Winter in Unalaska by Sam Zmolek
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City of Unalaska

  • The company aiming to bring geothermal energy to Unalaska plans to pay more than $90 million to an engineering and construction firm to build the volcano-powered project, under a contract announced Jan. 18.Ounalashka Corporation/Chena Power, LLC, the company behind the project, is a joint venture between Unalaska’s Native corporation and Fairbanks-based Chena Power. And while OCCP Project Manager Dave Matthews said they plan to start construction of the plant this coming summer, the company still hasn’t announced that it’s secured any funding.
  • Iliuliuk Family and Health Services has extended its weekday closing hours to 9 p.m. For years, the island’s largest healthcare provider has closed at 6 p.m., which limited service options for community members. Clinic staff say new hours will give community members greater access to services.
  • A typical December on the island brings about six inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service, but Unalaska has already received more than 10 inches this month. If the Aleutian community didn’t receive another drop of rain for the rest of the month, this would still be the ninth rainiest December on record.
  • The City of Unalaska is once again considering wind power as a potential energy source, something the council has taken up in meetings as far back as 1999. V3 Energy, a renewable energy planning firm from Anchorage, analyzed the data from wind-measuring towers on Unalaska, Amaknak and Hog Islands taken between 2018 and 2021, and presented their findings to the Unalaska City Council in November.
  • For the second time in two years, the Unalaska school board will have to go through the process of hiring a new superintendent. Jim Wilson — who stepped into the interim position about two months ago — announced his resignation at the school board’s November meeting. He’s worked for Unalaska City School District for more than 20 years, but said it’s time for a change.
  • New regional airline Aleutian Airways touched down at Unalaska’s Tom Madsen Airport on Nov. 16., and with it arrived the hope of more stable and affordable air service to the remote Aleutian Island. The roughly 15 passengers on board Aleutian Airways’ inaugural flight from Anchorage were greeted by a few dozen cheering Unalaskans, including local officials from the city and school district. “It's nice to see change,” said local Karley Parker. “And it's a very welcome change. I'm glad that we have options. It's much needed here in Unalaska, for competition and rates and just getting people off the island.”
  • Preliminary results are in for this year’s general election, and Unalaska seems to be breaking from one major statewide voting trend. Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski trails competitor Kelly Tshibaka in statewide results in the race for U.S. Senate. But the majority of Unalaska voters favored Murkowski over her fellow Republican challenger. In local results, Murkowski leads with about 51% of the vote. Unalaskans did follow the statewide trend in the race for U.S. House of Representatives and chose Democrat Mary Peltola as the island’s preferred candidate. She received 193 local votes from a total of 410 – that’s 47% of the total. That matches the statewide support for Peltola exactly. Republican Sarah Palin received about 31%, and about 19% of Unalaskans cast their ballots in favor of Republican Nick Begich.
  • The council has a significant term ahead: Balancing the budget amidst crab fishery closures; addressing skyrocketing airfare rates; and navigating the development of Unalaska as an arctic port are just some of the issues the council is expected to tackle in the coming year.
  • Like many school districts across Alaska, spikes in energy costs have Unalaska City schools looking at a major budget deficit. In combination with flatlined state funding, enrollment drops and increased teacher salaries, the island’s deficit is predicted to take the shape of around a-half-million dollars. Superintendent Jim Wilson presented a budget update to the Unalaska school board on Oct. 19 that includes a $535,000 anticipated deficit. This is the biggest deficit he’s seen in his 10 years as the high school principal, and likely one of the largest deficits the district has ever seen, he said.
  • The Qawalangin Tribal Council swore in new member Nick Tutiakoff at its annual meeting on Oct. 8.Members of the Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska elected Tutiakoff to take over Trever Schliebe’s former seat. Tutiakoff ran unopposed and will serve a three-year term.Following the election, the council also elected new officers. They chose Dennis Robinson to serve as Tribal President, replacing Harriet Berikoff. Robinson also serves as the city’s Vice Mayor.