2017: Chugiak-Eagle River Year in Review

Tuesday, October 23, 2018 - 09:45

Editor’s note: This week’s special edition contains a recap of the Chugiak-Eagle River news and sports we covered in 2017. We hope you enjoy this chronological look at the year that was and wish our readers a Happy New Year in 2018.

The Star’s regular weekly features will return next week.

JANUARY

Birders eye the sky

The annual Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count resulted in the sighting of 30 different species in the Eagle River area, with the most common being the Common redpoll.

Eklutna, muni reach landfill settlement

On Jan. 6, Eklutna Inc. CEO Curtis McQueen and Anchorage mayor Ethan Berkowitz held a press conference to announce a $5.75 million settlement in a long-standing dispute with the Native corporation about gas generated at the landfill. The payment to Eklutna settled the company’s claims and paved the way for development of the planned Powder Reserve subdivision.

Woman killed in Parks crash

Eagle River’s Karen Benjamin, 31, died Jan. 5 when police said the pick-up she was driving slipped on icy roads near Trapper Creek. Benjamin’s parents were injured in the crash.

HLB plans draw ire

The Eagle River Community Council heard concerns about a Heritage Land Bank proposal to change the allowable density on a parcel of land near the McDonald Center in Eagle River. The issue had already been raised at the Chugiak Community Council and would be discussed widely throughout the year; on Jan. 19, the Chugiak Community Council asked for a special meeting of the Chugiak-Eagle River Advisory Board to discuss the issue.

Aurora Borealis Road an issue

In January, Eagle River Street Maintenance foreman Mark Littlefield told the local road board and community council that municipal maintenance would end on a stretch of Aurora Borealis Road unless the muni and property owners could reach an agreement on right-of-way acquisition. Littlefield said the road is technically a private driveway and would be a liability issue for the municipality to continue to maintain.

Fire ravages Chugiak home

The home of B.J. Lebeck and Brian Johnson burned in a Jan. 28 fire. The cause of the fire was not determined, but Lebeck said the home appeared to be a total loss. There were no injuries.

FEBRUARY

Clock needs fixing

Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce executive director Dana Thorp-Patterson said plans were in the works to fix the clock in Chief Alex Park, which stopped working earlier in the winter.

Couple loses 2 dogs, home

Jason and Christina Loan lost their home and two dogs in a Feb. 5 house fire in Peters Creek.

Happy Valentines

Chugiak’s Finis and Sharon Shelden celebrated 50 years of marriage during an anniversary party Feb. 12 at the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center.

Mac management promises changes

McDonald Center general manager Reid McDonald introduced a financial plan to an Anchorage Assembly committee in February outlining plans to get the Eagle River ice-and-turf facility into the black. McDonald said he planned to modify hours and fees, introduce new events and hockey leagues and take a closer look at the center’s finances. The report was necessary due to a municipal audit in 2016 that found several accounting and management issues at the center, and the fact the center was operating at a loss. Assembly members said they were pleased with McDonald’s plan forward. A week later, the assembly renewed the facility’s contract with the caveat there be increased oversight from the local parks board, the addition of new board members and the implementation of the new management plan.

5 file for assembly seat

Fred Dyson, Stephany Jeffers, Patrick Donnelly, John Brassell and Gretchen Wehmhoff had filed to run for Bill Starr’s expiring seat on the Anchorage Assembly by the Feb. 10 deadline. Jeffers later withdrew from the race.

CVFRD sees increased workload

Chugiak Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department assistant chief Virginia McMichael said call volumes had quadrupled since she joined the department 24 years prior. She said about 100 CVFRD responders logged more than 56,300 hours in 2016.

Chugiak grad murdered

A former Eagle River woman was killed in a shooting Feb. 16 in Anchorage. According to police, Brandy Sullivan, 37, was shot and killed by her estranged husband, former Eagle River resident Adam Sullivan. Sullivan is currently being held at Cook Inlet Pretrial in Anchorage awaiting a murder trial.

Crime bill draws a crowd

A meeting called by Sen. Anna MacKinnon drew a big crowd to the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center Feb. 25. Residents spoke out about what they said is a growing crime problem in the area, with many of them putting the blame on SB91, a controversial bill MacKinnon supported that reduced jail time for some crimes.

