Sabine Poux

Reporter/evening news host
Sabine Poux/KDLL

If you’ve traveled the Kenai Peninsula, you’ve passed Wildman’s in Cooper Landing. If you’ve been hungry after a hike, had to use the bathroom on the way to Anchorage or needed a lift from your boat to your car, you may have even stopped in. Perhaps you never make it past mile 47.5 without pulling over for a waffle cone or cup of Kaladi Brothers Coffee.

Love the place enough and it could be yours, for $1.4 million. Owner Cheryle James put the Sterling Highway mainstay on the market two and a half years ago.

Alaska Department of Corrections

Coronavirus cases are proliferating at prisons around the state. At Alaska's largest prison, Goose Creek, in Point MacKenzie, there’s an active outbreak of 204 cases. At the Fairbanks Correctional Center, there have been over 150 total cases.

But not at Wildwood Correctional Center. The Kenai facility, which is currently holding 415 inmates, has not seen any cases of the virus yet among its general population, said Sarah Gallagher, a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

Katina’s Cafe, the food service operator on contract with Kenai Peninsula College, will likely close due to a unique set of circumstances that made operating during the pandemic impossible.

Owned by Tina Lagoutaris, Katina’s has been on contract with KPC since 2016 to provide meals to students on dining plans at its Kenai River Campus. Though Lagoutaris runs it as an independent business, the cafe is located inside the college.

“We’re sandwiched between the biology lab, the chem lab and the commons area," she said.

Which means when KPC switched to a mostly online system and locked its doors to the public this spring, Katina’s had to shut down, too.

Ninilchik Chamber of Commerce

Alaska State Parks is looking for businesses to provide tractor-assisted boat launch and retrieval services at the Anchor River and Deep Creek recreation areas.

Applicants can bid on contracts now through Dec. 14. Contracts last five years, with the chance for renewal.

One business will typically provide tractor services out of each location. The previous contracts were awarded to Marine Services for Deep Creek and Anchor River Enterprises at Anchor River, said Jack Blackwell, superintendent of the Alaska Division of Parks and Recreation.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Sixteen residents have tested positive for the coronavirus at Heritage Place, the eldercare facility operated by Central Peninsula Hospital. That’s over 30 percent of the facility’s 52 residents.

Meanwhile, the hospital is working with a diminished number of staff members and opening up surge spaces to accommodate the influx in cases coming through its doors.

Heritage Place reported its first cases of COVID-19 in late October, when three staff members tested positive for the virus. On Nov. 8, three residents and an additional staff member also received positive results.

Soldotna Chamber of Commerce

Two days in, a program to incentivize shopping at Soldotna businesses is already very popular.

“I’m drowning in vouchers right now," said Shanon Davis, executive director for the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber and city of Soldotna are sponsoring the program, called “Holding Our Own,” which rewards shoppers who spend $200 or more in Soldotna with two $50 vouchers to redeem at participating Soldotna businesses — currently, a list of 36 vendors.

Courtesy of Sean Ulman

Sewardites won’t find the world in Sean Ulman’s debut novel too much of a stretch. Among a fictitious array of characters and plotlines, a very real Seward serves as the backdrop for Seward Soundboard, out now and on local shelves soon.

At a Kenai Peninsula College Showcase virtual reading last week, Ulman, who’s lived in Seward since 2007, spoke about his creative process and read excerpts from the novel. The book covers an entire calendar year in the harbor city, starting and ending in September.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

A federal judge has upheld restrictions on hunting and brown bear baiting in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, thwarting attempts by hunting advocates and the state to overturn the Obama-era “Kenai Rule.”

The Kenai Rule was established in 2016 to regulate hunting and trapping on the refuge. It restricts brown bear baiting within the refuge, hunting in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area and firearm discharge along the Kenai and Russian Rivers, among other measures.

Shortly after the rule was passed, the state of Alaska and Safari Club International filed cases against the Department of the Interior, arguing that the restrictions preempted state management of wildlife on these lands.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Nearly two weeks after Election Day, leading candidates for the Kenai Peninsula’s state House and Senate races can finally declare victory.

The Alaska Division of Elections finished counting the absentee ballots received for several districts this weekend, including District 29, where Rep. Ben Carpenter is on track for reelection, and District 30, where newcomer Ron Gillham has secured the seat previously occupied by Rep. Gary Knopp.

There is still a chance some absentee ballots arrive from overseas before Nov. 18. But those would only amount to a few, if any, said Tiffany Montemayor of the Division of Elections. Results remain “unofficial” until certification later this month.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Longtime Soldotna resident Rosie Reeder died last month following a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. In honor of Reeder, who was fittingly a voracious reader, River City Books is giving away books up to a $10 value to the first 180 kids who come into the bookstore with the code word “Rosie.”

