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Get Alaska statewide news from the stations of the Alaska Public Radio Network (APRN). With a central news room in Anchorage and contributing reporters spread across the state, we capture news in the Voices of Alaska and share it with the world. Tune in to your local APRN station in Alaska, visit us online at APRN.ORG or subscribe to the Alaska News podcast right here. These are individual news stories, most of which appear in Alaska News Nightly (available as a separate podcast).
Updated: 19 min 31 sec ago

Iditarod Front-Runners Looking Forward To Time Away From Competition

Thu, 2015-03-19 08:11

Aliy Zirkle talks briefly with her mom at the Iditarod finish line. She carried a picture of the two of them in a sled bag for 1000 miles because her mother couldn’t be in Nome this year. (Photo by Emily Schwing)

The top-10 Iditarod mushers have arrived safely in Nome and their sled dogs are tucked in for a long rest in the dog yard. For most of the front-runners, a top-10 finish is nothing new.

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When Aaron Burmeister arrived in Nome, he received a warm welcome from his hometown. He rode the runners with his 6-year-old son Hunter for the final stretch down Front Street and crossed under the burled arch in third place.

“We’re happy, very, very happy,” he said. “The team did incredible. We had a fantastic race from start to finish.”

Aaron Burmeister in Kaltag. (Photo by Emily Schwing)

Of his 15 Iditarod finishes, this is Burmeister’s fourth in the top-10. It’s also a career best.

“I’m just honored I was on the runners this year driving them to Nome,” Burmeister said.

But he wasn’t ready to commit to another run down the trail next year. Burmeister says he’ll reevaluate his priorities and his kennel first.

“My little man here is 6-years-old and my daughter is two, and my wife – they haven’t seen their dad a whole lot the last few winters,” Burmeister said. “So, it’s time I spent a little bot of time with the family and do some other things. I’ll certainly be back but there’s other things in life besides Iditarod.”

Jessie Royer also finished with a career best in fourth place.

“Well you always try to do your best,” she said. “I’ve been top-10 before, this is my first top-5, so that’s pretty exciting. I just come into this race every year just to do the best I can with this team.”

Before she took off from White Mountain, she said she was looking forward to crossing the finish line so she could get some sleep. Beyond that, she says she has plans to travel with her dog team, but only for fun.

“I’m excited – not excited for the winter to be over, but I’m going to do some spring camping trips with the dogs after this and just go have so fun with them and not worry about all the serious training,” Royer said. “We’re going to go up to the Brooks Range and go caribou hunting and just fun stuff now.”

Jeff King, who finished in 7th place this year, will run one last race next month before he also takes his dog team out for a less competitive adventure.

King: “I’m taking the team up to the Brooks Range to go caribou hunting with my future son in law… I’m going to have a little talk with him and a gun and a dog team out in the woods.”
Reporter 1: “Is that a threat?”
Reporter 2: “Or a promise?”
King: “…both!”

This was King’s 23rd complete Iditarod. He has finished 19 of those races in the top-10.

“A few first for me, for sure, and after this many years of racing, they’re harder to come by…spectacular northern lights around Galena, got chased by a seal, and saw a wolverine today,” King said. “Going to Huslia was a first, and Koyukuk was really fun, so lots of wonderful memories for this trip.”

Jeff Kings team ate “like pigs” in Kaltag on Saturday night. (Photo by Emily Schwing)

Early in the race, he had the makings of winning team, but by Unalakleet, King decided to slow down. He hinted that his days of hard-core racing might be behind him.

“I enjoy not being in quite as big a rush. I really do,” he said. “I don’t want to rush my whole life. I like to do a great job with the dogs, I enjoy travelling by dog team so much, it’s such a huge part of my life and I don’t want to rush it.”

But one musher who would have liked to arrive in Nome a little faster is Aliy Zirkle.

A large crowd gathered to cheer on her team as they sped under the burled arch in fifth place.

A tearful Zirkle greeted her lead dogs, taking a moment with one in particular: Scout.

“In the dog yard, he’s the fun police,” she said. “He doesn’t like a lot of other dogs having fun around him. He’s that way on the trail. He’s all business. He’s a fantastic guy.”

Zirkle broke away from media to greet her fans, shaking hands, giving and receiving hugs and chatting with the crowd as her dog team jumped in harness and begged to go.

