Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Industrious learning — KPC grant will enhance growing degree programs

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Dominique Bonaventure, Ben Reaves, Stacy Whiteley and Mike Stacy came to Kenai Peninsula College from different paths. They’ve met there at different times in their lives. But they all ended up in the same program for the same reason: The prospect of jobs.

The students are seeking their associate degrees in process technology at the Kenai River Campus of KPC, one of several programs the college had developed to meet the developing needs of Alaska’s work force.

Bonaventure came to the program after working in the field for a year. Originally from France, now of Kasilof, Bonaventure got a math degree from the University of Alaska. He spent a year doing computer work for Chevron in Anchorage.

“I met a lot of engineers and saw what went on behind the labor. Since I’m more of a hard laborer I figured the field would be better for me than the office,” he said.

He’s now in his second semester of the two-year process technology degree program at KPC and expects it to provide options for him when he graduates.

“That degree is very versatile. You can work in almost any process industry. … It opens a lot of doors, industrywise,” he said.

“My real goal is three weeks on, three weeks off. That’s the goal.”

Reaves, of Soldotna, came to KPC right out of high school. A 2008 graduate of Soldotna High, Reaves got a $12,000 scholarship from BP to fund his education.

“Going straight into school without having to worry about money is pretty nice,” he said.

It took Whiteley more time and life experience before she decided to get into the process technology program. She originally went to school for business with the intention of working in the tourism industry, and took a break to raise her kids.

“I got here and decided this is not where I was 10 years ago,” she said.
She plans pursue a management position in the process tech field.

“I found my abilities fit this. It’s going to offer a great career,” she said.

Stacy is working toward a degree in process technology after getting his associate’s degree in industrial process instrumentation, also through KPC.

Coming from a farming and construction background in Arkansas 10 years ago, he now sees the process tech industry as being a good fit for his outdoors and mechanical experiences.

They all agree that the KPC program is a great way to prepare for the jobs they see on the horizon, especially with the prospect of Pebble Mine and a natural gas pipeline being built in the state.

Process technology is one of the fastest-growing fields at the University of Alaska. As of fall 2007, UA had more than 300 students enrolled seeking process tech and/or instrumentation degrees, according to the college.

With relatively small class sizes, hands-on training, field trips to industrial plants in Nikiski and even the North Slope, the students said they are confident KPC is preparing them for what’s to come.

“It’s really person-to-person,” Bonaventure said of the KPC program. “All these guys (instructors) worked in the field before. Now they’re teaching. They know what’s expected of us, what’s coming our way in the field.”

“It’s ever-changing and developing,” Whiteley said. “I like how they’re building onto it and adapting to how the industry is changing.”

Thanks to a $500,000 donation from Chevron, announced last week at KPC’s annual community barbecue, the program will offer even better opportunities for students in the future. Chevron donated $1 million in all, split in half between KPC’s process tech, instrumentation and computer electronics programs, and the University’s Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program in Anchorage.

KPC’s portion of the money will be used to upgrade teaching labs, purchase industry-standard training equipment and establish a scholarship program for those fields, according to KPC Director Gary Turner.

“I’m very grateful for the donation,” Whiteley said. “It will open up a lot of opportunities for us in training and simulations that will help us with realistic job experience.

“I just think it’s fantastic that they’re involved in the community like they are and they give us a purpose to drive for, and we have the right instruments to go for it.”

Stolen goods have hidden consequences — Shoplifting results in higher prices for every customer

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Even if they aren’t caught, shoplifters pay a price for what they take, and so do their parents, friends, neighbors and everyone else in their community.

That’s because the cost of shoplifting is factored into the price of goods. The more that’s stolen, the more the item will cost down the road.

“When someone shoplifts, in reality what they are doing is stealing from each individual customer,” said Jason Moulton, loss prevention director for Safeway, Seattle division, which includes Alaska. “Yeah, we are the victim today. But we’re a for-profit organization, so what we have to do is take that expense and build it into the cost of goods. So really they’ve victimized their parents, their family and all the customers of that store.”

The Safeway stores in Kenai and Soldotna got a boost in shoplifting prevention two weeks ago when a loss prevention team from Anchorage visited the stores.

“It’s a routine thing. We do it on a regular basis, unannounced and without any fanfare.

You may be able to shoplift one day and get away with it, the next time there will be an undercover person in the store and you are apprehended,” Moulton said.

It may be routine from Safeway’s standpoint, but it creates a dramatic spike in shoplifting calls for local police departments.

From Aug. 20 through Aug. 27, Soldotna police responded to 12 reports of shoplifters in custody at the Soldotna store. By comparison, there were two reports of shoplifters in custody from Aug. 28 through Sept. 4, and none from July 31 to Aug. 19.

Kenai saw a similar spike. From Aug. 1 through Aug. 19, Kenai police reported two calls to Kenai Safeway to pick up shoplifters in custody. From Aug. 20 through 25, 11 people were arrested or issued summonses to court for shoplifting at Kenai Safeway. From Aug. 25 to the end of the month, no calls were reported. Most of the reported thefts were under $20, with a few over $50.

“Shoplifting is a problem. It’s a problem we deal with every single day,” Moulton said.
Safeway isn’t alone. Other retailers face the same issue and deal with it in a similar way, by building the cost of stolen goods into prices. Moulton said that, nationwide, items stolen from retailers for the purpose of resale could exceed $40 billion a year. And that’s just things like tools, shoes, electronics or teeth-whitening strips taken to be fenced through eBay or some other method. That doesn’t even include items stolen for the shoplifter’s use, like cosmetics or candy bars.

