Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Shaving the way for a cure of childhood cancer
84 Shavees made a "Bald" statement at Soldotna High School last week, shaving the way to a cure for childhood cancer at the 5th Annual Kenai Peninsula St. Baldrick's event. According to event organizer this year, Soldotna Police Officer Tobin Brennan, this year's goal was to raise $20,000 and when the last clipper stopped buzzing the community had well exceeded their goal with pledges still coming in. Over the last 5 years the St. Baldrick's event has raised in excess $140,000. "This year was the best ever with great games for the kids, great food, and prizes for participants," said volunteer Marcia Jacobs, who lost her daughter, Anjuli, to brain stem cancer.

Inaugural Class passes Cold Water Survival Egress Training at KCHS pool
The first Cold Water Survival Egress Training (CSET) class was completed last week at the Kenai High School pool under the auspices of the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska (CLCA.) According to Marnie Olcott, CLCA executive officer, the nearest location for CSET training is in Connecticut. "We are extremely fortunate that Shell Oil Co. had the vision to bring the simulator unit to Alaska and then to transfer the ownership to the Challenger Learning Center to create a revenue source to support our other educational programs. The purpose of the Modular Egress Training Simulator or METS unit housed at the Kenai pool, is to train people how to egress from a helicopter crash associated with traveling over water," explained Olcott.

Central Emergency Services earns new ISO rating of 6
Central Emergency Services (CES) has received official notification from the Insurance Services Office (ISO) of an improvement in the Fire Department's Public Protection Classification (PPC) rating. According to CES Chief Chris Mokracek, effective immediately the fire department's new class rating is 6. This rating is applied to all property owners within 5 road miles CES fire stations in Soldotna, Sterling, K-Beach, Funny River, and Kasilof. "The ISO is a company in Chicago that goes across the United States and evaluates fire departments and rates them on a scale from 1 to 10, one being the best and 10 being the worst. Their ratings come out about every ten years, and in their most recent evaluation they found that we had improved our water supply, fire apparatus, and our fire station placement to the degree that they decreased our rating from a 7 in Sterling, K-Beach, Funny River, and Soldotna down to a 6 and the new Kasilof station has gone from a 10 to a 6 which will be a significant savings for residents of that community on their home owner's insurance," said Mokracek.

GCI Senior executives discuss their past and future
It was a whole different communications world thirty years ago when General Communications Inc., which would become known as GCI, first came to Alaska. Founded by two Alaska entrepreneurs by the names of Bob Walp and Ron Duncan, the company constructed facilities and carried their first long distance call on Thanksgiving Day in 1982. By the turn of the century, GCI had become publically traded and become famous for low cost dial up internet. "In fact we had a product called Free-net that became one of our signature products when I joined the company in 1999," GCI general manager Paul Landes told the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce recently. "Of course now no one is on dial up and everything is high speed internet and we have a hundred thousand customers using our high speed internet. But the biggest change in the last couple of years has been the wireless side of the business, cell phones which are changing so rapidly a Rip Van Winkle nap might be like 10 days not 10 years. I never go on more than about a one week vacation because things change so rapidly in our industry that you have to stay in front of it. We have a very large group at GCI whose primary responsibility is to look into the future of technology and keep us pointed in that direction," said Landes. "The bottom line what the future is going to boil down to is 'Fast.' So we can talk 3G or 4G or use all the terminology, but what we are really talking about is speed and that is what people are looking for with wireless. We want to be able to download what we want, have the applications we want and we want them to work quickly," he said.

Pioneer Potluck

Growing up on a farm

Scrumptious Spring Stew: Rich in color, Deep in Flavor
Spring is a super time of the year to put together a beef stew brimming with vegetables like new potatoes, carrots, green beans and peas. Even radishes, crisped to a golden brown, can be added to a spring stew, along with fresh herbs and robust gravy-making liquids, such as red wine and dark stout beer. Bread, particularly biscuits, is useful for soaking up stew's luscious gravy and perfect for savoring gravy to the last drop. And, should the biscuits outlast the stew, save the biscuits for dessert -- the perfect platform for fresh strawberries, luscious layered between clouds of sweetened whipped cream. The pleasures of spring are just starting to unfold and it only gets better from here. Events like Easter, Mother's Day, graduations and weddings are being planned and menus for these events considered. Nourishing, economical stew, typically thought of as homey, comfort food, can be worked into menus for many of these occasions, especially because stew can be made ahead of time and re-heated just before serving. A well-made stew makes it own statement and this one says, spring -- rich in color, deep in flavor -- spring.

Caring community is a gift
What a blessing it is to live in such a caring community. Our mother's 10-year journey with Alzheimer's opened our eyes to all the loving people who surround us. Special gratitude for the staff of Harbor Lights House, who helped our mother live and die with dignity, to the members of the Sterling Senior Center who embraced her with open arms, and to Barbara Larson (Care Coordinator). The emergency crew who responded at the time of her death were respectful, efficient and brought with them a chaplin, Keith Randall, who stayed behind and ministered to us.

Show your support for workers' rights
On Monday, April 4, across the country rallies will be held supporting workers and workers' rights. This day was chosen in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who was assassinated on April 4, 1968, while in Memphis where he stood with sanitation workers demanding their rights and their dream of a better life. Please join us as we stand united in support of our local workers. The WE ARE ONE Rally will be held on Monday, April 4, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at Parker Park in Soldotna (W. Park Street between Binkley and Fireweed). Participants are asked to wear blue and/or gold to show Alaskan solidarity.

Taking a stand against corporate control
As I read the opinion page yesterday, (March 27) I was torn on which opinion I should respond to first -- the lengthy CPGH Inc. board or the Clarion's opinion column. I chose the latter. I will discuss the hospital corporate board in a letter to the mayor on April 5.

New rule makes agencies justify contracts
Sole-source contracting to Alaska Native corporations has been placed under another layer of scrutiny, with a recent federal interim rulemaking requiring agencies rewarding large contracts to justify why they didn't opt for competitive bid.

Capitol talk turns to special sessions
With several issues hanging fire with the 2011 Alaska Legislature entering its last few weeks, some legislators are beginning to talk special session.

Photo: Looking toward the future

Tidal gains ground: HEA partners with ocean power outfit
Homer Electric Association has taken a step toward using the power of Cook Inlet tides to supply the area's electricity needs.

Photo: Swinging in to spring

Race for mayor grows: Former assembly, school board member to vie for seat
Another candidate has put in a bid for Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor.

Senate looks at education funding: Vocational learning effort amasses support from rural districts
A legislative effort to increase funding to vocational education programs in Alaska saw significant movement recently as it went to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.

David E. Youngdahl
Former Alaska resident David E. Youngdahl, of Brainerd, Minn., passed away March 21, 2011, at his home surrounded by his family. He was 78.

Marilyn Jean Youngdahl
Marilyn Jean Youngdahl, of Brainerd, Minn., passed away June 28, 2010, at St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd. She was 68.

Paul Nelson Otis
Former Alaska resident Paul Nelson Otis, of Georgetown, Ga., passed away Sunday, March 20, 2011. He was 68.

Fred J. Wiedman Jr.
Soldotna resident Fred J. Wiedman Jr. died Wednesday, March 23, 2011, at Providence Medical Center in Anchorage. He was 73.

Michael J. Henry
Kenai resident Michael J. Henry died Saturday, March 26, 2011, at Central Peninsula Hospital, in Soldotna. He was 61.

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