On Sunday, Talkeetna Wildlife Troopers arrested a man wanted in Idaho after conducting a traffic stop in Willow.
The driver, Dustin Simpson, is wanted for probation violation.
According to Trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters, Simpson’s probation was due to a charge of leaving the scene of an injury accident.
His probation violation earned him the label of “Fugitive from Justice.”
Simpson was taken to the Mat-Su Pretrial Facility, where he is being held on $500 bail.
A 6-year-old boy in Kwethluk was shot in the stomach while playing with a loaded pistol. Troopers received a report Monday from the boy’s father, 36-year-old Evon Savage. He says his son Marcus was playing with the .22 pistol when it fired and hit him in the abdomen.
He was medevaced to Anchorage where he underwent surgery for internal injuries. He was last listed in serous condition at Alaska Native Medical Center.
Two new prototype homes in Atmautluak don’t look like experiments. They’re rectangular with a slanted red roof. But how they were built: very quickly and with limited equipment, could serve as a model for other homes in remote communities.
The Cold Climate Housing Research Center builds a lot of advanced and experimental homes. This summer in Atmautluak, they helped on a project after being approached by the community
Jack Hébert is President and founder of CCHRC.
“It was the full package for us, because what we saw is the ability for job creation in Atmautluak, for training of a skilled workforce, and for demonstration for good building science for the region that would lower both construction costs and energy costs,” Hébert said.
The community formed a tribally owned construction company, Pikat Construction Company. Aaron Cooke is an architectural designer who drew up the house. He said the company took the leadership role.
“They’re handling not just the tool belt aspect, but the funding, the grant management, and ordering of materials. The did an incredible job of project management. They choose their own crew of carpenters, and laborers that they think have the most potential to stay on this crew,” Cooke said.
The crew included a member from each family that would live in the home. The new company had their work cut out for them. The project aimed to raise a home from bare ground in nine short weeks. But to throw another curveball in the mix, the community of 277 people has few construction tools at their disposal.
“Since they have no heavy equipment, we’ve got to keep that short season with manpower only, with our hands. And that’s when it gets very interesting, our solutions become more applicable to other communities,” Cooke said.
Crews moved the trusses and framing materials from the barge landing by balancing them between two ATVs and navigating the narrow boardwalks. The actual framing was designed to be fast, according to Cooke.
“Since the trusses have the floor diaphragm, the walls and the roof pitch all integrated into one cross section of truss, basically what you do it tip them up on in order on two foot centers, and what that means is that you can frame an entire house in one day,” Cooke said.
The three bedroom, 1,100-square-foot house is designed to use just 150 gallons of fuel oil a year. The use of a woodstove could cut down on the demand. The house is of course highly insulated with walls rated at R50 and floors at R60.
Other features include pilings that allow the homeowner to level it using just hand tools.
The CCHRC said they hope to be able to bring more of the process locally and manufacture the trusses in communities like Bethel. They would then move them out by barge in summertime, or even overland in the winter.
While the communities of Kotlik and Unalakleet have received attention from state-wide media and government following a large storm a week and a half ago, residents in Stebbins feel they have been ignored. During the storm, rushing water surged through homes and roads in Stebbins. Drying racks, smoke-houses, boats, steam houses, and several homes were damaged or destroyed. Flood waters poured in so rapidly that many residents were stranded in their homes until they could be rescued by a bulldozer.
Navajo code talkers were recognized more than a decade ago for their service in World War II.
They used their Native language as a code that the enemy was never able to crack, but until recently, no one knew that Tlingits from Southeast Alaska also served as code talkers.
They got their due Wednesday when Congress awarded a gold medal to the Tlingit and Haida Central Council. Much of their story remains a mystery.
Robert Jeff David Senior of Haines was a basketball legend in Southeast, a top fisherman and one of the first Sealaska board members. Charismatic and confident, he wasn’t one to keep his mouth shut when he had something to brag about. But his son, Jeff Jr., says he never said much about his service in the war.
“He told us he was in the Philippines during part of it; he said special services,” he said. “That’s probably all he could say.”
