Briefs from Svalbardposten for the week of Sept. 27, 2016


Number of kids under six down nearly 40 percent since 2013
The number of children five years of age and under has dropped nearly 40 percent during the past three years, according to Statistics Norway, although there is disagreement among officials about the cause. There were 157 children of that age in 2013, compared to 98 in the same ago group this year.  ages 0-5 years in 2013, while today there are only 98 in the same age group. Arnfinn Korsmo, head of the Confederation of Vocational Unions association Negotia, said he believes the decline is due to the layoffs at Store Norske. He said workers with the lowest seniority are generally laid off first and they often are people with young children. But Longyearbyen Mayor Arild Olsen said he disagrees, noting both the number of school-age children and the overall population has increased. “Part of the reason that downsizing has had little effect in the school and kindergartens is extensive commuting,” he said, referring to the common practice of Store Norkse workers to return to the mainland as part of their 14-days-on/14-days-off shifts. “Each employee is also at Store Norske longer than what we otherwise see in Longyearbyen. From that we can assume that there has been a natural phasing out in the school and kindergarten system due to age.”

Taxi company leader: City’s roads in worst shape ever
Roads throughout Longyearbyen are in deplorable conditions, with the road Bjoerndalen so badly damaged Svalbard Maxi Taxi is no longer willing to bring tourists there for sightseeing, said Rune Moen, the company’s general manager. “We have problems driving certain places because it is so uneven that the buses are taking hits and getting damaged,” he said. “The roads have never been as bad as now.” Store Norske does not plan to improve the road to Bjoerndalen because it no longer used by the company, said Sveinung Lystrup Thesen, the company’s property and administrative manager. City Operations Engineer Einar Olsen said the city is experiencing a backlog in repairs due to heavier than normal damage during the past year due to heavy flooding and softening permafrost. “There are also fewer people to distribute costs,” he said.