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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: 17 min 23 sec ago

Borough School Honors Redington, Sr.

Wed, 2014-05-07 11:12

 

A spring downpour did nothing to dampen the spirit of the day. Matanuska Susitna Borough mayor Larry DeVilbiss, wearing a hard hat, stood with other state and Borough officials and school district leaders to work gold painted shovels into the dirt for the ceremonial first dig at the construction site.

“This is the first major school project in ten years.  And this is a complex, it includes high school, middle and elementary school. So, it’s a big step out into the future where our growing center is. “

DeVilbiss says the school project is keeping up with the growth in the area. He says if Knik -Fairview incorporated, it would be the fifth largest city in the state.

The new Joe Reddington, Sr, junior/senior high school will house some 550 students as soon as the doors open in the fall of next year.  Catherine Esary,  spokeswoman for the Mat Su School District, says it will be a junior -senior high school to begin with, then convert to a high school.

“Actually, we have enough students out here to fill it. When we open it, it will be full, because we’ll be bringing kids from Wasilla middle and high school. We have twenty portables there now. So this will help decrease that crowding. And also, we have two elementary feeder schools already at Knik and Goose Bay. They house 400 and 450 students, so we already have 800 kids ready to come. You know, these are not built out into the future, these are just in time construction projects, which we thank our voters for.”

 The 65 million dollar project is being paid for out of a bond package that Borough voters approved in 2011.

Barbara Redington, Raymie Redington’s wife and daughter in law of Joe, says she’s proud the school is named after him

“It’s such a great honor for Joe, and for Vi [Redington].  What an honor for Joe, especially in the Knik area, where he homesteaded. He homesteaded here to Knik in 1948.”

The once remote Redington homestead now fronts on one of the busiest highways in the state.  Despite the congestion along Knik – Goose Bay Road, the school ‘s location about a mile off the highway is quiet and surrounded by forest.

Construction machinery droned in the background during the event. Bulldozers were still leveling the recently cleared 103 acres for the project.

Mike Brown with the Borough’s capital projects department, says the plan calls for a second school to be built on the site after the new building is complete. The two schools will address over crowding in Borough schools. I’m Ellen Lockyer

 

Categories: Alaska News

National Science Foundation To Deploy Seismic Sensors In Alaska

Tue, 2014-05-06 18:03

Alaska is the place to be if you want to study earthquakes. In a year, it has as many earthquakes as all the other states combined. Scientific study of those quakes is beginning to ramp up significantly as the National Science Foundation deploys a new network of seismic sensors this summer.

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Alaska has dozens of seismometers that measure earthquakes, but they’re mostly clustered around Southcentral, Fairbanks and on the volcanoes of the Alaska Peninsula.

Over the next five years the state will be getting many more – close to 400 of them, funded by the National Science Foundation through the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, or IRIS. The instruments going in are state of the art, says IRIS spokeswoman Perle Dorr.

“They can detect movement of a magnitude six earthquake from anywhere around the world, they can detect movement of about the thickness of your hair,” Dorr said.

IRIS has the whole region mapped out in a grid. Every 43 miles there’s a dot, marking the target for one of these seismometers. Some of them mark equipment already in place, but for many of the dots, somebody has to get there and spend a couple of days auguring out a hole, if possible in bedrock, and cementing one of these instruments, looking much like a tin can, in there, then setting up the solar collector and communications array. All the while dealing with weather, mosquitoes and wildlife. Firearms training is required.

This will be the Transportable Array, spread all over the state, into Canada, and in the Bering Sea. Peter Haeussler of the U.S. Geological Survey says they will be seeing earthquakes they would not have seen before.

“And with this instrumentation that’ll be in places in Alaska where there has never been a seismometer before I think we’re gonna learn a lot about seismic activity in say Western Alaska, Northwestern Alaska or Northern Alaska that we had no idea even existed before,” Haeussler said.