She didn’t comment on whether she will return for another Iditarod, but her husband Allen Moore is still out on the trail, driving a team of up-and-coming young puppies.

Categories: Alaska News

Dallas Seavey Predicts His Winning Team Will Be Back

Wed, 2015-03-18 18:29

Photo courtesy of KNOM, Nome.

 

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Dallas Seavey is the winner of the 2015 Iditarod. This is his third win in four years. The 27-year old musher says he’s not the only young member of his team. Many of his dogs are only three years old.

Some sled dogs can race beyond the age of eight. Seavey says his team has a long future of competitive mushing ahead.

“You’re going to see these guys coming back again and again and again,” Seavey said. “That’s our focus is consistently being in the top.”

The repeat champion says he has enjoyed his previous wins, but he says this year’s championship is particularly meaningful.

Other top finishers included:  Mitch Seavey,  Aaron Burmeister, and Jessie Royer.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: March 18, 2015

Wed, 2015-03-18 17:54

Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.

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Dallas Seavey Predicts His Winning Team Will Be Back 

Emily Schwing, APRN Contributor

Dallas Seavey is the winner of the 2015 Iditarod. This is his third win in four years.  The 27-year old musher says he’s notthe only young member of his team.  Many of his dogs are only three years old.

MDA Boss Favors Radar Over Missile Site In East

Liz Ruskin, APRN-Washington, DC

The director of the Missile Defense Agency on Wednesday suggested Alaska’s Fort Greely should remain central to the nation’s ground-based missile defense operations, at least in the near term. In Congress, some members have cheered the idea of a new missile site in the East, an idea the Pentagon is studying.

Murkowski: No Confidence In USFS Plan In Tongass

Liz Ruskin, APRN-Washington, DC

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski says she doesn’t see any good news for the families in Southeast Alaska that still depend on the harvest of Tongass timber. She says nothing Congress does seems to increase the national timber harvest, and Murkowski told Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell at a budget hearing on Wednesday she’s not confident the transition to second-growth in the Tongass will work.

House Pushes Back Deadline for Financial Disclosures

The Associated Press

The Alaska House has passed legislation pushing back the date by which legislators and other public officials must file annual financial disclosures. HB 65 would move the filing deadline from March 15 to May 15. A minority-led effort to keep the reporting deadline for legislators as March 15 failed.

Walker, Mallott File Income Reports

The Associated Press
Gov. Bill Walker and his wife each reported income of between $100,000 and $200,000 for the sale of their law firm. The information is included on the financial disclosure Walker filed Sunday. The Walkers each reported between $200,000 and $500,000 in capital gain on the sale of business properties. Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott reported at least $1 million in income upon resigning from the Alaska Air Group board.

Wishbone Hill Coal Project Draws Lawsuit

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA-Anchorage
The Trustees for Alaska are going back to court to fight a federal okay for coal mining at Wishbone Hill in Palmer.  Trustee attorneys filed a lawsuit in federal court in Anchorage on Wednesday on behalf of the Castle Mountain Coalition and other groups opposed to coal mining in the area.

Mat-Su Assembly Rejects Pot Vote

Phillip Manning, KTNA-Talkeetna
The Mat-Su Borough Assembly unanimously opposed Mayor Larry DeVilbiss’ request for an advisory vote on banning commercial marijuana operations in unincorporated areas of the Valley.

State Pulls Funds for Knik Arm, Juneau Access Road from STIP

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA-Anchorage
The state has amended a transportation plan to delay two large projects.  Funds for the Knik Arm Crossing and the Juneau access road have been pulled from the 2012- 2015 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, or STIP.

Sac Roe Herring Fishery Quieter This Year

Rachel Waldholz, KCAW-Sitka
The Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery is a quieter affair this year, as the fleet conducts its first fully cooperative fishery since the mid-90s.

Officials ID Port Accident Victim

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA-Anchorage
Officials have identified the victim of a fatal accident at the Port of Anchorage last Friday as Charlie Tom “WD” James, Jr.

Food: Source of Comfort or Division?

Anne Hillman, KSKA-Anchorage
Is food a source of comfort–or division? How can it be used to spark conversations about global conflicts? Those are the questions Anita Mannur is asking in her upcoming talk called “Kitchens in Crisis” at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Mannur is a professor of Asian & Asian American studies at Miami University in Ohio. She says her research looks at ways in which food can bring people together, or push them apart.

