A look back at 2013 in Juneau


2013 included turmoil at Bartlett Regional Hospital; failed negotiations between Juneau teachers and the school district, and memorable summer weather.

Juneau residents can see progress every day on the SLAM project. Photo by Sarah Yu / KTOO.

Juneau residents can see progress every day on the SLAM project. Photo by Sarah Yu / KTOO.

The year began with a ceremonial groundbreaking for the largest project to be built in the capital city in years.  The State Libraries, Archives and Museum, or SLAM, will house Alaska’s treasures in one building.  In early March, the 160-foot tower crane was put in place and Juneau residents can see progress every day.

In June, the ribbon was cut on three more miles of road north of Juneau, when Glacier Highway was pushed from Echo Cove to Cascade Point.  The extension was paid for with state funds.  Gov. Sean Parnell’s budget proposal for next year includes $35 million in state and federal funds for the Juneau Access project.

Also in June, the state of Alaska said new cubicles would replace some Juneau offices, prompting a union grievance. Many state workers said they couldn’t cram all their gear in the smaller space.  Arbitration is planned between the Alaska State Employees Association and the state on the so-called universal space standards.

No controversy here:  Juneau and the rest of Southeast Alaska had a great summer.  Rainfall in August was nearly an inch below normal. National Weather Service Meteorologist Joel Curtis says that was the downside.

You think about how the ecosystems work in Southeast Alaska, you really do want that normal rainfall and you do want it on the cool side, if nothing else than for our salmon spawning. 

Early this fall, most of the Bartlett Regional Hospital administration team resigned, amid allegations of a hostile work environment created by senior management officials.  The Human Resources Director, Chief Executive Officer, and Chief Financial Officer were hired after the hospital board ditched its long-term management company in 2012. Now an interim CEO is trying to establish better communications and a more stable work environment for hospital staff.

The Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium threatened to close Juneau’s Front Street Clinic for homeless and other low-income residents in October.   The agency blamed it on revenue shortfalls.

It didn’t take long for local social service organizations to raise funds to keep the clinic open.  When SEARHC gives up management in May, a new group will run the Front Street Health Center.  The group says it will be able to provide the same medical, dental and behavior health services as SEARHC, for less money.

Skiers get on Hooter chairlift Sunday at Eaglecrest.

Skiers get on Hooter chairlift Sunday at Eaglecrest.

A social media contest for best ski area in North America put Juneau’s city-owned ski area on the map.  In late October, Powder Magazine included Eaglecrest in its Ski Town Throwdown.  Eaglecrest became the “little mountain that could,” getting more Facebook votes than every winter resort it was paired against, until the end when it was runner up to Colorado’s Crested Butte.

Ski area GM Matt Lillard said everywhere he went, people were abuzz about Eaglecrest.

The exposure that we’re getting across the social media spectrum on Facebook , Instagram, and Twitter, as far as reaching down south and other areas, not just in Juneau, has been great.

Juneau teachers ended the year without a contract. The Juneau Education Association and school district have been negotiating for 11 months.  Mediation failed, and in October the two sides moved to arbitration.  They await the arbitrator’s opinion, which will be advisory only.  Teachers have authorized the JEA executive board to schedule a strike vote if bargaining efforts fail.