All of it factors into what retailers call “shrink” — the difference between a store’s inventory and the amount of goods sold. Shrink for nonperishable items, like canned goods or cleaning products, can result from factors other than shoplifting, including employee theft, bad paperwork or stuff just getting lost. But shrink mostly means shoplifting, Moulton said.

The industry retail standard for a large store with millions of dollars in products is 1 percent to 1.5 percent “shrinkage,” Moulton said. He said that Safeway has one of the lowest rates of shrink in the food industry, but what they do suffer still takes a hit on the business’s bottom line, which in turn takes a bite out of shoppers’ wallets.

“It is not a small number. It’s a significant number,” Moulton said. “When you operate on the margins Safeway operates with, when you have any kind of uptick in shrinkage, that takes an awful lot of sales to make up for that item.”

If retail profit margins are only pennies on the dollar for products sold, it could take up to 20 additional items sold to make up for the one that walks off without a trip through the checkout line, Moulton said. At the end of the year, those costs are calculated and rolled into the prices of merchandise.

“Remember, ultimately, the victim is not Safeway. Ultimately, the victim is the customer. I think if people understand that, I think there’s more of an incentive in reporting it,” he said.

Customers do report shoplifting, Moulton said. Closed-circuit cameras also help, and store employees are trained to watch for shoplifting and deal with the situation. Good customer service goes a long way in preventing shoplifting, with clerks expected to make contact with customers in store aisles and ask if they need assistance.

A simple, “Can I help you find anything?” isn’t always enough to stop brazen thefts. Moulton said an emerging trend, especially in Washington State, is shoplifters filling up entire carts with meat, baby food or other items intended for resale, and just pushing them out the door.

That’s not as common on the central Kenai Peninsula, according to Sgt. Randy Kornfield, with the Kenai Police Department. It takes prior experience to get to the point where you’ve got the guts to try that.

Cost of living increases don’t have much of an effect on shoplifting rates, Moulton and Kornfield said, especially with a variety of social programs aimed at helping provide food to those who can’t afford it.

“When we catch people, I don’t see it as a desperation thing. I see it more as a lifestyle,” Kornfield said.

Mounting bills or climbing gas prices don’t necessarily make a thief out of an otherwise moral person, Kornfield said. It’s more of a learned behavior — caving to peer pressure among teenagers to steal something little, which can build to bigger or more frequent thefts if they aren’t caught or otherwise discouraged.

If they are caught, it can be a costly lesson to learn. Even misdemeanor thefts result in fines and can even include jail time. Stores can pursue civil restitution, as well, and ban a shoplifter from their locations.

Alaska statutes give retailers some power in combating shoplifting. For instance, it’s a crime in Alaska for shoppers to conceal merchandise, even if they don’t walk out of the store with it. That way store personnel can confront potential thieves before they get to the parking lot, where they have a better chance of getting away.

“You folks do have really good laws,” Moulton said. “And I must say your prosecution up there is excellent. We get excellent results. You guys in Alaska take theft seriously.”

At Safeway, a part of taking it seriously is the loss prevention teams, which come from a company that contracts with Safeway to provide the service. Loss prevention officers are undercover and trained to not attract any attention.

Shoplifters attempt to not attract attention, as well. Two weeks ago on the central peninsula showed loss prevention officers are better at it, unless they have a reason to contact you.

“You’ll know when they’re there,” Moulton said.

Editor’s note: Representatives from Kenai and Soldotna Safeway stores did not comment in this story per corporate instruction.

Missionaries hit high note in Instruments of Change

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

If a hole were drilled from Nikiski through the center of the Earth, it would come out near the Republic of South Africa.

“You can’t get any farther away than that,” said Verne Miller, of Nikiski.

Yet that’s where Miller and four others from the central Kenai Peninsula found themselves in August.

An eight-hour plane ride from Alaska to Atlanta, a nine-hour layover and another 20-hour flight later, the group arrived in Johannesburg, bound for Kimberly, South Africa, to share their knowledge of music and love of God with children there.

Mike and Angie Lyons, Yvonne Emery and Susan Shisler, all of Soldotna, joined Miller and two music professors from Texas, Mike and Beverly Steinel, to participate in the Instruments of Change missionary program Aug. 6 to 22.

Instruments of Change is an offshoot of the Covenant Children program, which provides safety, shelter, food, water, basic health care and education for orphans and other at-risk children and adults around the world, according to the program’s Web site.

A South African pastor had another vision of what Covenant Children could provide: music education.

“A music academy for the orphans and the street kids, so after they got out of school they would have something to do besides whatever other activities they had to be involved in, which usually aren’t good,” Miller said.

The decision to go to Africa was as roundabout as the plane trip it took to get there. The founder of Covenant Children, Ardith Blumenthal, and her husband, Andy, came from their home in New York City in March to visit Andy’s relatives on the central Kenai Peninsula. Word of mouth informed Ardith of Birch Ridge Community Church and its music program. She visited the church and gave a presentation about Covenant Children, the Instruments of Change program, and detailed the great need for help in the Republic of South Africa.

“The poverty down there is just pretty severe in a lot of the area,” Miller said. “AIDS is just such a huge devastator. Forty percent of the people are infected, so there’s a lot of orphans or soon-to-be orphans. … Some are fortunate enough to have grandparents, but most of them don’t.”

Only Shisler had prior missionary experience. But they all had musical and educational experience to spare.

Miller played with the U.S. Navy in 1983, the Kenai Community Band from 1994 to 1997, the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra since the early 1990s, the Kenai Dixieland Band and Dixie River Rats since 1994 and has been a member of the pit orchestra for Kenai Performers shows for years.