Jeff Junior says he only learned a few weeks ago that his dad, who died in the 1980s, was a Tlingit code talker.
At a Congressional ceremony attended by hundreds today, the Tlingits and 32 other tribes received congressional gold medals for their service to the nation as code talkers. They worked in pairs, usually over a radio.
During 48 hours on Iwo Jima, they say, 800 Native-language battle communications were received and translated. It took seconds, at a time when decoding by machine could take half an hour. House speaker John Boehner said the men undoubtedly saved lives.
“And after serving with honor they did the honorable thing, they kept their service a secret – even to those that they loved,” Boehner said.
The Defense Department declassified the Navajo program only in 1968. No one apparently, told Jeff David of Haines he could finally tell his story.
Former State Legislator Bill Thomas heard a few years ago the Defense Department was researching Tlingit code talkers. A few weeks ago he learned his old friend “Big Jeff” was one of them. Exactly what he did still isn’t known. Thomas says one of the mysteries is how the outspoken Jeff Sr. was able to keep quiet about it.
“I mean, I knew the guy all my life and I never knew, and my uncle Evans Willard was his best friend and I don’t think Evans knows,” Thomas said. “And we were talking last night, Evans is probably rolling in his grave or in heaven laughing at Big Jeff for having kept a secret for that long.”
Ozzie Sheakley received the Congressional Gold medal, on behalf of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida. Five individual Tlingit men, all deceased, were honored with silver medals. They are Jeff David, Richard Bean Sr., George Lewis, and brothers Harvey Jacobs and Mark Jacobs Senior. A little more of the service history is known of the Jacobs, who were from Sitka and Angoon. According to a history published in 2008, the brothers joined the Navy and skipped basic training to serve on picket boats, first in Southeast Alaska and the Aleutians, then in the South Pacific.
ConocoPhillips announced Wednesday that they are adding another new drill rig to the Kuparak oil field on the North Slope.
This is the second rig they’ve added this year since the new oil tax bill was signed into law. The drill rig they installed in May is producing 1,600 barrels of oil per day.
ConocoPhillips President Trod-Erik Johanson says the newest rig will start producing in January, but it’s not as easy to extract oil from the massive field as it used to be.
“The way we drill today, we could go further out on the flanks. We drill more convoluted well bores. We need more high-tech technology to go out there and do it,” Johanson said. ”And, yes, it is more difficult. So, it costs a lot of money, but under the current tax system we have now, after SB21 was passed, we can make this to go around and actually make economic sense. So, that’s why I’m doing it.”
Johanson says SB 21 also motivated his company to move ahead with their projects in the Greater Moose’s Tooth Field. They are applying for permits from the Bureau of Land Management. According to the BLM, it would be the first oil and gas produced from the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska and on federal lands in the state.
Johanson says the first step in developing NPR-A is finishing the infrastructure on Colville Delta Unit 5, which should start producing oil by late 2015. They already planned to develop that area even before the new tax plan.
If the Greater Moose’s Tooth Field is developed, it could add 30,000 barrels of oil to the pipeline per day.
Currently, oil production on the North Slope is declining by about 6% per year. Johanson spoke at the Resource Development Council conference in Anchorage.
The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has revised their proposed hydraulic fracking regulations again.
Some of the new rules aimed to give the public more information about the chemicals used in the controversial oil and gas extraction method.
However in the latest version, companies are allowed to withhold some information from the public in order to protect their trade secrets.
If the regulations are approved, companies could mark some formulas confidential and only the AOGCC would see them. If the public wanted the information they would have to seek a court order.
Barrett Ristroph with the Wilderness Society says this weakens the provisions that protect the public.
“Also, I think this is an issue of such great importance to the public, that the public should know ahead of time what’s going on in and around their property and the areas where they might hunt,” Ristroph said. “It shouldn’t have to take a court order, which can take months or even years, to get that information.”
Ristroph says waiting for a court order could be especially dangerous if there is a medical emergency potentially linked to ground water contamination.