The array has already been in and out of 1700 sites across the continent. When an earthquake happens it takes about a day for all the data to come in, but it is made available to researchers and the public at once on a website called “earthscope.”

“Every time there’s a large earthquake that’s recorded by the transportable array in North America we make animations of the waves moving through the array, and so for some like the Virginia earthquake in 2011, the stations were in the Midwest at the time and it was like watching ripples on a pond move through the seismometers,” Andy Frassetto, an IRIS hardware specialist, said.

The array gives geologists a much better picture of what’s going on under the surface. It will find faults nobody knew existed and Frassetto says it will be a big help in assessing earthquake risk.

“Being able to understand the rate and distribution of earthquakes is really key to assessing where strain is accumulating, which areas are actually releasing and transmitting stress, and it really allows you to have a complete picture of what the earth is doing,” Frassetto said.

Last week the Seismological Society of America had its annual national meeting in Anchorage, partly to talk about the array and partly because of the anniversary of the great Alaska earthquake – the event that convinced scientists the continents move and collide, causing volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Peter Haeussler says information provided by the array is certain to answer some basic scientific questions about the forces that built the Alaska Range, blew up Katmai and are shaking Cook Inlet.

“And so there’s this piece of crust that was kind of ripped off of somewhere like the British Columbia margin, came northward, started colliding into the southern Alaska margin somewhere around 25 million years ago, and sort of doing a “right punch” into Southern Alaska,” Haeussler said. “And in that process there has been more than one oceanic plate that’s been sort of diving down underneath the margin.”

“I have no doubt that after this array is installed that we’re gonna be much better able to image these slabs that are down there at depth, and what’s happened to them in this really 25 million year period since that collision began.”

In a sense, scientists now start waiting for a big earthquake. With this much instrumentation in place, it would be a scientific bonanza. But earthquakes operate in geologic time scales, and after 2018, it’s not clear how much more the National Science Foundation will put into the project. What happens to any given site next would largely be up to the organizations involved.

“And I think there would be hope that at the end of the period that the National Science Foundation is supporting this array that we be able to keep some of these instruments out there so we could have a much longer record of what’s happening in the earth’s crust here in Alaska,” Haeussler said.

Sometimes, as when the array came to Wyoming, even more instruments get added.  In that case, scientists got answers to basic questions about how the Rocky Mountains were formed.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska’s UAV Test Site Begins Operation

Tue, 2014-05-06 18:02

The University of Alaska’s status as a Federal Aviation Administration unmanned aerial vehicle test center is official. Events in Anchorage and Fairbanks marked the start of operations on Monday.

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Categories: Alaska News

GCI Turns 3G On In Bethel, Faces Lawsuit

Tue, 2014-05-06 18:02

The same week that GCI turned 3G on in Bethel, attorneys served the company with a lawsuit. It alleges that GCI over-promised and under-delivered on its wireless, smart phone and data-plans.

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GCI spokesperson David Morris confirms the company activated 3G service in Bethel on Wednesday, April 30th at around 5am. Morris says GCI customers in Bethel should now see data service on their phones.

The GCI cell tower in Bethel. (Photo courtesy GCI)

“You would have seen a dramatic increase in speed. 3G is generally data, faster emails and things like that. The texting doesn’t change. The voice really doesn’t change. Like I said, there might be a slight improvement but the biggest improvement is on the data side.”

3G is a system that delivers data somewhere between 10 and 20 times faster than the previous 2G network that was available in Bethel, says Morris.

GCI has been working on getting 3G service since it was awarded a federal grant from the FCC in late 2012. GCI was hoping to have service available by late 2013 but problems with towers delayed service until April 30th. The next phase of 3G rollout will be getting service to 9 villages surrounding Bethel.

“This Summer we will deploy in additional villages around the Bethel area. And that will be 3G services. And right now we’ve been notified that we are eligible to receive an approximately 44 million dollar grant to deploy 3G and 4G services in 48 additional rural communities over the next two or three years.”