Freeride World Tour Comes to Haines

Emily Files, KHNS-Haines
Some of the best big mountain skiers and snowboarders in the world are in Haines this week for the Freeride World Tour. After taking on slopes in France, Andorra and Austria, the tour is holding its first ever Alaska stop.

Categories: Alaska News

Out North re-opens with “A Perfect Arrangement”

Wed, 2015-03-18 17:34

After a two year hiatus, Out North Theater in Anchorage has re-opened. And their newest show harks back to their beginnings–raising awareness of new artists and social issues.

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“The Perfect Arrangement” starts out like the perfect 1950s sit-com. Three couples sit around a living room discussing hors-d’oeuvres and mixed drinks.

“Please everyone, eat up! If there are any of Norma’s canapes left over, I’ll eat every single one!” exclaims one character.

But the show soon takes a turn — the perfect couples have a dangerous secret. They are hiding their sexuality while others are being persecuted for that very same reason.

“Every poor bastard that you fire walks right by my desk, sobbing and destroyed,” exclaims one of the women. “And I sit there, staring at my wedding band, feeling every inch the fraud I am. And today that got to me, okay? When Oswald Mews, who you know is not a damn fag, walked out with his life in shambles, unemployable, fired for something that isn’t even true for him but is very true for us, it got me.”

Out North’s first production since their temporary closure deals with the Lavender Scare, when government employees were fired for being homosexuals. It’s being produced by Anchorage’s newest theater company, Walking Shadows. Company founder Krista Schwarting says “The Perfect Arrangement” is helping fill the gap of socially conscious productions in Anchorage. She says equal rights and treatment for LGBT community are still issues today.

“I’m still watching all of these debates happening of a marriage still being between a man and woman. Yes, we have come a ways. But we still have a ways to go.”

Out North Board President Caleb Bourgeois says the play fits the organization’s history and mission perfectly.

“Out North is this 30-year-old organization that started as an LGBT theater company, so producing plays that at that time really were not in public sphere, not in the public eye of Anchorage.”

Bourgeois says the organization took a break in 2013 because of financial troubles. The board laid off staff, reorganized and now they’re back, offering work space for artists and theater companies, and a radio station that plays local music and podcasts.

“But Out North is just special because it privileges the underdog and really gives that opportunity for the emerging artist or the underrepresented artist or person to be able to share their story and their voice.”

The west coast premiere of “The Perfect Arrangement” by Topher Payne starts in Anchorage Thursday night at Out North Contemporary Art House.

Categories: Alaska News

Wishbone Hill Coal Project Draws Lawsuit

Wed, 2015-03-18 17:14

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The Trustees for Alaska are going back to court to fight a federal okay for coal mining at Wishbone Hill in Palmer. Trustee attorneys filed a lawsuit in federal court in Anchorage today (on Wednesday) on behalf of the Castle Mountain Coalition and other groups opposed to coal mining in the area. Vicki Clark is an attorney representing the plaintiffs.

“At this point, you know, folks have been very concerned about a big new coal mine that could go in right next door under a permit that was issued decades ago,” Clark said. “And they really want the opportunity to participate in making decision on that in in getting current information, and so our clients want to challenge that decision.”

The Castle Mountain Coalition filed the suit against the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement [OSM] for its decision last November to allow Usibelli Coal to operate at Wishbone Hill. Plaintiffs allege the Wishbone Hill mining permits, now owned by Usibelli Coal, are expired.

The status of the mining permits has been in question for some time. But last year, the OSM upheld the state’s decision to renew the permits, while criticizing the state’s handling of the matter. OSM’s Robert Postal  said the state had erred by not officially terminating the permits in the first place.

The Castle Mountain Coalition represents about three thousand Matanuska Valley residents.

Categories: Alaska News

Mat-Su Assembly Rejects Pot Vote

Wed, 2015-03-18 17:10

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The Mat-Su Borough Assembly unanimously opposed Mayor Larry DeVilbiss’ request for an advisory vote on banning commercial marijuana operations in unincorporated areas of the Valley.

Categories: Alaska News

State Pulls Funds for Knik Arm, Juneau Access Road from STIP

Wed, 2015-03-18 17:09

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The state has amended a transportation plan to delay two large projects. Funds for the Knik Arm Crossing and the Juneau access road have been pulled from the current Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, or STIP.