During a hearing about the proposed regulations in October, oil industry representatives argued that the specific chemical mixtures for fracking fluids needed to be protected so that other companies did not steal them. They argued that without protections, they would not be willing to use their best recipes in Alaska.
Other changes in the regulations say that if landowners don’t give the operators permission to gather baseline data on their water wells then the companies will not have to test the wells later for contamination. Though baseline data gathering will be required, follow up testing will only be necessary if the commission requires it or a landowner complains.
The regulations will be discussed at a public hearing on January 15.
The state’s insurance director is resigning. Bret Kolb is leaving to become development director at Victory Ministries of Alaska, a bible camp and conference center based in Palmer. He has been on the job at the Division of Insurance for 18 months, during a time of incredible upheaval in the health insurance industry, with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Kolb says he doesn’t worry about leaving in the middle of that change:
“The division is well staffed. We have good people in place who understand the difficulties that are being faced. So between that and having a deputy director in place in Juneau who has insurance industry experience, I’m sure it will go on without a misstep.”
Kolb’s last day with the division will be December 19th. He’s working with health insurance companies now to figure out how to allow at least some individual plans that were supposed to be canceled starting in 2014 to continue. President Obama announced the so-called “fix” to the Affordable Care Act earlier this month following public outcry over canceled plans.
Kolb lives in the valley and says he’s looking forward to a much shorter commute with his new job.
The Anchorage Assembly heard final testimony Tuesday on what has become a controversial proposal to build a rec center in the city with indoor tennis courts.
The Assembly never asked for money for the project and accusations flew about how the tennis appropriation came about.
The tennis issue could not have come at a worse time for the Assembly. They’re finalizing their 2014 operating budget and preparing a capital budget request to send to Juneau, among other things.
The Assembly reordered the agenda to take care of more pressing issues and put tennis off until nearly the end of the night on what was a marathon day for the body. So at around 10 o’clock, a woman waiting to testify on tennis walked up to the podium without giving her name.
“I don’t know what the heck this even is but I am absolutely horrified at the way you guys are passing this around and not doing things in order. We’ve had the tennis people down here. We’re here to testify on something important … (Hall:) M’am we’ll get to you. Thank you. Thank you.”
The woman then walked out. About an hour later testimony was allowed. Assembly Chair Ernie hall acknowledged the delay.
“Now, Ladies and gentleman, our apologies,” Hall said. “We know that a lot of you are here to talk about tennis courts.”
“This is what we run into sometimes when we have a lot of testimony and we get things backed up.”
The Assembly has been considering whether or not to fund the Northern Lights Recreation Center, which would include indoor tennis courts. The Legislature approved millions of dollars for the project, but the Assembly never asked for it.
Tennis Association officials admitted they spoke with Mayor Dan Sullivan about the project and then lobbied Juneau directly, but did not consult the Assembly.
Racing the clock toward midnight, testimony from bleary-eyed supporters sounded like this:
“My name is Matt Henry. I think the Alaska Tennis Association did everything that we thought we were doing correctly to pass this through the public process.”
“My name is Scott Kolhaus. I’m also currently serving as the president of the Alaska Tennis Association. The issues that are being decided tonight are going to be decided this fall and tonight are the issues of whether or not high school tennis as we know it is gonna live or whether we’re gonna let it die.”
“I’m Zarina Clendaniel and I support building a public indoor tennis facility.”
But assembly members didn’t sound convinced and had questions about the appropriation.
Anchorage representative Lindsay Holmes, who holds a seat on the House Finance Committee reportedly secured money for the project.
Assembly member Bill Starr said he’d been doing some research on how the funding came about, and spoke with Republican Representative Bill Stoltz, co-chair of the House finance committee.
“I reached out to Bill Stoltz and he agreed to meet with me today along with chairman hall and Mr. Trombly and when I gave him the story that I had, and maybe it is a story,” Starr said. “I said what’s your story Mr. Stoltz. They said that Lindsay Holmes was told that she could have $4 million for that project. Does that make any difference in terms of legislative intent coming out of Juneau?”
