The Kenny Lake Community League admitted to violating dispersal regulations during their revenue sharing meeting last month. They admitted they did not post announcements in three public places for five days before the public meeting, designed to "give residents the opportunity to comment on their ideas".
After a complaint to Governor Parnell, the League was told by Dept of Commerce agent Tara Jolie to comply with this Minimum Qualification next time, and to re-hold the public revenue meeting on June 15. Without any mention of a reprimand or investigation, Jolie praised the League for doing such fine work and suggested to the complainer that it was an oversight.
The revenue sharing started as a program to help municipalities, first called MEEP, then SEEP, then as the Community Revenue Sharing Program (CRSP) when Sarah Palin became Governor. The funding was expanded to include unincorporated areas in 2007.
According to the Alaska Division of Community Advocacy, "The Kenny Lake Community League organizes activities, is an advocate for local concerns, and administers state grants." http://www.dced.state.
With my own eyes I have yet to see any activities organized by the League, other than the yearly fair. Their only other legitimate purpose, the Community Well, is so messed up and has so many complaints the new Treasurer, Lisa Boone, refuses to even touch the old well fund books. After repeated attempts to find out the League's exact new purpose from their email list, I am assured by their non-response that they are not an "advocate" for my concerns. From what I can see they provide nothing substantial to the community as a whole. That they attempt to hide their activities from the public is now public record.
The League has received a total of $57,528.00 in CRSP funds since FY 2008, administering money required to be "irrevocably dedicate[d] to a public purpose." (Application Cover Sheet FY 2011)
Sitting at the helm of the Kenny Lake Community League is President Gay Wellman. Under her leadership, the League became a corporation, approved by the members in October 2009. This writer has no idea how many League members voted to approve this change.
According to their new corporate By-Laws, "To be a voting member the community member must submit a membership form at any time during the fiscal year at least a week prior to the Annual Fall meeting. Any person signed up during a membership year is considered a member of
the Kenny Lake Community League."
Their membership area is defined by them as "extending from Thompson Pass to mile 95 along the Richardson Hwy. and the area along the old and new Edgerton Hwy to mile 22 on the new Edgerton Hwy." Compare this to the description by the state of Alaska: "Kenny Lake lies off of the Richardson Highway, between miles 1 and 22 on the Edgerton Highway and between miles 1 and 11 of the Old Edgerton Highway."
In December 2009, I responded to an email plea sent out to the KLCL elist by a local business owner. He asked, "How did the Community League violate the Articles of Incorporation and the bylaws by: declaring themselves a Board of Directors instead of a community league?"
Community meetings are all alike, whether you're in Seattle, Washington or Kenny Lake. After a decade of experience in dealing with community groups, I have zero respect for the entire concept of community governance. I am not now and will never be a member of any community group. Why? Because not only did the League refuse to answer his question, they spent the better part of an hour lecturing him about how hard they work to help the community. They followed up their lectures with two lecture/editorials in the CRR 12/17/09.
But check out what I learned in just one meeting:
The Agenda for the December 7, 2009 KLCL Board Meeting included a review of the construction progress. The KLCL does not appear to follow any procedures for putting grant funded work out for public bids. Under "Electricity" it says: "Choose who to do rest of electrical work, Bob or Jim Williams?"
Discussion of hiring a short-term administrator was also on the 12/07/09 Agenda. The formation of Seven Standing Committees was last, including the need for a Finance Committee to "establish a working budget, look at options for further grants or funding avenues."
For the past two seasons the League has paid someone $3000.00 to manage the one day, 8 hour Fair. Now they wonder if the Fair needs a separate committee. They also want a committee to revise and review scholarships. They want a committee to plan Hall Usage (and establish fees). They want a Maintenance Committee, a Well Committee, and a Records Committee.
Last month, during the unpublicized revenue sharing meeting, the KLCL asked for another $6202.00 for maintenance/improvements in FY2011. They also have plans to upgrade the building's electrical by separating the meters to each building. They claim the increased wattage they gain will give them "more options" for community events.
Yet in October 2008, Kenny Lake's "success" was celebrated in a USDA Rural Development newsletter. Published 10/18/09, the article explains: the USDA provided a grant of $26,300 through the Community Facilities Program. According to Arlene Rosenkrans (USDA), "We use both halls for the annual community fair and local gatherings, but both buildings needed to be fixed." The Result? The USDA says Kenny Lake "now has two usable buildings."
Gay Wellman is a familiar name around Kenny Lake, as is her husband Dave. Together they own and operate a private Bed & Breakfast called the Wellwood Center on the Edgerton Hwy. Arlene Rosenkrans wrote an article about Gay in the May 6, 2010 Copper River Record where she listed all of Gay's associations and achievements. Arlene tells us Gay is a "skilled facilitator," openly referred to in London/EU academia as a Marxist Change Agent. Included in Gay's list of activities is, "She is a founder and Board Member of Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment (WISE)." WISE's spiritual mission in Kenny Lake is to remake local residents into more "enlightened citizens" who "make wise decisions."
WISE President Janelle Eklund is another active participant in the KLCL. She owns a private tourism company called Copper River Country Nature Tours. Together with WISE, Janelle runs nature walking tours from Copper River Princess that cost $119. per adult, $79. per child.
WISE offices appear to be housed at the Wellman's private home in Kenny Lake. The Wellmans also operate their for-profit School of the Earth out of their home based business. SOE is saving Mother Earth by "providing education, motivation, and support for constructive action." Costs for these classes are unpublished.
