Thursday, October 27, 2011

Palmer on tap

Photo by Rindi White
Arkose co-owner Stephen Gerteisen pours a growler of "Blue Skies" Wednesday.

Beer lovers, rejoice! At long last, Palmer is home to a microbrewery.

Stephen and June Gerteisen this month opened Arkose Brewery, named for Arkose Peak and Ridge in Hatcher Pass, in the Palmer Industrial Park. They’re located at 650 East Steel Loop, off Outer Springer Loop.

Blue Skies Golden Ale, which Stephen Gerteisen described as a “malt-forward, smooth-drinking, light-bodied, approachable draft beer,” is currently the only beer Arkose has on tap. An IPA, Wild Like the Wind, will be added to the lineup Friday, Gerteisen said. A pale ale, not yet named, should be on tap Nov. 4. 

A large grey barn-like building in the Palmer Industrial Park is Arkose’s home. Gerteisen said he and June looked all over Palmer for an appropriate brewing spot and found that the industrial park specifically lists breweries as an allowed use. The garage-like setup works well for the brewing and fermenting equipment and there’s a large walk-in cooler to house brewed beer. A tasting room (dubbed the “Growler Cache”) up front has four taps and a rack full of Arkose gear.

Asked if a brewpub is in Arkose’s future, Gerteisen said he plans instead to focus on getting his beer on tap at local restaurants. He’s a brewer, not a foodie. But pleasant pairings are planned – a beer tasting is planned at Rusty’s at Dahlia Street in Palmer. Gerteisen said the event is planned for 7 p.m. Dec. 3.

What makes Arkose’s beer stand out from the rest? Freshness and good ingredients, Gerteisen said. Like vegetables and just about anything else that can be consumed, beer just tastes better from the source, he said.

Arkose is open Tuesday through Saturday, 2-7 p.m. Find out more at their web site,

-- Rindi White

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Seniors celebrate new digs

Rep. Carl Gatto addresses the crowd
It took nearly 18 years to build, but perhaps it was worth the wait. Palmer Senior Center has moved to its new building on South Chugach Street and has a new name - Mat-Su Senior Services. Anyone who visited the old building, just down the street, is familiar with the cramped rooms, lack of storage and abundance of files that seemed to appear in every corner, including a bathroom.

The new place has oodles of storage, a large and welcoming dining hall, roomy kitchen and plenty of office space for the numerous services offered for local seniors.

Kitchen staff made a field of tasty treats.
At the grand opening Wednesday, local and state dignitaries were on hand to congratulate the seniors on their perseverance in obtaining funding for the new center. Rep. Carl Gatto, who represents Palmer and has been pushing for project funding for several years, said as a former fireman, he cringed at seeing the state of the old senior center.

"If anything was a fire hazard, that building was one," Gatto said. He called the new building "the Taj Mahal for seniors."
Gift shop volunteer Lynne Atkin shows cozy wrist
warmers to Senior Center driver Caralee Kleewein and her
 mother, in foreground, Mona Smith, of Anchorage. 

It certainly is an improvement over the old center and there are many fun new spaces, from a library and TV room with floor-to-ceiling shelves and a game room with a pool table, to a roomy workout area with a flock of exercise equipment and several meeting areas. Perhaps one of the nicest additions is a gift shop near the front doors that sells lots of Alaska made items. It was one of the most popular attractions at the grand opening celebration and is open to the public throughout the week.

-- Rindi White

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Smoking ordinance fizzles

Smoke 'em if you got 'em, Palmer. The city council last week voted down a smoke-free ordinance, 4-3. Only four bars on South Alaska Street would have fallen under the new law that banned smoking in public places; all the eateries around town are already no-smoking zones by choice. Apparently Palmer isn't unique -- and the vote might not be the last word on the issue. Kenai and Soldotna voted down an ordinance in 2009, according to Becky Stoppa, with Breathe Free Mat-Su. The city of Wasilla considered a measure in 2005 to ban smoking in public places but allow it in bars and places with fewer than four employees. That city council let the measure die on the table. Nome tabled an ordinance back in 2007, but officials there passed it in May of this year, Stoppa said. A smoke-free zone ballot measure in Sitka failed in 2004 and passed in 2005.  