These improvement come after years of what customers say is unsatisfactory service, saying it’s often unreliable or does not work at all. David Henderson, a Bethel attorney filed a lawsuit against GCI on April 22nd.

“They’ve failed to live up to what they promised in their contracts, which is reliable data plans and reliable cell service. And that’s violated unfair trade practices and laws in Alaska and basically committed fraud.”

The lawsuit on behalf of four plaintiffs seeks past damages and goes back two years. Henderson says GCI has been requiring people in Bethel to have data plans that work intermittently or not at all since they took over cell service in 2008.

“All the people in this community have been paying for something they have not been able to get. GCI knows that. If somebody calls up GCI and says I’m not getting any data. My data plan doesn’t work they’ll give them a credit. But people shouldn’t have to call up and ask for a credit when GCI is charging for something they knowingly can’t provide, and they’re advertising to people that they can provide it and they’re not telling people when they sign up for it that they can’t provide it and that’s the issue.”

The lawsuit asks that a minimum of $500 dollars be paid to each GCI cellular customer in the Y-K Delta region. Damages may be larger for smart phone customers who Henderson says were forced to pay for data. The lawsuit also calls for damages for those with basic cell services, on the grounds that calls are repeatedly dropped.

GCI has spent more than 50 million dollars in federal grant money and about 150 million dollars of their own capital to build the infrastructure for cellular and other telecommunications services for Bethel and 69 other rural Alaska communities.

Categories: Alaska News

Bethel City Council Confirms Code And Policy Violations

Tue, 2014-05-06 18:02

The Bethel City Council met Monday night in executive session for three hours with the attorney they hired to conduct an investigation into nepotism, contracts, and personnel issues.

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City Manager Lee Foley was placed on administrative leave two weeks ago as a result of the investigation. His status did not change Monday, but the council came back on the record for a minute to confirm that there indeed has been improper behavior within the city.

Mayor Joe Klekjka made a statement when the council reconvened at 9:30 p.m.

“There were code and policy violations,” said Klejka.

Those were for actions related to procurement, nepotism, credit card usage, personnel policies, leave, and travel and training policies.

Klekja said the council will be taking remedial measures. He explained after adjournment that the Bethel city code is a living document.

“You’re always trying to improve, trying to have the best actions come out of it, and when you find new things to improve it you do those. Additionally, we’re going to need to put some checks and balances in place to make sure the violations that occurred don’t happen in the future,” said Klejka.

Klejka said the city may be looking to hire a human resources director or procurement officer.

The council authorized $40,000 to pay for the investigation. They specifically looked at contracts to demolish the old police station and those with former finance director Bobby Sutton, plus leases at the sandpit, among other personnel issues like intimidation of employees, among other thing.

The city is not releasing the report prepared by the law firm as they are considering it attorney-client privileged communication. Mayor Klejka said that council may be preparing a public document, but he was not certain Monday night.

Categories: Alaska News

Online Realtor Says Sitka Tops State In Livability

Tue, 2014-05-06 18:02

Sitka has won a spot on top of yet another list. The online realtor Movoto says Sitka is the most liveable community in Alaska. Just ahead of Anchorage and Juneau.

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Categories: Alaska News

Great Land Trust Planning To Buy Top Of Bodenburg Butte

Tue, 2014-05-06 18:02

The Great Land Trust plans to buy the top of Bodenburg Butte in Palmer.

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The Great Land Trust plans to buy the top of Bodenburg Butte in Palmer. Trust executive director Phil Shephard says fundraising for the project starts immediately. Shephard says when the purchase is made, the top of the Butte will be donated to the Matanuska Susitna Borough.

“The trail up Bodenburg Butte is the most popular trail in the Mat Su Valley. And this parcell came up. We haven’t purchased it yet. We have a purchase agreement, and we will be raising money. “

 The Borough has not allocated any funds to the purchase as yet, Shephard says. But the Borough will be the land’s caretaker after the purchase is made.   The 40 acres at the top of the Butte is owned by the Alaska Mental Health Lands Trust at present.