Mayor Sullivan admitted that it was his office came up with the $10.5 million amount.
The Assembly chair says the body will likely take a vote on proposals related to the issue at their next meeting, Tuesday, Dec. 3.
The two proposals on the table would allocate less money for the project.
Earlier in the evening, the Assembly approved requesting $10.5 million for the facility in next year’s capital budget request to Juneau.
Anchorage residents will get relief from the clear and cold weather that has set in over the last few days, but the transition could be messy.
Forecasters expect temperatures to hover in the mid- to upper-teens on Thursday, with up to 2 inches of snow falling in the late afternoon and evening.
National Weather Service forecaster Bill Ludwig says the snow will likely turn into freezing rain early Friday morning, which will continue through most of the day.
“At this point, it really doesn’t look like we’ll have a heavy freezing rain event, that if we get some, it’ll be light, but sometimes you don’t need a whole lot to make things pretty nasty,” Ludwig said.
He says he expects less than a quarter of an inch of freezing rain accumulation.
Temperatures are likely to rise to around freezing by Friday afternoon. Then, between 3 and 5 inches of snow is expected Friday evening.
The National Weather Service is forecasting similar conditions for the Mat-Su Valley.
The federal government has finalized new guidelines on the use of sea otters by Alaska Natives. The change is aimed at better-defining a requirement that hides must be “significantly altered” in order to be considered authentic native handicrafts or clothing that can be sold to non-natives.
“These are guidelines and they are to help the native artisans to understand what exactly qualifies as significantly altered,” Andrea Medeiros is a spokesperson for the US Fish and Wildlife Service which has been working on the revised wording for more than a year
The final guidelines say a sea otter will be considered “significantly altered” when it’s not recognizable as a whole hide and has been made into handicrafts or clothing. The language goes on to define that in more detail.
It’s a positive step, according to the Sealaska Heritage Institute which teaches classes in the native tradition of skin sewing. SHI Chief Operating Officer Lee Kadinger says the new wording still needs some adjustment but, overall, he says SHI appreciates the change.
Kadinger thinks it helps clear up a term that, he says, has caused significant harm to artisans over the years, “Clarifying significantly altered to more align with the marine mammal protection acts original intent is…. we feel this language is going to help continue a tradition practiced since time immemorial without fear of prosecution….Protecting this inherent cultural right is not only good public policy but it supports and preserves cultural diversity and respects the traditions and lifestyles of Alaska Native people.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service’s new definition of “significantly altered” is very similar to language endorsed last year by the Alaska Federation of Natives. That’s with the exception of a line requiring that an otter skin be changed enough that it cannot be easily converted back to an unaltered hide or a piece of hide. According to Kadinger, S-H-I is concerned over the words “piece of hide” since it would be hard to prevent someone from cutting a piece of fur from finished clothing or handicrafts.
“We feel it is acceptable to require individuals, or an item, that cannot be converted back into an unaltered hide. Conversely, we feel including the few words ‘cannot be easily converted back into a piece of hide’ is unnecessary and problematic. So the real issue there is the four words ‘piece of hide’ that we hope to continue to work with Fish and Wildlife service to understand what that part means,” says Kadinger.
Sea otters are a federally-protected species and only coastal Alaska Natives are allowed hunt them. The revised language was, in part, prompted by concerns that unclear regulations and past enforcement actions had discouraged native use of the animals.
According to the agency, the final guidelines are based on input from a 2012 workshop with native artisans and hunters as well as extensive public comments on draft language that came out last spring.
Some commenters had found the draft language too restrictive. Others opposed the change as an attempt to weaken protections and encourage more hunting for the animals which have come into conflict with some of Alaska’s fisheries.
The state of Alaska has more time to develop a plan to improve Fairbanks air quality. An Environmental Protection Agency deadline that passed last year is now December 31, 2014. The new timeline also comes with more stringent requirements related to addressing Fairbanks wintertime fine particulate pollution.