-- Zaz Hollander

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Winner of the coffee card!!

And the winner of the Get the Word Out $20 coffee card is:


Dan, please send us an email at palmerpostnews (at) gmail (dot) com to claim your prize. Please let us know where you like to get your java so we can buy it from the right place!

Thanks to everyone for helping us get the word out!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Anatomy of a Gold Miner story

There were lights on at the old Gold Miner hotel recently. Anyone curious enough to take a peek in one of the building's giant windows will see construction debris - corded up drills, levels, pieces of masonry laying around. After almost three years of sitting vacant, of languishing as Palmer's version of the giant tan elephant  on the southern end of downtown, there are signs of life.

So I decided to get the skinny. And I started at Sicily's Pizza, the Anchorage-based chain that houses a buffet off Dimond and recently opened branches in Wasilla and Palmer's Key Bank plaza. My husband is a huge fan and came home carrying a pizza box and a rumor that Sicily's had bought the Gold Miner building and planned to open a buffet there.

Yay! I thought.
Not so, said Palmer Sicily's manager, John Selimi. "We're not going anywhere."
Bummer, I thought. As the mother of a teenage boy, I'm all for buffets. They're the cheapest places to eat out when you're the parent of a human food vaccuum.

But there is truth to the rumor that Sicily's owner, Lee Dubrova, has purchased the building. In my hunt to separate fact from rumor, I had to take a few steps back to review the building's recent history.  According to the Alaska State Fire Marshal's office, the business was initially closed in Jan. of 2008. (Just getting this date required a FOIA request faxed, followed by the one-sentence email from Lloyd McDonnell in the Anchorage office.)

Employees of that office out here were a bit more forthcoming. Mahlon Greene remembered health and fire code violations shutting it down.  Zaz wrote a story for ADN in April, 2009 that the hotel owed more than $100,000 in back taxes to the city.

All of these items contrived to relegate the once bustling Gold Miner to a shell.  Until now.
John Bond said the fire marshal's office is working "closely" with the new owner to make sure the building is up to code prior to opening. What exactly those plans are is still under wraps. Three phone messages for Dubrova left with Sicily's reservation number - all with the same woman-with-a-Russian-accent - resulted in zero return calls. (One would think they wouldn't mind a little positive publicity but alas. Nyet.)

Three phone calls to Sandra Garley, community development director for the city, also resulted in nada.  No idea what happened to the $100K bill.  Evidently, bureaucrats/business owners have higher priorities than answering the questions of a humble resident/pizza patron.

Fortunately, we bloggers have all kinds of free time. :)  If Sicily's ISN'T hosting a buffet there, fingers crossed they're not going for yet another bar. Karaoke or otherwise. So what would you like to see there?  A three story flea market? A bunny boots outlet? Or another community meeting space that'll relieve the crowding at the Palmer depot?  Speculate away!

--Melodie Wright

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Palmer election results - a change for the council

A new face with a familiar last name will be joining the Palmer City Council, along with incumbent Brad Hanson: Linda Combs, wife of former Palmer mayor John Combs, longtime local volunteer and bookkeeper. With results still unofficial and some votes to be counted, Combs actually came out ahead of Hanson and former council member Mike Chmielewski. The top two vote-getters win seats in Palmer elections. Combs got 230 to Hanson's 228 when polling places closed last night. Chmielewski trailed with 163. More votes remain to be counted, though it doesn't appear they'll change the election outcome. Some 61 early, questioned, absentee by-mail and special needs ballots will be counted Friday at 2 p.m. in council chambers.

A proposition to spend up to $2 million in bonds on water and wastewater system improvements passed handily, with nearly three-quarters of the unofficial results in the yes column.
Oh, and here's a little something from the Post soapbox. Boroughwide, bonds for both road improvements and school capital improvements passed last night. Wondering how much of an increase you'll see? Click here for the school district's estimate on paying for their $215 million bond.
Yesterday's turnout in Palmer was a ho-hum 14 percent. Looks like the other 86 percent of the city's 3,855 registered voters gave up the right to complain about their government this election cycle...not to mention their property taxes.