“Everyone was really surprised that Mental Health Trust owned the top of the Butte. And, you know, to be able to say ‘Yes, I helped to buy the Butte’ is a pretty rare thing, and so, we’re excited to know that people are excited to be able to help out. We need to bring dollars from the local community to the project.”

 Shephard says the Greatland Trust needs to raise 187,500 dollars for the purchase by the end of this summer. The area is one of the Mat Su’s most loved hiking destinations and a local landmark, noted for its views of Knik Glacier, the Palmer Hayflats and the Chugach Mountains.

A fundraiser for the Butte purchase is set for May 8 in Wasilla.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Juneau Woman Found Off Salmon Creek Trail Dies

Tue, 2014-05-06 18:02

A 61-year-old woman died after being found in the water off Salmon Creek Trail near Juneau Sunday afternoon. Her body is being sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Anchorage for an autopsy.

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Bartlett Regional Hospital employee Sandra Gelber was a physical therapist in the Rehabilitation Services Department.

Capital City Fire/Rescue responded at 4 p.m. to a 911 call about an unconscious woman, says Assistant Chief Ed Quinto.

Sandra Gelber was found in the water off Salmon Creek Trail about a mile from the gate. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

“A couple hikers reported to dispatch that they were on Salmon Creek Trail, that they found a female in the water along one of the creeks along the trail. It was approximately about a mile up from the gate. She was in the water. They brought her up, started doing CPR and they called us,” Quinto says.

Quinto says Gelber was found approximately 100 yards past where the road is washed out, and about 40 feet off the trail downhill. He says she was unconscious and in critical condition.

It’s unknown how long she was in the water before she was found.

“It appears like she was either hiking or jogging up there. She was dressed in jogging clothes and we don’t know how she got into the water,” Quinto says.

An ambulance transported Gelber to Bartlett Regional Hospital. She was pronounced dead there around 4:30 p.m, according to the hospital.

Bartlett spokesman Jim Strader says Gelber arrived at work Sunday morning and was done with her shift at 3 p.m.

“We’re kind of in shell shock to be honest. She was very, very well loved by all of her coworkers and her patients as well,” Strader says.

Gelber joined Bartlett in 2009. Prior to that, she was at Sitka Community Hospital. A statement sent to hospital employees by interim CEO Jeff Egbert described Gelber as “an avid outdoors person” and “she died doing what she loved best; out on the trail, appreciating the beautiful place we call home.”

Gelber leaves behind husband Tim Riley and two college-aged children.

AEL&P closed Salmon Creek Trail at the end of January when an 80-foot section of the road was washed out. AEL&P put an orange safety barrier around the slide and reopened the trail last week.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: May 6, 2014

Tue, 2014-05-06 17:29

Individual news 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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National Science Foundation To Deploy Seismic Sensors In Alaska

Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage

Alaska is the place to be if you want to study earthquakes. In a year, it has as many earthquakes as all the other states combined. Scientific study of those quakes is beginning to ramp up significantly as the National Science Foundation deploys a new network of seismic sensors this summer.

Alaska’s UAV Test Site Begins Operation

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The University of Alaska’s status as a Federal Aviation Administration unmanned aerial vehicle test center is official. Events in Anchorage and Fairbanks marked the start of operations on Monday.

Mallott Leaving Sealaska To Focus On Campaign

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

Democrat Bryon Mallott will leave Sealaska’s board of directors next month to spend more time campaigning for governor. The move shakes up an already contentious board election.

Bethel City Council Confirms Code And Policy Violations

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

The Bethel City Council met Monday night in executive session for three hours with the attorney they hired to conduct an investigation into nepotism, contracts, and personnel issues.

GCI Turns 3G On In Bethel, Faces Lawsuit

Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel

The same week that GCI turned 3G on in Bethel, attorneys served the company with a lawsuit. It alleges that GCI over-promised and under-delivered on its wireless, smart phone and data-plans.

