHC’s CEO over allegations of sexual misconduct. A panel in April declared Teuber’s death “by accident” based on testimony that he was distracted while flying his helicopter back to the Rock.

 

SCHOOL CHANGES MATH CURRICULUM

For the first time in more than a decade, the Kodiak Island School Board has approved a change in the math curriculum in an effort to boost test scores. The school board voted in May to approve the acquisition of the curriculum, which amounted to $397,433 for all grades in the rural and town schools. Even though the school district is above the state average scores for math, 35% to 45% of students are not proficient in the subject, based on state and district assessments. The goal of the changes is to have at least 80% of students be proficient by these standards. 

 

VOLUNTEER

ARRESTED FOR SEXUAL ABUSE

In May, Alaska State Troopers arrested Kodiak man Vince Jay Barcelon Deliguin, 19, for the sexual abuse of a Kodiak teen. Deliguin, a Kodiak High School volleyball team volunteer, allegedly had set up a fake social media account and then abused the minor over several months. Deliguin’s case was transferred to federal court and an indictment filed against him in November on similar charges, including possession of child pornography.

 

NEIL SARGENT DIES AT 101

Longtime Kodiak-born resident Morris Neil Sargent died in July at 101, leaving behind a lasting legacy of community support. A U.S. WII army veteran, Sargent served part of his tour in the Aleutian Islands. He returned to Kodiak, with his wife June, in 1952 and eventually pursued a career in fisheries and was a founding board member of Natives of Kodiak, Inc.

 

SCANDIES ROSE RULED

The National Transportation Safety Board concluded in June that the Dec. 31, 2019, sinking of the F/V Scandies Rose near Sutwik Island wasn’t due to crew incompetence, but a mix of extreme weather conditions and improper stablization regulations. The NTSB review indicated that freezing spray caused ice to form on the stacks of crab pots, shifting the boat’s center of gravity. Only two of the ship’s seven crew members survived the incident.

 

TWO ASSEMBLY MEMBERS RESIGN

A month apart, two assembly members resigned for personal reasons. Duane Dvorak announced his intent in July with a year left on his term and left in August, citing continued travel to and from Kodiak to take care of elder parents and resigned. Assembly member Kim Kavanaugh announced her resignation in August with two years left on her term, and departed in September citing undisclosed personal reasons. The assembly ultimately decided to appoint people to serve until the October 2022 municipal elections, appointing Joe Delgado and Jared Griffin.

 

BOROUGH SUED OVER ELECTION BALLOT

Attorney and assembly member hopeful Mel Stephens filed a lawsuit against the Kodiak Island Borough in late August over the assembly appointing someone to Dvorak’s seat instead of putting it on the ballot. Stephens claimed the assembly violated election law and local election codes, that Dvorak’s seat should be placed on the ballot because it was within an acceptable time frame and asked to have his name placed on a re-printed ballot. The borough claimed it followed the proper procedure and that the clerk’s office has a very tight time table from announcing elections to ordering ballots. Kodiak Judge Stephen Wallace ultimately sided with the borough in a Sept. 7 written order.

 

BOROUGH MANAGER FIRED

Borough manager Michael Powers told KDM in June that the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly would not renew past its May 2022 expiration. Powers, hired in 2016, started a transition process to have a replacement in place before then. Following a series of meetings and executive meetings, the Assembly abruptly terminated his contract Sept. 2 for “other than good reasons,” with a large severance package.

 

ELECTIONS 

The Kodiak Island Borough and the City of Kodiak had its annual elections. Dennis Symmons was voted off the Borough Assembly and Scott Smiley was voted in. Incumbents won elections in both the City Council and Board of Education elections, however challengers won a significant number of votes. Incumbent Councilman Terry Haines beat Tracy Craig by an 11-vote margin. Tammy Holforty ran as a write-in candidate for the Board of Education. There were 337 write-in ballots, although not all of them were necessarily for her.

 

CITY FIREHOUSE

The City of Kodiak bought a plot of land at 1240 Mill Bay Road to build a new fire house for the Kodiak City Fire Department. The city created a roadmap for completion of the fire house, but there was debate in the council about whether or not to establish a budget before designing the building. Right now, there is $1.36 million allotted to the project. Dunleavy did not allot any funding toward the fire house in his proposed budget for next year. The current fire house is in the tsunami inundation zone and sustained significant damage in the past decade, due to seismic activity. There is concern that the roof of the building may collapse if it is exposed to additional seismic activity.

 

SALMON FISHERY 

This was a record-breaking year for salmon fishing in the state. Over 71 million salmon were caught in Bristol Bay, more than half of which were sockeye. This is the largest recorded run in Bristol Bay and next season is forecasted to have even more salmon.

The success was not shared across the state — salmon failed to return to the Yukon River, which caused the subsistence Chinook and chum fishing season to be completely suspended. Fish processors in Kodiak donated 24,000 pounds of fish to the Yukon Peninsula through SeaShare. The USCG Air Station Kodiak helped deliver this fish to villages in the Yukon. 