Chugiak bans Confederate flag

Chugiak High found itself in national headlines after students there unfurled a flag that included the “Stars and Bars” emblem of the Confederacy. A photo of the flag in the hallways circulated on social media, leading to an investigation by the Anchorage School District. CHS principal David Legg then decided Feb. 28 to officially ban the flag from the school.

Local pride

KTUU-TV news anchor Ariane Aramburo, 34, and local youth coach Bill Lierman, 39, were named to the Alaska Journal of Commerce “Top Forty Under 40” list at the end of February. Both are Chugiak High grads.

MARCH

Iraq vet killed in Colorado

Michael Kocher, a 32-year-old from Eagle River living in Colorado, was killed following a March 3 standoff with police in Englewood, Colorado. Kocher was an Iraq War vet and political activist who struggled with heroin addiction, according to stories in Denver-area media. A memorial service was held for Kocher March 24 at the Eagle River VFW.

Animal cruelty charges filed

A 59-year-old Chugiak woman was facing animal cruelty charges after police said two dead dogs were found in her home March 6. According to police, Kathleen Murphy had not been caring for the animals for some time.

Post office vandals strike

Someone vandalized the Eagle River Post Office March 13, dumping debris all over the lobby for the second time in two months.

Police meet with community

Anchorage Police Department lieutenant Jack Carson said the overall number of calls for service were down in Eagle River through March, with theft numbers holding steady. Carson joined mayor Ethan Berkowitz for a public meeting on crime March 23 at the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center.

Middle college changes finalized

A plan to change the Alaska Middle College School in Eagle River from Mat-Su Borough School District to the Anchorage School District were finalized at the end of March, with the popular college prep school scheduled to open to ASD students in the fall.

Job center closes

In late March, the State of Alaska announced plans to close the Eagle River Job Center. Citing budget cuts, the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development said the center would close May 19.

Spartans get new boss

Col. Paul Larson took command of the Army’s 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division during a ceremony March 24 on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Larson took command from Col. Scott Green, who became chief of staff for U.S. Army Alaska. Col. Larson said his focus would be on getting the brigade ready for its upcoming deployment.

Dyson goes back to work

Eagle River’s Fred Dyson won election to the Anchorage Assembly, returning the mechanical engineer and longtime local politician to the body he previously served on from 1985 to 1991. Dyson garnered nearly 50 percent of the vote in the four-way race, with Gretchen Wehmhoff second with about a third of the vote, with the remainder going to John Brassell and Patrick Donnelly.

Something stinks

Eagle River’s Connor Slocombe, 12, won the 2017 Odor Eaters Rotten Sneaker Contest in New York City March 28. The victory earned the preteen $2,500, a two-night stay in the Big Apple, tickets to the show “Aladdin” and a year’s supply of Odor Eaters products.

S-M-A-R-T

Mirror Lake Middle School sixth grader Josh Saylor won the Alaska State Spelling Bee March 30 in Anchorage. Saylor’s winning word was comarca, a type of territorial subdivision used primarily in Latin American countries.

On tour

Vanessa Bryan, a 2003 Chugiak High graduate, joined Idina Menzel on the Tony-winner’s world tour as a singer and guitar player. Bryan told the Star

Teachers honored

A dozen local teachers were honored March 28 at the annual Excellence in Education awards. Honored by the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber, Chugiak-Eagle River Community Foundation, Eagle River Area Rotary and BP were Michelle Jerome (Alpenglow Elementary), Mary Huls (Birchwood Elementary), Beth Senchantixay (Chugiak Elementary), Deni McCloud (Eagle River Elementary), Kara Freeborn (Fire Lake Elementary), Joan Eliassen (Homestead Elementary), Holly Beebe (Ravenwood Elementary), Katelyn Barringer (Gruening Middle), Wayne Goetz (Mirror Lake Middle), Stephanie Thornton (Chugiak High), Chief Master Sgt. Bill McNew (Eagle River High) and Stacey Moncur (Eagle Academy Charter).

Spring snow snarls traffic

School was cancelled March 29 due to a big snow storm dropped nearly of foot of snow across the area.

Hall the right moves

Eagle River’s Ed Hall, a junior mechanical engineering major at the University of Idaho, was part of a four-person team that won $10,000 at the Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge March 30-31 in Boise, Idaho. The Eagle River High grad helped invent a water-saving shower.