Mike and Angie Lyons studied music at Northwest Nazarene College in Idaho. He’s now a music teacher at Cook Inlet Academy, where she teaches kindergarten. Yvonne Emery just retired from a long career as a music teacher in Soldotna elementary schools, and now is a part-time vocal teacher at CIA. Shisler has taught music and been involved in the Youth With a Mission program, and did a summer tour with the Continental Singers missionary group years ago.

If it’s a woodwind instrument, Mike Lyons and Miller can play it. Mike and Angie Lyons play percussion, and Angie also plays trombone and sings. Shisler plays guitar, she and Emery play piano and keyboard, and all the women on the trip sing. Mike Steinel, from Texas, teaches brass instruments, so they had all the bases covered

But musical knowledge only goes so far without instruments to bring it to life. So the group set about collecting and repairing donated instruments for kids in South Africa. After a donation drive on the peninsula and Texas, the group was able to transport more than 40 woodwind and brass instruments, nearly 200 recorders, about 15 melodicas (an accordian-type instrument with a keyboard that you blow into to produce sound), nearly 50 pairs of drumsticks, and hundreds of copies of music lesson books that Steinel had written.

To start their music camp, the mission group gave a little concert, and got a sense for the native music used in worship services.

“They lit up. They really liked the music,” Miller said. “They were excited about what we could do. Music is a big part of their worship down there. They just put their whole heart and soul into it, and it was fun to watch.”

Two hundred fifty students from third grade up to high school participated in the music camp. After just a week of instruction, the camp culminated in a concert at a tent-revival worship service with about 1,000 people in attendance.

“That’s how quickly they learned,” Miller said. “…The church was very supportive. Just the look on their faces. I still look at those pictures, and it was just very rewarding.”

With songs like “Hot-Crossed Buns” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” the program would have been more conventional for a U.S. beginning music performance, but the African audience loved it just the same, Miller said.

“It wasn’t any concerto, but they all played and it was really fascinating. They were able to play these songs together. … You get 250 kids together singing at the top of their lungs, 200 recorders, and 45 drummers going at once, it’s pretty awesome, I tell you what.”

The camp and concert was enough to make the group want to go back. Touring the countryside after camp was over and hearing about the additional unmet needs there just put an exclamation point on their desire to continue the mission.

The group is planning another trip from the end of June through early July next summer. They hope to make the program sustainable by developing the older students’ talents, so they can teach the younger ones.

“We saw this as an opportunity to really help out, and give back to an area that really needs the help,” Miller said. “… We just felt that, for us, there was a need there and we were ideally suited to fit that need.”

Even though the group went to give, they got something in return.

“We could learn a lot — we did learn a lot,” Miller said.

“I was just impressed with the spirit of worship people have down there. They’re a very warm people and extremely appreciative of anything you can do for them. It was inspiring for us to see people living in conditions that are so difficult, yet they have a spirit that is very pleasant and upbeat. If we were living like that, we’d all be singing the blues.”

The group is collecting instruments for its next trip. Playable are preferred, but they’ll take and fix whatever they can get. Monetary donations can be made at Wells Fargo Bank in Soldotna, to the Instruments of Change, Covenant Children account.

Arts and Entertainment week of Sept. 10

  • Art Works in Soldotna has photography by Bill Heath on display through September.
  • Kaladi Brothers on the Sterling Highway in Soldotna has art by Kathy Matta on display through September.
  • Kaladi Brothers Kobuk Street in Soldotna has paintings by Melinda Hershberger on display through September.
  • The Kenai Fine Arts Center in Old Town Kenai has Peninsula Art Guild’s annual Harvest Art Exhibition on display through September. The art will be auctioned to the public Sept. 27.
  • Already Read Books In Kenai has a display of artwork by local artists, curated by Natasha Ala, on display through September.
  • The Funky Monkey coffee shop in Kenai has artwork by Metal Magic on display through September.
  • The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank’s 12th annual Soup Supper and Auction will be at 5:30 p.m. at Kenai Central High School. Proceeds benefit the food bank. Call 262-3111.

  • The Kenai Peninsula Photo Guild will meet from 7 to 9 p.m. in the computer lab at Soldotna Middle School. Open to anyone with an interest in photography. Bring five to 10 pictures or SRGB jpeg images on a CD or flash drive to share. Call Marianne at 398-3979.

Sept. 20
  • The Kenai Elks will hold its ninth annual Oktoberfest at 7 p.m. with live music by Die Alaska Blaskapelle, food, and brews from Kassik’s Kenai Brew Stop. Call Konrad Jackson, 283-7776 or 398-9121.

Sept. 27
  • The Kenai Art Guild’s annual Harvest Art Auction starts at 6 p.m. for viewing with the auction at 7 p.m. Photography, paintings and works in stone, ceramic and fiber will be auctioned. Music and refreshments will be served. Admission is $20. Proceeds support the Kenai Fine Arts Center. Call 283-7040.

  • The Riverside in Soldotna has live DJ music every Friday and Saturday at 10 p.m.