Juneau Woman Found Off Salmon Creek Trail Dies

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

A 61-year-old woman died after being found in the water off Salmon Creek Trail near Juneau Sunday afternoon. Her body is being sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Anchorage for an autopsy.

Great Land Trust Planning To Buy Top Of Bodenburg Butte

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

The Great Land Trust plans to buy the top of Bodenburg Butte in Palmer.

Online Realtor Says Sitka Tops State In Livability

Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka

Sitka has won a spot on top of yet another list. The online realtor Movoto says Sitka is the most liveable community in Alaska. Just ahead of Anchorage and Juneau.

Categories: Alaska News

Mallott Leaving Sealaska To Focus On Campaign

Tue, 2014-05-06 11:07

Bryon Mallott will leave Sealaska’s board of directors next month to spend more time campaigning for governor.

He’s served on the Juneau-based regional Native corporation’s governing body – or been its CEO – since 1972.

Mallott, a Democrat, is all but assured to challenge Republican Gov. Sean Parnell in the November general election.

 

Byron Mallott, Democratic candidate for governor, will leave Sealaska’s board next month to concentrate on his campaign. (KTOO News)

In a press release, he said he would complete his term, which ends at the corporation’s June 28th annual meeting. But he will not seek re-election to the board.

Sealaska Chairman and former state Sen. Albert Kookesh says the board supports Mallott’s decision.

“I think it was good step that he took to, one, allow him to concentrate on the governor’s race and, two, open it up for shareholders so he didn’t just hold onto his seat and have to give it up after that if he got elected,” he said.

Mallott could not be immediately reached for comment.

When Sealaska board incumbents leave, they often step down before the next election. The board then appoints a replacement, who can run as an incumbent.

Mallott’s decision leaves an open seat with no heir-apparent. That eases the way for other candidates. They include a recently-announced slate of shareholders with business experience outside the corporation.

“The people who are running on that slate have good intentions,” Kookesh said. “They want to run a clean race and I commend them for that. But we also have people who are independents who are running. And you have to commend them and recognize their want to be involved too.”

Sealaska will distribute ballots to its almost 22,000 shareholders on May 15th. They must be cast by June 26th.

In addition to Sealaska service, Mallott’s been Yakutat and Juneau mayor, Alaska Permanent Fund executive director and Alaska Federation of Natives president.

Categories: Alaska News

Weather Forces Alaska Airlines Flight To Land At JBER

Mon, 2014-05-05 18:30

An Alaska Airlines flight from Chicago to Anchorage took an unexpected detour to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on Monday afternoon.

“As Flight 139 was preparing to land in Anchorage, a fog bank rolled in and the pilots elected to land at Elmendorf Air Force Base,” Nancy Trott, a spokesperson for Alaska Airlines, said.

Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson is an alternate airport for air traffic, if needed.

Passengers were transported to the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport by bus.

The plane refueled at JBER and made the short flight back to the Anchorage airport on Monday afternoon.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Villages Find Success With Wind-Diesel Energy Combination

Mon, 2014-05-05 17:54

It’s hard to use wind as a main power source because it fluctuates. But four small Alaskan villages have succeeded in creating an innovative wind-diesel system that works even in harsh, variable weather conditions.

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Categories: Alaska News

Oil Producers Get Break On Alaska Property Taxes

Mon, 2014-05-05 17:54

Public documents show Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration worked out a deal with Alaska’s major oil producers that allows the companies to withhold tens of millions of dollars in property taxes.

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The Anchorage Daily News says the 2013 deal occurred after producers disagreed with the state board that set the value of the trans-Alaska pipeline.

The deal was negotiated after an attorney for the oil pipeline owners complained in a June 2013 email that the State Assessment Review Board set the value for the pipeline too high, raising the tax bill for oil companies.

The deal to give oil companies at least a temporary break emerged in public view in April when some of the municipalities that receive property taxes on the pipeline appealed the state’s 2014 valuation.