APRIL

Trailer destroyed

There were no injuries in a trailer fire April 7 in the Forest Park trailer park, but the home was completely destroyed. The Chugiak Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department said the homeowner was out of state at the time of the fire, but a caretaker inside was able to escape. The trailer belonged to Larry Ledlow, an 84-year-old who said he lost almost everything in the blaze.

Bus cuts

Mayor Berkowitz announced a new People Mover bus route schedule that would mean cuts to Chugiak-Eagle River service. The new plan would eliminate Route 102 through Chugiak-Eagle River and replace it with smaller 22-foot buses. Local riders opposed the plan, saying it would limit their ability to use public transit. The plan was to be implemented in the fall, Berkowitz said.

CAP team wins title

The Birchwood Composite Squadron won the state color guard competition April 8 on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Spartan plans announced

In early April, the Army officially announced it would be sending its 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division to Afghanistan later in the year. The deployment was expected and widely rumored for some time.

Council hears patrol proposal

On April 13, the Eagle River Community Council heard from Cliff Cook, a local resident hoping to start a new community patrol. In March, Cook unveiled his proposal to the council and said he hoped for support for his effort, which he hoped would deter crime.

Easter fun

Hundreds of children turned out for an April 15 egg drop at Eagle River High and an April 16 Easter egg hunt at Lions Park in Eagle River.

Judge rejects plea deal

An Anchorage Superior Court judge rejected a plea agreement between the state and David Joseph Thomas, who pleaded guilty in December 2016 to the murder of Eagle River 19-year-old Linda Anne Martz Bower. Judge Kevin Saxby said elements of the sentence — which would impose 75 years with 25 suspended, leaving Thomas eligible for parole in 14 years — “cheapens the crime.” The plea deal had been opposed by Bower’s family, which felt the 14-year parole eligibility was far too little.

Deadline set for Aurora Borealis issue

Eagle River Street Maintenance Foreman Mark Littlefield set an October deadline for a permanent solution to the Aurora Borealis Road situation. Littlefield said if a deal couldn’t be struck between the municipality and private property owners, the muni would stop maintaining the thoroughfare.

Robot teams find success

Two local robotics teams — the Quantum Mechanics from Boy Scout Troop 230 and the Nuclear Wolves from Eagle River High — were among eight Alaska teams to compete in the international FIRST Championship in Houston, Texas.

MAY

Recovery center moves forward

A proposed substance abuse recovery center got conditional approval in May. The proposed Ernie Turner Center will be developed by Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Cook Inlet Housing Authority and Eklutna, Inc. and would house 16 people on a six-acre site on Eklutna Lake Road.

CHS grad named new principal

Chugiak grad Megan Hatswell was named as the school’s new principal in May. The Anchorage School District selected the 1998 CHS alumna from a pool of candidates to replace David Legg, who stepped down after five years on the job.

Family plans to rebuild

The Rinckey family of the Eagle River Valley planned to rebuild after a May 11 fire destroyed their roof and caused heavy damage to the interior of their home.

Clock fix underway

Workers were busily toiling on the clock in Chief Alex Park on May 15. The clock on the 16-foot tower was being repaired thanks to donations from the local chamber, the Chugiak-Eagle River Foundation and local businesses.

Firefighter hurt

An Anchorage Fire Department firefighter was injured in a May 16 fire at an apartment complex on Dawn Street. The firefighter suffered non life-threatening injuries in the fire, which put three people out of their home.

Man sentenced for ’15 killing

James Andrew Baker, 35, was sentenced to 45 years in prison for the shooting death of 56-year-old June Mary McCarr in 2015 near the top of Mile Hi Way.

Salvation Army returns

The Salvation Army thrift store opened a new location in downtown Eagle River during a grand opening May 12. The group had been out of Eagle River for four years.

Grads blast off

Local high schools held graduation ceremonies at the end of March. Eagle River Christian School graduated four students, Birchwood Christian graduated six, Eagle River High School graduated 190 students and Chugiak High graduated 260.

Demolition paves way for new business

A building at the corner of Schroeder Drive and the Old Glenn Highway was demolished May 20, with representatives of Panda Express saying they planned to build a new restaurant on the site by the end of the year.