Dozens of friends, former staffers and other well-wishers gathered Monday at UAF’s Rasmuson Library to celebrate what would’ve been former Sen. Ted Stevens’ 90th birthday.
Monday’s commemoration also marked the opening of a new exhibit in the library’s collection of Stevens’s official papers generated during his long career as a U.S. senator from Alaska.
There are many tales that are told of Ted Stevens’s nearly 40-year career in the U.S. Senate – like how he wore his Incredible Hulk tie on days when he knew he’d have to do some serious arm-twisting to get fellow senators’ support for a piece of legislation he was pushing.
Marie Matsumo Nash has heard a few of those tales during the 29 years she worked for Stevens, and she shared one of them Monday. Nash says many years ago Stevens asked her at the last minute to cook some salmon for a meeting of Republican lawmakers in Washington.
“We had to dress it up,” she said. “We were peeling the skin off and putting sliced cucumbers on, making it fit for the senators that were going to be eating it. So that wsas kind of fun. It was something that I’d never done.”
Now there’s another Stevens tale to add to the lore. It’s the story behind an exhibit of Alaska maps related to the senator’s career that UAF graduate student Susannah Dowds has set up in the Ted Stevens Papers Project in the Rasmuson Library.
“It was the first map of the United States that had Alaska in the correct proportion, in the correct position, and Hawaii in the correct proportion and the correct position,” she said.
Dowds says it’s called The Stevens Map because early-on in his Senate career, he directed the U.S. Geological Survey, the USGS, to publish a map that would clarify once and for all that contrary to how the state is depicted on many maps, Alaska is not some disembodied land mass located somewhere just off the coast of Baja California.
“When Alaska first became a state … cartographers just decided to put Alaska as an Insert south of California,” she said.
Dowds says over the years cartographers typically stuck Alaska somewhere near the lower left corner off the Lower 48, and usually at a much smaller scale than the rest of the states, because Alaska is so big, and so far away that it was impractical to show it in the correct place and size.
After it came out in 1975, the senator widely distributed copies of The Stevens map – and it quickly became very popular, especially among educators.
“He sent off copies to all the school in Alaska and we got letters from teachers, or his office did, and they asked for extra copies, because their students didn’t really know where Alaska was in relation to the rest of the United States,” Dowds said.
The “Mapping Alaska” exhibit will run through May.
A Sitka man was indicted last Friday for receiving a package containing over $30,000 worth of heroin and methamphetamine.
According to a criminal complaint filed in Sitka Superior court, a United States Postal Inspector had intercepted the package addressed to 35-year-old Jeremy Claggett on November 4, and notified the Sitka Police Department.
The package contained 1.63 ounces of methamphetamine and 24.8 grams of black tar heroin – quantities worth $9,000 and $24,000, respectively.
Four days later, police officers tracked Claggett as he picked up the package, traveled with it to an industrial site, opened and discarded the packaging, and drove away with its contents. Officers stopped traffic to detain Claggett on his way home.
According to court records, Claggett admitted to police that he had expected to receive a box containing controlled substances in the mail. He confirmed his address on the package. Claggett also admitted to being a convicted felon, and to possibly having handguns at his residence.
The Sitka Grand Jury indicted Claggett on four felony charges: possession with intent to manufacture or deliver heroin, possession with intent to manufacture or deliver methamphetamine, possession of a concealable firearm after having been convicted of a felony — this count applied twice for the two handguns found in Claggett’s possession.
Claggett’s next court appearance is scheduled for Wednesday, November 20.
Another member of Bartlett Regional Hospital’s leadership team is stepping down.
Chief Financial Officer Ken Brough will resign at the end of the year, according to a hospital news release. Interim CEO Jeff Egbert made the announcement in an email to hospital and medical staff and the Bartlett board of directors.
Brough has been with Bartlett since August 2012. He’s the third member of the hospital administration to resign or announce plans to resign in the past three months. CEO Chris Harff resigned last month, and Human Resources Director Norma Adams resigned in September.
Earlier this year, some hospital employees complained publicly about a culture of fear created by senior leadership officials. The city launched a personnel investigation in June.