Categories: Alaska News

State Hurrying To Update Rural Infrastructure Before Federal Dollars Diminish

Mon, 2014-05-05 17:54

Federal money for rural infrastructure is drying up, and state agencies are overhauling projects while they still can. With Alaska’s brief construction season about to begin, state officials are hurrying to bring airfields, roads, and other Bush infrastructure up to standard before funds get scarce.

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Categories: Alaska News

‘Second Shake’ Rattles Noatak, Northwest Brooks Range

Mon, 2014-05-05 17:54

Just two weeks after the strongest earthquake in the region in more than 30 years, residents of Noatak and others near the far western edge of the Brooks Range felt another series of powerful quakes over the weekend.

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Mike West is a state seismologist and director of the Alaska Earthquake Center in Fairbanks. He says the 5.5 magnitude quake that struck at 12:57 a.m. Saturday May 3 came nearly two weeks to the day after an even stronger 5.6 quake on April 18.

“There were quite a number of earthquakes all through Saturday that were part of this aftershock sequence of this second earthquake,” West said.

Saturday’s quake was just that: an earthquake, not an aftershock from the April temblor.

“That’s a little weird for us because it doesn’t fit the aftershock paradigm,” West said. “It’s as large as the original earthquake … and was followed by its own series of aftershocks.”

Those aftershocks were similarly strong, with seven rated a magnitude four or stronger. West said the two strong quakes, both followed by powerful aftershocks, are likely caused by the same geological forces.

“It’s important to think of this as a sequence,” West emphasized. “Stress was building up through the normal movement of plate tectonics, and that needed to be relieved. The earthquake on April 18th, (Saturday)’s earthquake, all the aftershocks from both of those, are all sort of part of this process.”

Like April’s quake, the Saturday event was felt about 20 miles to the south in Noatak, at the giant Red Dog zinc mine, and even in Kotzebue. Despite the power of the “second shake,” West said there’s no danger beyond frayed nerves on the horizon. Nonetheless, he said the Earthquake Center is visiting Noatak and Kotzebue this week to install seismology equipment for better observation of the activity.

“We have plans right now to install probably two seismic stations in an around the source of the earthquake,” West said Sunday. “This is driven not so much by a concern of things to come, but we just want to be prepared, and frankly, better understand why these earthquakes occurred in the first place.”

The last time the region saw seismic activity on par with these two most recent quakes was back in 1981, when West said a 5.5 quake struck in roughly the same area about the same distance from Noatak.

Categories: Alaska News

Burst Water Pipe Likely Cause For Skagway Ferry Dock Sinking

Mon, 2014-05-05 17:54

Western Marine Construction began working early Tuesday to refloat the dock. (Photo courtesy Jeremy Stephens, Alaska DOT&PF)

State transportation officials agree that a burst water pipe likely caused the Skagway ferry dock to sink last month. Repairs continue in hopes of getting the dock operational and returning ferry service to the Southeast community within the next week.

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The state is making repairs and some modifications to the dock now that it’s floating again.

Department of Transportation spokesperson Jeremy Woodrow says it’s not yet known how much the salvage and repairs from the sinking will cost the state.

Woodrow says the state is hoping to resume ferry service to Skagway on May 11. A final decision on that timeline will be made later this week, he said.

Categories: Alaska News

Juneau Considers Solutions To Housing Shortage

Mon, 2014-05-05 17:53

City officials are hoping to address Juneau’s longstanding housing shortage by opening more public land to development.

The Juneau Planning Commission recently recommended about 150 acres of city-owned land on Pederson Hill be rezoned to allow a residential neighborhood to be built. The idea is to copy the early 20th century-style subdivisions of downtown Juneau and Douglas. But not everybody is happy about the proposal.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: May 5, 2014

Mon, 2014-05-05 17:19

Individual news 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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Oil Producers Get Break On Alaska Property Taxes

The Associated Press

Public documents show Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration worked out a deal with Alaska’s major oil producers that allows the companies to withhold tens of millions of dollars in property taxes.