Cops say 19-year-old likely overdosed

Police said a 19-year-old man found dead alongside Birchwood Loop on May 23 likely died from a drug overdose. Police said the body of Zachariah Schneider was found by a passerby.

Moose attack puts woman in hospital

An Eagle River woman suffered serious injuries in a May 21 attack in the Eaglewood neighborhood. The woman, Melissa Roberts, suffered severe injuries in the attack, including broken ribs, a punctured lung and cuts and bruises.

Chugiak woman killed in crash

Police said 49-year-old Robin Poole died in a May 27 car crash on the Glenn Highway in Anchorage. Poole was driving a Ford Focus when a Chevy Suburban crossed the center line and struck her car.

Music teacher steps aside

Homestead Elementary School music teacher Robin Hopper retired May 25 after a 39-year teaching career; Hopper was replaced by her former student, Hannah Johnston.

JUNE

Aggressive moose killed

On June 2, Alaska Department of Fish and Game staff shot and killed an aggressive cow moose believed to have attacked at least four people in the Eaglewood area. The moose had two calves, which were captured and taken to a private moose rescue facility where they were killed by a bear.

Land manager says Carol Creek development dead

A land manager for the municipality of Anchorage told the Star plans for a high-density housing development at the “Carol Creek” property near the McDonald Center “didn’t pencil out.” Local residents said they took the comments to mean a proposal to allow for high-density housing was no longer being pursued by the muni.

Community rallies for search

Hundreds of people flooded an Eagle River Valley neighborhood to help search for 8-year-old Keegan Ott on June 16 after the autistic boy disappeared near his family home. Searchers from the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, Anchorage Police Department, the FBI and civilians took part in the search. Ott was found safe early the next morning hiding in a neighbor’s house.

Bear injures 3

A bear attack near a trail alongside the Eagle River resulted in three non-fatal injuries on June 14. Fish and Game personnel were unsuccessful locating the brown bear suspected in the incident, which involved several juveniles.

Rescue, reflect follow cruelty case

Friends of Kathy Murphy, the woman charged with animal cruelty in March after two dead dogs were found in her home, called the late attorney an animal lover and a good friend in a June story detailing her life. Murphy died shortly after her arrest on the charges. One of her surviving dogs, a chocolate lab named Rocky, was adopted by one of Murphy’s longtime friends. Friends said Murphy suffered from unspecified health problems.

Community mourns

Erin Johnson, a 27-year-old geologist and botanist from Eagle River, was killed June 19 by a bear near the Pogo Mine in Interior Alaska. Johnson was working at the mine at the time of the attack. She was remembered as a popular, athletic and outgoing young woman who loved the mountains and was engaged to be married.

Cops say treasurer stole thousands

A 33-year-old Eagle River woman was arrested June 26 and charged with stealing $180,000 from the Mustang Hockey Association. According to police, Jennifer Suchan was the group’s treasurer and defrauded the local youth sports group over the course of about 22 months.

Eagle River man hailed as hero

Eagle River’s Alex Ippoliti was being hailed as a hero after he used bear spray to chase off a bear that was mauling his friend June 24 on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Ippoliti deployed the spray after James Fredrick was knocked off his bike by the bear, believed to be a sow with cubs. Fredrick survived the attack but was hospitalized with cuts and bruises.

Crow Pass Crossing cancelled

The annual Crow Pass Crossing Race scheduled for July was canceled in June after several high profile bear attacks across Alaska. Organizers made the decision after a 16-year-old Anchorage boy was killed by a bear after participating in the Robert Spurr Memorial Hill Climb south of Anchorage.

Jordan honored

Chugiak-Eagle River Star founder Lee Jordan was honored June 19 by U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan as Sullivan’s “Alaskan of the Week.” Jordan helped found the Knik Little League, was elected mayor of a breakaway Chugiak-Eagle River in the 1970s and ran several successful businesses.

Curtains for Blockbuster

On June 28, the Eagle River Blockbuster Video store announced plans to close by the end of the summer.

Librarian steps down

Chugiak-Eagle River Library librarian Deborah Trego retired June 30 after 28 years of service.

Smoke, no fire

The Chugiak Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department investigated a smoky home in Chugiak June 29, but no fire was found. The home was being cleaned out by friends of Kathy Murphy, who died earlier in 2016 after her arrest on animal cruelty charges.