When CEO Harff left the hospital in October, Brough was named acting CEO – an action that was questioned during public participation at last month’s board of directors meeting.
“How could the board allow Chris Harff to appoint Ken Brough as interim CEO knowing that both of them were under investigation?” asked Ron Gardner, spouse of Bartlett’s director of materials management Sue Gardner. The board did not respond to the question.
Brough plans to move to Prince of Wales Island, where he wants to build a fishing lodge and work as a health care consultant.
Egbert says Bartlett plans to name an interim CFO to serve during the search for a permanent replacement.
Bartlett Regional Hospital is owned by the City and Borough of Juneau. Its board of directors is appointed by the Juneau Assembly. It operates largely on patient fees.
KTOO’s Casey Kelly and Lisa Phu contributed to this report.
State officials announced this week that the tanner crab fishery would not open for the 2014 seasons in the eastern Aleutian Islands. But Unalaska’s small boat fishermen think they’ve found a way to expand the fishery — in an area that’s been closed for two decades.
Unalaska’s tanner crab fishery opened up for the first time in years in January 2013, only to be shut down again for the upcoming season.
State area management biologist Heather Fitch says fisheries can be unpredictable, but in this case, the problem could be in the management.
“Our surveys kind of seem to not necessarily line up. One section’s open one year, it’s closed the next,” she says. “We want to have a better idea of what’s going on.”
Right now, the Department of Fish and Game relies on trawl surveys to keep tabs on crab stocks. State biologists compared the results of this year’s surveys to decade-long averages.
The results varied in the three areas where the tanner crab fishery is located. In Akutan, the number of mature male crabs was far below the legal threshold to open the fishery. In Unalaska and Skan Bay, there were enough mature males to satisfy that requirement — but not enough that fishermen could make their quota without depleting the stock.
Fitch says the crab that’s out there now might be ready to harvest in a couple of years.
“From what it looks like through the rest of the survey, it looks like there’s a big incoming recruit class, so my feeling is if you wait, like, two years, you’ll see them before they come into the fishery — maybe a year, maybe two,” she says.
But local fishermen don’t want to get stuck in a cycle of closures and openings. Instead of waiting for these tanner crab stocks to stabilize, they’re looking for a new area to fish.
Beaver Inlet has been closed to fishing for about 20 years. Fitch says trawl surveys there don’t produce good results.
Zac Nehus is a small boat fisherman and a board member of the Unalaska Native Fishermen’s Association, or UNFA. He says there’s enough crab in Beaver Inlet to support a new fishery, if you know how to look for it.
“It’s kind of our belief that they’re just not seeing the tanner crab, and that’s why a pot survey is needed where you can access these deeper depths and these areas where tanners reside,” he says. “And if we can show that there’s a harvestable biomass there, then maybe we can have a fishery there in the future like we’ve had in other areas around the island.”
Ten members of UNFA met Monday with Heather Fitch to talk about the fishery closure and their pot study idea. They voted to look at sending one boat out next August to do the study. The boat would throw back all the crab it caught, rather than selling them.
Nehus says they’d hoped to do the study this season, but he says August works too — the weather is good and the crab is of legal size, but there’s not much meat on it. He says they want to do the first survey by 2015.
“Once the process is in the works, maybe then you’re able to do it every two years or every three years, and you start to have data to compare against,” he says.
And that’s data that could help the state improve how it manages the fishery as a whole. But those kind of changes are a ways off. There still won’t be a tanner crab season this January.
Nehus says the closure of the Unalaska section, the most active of the three, is more of a loss for the community than it is an economic blow.
“It’s a fun fishery to do,” he says. “A lot of the locals are able to participate with small boats, especially when it’s in Unalaska Bay. Friends go out together, and yeah, maybe they don’t make a lot of money, but people enjoy it.”
He says while the fishery is closed, they’ll focus on getting state approvals for the pot study and finding out how much UNFA would have to pay for it.
The Anchorage Assembly passed a $467 million municipal budget for 2014 Tuesday evening. It’s about half a million dollars more than the one proposed by Mayor Dan Sullivan.