Alaska GOP Aims To Block Party Coups

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

The Alaska Republican Party has taken measures to prevent a takeover by libertarian and Tea Party activists. The new rules say a person has to be registered as a Republican for at least four years before seeking a top leadership position, and they require all candidates for the party’s statewide offices to be vetted by a special committee before they can run. The rules were adopted on Saturday, at the Alaska Republican Party’s biannual convention.

Alaska Villages Find Success With Wind-Diesel Energy Combination

Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage

It’s hard to use wind as a main power source because it fluctuates. But four small Alaskan villages have succeeded in creating an innovative wind-diesel system that works even in harsh, variable weather conditions.

‘Second Shake’ Rattles Noatak, Northwest Brooks Range

Matthew Smith, KNOM – Nome

Just two weeks after the strongest earthquake in the region in more than 30 years, residents of Noatak and others near the far western edge of the Brooks Range felt another series of powerful quakes over the weekend.

Warm, Dry Weather Prompts Southeast Alaska Fire Warning

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

A fire warning issued last week for northern Southeast Alaska has been expanded to the whole region.

Breakup Underway Along Yukon River

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

Breakup along the Yukon River is underway. Warm temperatures over the weekend and low water levels mean river ice is rotting in place before it has a chance to jam up.

State Hurrying To Update Rural Infrastructure Before Federal Dollars Diminish

Zachariah Hughes, KNOM – Nome

Federal money for rural infrastructure is drying up, and state agencies are overhauling projects while they still can. With Alaska’s brief construction season about to begin, state officials are hurrying to bring airfields, roads, and other Bush infrastructure up to standard before funds get scarce.

Burst Water Pipe Likely Cause For Skagway Ferry Dock Sinking

Margaret Friedenauer, KHNS – Haines

State transportation officials agree that a burst water pipe likely caused the Skagway ferry dock to sink last month. Repairs continue in hopes of getting the dock operational and returning ferry service to the Southeast community within the next week.

The state is making repairs and some modifications to the dock now that it’s floating again.

Department of Transportation spokesperson Jeremy Woodrow says it’s not yet known how much the salvage and repairs from the sinking will cost the state.

Woodrow says the state is hoping to resume ferry service to Skagway on May 11. A final decision on that timeline will be made later this week, he said.

Alaska Airlines Center Adds New Dining Option

Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage

With around four months left until it’s slated to open, the University of Alaska Anchorage is tweaking the design of its new sports complex. The university has decided to add a new restaurant in an effort to draw in the surrounding community.

Juneau Considers Solutions To Housing Shortage

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

City officials are hoping to address Juneau’s longstanding housing shortage by opening more public land to development.

The Juneau Planning Commission recently recommended about 150 acres of city-owned land on Pederson Hill be rezoned to allow a residential neighborhood to be built. The idea is to copy the early 20th century-style subdivisions of downtown Juneau and Douglas. But not everybody is happy about the proposal.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Airlines Center Adds New Dining Option

Mon, 2014-05-05 16:05

(Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

With around four months left until it’s slated to open, the University of Alaska Anchorage is tweaking the design of its new sports complex.

The university has decided to add a new restaurant in an effort to draw in the surrounding community.

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Though much of the finishing work remains, the interior of the Alaska Airlines Center is beginning to take shape.

From the newly-installed floor of the performance gym, which is lit largely by natural light streaming in through a number of massive windows, you get a good idea of just how central it is to the building’s design. Two levels of stadium seating – capable of holding about 5,000 spectators – surround the floor.

Coaching offices overlook the gym. And, peering up to the top floor you can see five hospitality suites with a prime view of the court. According to Tlisa Northcutt, the director of development for Seawolf athletics, those suites aren’t the only thing occupying the arena’s upper-most level.

“There’s also a restaurant going in that will be like 360 days a year; it’s not just for campus, it’s really meant to be kind of an addition for the community in this area,” she said. “It’ll be known as Varsity Sports Grill.”