Shannon McCarthy, a spokeswomen for DOT says STIP outlines how transportation funds are to be spent.

“So amendment 13 moved funding for Knik Arm and Juneau access road out to the next fiscal year,” McCarthy said. The amendment also corrected a funding error with the Inter-island Ferry Authority Vessel Refurbishment project .

Amendment 14 addresses scope, funding and scheduling issues on several projects around the state.

Categories: Alaska News

Officials ID Port Accident Victim

Wed, 2015-03-18 17:07

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Officials have identified the victim of a fatal accident at the Port of Anchorage last Friday as Charlie Tom “WD” James, Jr.

James was a longshoreman under contract with Sea Star Stevedoring, and became pinned in between military vehicles as they were unloaded. The incident is under investigated by the federal arm of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, based in California.

James was a veteran of both the Army as well as the Anchorage Fire Department, where he served for 34 years

Categories: Alaska News

Sac Roe Herring Fishery Quieter This Year

Wed, 2015-03-18 17:04

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The Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery is a quieter affair this year, as the fleet conducts its first fully cooperative fishery since the mid-90s.

Categories: Alaska News

Lecture Addresses Food, Conflict, and Culture

Wed, 2015-03-18 17:01

Anita Mannur

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Is food a source of comfort–or division? How can it be used to spark conversations about global conflicts? Those are the questions Anita Mannur is asking in her upcoming talk called “Kitchens in Crisis” at UAA. Mannur, an associate professor of Asian & Asian American studies at Miami University in Ohio, says her research looks at ways in which food can bring people together, or push them apart.

“And I think that’s for me rooted in my own personal history as an immigrant [from India]. As a child, sort of being embarrassed about the kind of food I would have to bring and it marking me as different and wanting to be the same as everyone around me and not wanting it to smell different.”

But Mannur says food can also be a vehicle for talking about larger issues. She says some restaurants, like Conflict Kitchen in Pittsburgh, only serve food from countries that are involved in conflicts with the United States, like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Cuba. There, food is used as a teaching vehicle, get people to talk about the stories and histories connected to the foods.

Mah-nor will be speaking at the UAA Library room 307 Thursday night at 6 pm.

Categories: Alaska News

Freeride World Tour Comes to Haines

Wed, 2015-03-18 17:00

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Some of the best big mountain skiers and snowboarders in the world are in Haines this week for the Freeride World Tour. After taking on slopes in France, Andorra and Austria, the tour is holding its first ever Alaska stop.

Categories: Alaska News

Northern Lights Put on Big Display Tuesday Night

Wed, 2015-03-18 15:49

Tuesday night, the Upper Valley experienced an impressive display of the Aurora Borealis. The lights are caused by particles from the sun being thrown into space and interacting with the charged particles in Earth’s ionosphere, which begins about sixty miles above the surface. This is referred to by scientists as a geomagnetic storm. Donald Hampton researches those storms for the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He says the geomagnetic storm on Tuesday was very rare.

“It’s kind of a once-every-ten-year kind of storm. Just the magnitude and the duration were quite spectacular, actually.”

Geomagnetic storms are rated on a scale of one to five, based on their intensity. This week’s event was rated a G4, or ‘severe,’ storm. On Tuesday, the northern lights were visible across substantial areas of the Lower 48. Storms that strong also have another effect, however. Donald Hampton says communications systems, such as telephones and radio, can be impacted when their signals hit the ionosphere.

“That plasma actually reacts to that electromagnetic wave going through there, and it can do things like attenuate it, so the signal you think you’re going to get out of the other side may be a lot weaker. So, instead of hearing a radio station ten miles away, you might only be able to hear it one mile away, or something like that.”>>

No significant outages were reported in the Upper Valley as a result of Tuesday’s geomagnetic storm, meaning that the event amounted to nothing more than an impressive light show.

Categories: Alaska News

MDA Boss Favors Radar Over Missile Site in East

Wed, 2015-03-18 15:10

Testimony from the director of the Missile Defense Agency today suggests Alaska will likely remain the cornerstone of the nation’s ground-based missile defense operations, at least in the near term. In Congress, some members have cheered the idea of a new missile site in the East. The Pentagon is considering locating one in Maine, New York, Ohio or Michigan.