JULY

Pawsome!

Mostly sunny skies helped the turnout at the annual Bear Paw Festival, held July 13-16 in downtown Eagle River. As usual, the Grand Parade drew a huge crowd, as did events such as the rodeo, Slippery Salmon Olympics, carnival and the Teddy Bear Picnic. The festival went on as planned despite vandalism at the playground equipment on the eve of the festival.

Eagle River man stabbed to death

A 37-year-old Eagle River man was stabbed July 14 in Levelock, a village on the Kvichak River near Bristol Bay. Police said Ellis Lee Kaloke was found dead when police were called after an argument between Kaloke and the man living in the home, who said he stabbed Kaloke in self-defense. Kaloke was a 1998 graduate of Chugiak High. No charges were filed in the case.

Trash bears spotted

Bears were seen getting into trash throughout the summer in Eagle River, with a black bear roaming town during the Bear Paw Festival. Fish and Game officials warned residents not to store trash outside.

Mac loan ok’d

McDonald Center manager Reid McDonald said he wasn’t sure he’d be able to make payroll at the facility without a needed municipal loan. The Chugiak-Eagle River Parks Board of Supervisors gave its okay to a loan of up to $60,000, but expressed concern about the center’s ability to cover its costs.

USARAK gets new leader

Maj. Gen. Mark O’Neil took over command of U.S. Army Alaska during a July 12 ceremony on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. O’Neil assumed command from Maj. Gen. Bryan Owens, who retired after 34 years in the Army.

Yosemite work concludes

The summer-long project to resurface and upgrade Yosemite Drive was nearing its conclusion by the end of July, with project managers telling the Star work would be done by the start of school in mid August.

Former soldier pleads guilty

Ashley Ard, a 28-year-old woman charged in the death of her baby in 2013, pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges July 31 in Anchorage.

Mirror Lake pavilions open

New pavilions opened at Mirror Lake July 31.

AUGUST

Finally some sun

Residents flocked to area lakes after temperatures in the low 70s graced the weekend of Aug. 4-6. The weather was welcome for residents who endured what was an otherwise cool, rainy summer.

Manager has high hopes for league

McDonald Center manager Reid McDonald told the Eagle River parks board he had high hopes for a new “beer league” hockey league at the facility. Board members expressed concerns about the potential for conflicts, as McDonald also owns a local brewery and would also be running the nonprofit hockey league. A story about the issue in the Aug. 17 edition of the Star drew massive online condemnation from the local hockey community, many of whom claimed via social media posts that Facebook the paper had a bias against McDonald and the center and was trafficking in “fake news.” One person sent a letter to the editor critical of the story and three called to complain.

Man arrested for heinous crime

A 33-year-old Eagle River man named Justin Schneider was arrested in Anchorage Aug. 10 after he allegedly kidnapped and strangled and sexually assaulted a woman in Anchorage.

Birchwooders balk at water plan

Birchwood residents were concerned about a plan by the Municipality of Anchorage to extend water and sewer lines through their neighborhood. The Birchwood Community Council began talking about the issue in August after a proposal was announced to expand the lines through the area.

Close call

A pick-up truck struck the Mustard Seed Salon on Aug. 16, but there were no injuries to anyone inside. The driver of the truck was taken to the hospital with non life-threatening injuries.

Sims named ENSTAR president

Eagle River’s John Sims was named president of ENSTAR Natural Gas on Aug. 15. The 39-year-old had most recently worked as the company’s vice president of corporate resources.

Wasilla man arrested for abuse

Wasilla’s James Eric Moen was arrested Aug. 29 for sexually abusing a young girl when he was in his early 20s. The abuse took place in the Mat-Su and Eagle River.

SEPTEMBER

Well-known CHS employee loses home

Chugiak’s Mary Turner lost her home in a house fire Sept. 5. Turner, the registrar at Chugiak High, escaped uninjured but lost her cat in the fire.

Hunting waste draws attention, flies

Someone illegally dumped moose bones in Beach Lake Park in September, aggravating parks workers and prompting warnings from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

4/25 heads out

A deployment ceremony was held for the Army’s 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division on Sept. 8. About 1,200 members of the brigade were already in the process of heading to Afghanistan.