Northcutt says the grill will be open for lunch and dinner daily, and should seat approximately 100 people at its indoor tables.

Team locker rooms are nearing completion. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

“There’s also a lovely patio; it’s amazing; it has a great view,” Northcutt said. “It will actually be able to expand the seating for most of the year. They’re looking at putting propane heaters and that sort of thing out there too.”

The patio – which faces the Chugach Mountains to the east – should fit around 80 people.

The restaurant is a late addition to the arena’s original design, and was approved by the University of Alaska Board of Regents in April.

Bill Spindle is the vice chancellor for administrative services at UAA.

“It’s not the classy brew pub where they’re brewing their own beer, but it has a lot of the characteristics of a brew pub,” Spindle said. “It’ll be something like if you went to the Glacier Brewhouse, it’ll be something similar to that.”

“It’s a place where you can have a really good meal and a drink if you want.”

Though the restaurant will have some food options for students, its focus is to bring in others who live and work in the surrounding area.

Beer and wine will be for sale at the restaurant, which, according to Spindle, marks a shift in UAA’s alcohol policy.

“The University has not allowed alcohol on campus except for specific restricted events, so we have redone our policy and got approval from the chancellor for the arena only, to have beer and wine at particular events,” Spindle said.

In addition to allowing the sale of beer and wine at the Varsity Sports Grill, the new policy will also enable alcohol sales at athletic events, though details about that process are still in development.

UAA Athletic Director Keith Hackett hopes the restaurant will help make the new sports center into a community destination.

“When people come to sporting events, 75 percent of them go out to dinner before or after an event, so, what our hope is, is that those people that are going out to dinner choose to come to the Varsity Sports Grill,” Hackett said.

The restaurant will be operated by NANA Management Services.

Spindle says the Alaska Airlines Center is still on track to open Sept. 5.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska GOP Aims To Block Party Coups

Sun, 2014-05-04 16:15

The Alaska Republican Party has taken measures to prevent a takeover by libertarian and Tea Party activists.

The new rules say a person has to be registered as a Republican for at least four years before seeking a top leadership position, and they require all candidates for the party’s statewide offices to be vetted by a special committee before they can run. The rules were adopted on Saturday, at the Alaska Republican Party’s biannual convention. Party Chair Peter Goldberg says the changes are a reaction to a coup staged by a group of Ron Paul supporters at the 2012 convention.

“Two years ago, people that were not Republicans were registering to become Republicans on the day of their district conventions and participating,” says Goldberg. “That’s really not appropriate.”

The insurgents elected a libertarian-leaning chair and vice chair, but the Alaska Republican Party’s old guard kicked them out of office last year.

Very few of those insurgents were present at this year’s convention, which was held in Juneau. But the 2016 convention will happen in Fairbanks, making an influx of dissidents more likely.

If that happens, Goldberg says the new rules will make it harder for party outsiders to seize control.

“That’s all it is — just to make sure that the people that participate as Republicans really, in their hearts, are Republicans, and they’re not just showing up to try and change the course of the party,” says Goldberg.

The convention delegates adopted the changes with significant support, but not without protest.

Lance Roberts, a delegate from Fairbanks, was part of the 2012 takeover, and he repeatedly tried to amend the new rules. He believes Republican moderates are trying to shut out the rightwing.

“I think it’s completely the wrong direction,” says Roberts. “We should be more open, more honest, and we should be inviting of these people.”

In addition to changing party rules, the convention delegates condensed the Alaska Republican platform. Sections on education and crime were streamlined, and specific provisions on school vouchers, embryonic stem cell research, assisted suicide, and the teaching of creation science were removed.

There was also a failed effort to strike language opposing the expansion of gay rights, with a third of the party delegates voting to take those sections out of the platform.

The Alaska Republican Party also passed a resolution opposing a ballot initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol, with support from 75 percent of the delegates.

Categories: Alaska News
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