Maria Dixson, who works at River City Books, estimated 70 kids came into the store today.

“I usually come into work at noon and Peggy called me about quarter of 11 and said, ‘Can you please come into work early?’ And I got here and she was buried. It was a very very active day here today," she said.

Courtesy of Matt Plant

We are all long overdue for a good laugh.

That’s why Kenai Peninsula College and Power Plant Productions are hosting a virtual stand-up comedy show tonight from 7 to 9 p.m. on the Kenai Peninsula College Showcase Facebook page.

Actor-comedian Jamie Lissow is headlining. Lissow splits his time between L.A. and Fairbanks, and will be performing from his Alaska home tonight.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Some Kenai and Soldotna buildings are closing to the public following Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s emergency message.

That message was publicized a day before the Kenai Peninsula Borough reported 90 new cases of COVID-19, a record. The borough has one of the highest coronavirus case rates in the state.

Kenai City Hall will close to the public for the remainder of the month. The Kenai Community Library will also be closed then, though curbside pickup and book drops will remain open in the interim.

Courtesy of Virginia Morgan

Each of the Kenai Peninsula’s cities has its own public library. But folks living in unincorporated communities need not travel all the way to Kenai, Soldotna, Seward or Homer to borrow a book.

Anchor Point, Cooper Landing, Kasilof, Moose Pass, Nikiski and Ninilchik have their own libraries. Unlike their city-funded counterparts, these libraries rely on grants and donations for support.

In an emergency message today, Gov. Mike Dunleavy urged Alaskans to exercise caution to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Specifically, he called on cities to do some of the heavy lifting.

“If you own a business that can operate remotely, send your employees home,” he said. “I’m urging municipalities to take similar action, and protect your workforce and your communities.”

It’s not the first time the governor has handed down authority to local governments. The Kenai Peninsula Borough has said repeatedly that it does not have the power to institute a mask mandate. On the Kenai Peninsula, Kenai, Soldotna and Seward all do.

Courtesy of Naida McGee

Alaska’s oldest World War II veteran, 103-year-old Hallie Dixon, decoded and encrypted messages for the Navy as a telegrapher during the war. And that wasn’t even her greatest adventure.

“My father heard the call to come to the Last Frontier to make his way as a young man out of the service, back in the days when Alaska was offering homestead land, especially for veterans," said Niada McGee, Hallie’s daughter.

“And so he came as an aircraft mechanic and worked on Merrill Field, and she came and joined him in January of 1951, in a ground blizzard at 30 below zero with three little children and pregnant with number four. And she went on to raise 11 children in the far away isolation of Alaska.”

Kenai Peninsula Borough

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted to oppose any government mandate that would require members of the public to take a COVID-19 vaccine.

There is no plan in the works for such a mandate in Alaska. Gov. Mike Dunleavy said at a press conference last week he does not plan on requiring the vaccine when it is ready for distribution, which likely won’t be for a while.

Some assembly members and public commenters brought that up. But the resolution passed anyway because of an amendment introduced at the meeting, changing the rhetoric from that of outright opposition to support for residents to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, “on prioritized and optional basis.” 

City of Kenai

Robert Peterkin resigned from the Kenai City Council on Friday. The city is now soliciting applicants to fill his seat.

Peterkin declined to comment. According to a press release from the city, Peterkin said he was, “No longer able to devote his full attention to the position.”

The person who takes Peterkin’s place will serve the remainder of his term, approximately one year.

Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel said the council is using past precedent, from a similar case in 2004, to outline the process of filling the seat. He said the city will be soliciting applicants and the council will hold a work session to vote on a candidate. 

Redoubt Reporter

The state released a second draft of its plan to divide $50 million in pandemic relief between sectors in Alaska's fishing industry.

It’s part of the federal CARES Act pandemic relief bill to help the fishing industry nationwide. Federal guidance suggests most of the funds go to seafood processors, a third to commercial fishermen and around 5 percent to sportfishing guides and lodges.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Three residents and one staff member at Heritage Place Skilled Nursing facility in Soldotna tested positive for the coronavirus. 

The hospital began testing residents every three days late last month when three staff members tested positive for the virus, between Oct. 26 and 30.

This is the first outbreak the facility has seen since those initial positive results. The residents who received positive results were tested Friday and got their results Sunday, said Bruce Richards, the hospital’s director of external affairs.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

News of President-elect Joe Biden’s projected victory reached Alaskans early Saturday morning. 