Live music
  • The Clam Shell Lodge in Clam Gulch has rock covers by 9-Spine at 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
  • The Funky Monkey in Kenai has bluegrass music by Them Other Shuckers on Tuesday night, folk music on Wednesday night, The Good Kind on Friday night and Sarah Superman on Saturday night. Music is from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
  • Hooligan’s Saloon in Soldotna has rock covers and originals by The Mabrey Brothers at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
  • Kaladi Brothers on Kobuk Street in Soldotna has acoustic music by Chris Towne on Friday night.
  • The Maverick in Soldotna has live music by Turk, Gypsy and Randy on Friday night and acoustic classic rock by the Free Beer Band at 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
  • Moosequito’s in Sterling has acoustic music by Trapper and Sonny at 10 p.m. Wednesday.
  • Mykel’s in Soldotna has acoustic music by Dave Unruh from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
  • The Place in Nikiski has bluegrass music by Them Other Shuckers around 7 p.m. Friday.
  • The Rainbow Bar in Kenai has rock covers by Tuff-e-Nuff at 10 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
  • Veronica’s in Kenai has open mic music at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, and acoustic music by Dan Pascucci at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

  • 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays at the Duck Inn on Kalifornsky Beach Road.
  • 9 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays at the .406 in Kenai.
  • 9:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at Hooligan’s in Soldotna.
  • 8:30 p.m. Friday at the J-Bar-B in Kasilof.
  • 9:30 p.m. Monday at the Maverick in Soldotna.

  • BJ’s in Soldotna has free pool on Wednesdays.
  • Moosequito’s in Sterling has a dart tournament at 9 p.m. Thursdays.
  • The Maverick in Soldotna has pool night at 9 p.m. Fridays.

Editorial — Keeping money in community keeps PFD around

Friday will bring 3,269 reasons to be glad we live in Alaska — as long as we don’t think too hard about it.

The big fat permanent fund dividend plus state energy rebate will be cause for celebration for many when the money hits bank accounts, scheduled for Friday for those who opted for direct deposit, or in October for those waiting for checks to reach their mailbox.

The money comes at a cost. This year’s PFD amount is a result of high oil prices, which is good for state coffers, but bad for residents paying the associated increases in fuel prices. The extra $1,200 energy rebate is a further extension of just how high those prices have risen.

So the money comes at a good time and will be greatly appreciated by those walking a tightrope on a shoestring budget this winter. But be careful who you celebrate around. Those who don’t get the money, for whatever reason — checks are garnished, they haven’t lived in Alaska long enough or they missed the filing deadline — probably won’t want to hear about shopping lists, vacation plans or debt reduction.

But there is an indirect way to help those less entitled than you and have your money be useful even after it has left your bank account: Shop in town.

The dividend is a way to share the state’s wealth with its ultimate owners — Alaskans. Spending the dividend puts that wealth back into circulation. There’s no better place to start that cycle than here at home.

Local businesses contribute to communities in myriad ways. Business owners are generous in their support of school and sport programs, and the endless list of fundraisers they are asked to contribute to. Businesses provide a needed service of commerce by their very existence. Do you like being able to watch a movie, buy clothes or get a painting framed without having to drive to Anchorage? Then support the stores that offer the services you value.

In the Kenai Peninsula Borough, sales taxes go to support schools. Some retail prices may be cheaper in sales taxless Los Anchorage, but supporting education has value that’s worth every penny kept in the borough. And rising gas prices and postal rates are making it more economical to shop at home.

Share the wealth in a way that benefits your community. Shopping locally pays dividends all its own.

Guest editorial — Keep home-school money at home

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is proud to offer a high-quality, flexible and successful home-school program for peninsula families wanting to direct their child’s education.

Home-school families can do something positive for themselves, their neighbors, the school district and the entire peninsula by taking advantage of what the KPBSD Connections program has to offer.

Connections provides fully accredited, researched-based curriculum materials, computer equipment and all the resources needed for parents to successfully educate their children. Individualized learning plans are crafted with the help of certified, experienced teachers, and parents have ample flexibility in determining the course of their child’s learning. Connections offers options for fine arts and physical education, as well as opportunities for parents to design educational field trips and other enrichment activities.

Perhaps the best benefit of Connections is its ties with KPBSD. Connections students can participate in school sports, clubs and other extracurricular activities, and can take up to two classes in public schools without any impact to the student’s educational allotment. The full support of the KPBSD special services department is available to Connections students, and the district maintains Connections offices with trained personnel in all major peninsula communities — Soldotna, Kenai, Seward and Homer. Connections students also have a graduation ceremony on the peninsula, instead of having to travel to Anchorage or Fairbanks.

KPBSD believes enrolling in the Connections program is a benefit to home-school families that in turn benefits the entire peninsula. State funding for education is largely based on enrollment numbers. Last school year there were approximately 600 Kenai Peninsula students enrolled in home-school programs administered by other school districts in the state, primarily Interior Distance Education of Alaska (IDEA) from Galena City School District, and Raven Correspondence School from Yukon-Koyukuk School District.

Those 600 students represent a potential $3 million in additional annual revenue for a school district. In KPBSD, those funds would go a long way toward improving educational opportunities in our home-school program and throughout our entire school system.

In the 2008-09 school year, KPBSD is instituting programmatic staffing, a new system of allocating resources based on envisioning education as it should be, not education the best we can afford it to be.

Programmatic staffing calls for staffing based on a school’s curriculum needs, with PE/health, foreign language and arts to be offered as core classes in all high schools with an additional 15 percent staffing for advanced opportunities, like specialty vocational education classes.

In all middle schools, foreign language, music, creative and fine arts, and industrial arts will be offered. Elementary and middle schools will be served by interventionists – people who monitor students for educational challenges and make sure problems are addressed and overcome as early as possible. Counselors also will be increased at the middle and high school levels to help promote student well-being and prepare students for life after high school.