Birchwood residents speak out

A Sept. 14 meeting of the Birchwood Community Council to discuss a possible municipal water line extension was held at the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center due to a large turnout. Residents said they were concerned the water line could result in large property assessments and the loss of the area’s rural character.

Parks board frustrated

Eagle River parks board members said they were frustrated with a lack of answers from McDonald Center management, which the board said hadn’t provided a clear financial picture. Fire Lake Arena Management Inc. board member Pat McCormick told the board its concerns were off-base, and told them to focus on the positive things going on at the center.

Woman causes scene

A 23-year-old woman had to be hog-tied and forced into a police car by four officers after she allegedly tried to cash a stolen check while driving a stolen car through the drive-through of the Eagle River branch of the Mat Valley Federal Credit Union. Cops said Brandy Nolcini drove the car into the building during an attempt to evade capture. Nolcini was later the subject of a manhunt after she broke free from police while wearing handcuffs in a Mountain View incident. She was eventually arrested and as of the New Year was being held at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River.

Muni gives up on Aurora Borealis

The local road board voted on Sept. 25 to end municipal maintenance on Aurora Borealis Road after the municipality and property owners couldn’t find a way to get the road into the municipal inventory. A land-swap plan had been floated, but in the end area residents weren’t receptive to the idea. As of Oct. 1 the road is privately maintained; it remains open to the public but is technically a private drive.

OCTOBER

New car wash planned

The old Duck Pond car wash site was getting a makeover as a new car wash, according to the site’s owners. The new car wash is expected to open in spring 2018.

Chugiak man killed by police

Seward police shot and killed a 41-year-old Chugiak man during an Oct. 1 traffic stop. According to troopers, Micah McComas was handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car, but somehow managed to get into the front seat and was shot.

Locals headline AFN

Alaska National Guard Col. Wayne Don, of Eagle River, was one of two people chosen to give the keynote address at the annual Alaska Federation of Natives convention Oct. 19. Also speaking on the opening day of the convention was Native Village of Eklutna president Lee Stephan.

Tragedy takes toddler’s life

An 18-month-old boy died Oct. 15. According to police, the boy was in the family driveway when a vehicle driven by his father struck and killed him.

Back in Chugiak

The Chugiak Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department welcomed its first full-time paid chief when Tim Benningfield took over the department. Benningfield previously served with the department when he worked as an Army medic in the early 1990s.

ER Valley home destroyed

An Oct. 31 house fire destroyed a home in the Eagle River Valley and sent two people to the hospital with minor injuries. According to the Anchorage Fire Department, the fire was reported at around 5 a.m. and was fully involved when firefighters arrived.

Schools get high marks

Chugiak-Eagle River area schools topped statewide assessments, according to results of the 2017 PEAKS exam. According to the report, Eagle Academy Charter School was the highest ranking school in the state, with Gruening Middle School, Mirror Lake Middle School, Eagle River High and Homestead Elementary topping the charts among Anchorage public schools.

Advisory board meets on density

The Chugiak-Eagle River Advisory Board met on Oct. 28 to discuss a proposal by the Heritage Land Bank to re-zone the Carol Creek parcel as high density. The regional advisory board voted to oppose the proposal, which still had yet to get a public hearing at the municipal level.

AFAA moves out

The Alaska Fine Arts Academy vacated its space above Alaska Industrial Hardware at the end of October. The group said it hoped to continue in some capacity but had no plans for a future location. In November, the group’s executive director Lailani Cook said she was stepping down.

Mike Wallace dies at 82

Longtime Chugiak resident Mike Wallace died Oct. 24 at his home. Wallace was the last of three brothers — Til, Art and Mike — who were among some of the first area residents in the 1950s.

NOVEMBER

Chamber director steps down

Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce executive director Dana Thorp-Patterson announced her resignation in November to take a position at a community college in Oregon.

Board hears of Mac progress

McDonald Center finances were looking up as the year came to an end, center manager Reid McDonald told the local parks board at a November meeting. McDonald said the center would not need a loan to cover its expenses and would make its budget for the year. Board members said they were pleased with the news but that they’d like to see progress on the issue of having new members named to the FLAMI board.