In New York City, Atlanta and Minneapolis, there was dancing in the street. In Colorado Springs, Nashville and Boise, there were pro-Trump protests and “Stop the count” demonstrations. In Juneau and Anchorage there were small public protests and celebrations.

Not in Kenai or Soldotna. Many political signs across both cities were quietly taken down over the weekend and there was no public hullabaloo on either side.

Redoubt Reporter file photo

The Alaska Moose Federation, a nonprofit that salvages road-kill moose and brings them to member charities and individuals, is suspending its operations due to lack of funds.

It’s not the first time the organization, with trucks in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Wasilla and Kenai, has put things on pause. It shut down partly in 2014 due to loss of funding but stabilized with new leadership in 2015, under current Executive Director Don Dyer.

That year, it signed a contract with the Alaska Department of Transportation that provided a steady source of funding. When that contract ended, in 2017, AMF suspended the salvage program again.

Courtesy of Ron Meehan

On Election Day, 21-year-old Ron Meehan was paying very close attention to races in two completely different time zones. 

On the one hand, he was watching results roll in in Connecticut, where he goes to college. But he was also keeping a close eye on races in Alaska.

Meehan is the regional vice chair for the Alaska Democratic Party and the vice chair of the Alaska Gulf Coast Democrats, which encompasses Districts 29 through 32. He’s serving a two-year term.

Meehan is a senior at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., where he’s studying government and environmental studies. Before that, he grew up in Kenai and graduated from Soldotna High School in 2017.

Following a spring and summer of uncertainty, the last thing any business owner wants is to have to close up shop again due to a coronavirus exposure.

Willow King chose to make the best of it when she shuttered her catering business Where It’s At temporarily in October. The Soldotna-based chef also works at The Flats restaurant, which saw an employee test positive as a crush of COVID-19 cases started sweeping the Kenai Peninsula last month.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Inside a Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education meeting Monday, parents, students and staff gave mixed testimony on the district’s adherence to a remote learning plan. Outside the meeting, on the sidewalk in front of Kenai Central High School, a group of 40 protesters held signs with messages like “I want 2-B in school,” “No fear” and “Open our schools.”

Kimberly Powell has a daughter in seventh grade and a son in fifth grade at Skyview Middle School. She said she owns her own business, which has made learning from home difficult.

Courtesy of Christina Clevenger

A Washington cat walks into a shipping container. Over a week and 2,500 miles later, he’s in Kenai. 

It’s a story that could have ended in tragedy. But it didn’t, thanks in part to the help of some local businesses and the magic of social media.

Panda, a tuxedo cat, went missing from his home in Thurston County, Wash., Oct. 13. His owners, Christina and Josh Clevenger, had been searching their neighborhood and posting in Facebook groups for over a week when they were on the verge of giving up the search.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Incumbent Republicans are leading in local House and Senate races. That’s without the absentee ballots that the Alaska Division of Elections will start counting next week. There may be over 8,000 ballots in House Districts 29 and 30 alone.

For House District 29, which includes Sterling, Hope, Nikiski and the eastern peninsula, incumbent Ben Carpenter leads challenger Paul Dale by a margin of nearly three to one, a difference of 2,610 votes.

Carpenter is a Republican from Nikiski who was first elected in 2018. He said today he’s cautiously optimistic about the results. 

Courtesy of Jennifer Strecker

Jennifer Strecker’s house must smell exceptionally delicious. The Kenai resident is baking about six pans of cinnamon rolls a day. On top of that, she’s cranking out 100 pretzels daily.

It’s all for her new business, This is How We Roll, a one-woman bake shop Strecker has been running out of her house for the last six weeks. She does her baking made to order and delivers to Kenai and Soldotna.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Updated Wednesday, Nov. 4., 11:10 a.m.

With all peninsula precincts reporting but thousands of absentee votes still uncounted, incumbent Republicans are leading in local House and Senate races.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Like every good voter, David Martin had a plan. The Soldotna resident was going to vote in person today, like he does every election.

Then, on Monday, he was admitted to Central Peninsula Hospital for an unexpected new development to an existing medical problem. 

“As soon as I came in here and they said they were going to be keeping me for a few days, I was really worried," he said. "I was actually pretty upset. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to vote.”

But he did, this afternoon.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

It’s not uncommon on Election Day to spot a candidate waving signs on the corner of the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways. That’s where Greg Madden was camped out around noon today.

Madden, who’s running for Alaska Senate to represent District P, had voted at Soldotna Prep School an hour prior. He said it was neat getting to vote for himself.

"I’m not used to seeing my name on the ballot," he said. "But I was in a hurry to get back over here, so I didn’t stop and savor it too long. Just get it done and moving on.”