Programmatic staffing resulted in hiring 45 new teachers in the district this year. That means new families moving to the peninsula. These families will be shopping in local businesses, supporting community organizations and paying property and sales taxes, which support government services and education across the peninsula. Additional funding from higher enrollments would allow the district to fully implement all the facets of programmatic staffing, instead of stopping short of what this exciting program has the potential to offer.

Home-school parents, please investigate what Connections can help you do for your student. KPBSD believes its home-school program not only connects families with a good education, but it better connects them to their community, as well.

Connections is a quality home-school program; buy local and invest in your community. For more information about the Connections program, please call 714-8880, e-mail Principal Lee Young at, or visit the Web site,

Melody Douglas is the chief financial officer for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.

Frontier justice: All’s well that ends in a well

By Clark Fair
Redoubt Reporter

Jerry Hobart was sleeping peacefully on a cold, dark February night when he was awakened by the sounds of damage being done. It was about 1:30 a.m. in 1960. Almost immediately he knew that the place was being robbed.

A ticket agent for Pacific Northern Airlines in Kenai, the 22-year-old Hobart, his wife, Carol, and infant daughter, Katie, lived in a one-bedroom efficiency apartment off the back of the PNA office. Hobart quickly rose from bed, signaled to Carol to stay where she was, and headed for his gun.

“It was pretty evident what was happening,” Hobart said. “I could hear the guys talking.”

He speculated that the thieves might not have realized anyone was living in the PNA facility.

His rifle was hanging in its case in the bedroom closet.

“I went in and unzipped the case,” he said. “I didn’t know how many (rounds) was in the magazine, but I knew there was at least one. I didn’t keep anything in the chamber.”

His hands wrapped around his rifle — a bolt-action .308 used mainly for moose hunting. He moved quietly down a narrow passageway separating the apartment from the lobby.

“I went out into the lobby, and that’s when I jacked a round into the chamber,” he said. He got the immediate attention of two men behind the ticket counter busily attempting to break into what Hobart called a “tin-can type of cabinet (used) as a safe.”

“There was a night light so I could see ’em. I told ’em to get out from behind the counter and get down on the floor. And they did.

“I got ’em lying down, and the older guy, who was the one with the big rap sheet, turned out, he kept wanting to get up in somewhat of a sitting or squatting position. So I pointed the rifle near him — I don’t know that I pointed it right at him — and I told him, ‘Get back on the floor, flat on your stomach!’”

If the burglars wondered whether Hobart was prepared to shoot, they didn’t have to wait long to find out.

As Hobart was attempting to call for help, the older man took off running. “I shot at him, but I shot for the legs. I didn’t shoot for the torso,” he said.

Hobart was cradling the rifle at the time, so his shot came more or less from the hip.

“I missed him but sure took a lot of wood off the door jamb,” he said. “Then I turned back into the room, and the other guy melted into the floor. He wasn’t going anywhere.”

The thieves had left a car parked outside, and the escaping man fled for it. Assured that the younger man would stay put, Hobart poked his head outside. Judging by the taillights, he guessed the car to be an Oldsmobile.

Back inside, he called Stan Thompson, who at the time was the U.S. commissioner for most of the Kenai Peninsula.

In 1960, Kenai had no jail, no marshal or regular magistrate, and only sporadic highway patrol. On that day, the closest state trooper was in Anchorage, more than three hours away on a narrow gravel highway.

“I was the only judicial figure (in the area),” Thompson said. “I had to do all the law work and the prisoner work and everything. There weren’t any other officials out there.”
Thompson told Hobart to bring the prisoner over.

At the time, the PNA office was across from the current Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center, while Thompson was living with his wife, Donnis, above their Kenai Korners building materials store next to where Paradisos is now. Although the distance was not great, Hobart decided to enlist some help in escorting the prisoner.

“I figured if I’m going to march that sucker over there, I’ll put in a call to the MPs (military police at the Wildwood military base, where Hobart had served for two years) and see if I can get somebody to give me a hand.”

A short time later, two MPs appeared, with sidearms. Confidentially, they informed Hobart they were willing to help as much as possible but they wouldn’t be able to fire upon a civilian prisoner if he caused a problem. Hobart told them he was willing to do the shooting.

Once Thompson had the prisoner “in custody,” he called for trooper assistance and reached Officer Wayne Morgan. With Hobart’s help, he described the escaped burglar and his vehicle.

Thompson and Hobart then had to decide how to detain their prisoner until Morgan arrived. They considered several options before Thompson remembered the hand-dug well beneath the floor of his building.

They removed the floorboards covering the well and switched on the single bulb dangling in the cribbed 6-by-6 shaft. More than 10 feet down, on dry ground, sat an electric pump, and they sent the prisoner down a ladder to wait.

They also sent down a chair and some magazines. Just before they replaced the floorboards, they decided to increase the young man’s incentive to stay put.

“I told him I was setting my big dog right on top of the well, so he didn’t want to try to come out. And believe me, he didn’t,” Thompson said.

Instead of a big dog, they actually stacked crates of paint on top of the floorboards, Hobart said. Prisoner detention accounted for, Hobart walked back home and went to bed.

About four or five hours later, Officer Morgan arrived and took the prisoner into custody. Earlier, he had apprehended the older man at a roadblock on the outskirts of Anchorage, where he had parked his patrol car and watched for the suspect Oldsmobile.

Both men were tried and convicted. Later, FBI officials came by to examine Thompson’s well to see whether the prisoner’s treatment qualified as cruel or unusual punishment. They decided it did not.

Hobart ¬later briefly became a state trooper himself.