In FY 2008, WISE received $3000. from the CRSP pot. In FY 2009, WISE received $4000. from the CRSP pot. In FY 2010, WISE received $4000. from the CRSP pot. During the last revenue sharing meeting WISE requested $4000. for FY2011, "To continue student water shed program/camps/lectures." A request was also made on behalf of a new study proposed by Dave Wellman and his new group, The Willow Creek Watershed Consortium, for $4500., "to research the viability & longevity of Kenny Lake's only creek."
All funding requests from the Wellman's affiliate groups were granted.
Of the seventeen groups receiving CRSP funds since 2008, WISE ranks 5th, above Copper River EMS ($11,300. - 3 years), Kenny Lake School Association ($10,000. 1 year), Kenny Lake School ($8500 – 2 years), Kenny Lake School Track Association ($7500. – 1 year), Copper Nuggets 4-H Club ($6900. – 2 years). Obviously the Wellman's and their buddies on the League believe WISE enlightenment programs can be classified as serving a greater "public purpose" than the school, kid's sports programs and the all volunteer fire department.
In her December article praising Gay Wellman for all her good works, Arlene goes on to tell us "She is also an active member of Copper Country Alliance and the Wellwood Council. The Copper Country Alliance "was formed in 1992 to enable residents and friends of the region to speak out with a unified voice to protect its rural and wild character during a period of rapid tourist development, road construction, and change." It's a dues paying membership 501(c)(3) club.
What rapid tourist development are they referring to? I see nothing of the sort out here. In fact what I see could be more aptly defined as a steady decline in tourist businesses, at least for the ones not affiliated with WISE or the KLCL.
The Wellwood Council exists no where online so I don't have any information about it. I'm not sure if it has anything to do with the Well Committee getting $4000. in CRSP grants in 2008.
My proposal to expand kennylake.com to include a community toolbox, to form an online network for local businesses to advertise and market their goods and services, to establish a community classifieds section and provide detailed maps of local businesses and services was shot down by Paul Boos (WISE) and Billy Williams (Tonsina Agricultural Project, $16,500. – 4 years, above WISE on the CRSP list).
There is nothing going on out here that promotes local tourism, and the last big jump in visitor traffic that anybody noticed in Kenny Lake was when I first put up the website for the Kenny Lake Mercantile in Feb 2007. Sharon was full all summer and everyone commented on it. I volunteered a hundred plus hours to fill in her pages. I was sure it would be helpful to both locals and visitors, and the results were significant, immediate and profitable.
Now consider this:
"During the 2000 U.S. Census, there were 190 total housing units, and 47 were vacant. 33 of these vacant housing units are used only seasonally. 102 residents were employed. The unemployment rate at that time was 3.77%, although 67.62% of all adults were not in the work force. The median household income was $28,750, per capita income was $13,121, and 25.88% of residents were living below the poverty level." (State of Alaska census report)
Can we, as a community, really afford to ignore the reality of what is happening in our area? If we do not come together and find a way to promote local business and advertise our existence, our privately owned for-profit enterprises will become a thing of the past. Our children and grandchildren have so little opportunity for work here, and it seems to get worse every year.
Big Community Websites are very expensive to build and maintain, but that is the best and perhaps only way our small tourist businesses can compete for visitor traffic against the big corporate tour company (and its WISE affiliates). So yeah, I thought it made sense to utilize a busy site that's already up and has a gorgeous template, plus, the owner has already agreed to donate more of her web pages to the community. Should anyone of us wonder why Gay Wellman wrote and suggested perhaps I should build the League a website, along with her condolences that I lost the bid to expand kennylake.com?
Allegations of KLCL fiscal irresponsibly have been made and there are some community members who think a federal audit is needed. There are several other stimulus programs intended to "help" Kenny Lake that are under the direction of these same WISE people.
The Copper River Country Stories Mapping Project is also supposed to help promote tourism in our region. It will not include anyinformation about local services and goods. It won't help the local tourism businesses (besides the Wellmans, Eklund, Boos and other WISE businesspeople) but it will fulfill all the data gathering requirements for Asset Based Community Development. (Let Your Assets Be Your Guide, AK Rural CAP 2007).
On June 15, 2010 at 7pm the KLCL will again hold a public meeting to give you an opportunity to comment on bids and apply for a piece of the $55,302.00. You do not need to be a non-profit to apply, nor do you need to be a group. But I would hope that you would propose things that are actually going to benefit the community, or, at the very least, vote for proposals that don't favor and promote one type of tourism business over another. Also, I don't know about you, but the KLCL sure looks to me like it's expanding into a soviet/council/quasi-judicial government agency that uses the same M.O. as some other wiseguys I know.
P.S. Happy 100th Birthday to Kenny Lake, Chitina, and the Richardson and Edgerton Highways! We were established in 1910 on the very first roads ever built in Alaska. Isn't it amazing how the organizations irrevocably dedicated to Kenny Lake, the KLCL, the Copper River Development Association and the Copper River Country Chamber of Commerce, all agreed to completely ignore one of the American Businessman's greatest marketing tools, the Centennial Celebration? Too bad there wasn't any grant revenue money available to fund this big event. Every business out here could have made money off it.
Niki Raapana, Website Content Manager for CampRedington.com and KennyLake.com 2007 to present, artist/creator of "Kenny Lake - Chitina Business Fun Map 2009", manager of The Terrain Depot, on the Wayside, Chitina, Alaska, opening summer 2010