Community patrol begins

Eagle River’s Cliff Cook began patrolling Eagle River Nov. 4 as part of his newly formed Eagle River Community Patrol. Although Cook’s patrol had yet to receive the support of the local community council, he said he thought he’d waited long enough.

Bears go to sleep

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game was hunting a family of bears in early November, but a cold snap mid month seemed to have sent the animals into hibernation. ADFG spokesman Ken Marsh said the bears had been getting into trash in the Eagle River Valley, but hadn’t been seen since temperatures dropped to well below freezing.

Council again against HLB plan

The Chugiak Community Council passed its second resolution against a proposed density increase at the Carol Creek property.

Watch plans in the works

Local assemblywoman Amy Demboski told the Chugiak Community Council she’s working to expand neighborhood watch programs in the area. Demboski said the watches will use magnetic decal signs to identify themselves, and the council voted to help fund the project.

Flood watch

An ice jam caused flooding on Peters Creek the final week of November. The minor flooding threatened some homes along Aurora Borealis Road. However, warmer temperatures the following week ended the threat.

All-state musicians named

Several local musicians were named First Chair Orchestra members at the All-State Music Festival Nov. 18, including Chugiak’s Charlie Latimer (violin I), Julia Koehler (violin II) and Claire Mahoney (viola); as well as Eagle River’s Sean Harris (oboe). Chugiak’s Eric Rueb was named second chair trombone. Harris was also named First Chair oboe on the All-State Band, where Rueb was second-chair trombone.

DECEMBER

Chamber names new leader

Debbie Rinckey, a 21-year Eagle River resident and well-known face in local business circles was named executive director of the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce. Her first day was Dec. 4.

Wonderland fun

The annual Winter Wonderland and Merry Merchant Much events were held Dec. 1-2, with holiday revelers turning out to watch the lighting of the Christmas tree and meet Santa Claus — and a few of his reindeer, too.

Rash of robberies

A rash of armed robberies hit Eagle River in early winter, with stick-up men hitting the Great Alaska Pizza company Nov. 29 and individual armed robbers striking the Eagle River Microtel Dec. 7 and the Eagle River Starbucks Dec. 9. No injuries were reported, although a shot was fired by the pizza bandits as they left the building.

PNZ rejects density plan

Residents opposed to a Heritage Land Bank proposal to increase density on the Carol Creek parcel won a victory when the Anchorage Planning and Zoning Commission voted to delay action on the issue until zoning levels in the proposal were returned to their previous levels. The decision was a win for Chugiak-Eagle River residents who’d protested the plan for months.

Pageant winners crowned

Jordan Naylor, 20, was named Miss Chugiak-Eagle River in a Dec. 9 pageant, with 19-year-old Allison Jimenez taking the title of Miss Birchwood and Jazzie Trotter winning Miss Chugiak-Eagle River’s Outstanding Teen.

Soldier killed in crash

Staff Sgt. David Thomas Brabander, of Anchorage, died Dec. 11 in a vehicle crash in Afghanistan. Brabander was deployed with the Army’s 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.

Patrol gets support

At its Dec. 14 meeting, the Eagle River Community Council voted to officially support the Eagle River Community Patrol, which Cliff Cook started in early November.

Water plan flows forward

The Anchorage Assembly rejected arguments of Birchwood residents opposed to a water line expansion through the area during a Dec. 19 meeting. After listening to testimony from 16 people opposed to the idea, the assembly said it heard no good reason to stop the project, which is still in its infancy. The assembly’s decision cleared the way for a vote by local landowners on the proposal, which would run a water line through Birchwood. Municipal managers say the project won’t be paid for by Birchwood residents, who won’t be able to hook up to the line and won’t be assessed for its cost.

Christmas Day fire claims house

Six people inside a Chugiak home escaped a Christmas morning fire uninjured, but the wood home at the corner of Husky Street and James Way was a total loss. CVFRD chief Tim Benningfield praised his volunteer crews for leaving their families on the holiday to fight the blaze.

She’s a hit

Netflix star Britney Young returned to Eagle River to visit her family for Christmas, stopping by the Star to chat about her blossoming career in Hollywood. Young, a 2006 Chugiak High graduate, currently stars in the series “GLOW” on the online streaming service. She credited her hometown with her success and said she’s enjoying every minute of her newfound fame.

Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at editor@alaskastar.com

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