Grizzly situation — Fall brown bear hunt depends on several factors

By Clark Fair
Redoubt Reporter

Judging by the extensive media coverage of bear maulings and other close encounters this summer, one might imagine that the brown bear population on the Kenai Peninsula is thriving and is posing a greater risk to humans than ever before.

Seeming to support those assumptions, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports that at least 30 “human-caused mortalities” of brown bears have occurred in 2008. Most of those deaths were termed “defense of life and property” killings. Only one was attributed to hunting.

The number of brown bears killed by people this year is about the same as the totals for 2007 and 2006, but generally higher than in previous years. In the 1990s, for example, according to Fish and Game figures, the number of nonhunting brown bear deaths averaged only 6.5 per year.

As a result of these increasing bear-human conflicts, some people believe the peninsula’s brown bear population is too large and needs to be reduced. Even if they are correct, however, actually making a dent in the bear population won’t be easy.

The effort is hindered by two factors: a complicated set of rules for establishing hunting seasons, and the fact that a census of brown bears on the Kenai Peninsula has never been done.

Hunters probably won’t even get a chance at a season this fall. According to Jeff Selinger, Fish and Game area wildlife biologist, this year’s fall brown bear hunt will be canceled for game management units 7 and 15, the eastern and western halves of the peninsula, respectively.

The move would mark the fourth consecutive cancellation by the department. The last full peninsula fall season occurred in 2001 and the season in 2004 lasted only two days.

Don’t count on it

Although Fish and Game’s own Web site lists the Kenai Peninsula brown bear as a “species of special concern” in its endangered species section, some department biologists believe the brown bear population is strong.

The problem lies in proving it.

Brown bear populations have been estimated based on data from other similar areas, but no actual census has been done because of the logistical difficulties and the expense, Selinger said.

What’s left is mostly a gut instinct based on available information.

“I have no doubt that there’s more. I can’t prove it scientifically, but all the anecdotal information — and it’s plentiful — is there’s more brown bears on the Kenai than there were 10 years ago,” Selinger said.

Longtime peninsula guide and lifelong Alaskan Laine Lahndt agrees.

“I feel that there’s more here than when I was a kid growing up here,” said Lahndt, whose grandparents settled near Kasilof in the 1930s. “My brother and I ran all over Kasilof and never saw a brown bear or even saw a brown bear track. Now I routinely see bears, and we’re consistently seeing tracks up and down our road.

“There’s just a lot more bears than there used to be.”

Although he sympathizes with those who are worried about bears in urban areas, Lahndt, who runs a winter trapline on Tustumena Lake and has been involved in big-game guiding for nearly 30 years, is more concerned about rising brown bear numbers for another reason: their skillful predation on moose calves.

On the Kenai, brown bears, black bears and wolves prey upon moose calves. Lahndt said brown bears do the most damage, and, if their population is not controlled, peninsula residents are likely to note a significant decline in the moose population in the next few years.

Of bear-human conflicts, he said, “A bear lives by his nose. So we can learn to control and minimize those problems.”

Of bear-moose conflicts: “Predation is one of the things that bothers me most.”

Despite the fact that humans have killed 90 brown bears in just the last three years, “We’re not seeing any indication of the bear population declining.”

Hunting by the numbers

Lahndt believes that local biologists have their hands tied when it comes to predator control.

Although very little is written in stone, allowing for more harvesting of brown bears is problematic, according to Selinger.

In March 2007, the state Board of Game recommended that human-caused mortalities in units 7 and 15 be limited to 20 brown bears (no more than eight of them being females), up from a previous recommendation of 14 brown bears (no more than six of them being females). Selinger said he made the board’s recommendation his objective in managing bears.

Consequently, the department determined to hold a drawing and issue 25 hunting permits this year — up from 18 last year — in an attempt to meet that objective. The brown bear season would be broken into two parts, a fall hunt scheduled for October and November and a spring hunt scheduled for May.
The fall/spring hunting calendar overlaps the calendar for the Fish and Game harvest objective. As a result, the high number of 2008 human-caused mortalities could shut down the fall portion of the season, but not the spring portion. Permit holders who were denied a hunting opportunity this fall could hunt next spring.

However, if the department determines the brown bear population can sustain a fall hunt, despite a high number of human-caused mortalities, it can decide to allow a hunt, regardless — or at least a limited version of one.

Because of these policies, and a concern over the escalating numbers of defense of life and property shootings, Selinger said the department has issued nearly half of its permits for the more heavily human-populated western side of the peninsula.

“I think we can afford to harvest more bears around where people live,” he said. “But it’s not going to get us where we want to go with fewer bears running around town and causing problems and breaking into things.

“We’ve got all the private property issues. We’ve got no hunting or discharge of firearms in city limits, where a lot of the problems are occurring. And a majority of the bears causing problems in our urban areas are sows with offspring or sub¬¬adult bears. And none of those are targeted for hunting.”
Since brown bears are rarely harvested for their meat, most hunters are uninterested in younger, smaller bears. They want trophies.

“They want that 10-footer,” Selinger said.

The human factor

Urban areas pose the biggest problem because some bears are drawn in from the wilderness in search of easy spoils. According to Selinger, as long as food is readily available where people are, bears will continue their negative interactions with humans.

Larry Lewis, a Fish and Game wildlife technician, said bears, in general, find food through a process called “site habituation.” Bears find a reliable source of food in a particular area and come to associate that area with being fed. As a result, they return to that area again and again.

The habituation process can even be generational, Lewis said, as sows take their cubs to a food source, teaching the younger bears about the reliable site, and so the number of bears coming to a productive site tends to rise over time.