But Missile Defense Agency Director James Syring says he doesn’t believe that’s a priority now.  Someday, he says, the program would benefit from a third U.S. missile site, in addition to the existing ones at Fort Greely and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Together they’re slated to have 44 interceptors by 2017. But he says his investment priority is Long-Range Discrimination Radar, a system likely to be built in Alaska also.

“The LRDR is critically important to where I see the threat from North Korea going in the near future, with the capability of becoming more complex, requiring more interceptors, and us, and the war fighter needing the assurance that we have persistent track and discrimination capability against that threat,” he said. “It is a must.”

Syring says he hopes to award a contract for the radar system by fall. Contractors were told to assume the system would be built at Clear Air Force Station, southwest of Fairbanks.

Categories: Alaska News

Murkowski: No Confidence in USFS Plan in Tongass

Wed, 2015-03-18 14:50

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski says she doesn’t see any good news for the families in Southeast Alaska that still depend on the harvest of Tongass timber. She says nothing Congress does seems to increase the national timber harvest, and Murkowski she’s not confident the transition to second-growth in the Tongass will work.

“I don’t disagree that you’ve got a hard job here managing things,” she told Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell at a budget hearing today, “but I don’t know what to tell the folks in the Tongass anymore.”

Putting some of the blame on environmental lawsuits, Murkowski says communities that used to rely on timber now have to rely on subsidies, like the Secure Rural Schools program. And, Murkowski says, the Forest Service budget for recreation in Alaska dropped some 23 percent over five years.

“So I’m discouraged. I’m just discouraged. Because I don’t where the communities I was born in, like Ketchikan, or raised in, like Wrangell, I don’t know where they go,” she said.

Tidwell says coping with the nation’s increasingly large forest fires is sapping his agency. But the Forest Service chief says, after years of decreases, the recreation budget for Alaska finally went up last year.

“This budget request does maintain that level of recreation funding. I wish it was more,” Tidwell said. “But until we can fix this fire issue, it takes up so much of our constraint, that we’re going to continue to see these impacts.”

The Alaska Wilderness League issued a written statement after the hearing endorsing an increase in recreation funding to support jobs in tourism and fishing.

Categories: Alaska News

Walker, Mallott File Income Reports

Wed, 2015-03-18 14:13

Gov. Bill Walker and his wife each reported income of between $100,000 and $200,000 for the sale of their law firm.

The information is included on the financial disclosure Walker filed Sunday. The report, required for certain public officials, allows for a range to be given for income and gifts. It says the firm was sold Dec. 1, when Walker took office.

The Walkers each reported between $200,000 and $500,000 in capital gain on the sale of business properties.

Walker spokeswoman Grace Jang said the Walkers’ Bootlegger Cove LLC owned what she called the prime downtown property which housed the firm and another business condo. She said the capital gains are from the sale of those units. Bootlegger Cove has since dissolved.

The Walkers maintain interests in other real estate.

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott reported at least $1 million in income upon resigning from the Alaska Air Group board.

Mallott, by email, said stock held as deferred income was transferred to him and taxed as ordinary income when he resigned from the board Dec. 1. He called it a one-time event after 32 years of service.

The financial disclosure report that public officials are required to file allow for ranges for the value of gifts and income.

A Mallott aide said Mallott didn’t have the exact figure with him, as he was traveling, but said it was around $1.7 million.

Mallott’s report also includes $20,000 to $50,000 in deferred compensation from Sealaska Corp. that Mallott says was triggered by his resignation from Sealaska’s board last year and is to be paid out annually.

Categories: Alaska News

House Pushes Back Deadline for Financial Disclosures

Wed, 2015-03-18 14:05

The Alaska House has passed legislation pushing back the date by which legislators and other public officials must file annual financial disclosures. HB 65 would move the filing deadline from March 15 to May 15.

A minority-led effort to keep the reporting deadline for legislators as March 15 failed. Rep. Scott Kawasaki, a Democrat from Fairbanks, said legislators owe it to the public to provide that information while in session.

Rep. Mike Hawker, a Republican from Anchorage, said the bill, which he sponsored, would not degrade the quality of information available to the public about legislators. He noted that candidates make financial declarations when they run, and their annual reports are on file. The change in date also includes those serving on boards and commissions.

The vote was 32-8 on reconsideration. The bill next goes to the Senate.

