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Back to Stebbins: Fuel tank work proceeds after threats from 'young punks'

Suzanna Caldwell
Alaska Community Photo Library

A work crew back in the Western Alaska village of Stebbins, with security guards in tow, expects to complete a $10 million fuel tank project on time next month, perhaps even early.

Village teenagers threatened workers earlier this month, prompting them to flee town. Meera Kohler, head of the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, said the STG, Inc. work crew returned to fuel tank project Monday. Two security guards, hired through Nana Management Services, joined them.

The tanks are expected to provide heating fuel to Stebbins and the nearby village of St. Michael this winter.

STG Project Manager Dave Myers said the quick response from the community and Alaska State Troopers made it possible for the five-person crew to return quickly. “I'm confident the community will get their fuel,” he said.

Several days of Stebbins youth stealing four-wheelers, breaking down fences and threatening workers led to workers leaving the island community of 600 people earlier this month.

The situation escalated early Aug. 5, when a worker was taunted and followed back to the work site after recovering a stolen four-wheeler. A group of young people between the ages of 14 and 17 circled the fence and taunted the worker for up to an hour, screaming they were going to “get the white.”

Not until other crew members arrived with pistols was the threatened worker able to leave the front end-loader he had climbed into for safety.

The workers were flown out of Stebbins that day.

Two of the youth, both 17, were arrested by Alaska State Troopers. They were transported to the Nome Youth Facility and charged with various counts of assault, vehicle theft, harassment, reckless driving and criminal mischief.

Kohler said the workers felt better about going back to Stebbins, knowing that the suspected ringleaders had been arrested.

After a meeting between the cooperative and STG, the community pledged to support the returning workers by providing a village police officer (VPO).

Some of that support has been returned. Myers said that company security guards helped the Stebbins VPO intervene in a domestic dispute Wednesday evening.

Myers said he plans to keep the security guards on site through the weekend as insurance.

Contact Suzanna Caldwell at suzanna(at)alaskadispatch.com