 

CRAB STOCK

CRASHES

The Red King Crab fisheries in the Eastern and Western Bering Sea closed for the year and the quotas for the snow crab fishery were reduced by almost 88% due to a sudden stock crash. These population crashes follow years of successful harvests.

 

BOWE CONFESSES TO

MURDER

Matthew Taylor Bowe confessed to murdering Welton Albers, five years after Bowe was charged with the crime. Bowe, 34, shot Albers several times through a closed door while the two of them were in an argument on a vessel that was in St. Herman’s Harbor at the time. Bowe originally claimed that he was acting in self-defense but in May he pled guilty to second-degree murder. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison, including 20 suspended years, and 10 years of parole.

 

ASTRA SUCCEEDS

On Nov. 20, Astra Space, Inc., had delivered its first payload into orbit. This was Astra’s fourth launch from the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska, which is on Kodiak, and it’s second launch in 2021. Astra wasn’t the only entity that used the Spaceport Complex. The U.S. Army tested a hypersonic missile on Oct. 20. The mission failed, because of a booster malfunction, according to Pentagon reports. 

 

MONK CHARGED WITH SEXUAL ABUSE OF A MINOR

Evan Nicolai, 59, a monk associated with the Russian Orthodox Church, turned himself into the Kodiak police after claiming that he molested a child. Nicolai arrived at the police station with the child’s father and a priest with the Kodiak Russian Orthodox Church. As a monk, Nicolai had access to the Church’s housing at the times of the alleged instances of molestation. Since turning himself in, Nicolai has been detained on the Mainland.

 

COAST GUARD

CUTTERS

A new cutter arrived in Kodiak in December. The Coast Guard Cutter Cypress will take over the role as a buoy tender, according to a Coast Guard news release. The 225-foot Juniper-class cutter will be responsible for maintaining navigational aids for Kodiak archipelago and the Aleutian Island chains. This cutter is replacing the US Coast Guard Cutter SPAR, which departed in January 2020 for the East Coast. 

 

DOWNTOWN

CONSTRUCTION

Repair work on the Near Island Bridge is coming to an end, sooner than anticipated and under budget. The bridge was repaved, guardrails were repaired and the metal parts of the bridge were coated with zinc and sealant to combat erosion, among other changes to the bridge. This work extended the lifetime of the bridge by 30 years.

The Kodiak Area Native Association demolished the former O. Kraft and Son General Merchandise and began building the “Kodiak Marketplace.” The exterior of the building is expected to be finished in November, 2022, but the marketplace will not be open until a few months after that.

 

SUPPLY CHAIN 

SHORTAGES

Supply chain shortages and shipping delays continue to be a problem in Kodiak. Across the country, supply chain shortages have been dramatically slowing down industries and in Kodiak, it was no exception. The troubles were only exacerbated by the weather on the island, which has a tendency to delay shipments even in non pandemic years. These shortages and delays have had a wide range of impacts, from limited certain foods available in grocery stores, to hindering holiday shopping, because of some stores’ inability to restock their shelves.  

 

LEDOUX ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT

Larry LeDoux, superintendent of schools for Kodiak Island Borough School District, announced his retirement after five years leading the district and 44 years of educational service on both Kodiak Island and 2½ years as state commissioner of education. LeDoux said his decision to leave was in order to make room for new blood after leaving the district in what he believes are very capable hands of an administrative team. LeDoux led a series of initiatives over five years, including bolstering schools’ mental health needs by hiring counselors, fiscal accountability and the use of federal pandemic relief dollars to establish foundation programs such as the overhaul of its health curriculum.

 

RENT RELIEF

Over $6 million in rental relief has been distributed on the island since the start of the year. This money, which has been managed by the Kodiak Island Housing Authority and Brother Francis Shelter, has come from tribes on the island and COVID relief acts which were passed by Congress at the end of 2020. Over 1,000 people on the island have benefited from some form of rental assistance.

 

TUSTUMENA REPLACEMENT

In a December visit to Kodiak, Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Department of Transportation Commissioner Ryan Anderson announced the state would move forward with building a replacement vessel for the 57-year-old M/V Tustumena ferry that services Southwest Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. The project, funded with federal money, will not be completed until 2027 at the earliest and would cost between $200 and $250 million. Once completed, the vessel will be homeported in Kodiak. The Tustumena will undergo an $8 million federal overhaul project through June to ensure it will be kept in service until the new vessel makes her maiden voyage. The Tustumena was one of the first four ferries built and only one of two ocean-capable ships in the Alaska Marine Highway System fleet; the other is the Kennicott, which serves both the Southeast Alaska coastal community, with the occasional chain run from Kodiak down the Aleutian Island chain.

 

WORKERS AT KODIAK BAPTIST MISSION PRESCHOOL ACCUSED OF CHILD ABUSE 

An allegation of child abuse was made against an employee at the Kodiak Baptist Mission Preschool. There is an active investigation into these claims. 

 

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