The Russian River confluence is a prime example of this process, Selinger said.

“In my mind, that’s a human-generated food source,” he said.

In addition to the enhanced runs of salmon as an attractant, bears flock to the Russian for the discarded carcasses, stringers of fresh sockeyes and food in backpacks — in addition to all the grills and coolers and picnic tables of food available in nearby campgrounds.

When the pickings are so easy, Lewis said, the bears can hardly stay away, despite the fact that it is “not a good survival strategy” for a wild animal to want to be around humans.

“A bear’s whole drive in the summer is to obtain and put on as much fat as it can, and to obtain their food with as little effort as they need to put into it, so they’re not burning off what they’re putting in,” Selinger said.

Consequently, until people begin to remove the incentives that draw bears near, bears will continue to pose a problem, Selinger said. “Nuisance bears” can be deterred by fairly simple measures, such as keeping garbage indoors, tightly securing any outdoor freezers or erecting electric-wire fences around chicken or pig pens.

People can’t prevent bears from occasionally wandering through, he said, but they can prevent them from having any reason to return or to stay.

Pucker up — Hockey moms don’t mind Palin’s humor

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

“You know what they say about the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull?

“Lipstick,” according to Gov. Sarah Palin, in an unscripted line now famous from her speech accepting the vice presidential nomination to run with John McCain at the Republican National Convention on Sept. 3.

And what, exactly, makes a hockey mom? According to mothers at a Kenai Peninsula Hockey Association game at the Soldotna Sports Center on Sunday, it’s first and foremost dedication.

“It’s the dedication thing, for sure,” said Laurie Johnson, whose soon-to-be-16-year-old son, Eric Johnson, was skating for the Ice Hawks against an Anchorage team Sunday.

Betty Bea was sitting with Johnson in the stands above the rink. It’s a spot she’s well accustomed to, having been a hockey mom while her son, Johnny Bea, played hockey for Kenai Central when he was in high school, and played for the Alaska Aces in 1994. Now she’s sort of a hockey grandma and comes out to watch Eric play.

“On a (competition) team level it takes a lot of dedication to be at games, and be part of the team,” Bea said.

Bea said she isn’t a McCain supporter and she differs from Palin on issues like earmarks and abortion, but said she thinks Palin’s nomination is good for women.

“I’m not necessarily a Republican, but I think she could probably do the job,” Bea said. “I would like to see her with more experience, but she’s the governor, so that certainly qualifies her for the job she’d be doing.”

Being a hockey mom is a life experience in and of itself, and all experiences contribute to a person’s abilities.

“I don’t know if that qualifies her (to be vice president),” Bea said. “I don’t know that that qualifies me, but that’s experience.”

“And she’s right about the lipstick line,” she said. “We can get pretty aggressive.”

“A lot of people think there’s too much fighting — ” Bea said, interrupting herself to cheer for the Ice Hawks as they scored a goal. “ — but it’s really no different than any other sport.”

In Pam Johnson’s experience, being a hockey mom means being an expert juggler.

“You organize around your child’s schedule,” she said.

If you’re not at the hockey rink or driving to or from the hockey rink, you’re making sure your kids are eating and getting their homework done and getting sleep.

“You dress warm in the middle of the winter,” said Christie Stinnett, of Soldotna. Her son, Joshua, now a sophomore at Soldotna High School, has been playing hockey for eight or nine years now.

“And you make sure the kids have feet warmers in their boots so they don’t freeze,” Johnson, of Sterling, added. She was at the rink to watch her son, Tyler, also a sophomore at SoHi.

Johnson said she was excited about Palin’s nomination.

“I got a T-shirt that says ‘Go Sarah’ on it,” she said. “I think it’s awesome, period. Honestly, I think she’s done a lot for the state in the time she’s been a governor.”

She agrees with Palin’s quip.

“Hockey moms tend to be a little aggressive, but that’s beside the point,” she said.

Sitting above the rink, she carried on conversations, talked on a cell phone and drank her coffee, but her attention and vocal chords were primarily dedicated to the game.

“Go Ice Hawks!” she yelled at one point, followed with various exclamations of “Go!” “Watch him!” and other encouragements.

“… And we all think we can coach better than the coach,” she added to the list of a hockey mom’s description.

Mostly being a hockey mom means being devoted.

“Devotion to your kids. They need good sportsmanship, and aggressiveness, but you’ve got to juggle between them,” Johnson said.

There was no mistaking Dena Cunningham’s hockey mom status as she stood next to the boards Sunday, wearing a KPHA jacket with “Morgan’s mom” printed on the back and visibly cringing whenever her son was involved in a collision.

Cunningham said being a hockey mom isn’t any different than a soccer mom, or any sports parent who supports their child’s activity — except being a little more prepared for cold. For her, with 15-year-old Morgan, hockey has been a longtime devotion.

“I’m going to be sad when my son isn’t playing hockey anymore. You become a big family over the years. He’s been skating with them since the kids were 5. You get to know the families and siblings and watch the kids grow up,” she said.
Cunningham said she taped Palin’s speech and stayed up until 1 a.m. watching it.

“I think that since I’ve been aware of Sarah in the political arena in Alaska, I think she has done a great job for Alaska,” she said. “She’s well-spoken, I think she’s a straight shooter. I think she has so much energy, She’s positive. … I think her strong point is she’s a real person, not a career politician. You don’t have to wonder what spin she’s putting on something.”

She said she laughed when she heard Palin’s hockey mom remark.

“It was funny when I heard it. I wasn’t offended by it,” she said. “… It showed her tough side.”