Categories: Alaska News

Juneau Cracks Down on Aggressive “Hawking”

Wed, 2015-03-18 13:53

Downtown Juneau. (Creative Commons Photo By Kyle Rush)

 

The Juneau Assembly has approved new enforcement measures designed to cut down on “hawking” — an aggressive form of commercial sidewalk solicitation also called “barking.”

Juneau police say the practice is on the rise, especially during the summer tourist season.

Lt. Kris Sell says downtown patrol officers will be working with local businesses this year to identify and stop hawking.

“Last year was when we saw what appeared to be our first professional barker, brought in from out of town — very good and very aggressive — and he was cited twice,” Sell told the Juneau Assembly. “And (he) did comment that it’s just a cost of doing business as long as he didn’t have to go to court.”

The previous penalty for hawking was a flat $150 fine no matter how many times a person was cited. The updated punishment includes a $150 fine for a first offense; a $300 fine for a second offense in a two-year period; and a mandatory court appearance for a third offense in two years.

Sell says JPD did one undercover sting targeting barkers last year, and she promised more this summer.

Kristy Chhabria is a South Franklin Street store owner, who says hawking is common in other tourist destinations. But she says the visitors who come to Alaska are looking for a different experience.

“Not to toot our own horn, but because we don’t do the barking and the hawking, it’s actually helped us,” Chhabria said. “Customers will come back after walking down and say, ‘We just love you. You guys aren’t out there harassing us.’”

The Assembly unanimously approved the new more strict hawking enforcement measures at its meeting last night. Some Assembly members commented that they wished the penalties could be even stronger.

 

Categories: Alaska News

That ’70s Home: How AHFC is Trying to Update Alaska’s Aging Housing Supply

Wed, 2015-03-18 13:44

Jan Miyagishima at the AHFC booth at the Juneau Home and Outdoor Living Expo. (Photo By Casey Kelly. KTOO-Juneau)

 

More than half of all homes in Alaska were built in the 1970s and ‘80s.

That’s according to an Alaska Housing Finance Corp. report released last year that highlighted the need for improvements to the state’s aging housing stock.

AHFC offers a variety of loan and rebate programs aimed at home renovations and energy efficiency upgrades. Corporation officials were in Juneau over the weekend to talk about some of those programs at the Southeast Alaska Building Industry Association’s Home and Outdoor Living Expo.

Amelia Harmon just moved to Juneau from Michigan and is considering buying her first home. She’s been looking online to get a sense of the market before she starts to shop for real.

“A lot of them look like they need some work, but that’s just from the outside,” she says of the homes she’s seen thus far. “I don’t know what they look like on the inside. I don’t like to judge a book by its cover.”

Harmon and her mom came to the Juneau Home and Outdoor Living Expo to get a better idea of what’s available. She says she wants something not too pricy, but also doesn’t want to put a lot of money into a fixer upper.

“Not a home that needs too much renovations and have to put more work into it than what you paid for,” she says.
Harmon stops at the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. booth, where there’s big sign with a floral print couch on it that says, “The 70s called. They want their house back.”

Jan Miyagishima, director of mortgage operations at AHFC, says most homes in Alaska are in the 35-year and older range.

“Doesn’t sound like it’s really old if you compare it to the East Coast. But the homes are getting dated,” Miyagishima says. “If you don’t keep up your home, it will decrease in value.”

Alaska Housing offers three renovation loan programs. Homeowners can get up to $312,750 in remodeling financed by having a full appraisal done on their property. Those looking to refinance their mortgages can qualify for a package that allows them to recoup money spent on improvements over the previous year and get an additional loan up to $50,000. Finally, there’s a purchase renovation loan that allows buyers to pay for up to $50,000 worth of upgrades through their mortgage loan.

Miyagishima says all three programs require a bid from a qualified contractor for the work to be done.

“This is allowing people to get the kitchen that they want, the bathroom upgrades,” she says.

AHFC does not actually loan money itself. Instead, it works with lenders like banks and credit unions to offer home financing to Alaskans. The state-backed corporation is like Fannie Mae orFreddie Mac, in that it buys loans from these lenders, and packages them into mortgage-backed securities that are sold to private investors.

Alaska Housing also operates the state’s home energy rebate programs, which can be used in conjunction with any of its renovation loans. These programs allow homeowners to get an energy rating to identify any issues. The rebate helps pay for the cost of improvements.

“The average rebate’s right around $7,000,” says Jimmy Ord, AHFC energy programs manager.

