The community of Stebbins has seen an uptick in runway vandalism recently.
City Administrator Joan Nashoanak says 10 runway lights have been reported broken since the beginning of June. And she says that’s probably because kids are now out of school.
“Of course, kids are still out after midnight, and I’ve posted signs around town asking parents to keep your kids in after midnight. It’s an ongoing problem for years. It hasn’t changed.”
What has changed is the size of the problem. Nashoanak says this is the most lights that have ever been reported broken at one time.
She says the issue puts a strain on already-strained police officers, especially since the Stebbins runway is currently serving two communities while St. Michael’s runway is being expanded.
“We have a budget set for our cops, and of course, every year, it goes at least 20, 30 thousand dollars over budget, because they go overtime.”
Jason Sakalaskas, with the state department of transportation, says each light could cost between $3000 and $4000 to replace. Most of that is in travel costs for maintenance workers. He says the only way the department could collect reimbursement is if Alaska State Troopers were to file an official report and someone were found guilty. Otherwise, the repairs are covered out of the operating budget.
Nashoanak says she doesn’t know which kids might have been responsible.
Runway vandalism is a problem across rural Alaska. Rates are highest in the Yukon-Kuskokwsim Delta.
To report information on community vandalism, call the City of Stebbins at 934-3451.
This story has been updated.
Image at top: The Stebbins runway in June 2018 (photo: Gabe Colombo, KNOM).