Serving plenty — Soup supper fills bowls, peninsula food bank’s coffers

By Naomi Hagelund
For the Redoubt Reporter

Around 400 people will leave Saturday’s fundraiser for the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank with full bellies and empty bowls. The food bank is teaming up with local organizations and volunteers to host the 12th annual Soup Supper and Auction.

The supper starts at 5:30 p.m. at the Kenai Central High School cafeteria. For $40, ticket holders will fill up on locally made desserts, enjoy homemade soup in handmade bowls, bid on auction items and listen to live music.

Soup offerings are vegetarian-vegan, halibut chowder and chili made by various gourmet cooks in the community. There will be Cold Stone Creamery cakes and chocolate fountains, as well as $20 raffle tickets to win $2,000. The food bank is auctioning off items like a trip for two to the proposed Pebble Mine site, airline tickets and a pie made by Kenai Mayor Pat Porter.

All money from the event goes to fund food bank programs.

“It’s a major fundraiser,” said Linda Swarner, director of the food bank. “It’s a fifth of our budget.”

Swarner said that last year’s event raised more than $60,000, thanks to ticket sales and the help of sponsors. This year’s major sponsors include Chevron, BP, Tesoro and ASRC Energy Services.

Tickets are still available, but not for long. The event is usually sold out, Swarner said. Each attendee gets to take home one of the more than 400 unique bowls local artists handcrafted and donated to the event.

Only around a dozen potters are involved in making the donated bowls, said Charles LaForge, a member of the Kenai Potters Guild. Many hours go into the creation of these special bowls. There’s the process of making and trimming the bowls, then they go through one firing before they are glazed, after which they go through a second, 12-hour firing.

“If you were to sit down and throw a bowl on the wheel, it would probably just take a few minutes, but once you apply all the other techniques, it adds up to a lot of time,” LaForge said. “That one little bowl is handled quite a bit.”

The artists have been working since April, finishing most of the bowls in July. Most of the potters threw their bowls at home and built up an inventory early on, waiting to glaze and finish the products for another month or two.

The only thing the food bank requires of the artists is they make the bowls big enough to hold two cups of soup, LaForge said. Four hundred bowls can take up a lot of room, so they are not made very wide. They are crafted into more of a deep, traditional soup bowl.

Not only is the event an opportunity for the potters of the ¬guild to use their skill and time to help the community, it’s also a chance for them to experiment with new designs and glaze techniques.

“All the bowls are in a different style that represents the style of the potter,” LaForge said. “They all put their individual decoration or glaze techniques on the bowls.”

The auction also is a chance for the Kenai Potter’s Guild to get a little advertising.

“We get our name out there, and our product through that,” LaForge said. “We have a show sometime during the year, and hopefully people remember us.”

Closed for business, open for fun — Soldotna chamber event draws after-hours crowds

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Posted hours went out the window Sept. 3 at the Ischi Mall along the Sterling Highway in Soldotna, as more than 100 people showed up after 5 p.m. to see what the businesses had to offer.

Alaska DigiTel Wireless, AK Express Tags/Titles and Registrations, Dairy Queen, GCI and Edward Jones-Ryan Kapp, joined forces to host a Business After Hours event, sponsored by the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce.

The intent of the program is to get people out to businesses and facilitate networking among business owners and the community. It’s more about socializing than sales, although sales might be a result of showing off what a business has to offer.

“If you have a business in town, it’s a great way to showcase the business and location, generate traffic and get to know some people,” said Ryan Kapp, Soldotna chamber president.

“We got good feedback,” he said of the 140 or so visitors who stopped in at his store. “More than anything we got to meet some new folks. That’s what it was all about for me.”

Michelle Glaves, chamber director, said the Business After Hours program has been resurrected after it fizzled out years ago. The chamber has started a new ambassadors program, which gives local business owners an opportunity to help promote the chamber, even if they don’t necessarily have enough time to serve on the chamber board.

“They basically promote the chamber in different ways, talk to businesses who are members but haven’t taken advantage of all the things we can do for them, or aren’t members and spread the word on the different things we can do to market for them and that we can offer,” Glaves said.

In the after-hours program, a business will sign up to host an event, usually in the 5 to 7 p.m. range. The chamber promotes the event and the business provides the draw for people to attend, like food or door prizes.

At the Sept. 3 event, all the mall vendors teamed up to host an event together.

“It’s a little harder for small businesses to have 120 people in their building, so everybody decided to do it together and have a block party. So we ordered some good weather and got a tent out and did it as a little bit of a round-table kind of thing,” Glaves said.

One business provided veggies, another was in charge of drinks, one brought soup, one had cake. Dairy Queen had a barbecue going outside. And each donated items for door prizes — a Blackberry phone, 20,000 Alaska Airlines miles, some barbecue and gardening tool sets, a cell phone, Tesoro gas cards and gift cards for assorted DQ goodies.

Visitors went from store to store, getting a card punched to be eligible for the drawing, and met under the tent outside for food and socializing. Some attendants were business owners and/or chamber members, and others were just curious members of the community.

“There seemed to be a really nice cross section,” Kapp said. “Some folks saw the tent and free food and decided to stop in, which is fine.”

This is the third Business After Hours put on so far this year. One was at Wells Fargo. The other was at Central Peninsula Hospital with tours of the new wing before it opened to the public. Glaves said they plan to hold one a month, with a hiatus in midwinter.

“All the businesses that have done it really came through,” Glaves said. “There was good networking and everyone had a good time. At this rate there’s no reason why it can’t keep continuing.”