“Most Alaskans put in somewhere around $12,000,” he says. “So there’s a good investment from the homeowner and the state in the project.”
Alaska Housing also offers energy rebates for new home construction. But in recent years, Ord says the state has averaged fewer than 2,000 new homes per year. That’s why the heavy push to improve existing housing.

“Most of the infrastructure is already in place, so we have to look at how we’re going to move that infrastructure into the next generation,” he says.

Harmon, the potential home buyer looking to lay down roots in Juneau, says right now she’s more concerned about finding the right price than she is with renovations.

“It’s more expensive up here than where I’m from down in the lower 48,” she says. “But Michigan doesn’t have the views and the stuff that Alaska has to offer.”

And she says it’s good to know that options are available should she need upgrades for whatever home she decides to buy.

Categories: Alaska News

Dallas Seavey Wins The 2015 Iditarod

Wed, 2015-03-18 04:18

Defending Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey at the 2015 Iditarod ceremonial start. (Photo by Patrick Yack, Alaska Public Media)

Dallas Seavey crossed under the burled arch in Nome at 4:13 a..m. Wednesday, securing his second-consecutive Iditarod win and his third four years.

He finished the race in 8 days, 18 hours, 13 minutes and 6 seconds.

Seavey made the 22 mile run from Safety, the Iditarod’s final stop before the finish line in Nome, in three hours.

He finished the race with 10 dogs.

Dallas’ father, Mitch Seavey, is running in second place, approaching Safety.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Categories: Alaska News

Iditarod Leaders Leave White Mountain, Head For Nome

Wed, 2015-03-18 04:00

The top teams have left White Mountain and they are on their way to the Iditarod finish line in Nome. Spectators are unlikely to see a major shakeup in the front end of the field, but this year’s race is likely to end with career bests for many of the teams up front.

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As Tuesday progressed in White Mountain, it became clear that Dallas Seavey was the likely winner of this year’s Iditarod.

“I’m starting to think there’s a chance we could do this,” he said.

Mitch Seavey arrives in Ruby. (Photo by Emily Schwing)

Seavey has won the race twice before, but this year, he has says he’s had more fun than ever driving his team.

“You know we’re having a blast out here, we’re just musing,” he said.

Seavey left White Mountain with a four hour lead on another Seavey – his father, Mitch. Race officials joked that Dallas ought to stick around for a few extra hours and race Mitch in to Nome.

“No, I have too much respect for my competitors to do any showboating like that,” Dallas said. “I’m going to take every minute of my lead. If the wind starts blowing or if I end up having to carry ten of eleven dogs, this race, we’re so used to things going well, that we thing ‘oh that will never happen,’ it does happen.”

When he pulled into the checkpoint, Mitch Seavey said it’s been a long-time dream to see his family dominate the Iditarod leader board

“Well of course our dream finish would be one-two, with me in front of course,” Mitch said. “I thought it was agreed upon by the whole family. I just didn’t know how that would work out.…nah, it’s a great day, we’ll see how it all pans out. We still have to make it to the finish line.”

Both Mitch and Dallas Seavey are very competitive men, with extremely fast dog teams. The older Seavey knows better than to try and catch his son.

“That’s another thing about running tired dog teams,” Mitch said. “You don’t want to upset the apple cart. You just move along at whatever they are comfortable with and don’t let them fall asleep on you, but you can’t start whooping it up and going rodeo style, because you might not even make it.”

Seavey says it’s unlikely Aaron Burmeister can make up enough time to overtake his team. Even so, Burmeister remains hopeful.

“Well that’s a possibility,” Burmeister said. “That’s kind of the goal to be able to catch Mitch and I have no idea where Jessie is behind me.”

Jessie Royer arrived for her eight-hour layover less than two hours behind Burmeister, but she says the last few runs up the coast have taken a lot of energy out of her dog team.

“He’s mentioned before, I’m one person he does not want behind him at want mountain, because I have caught him a lot of times,” she said.

Royer says she tried to catch up, but she is also realistic about what her dog team can do in the next 70 miles.

“If I had caught like hour on him coming here, and all I had left was an hour on the way to Nome, sure,” she said. “But I’m not going to catch two hours on the way to Nome.”

The top few teams are likely to finish in the order they arrived in White Mountain, making for a less dramatic race in comparison to previous years, but they all know the race isn’t over until their dog teams pass under the burled arch.

Categories: Alaska News

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