Anchorage libraries secured the $260,000 for better connectivity and supplies.
Other winners include community councils, the Anchorage Service Patrol, legal services, senior centers and community centers.
Losers include public transportation.
Assembly member Patrick Flynn, who represents Downtown Anchorage made a plea for the Assembly to support his amendment keeping bus fares at 2013 levels.
“It’s not just that costs are going up. It’s also that there’s more demand for service. And you know I represent an interesting district,” Flynn said. ”Half of it never uses the bus; half of it depends on the bus more than any other part of town and so I don’t do this to get votes.”
“I do this so that people can get to work and so that people can get home and take care of their kids and support their families.”
The assembly rejected Flynn’s amendment 8-3. It would have added $600,000 into the budget to maintain bus fares at current levels. Adult fares will go up to $2.00. Seniors fares and Anchor Rides will also go up.
The assembly also rejected funding for a homeless coordinator, among other things.
The Municipality’s Chief Financial Officer Lucinda Mahoney explains that reductions were made in another area to offset some of the cost of some of the amendments.
“All of the spending amendments total just over a million dollars,” Mahoney said. “And then Bill Star had an amendment related to property tax relief of $500,000 and this was essentially reducing a budget in another area. So there were budget increases of a million and then a budget decrease of $500,000 for a net increase of $516,000.”
The Assembly also approved a budget increase to help the financially struggling Anchorage School District by picking up the cost of police officers who work in the schools, but sources say it’s likely that Mayor Sullivan will veto the item. The Mayor has line item veto power which he may use within seven days.
The Mayor’s proposed budget would have increased property taxes by 2.7 percent. The Assembly’s amendments will increase property taxes by 3.4 percent.
The total budget is around $267,000. That’s still $1.4 million under the tax cap and several million dollars less than last year’s.
Contract bargaining between the Juneau School District and teachers resumed Monday evening, and as negotiators entered NEA-Alaska offices they were greeted with chants and signs calling for a fair contract.
This is the first negotiating session since early October. Teachers are working for the second year on a one-year contract that remains in effect until a new agreement is reached. They’re clearly frustrated by the lack of bargaining.
Despite blustery winds and temperatures in the low teens, about 20 teachers gathered outside the downtown Juneau office building where the session was held.
Juneau Education Association negotiators entered to cheers, while school district officials heard “settle our contract.”
Teachers started gathering after school as negotiating teams walked into a bargaining session.
Teachers received no salary increase in last year’s contract. They’re asking for no less than a cost of living increase in this year’s agreement.
The two sides met in arbitration in October. The arbitrator’s opinion is expected by the end of the year, but it’s only advisory.
School district officials maintain there is no money in the budget for a raise for teachers.
A young man was sentenced in Bethel Superior Court to 45 years in prison for murdering a Korean cab driver a few winters ago. Kyle Motgin pled guilty to murder in the second degree which dropped several other charges. He was 21 years old when he stabbed Young Suk Chong to death on January 31, 2012.
The victim, “Suzi”, as she was known by her friends, was a 54-year-old cab driver working the early morning shift. Wind chills were 55 below zero. Motgin had been drinking and called the Quyana Cab Company from a home in Bethel. The Kuskokwim River was frozen and he wanted a ride downriver 10 miles to the village of Napakiak. Instead of bringing money to pay for the ride, he brought a knife.
Judge Dwayne McConnell spoke at length at the sentencing.
“The kind of injuries that you inflicted are hard to imagine,” McConnell said.
McConnell reviewed the evidence. In Bethel they found glasses, a boot, and blood; inside the SUV cab car in Napakiak, it was another gruesome scene.
“It’s clear to me that she fought, she fought, she fought really hard to stay alive to try to stay alive and he did his best to make sure she didn’t for whatever reason,” McConnell said.
Motgin stabbed Chong too many times to count. He dragged her into the back of the cab and left her body there to freeze. She was found the next day.
In sentencing comments, District Attorney June Stein said Chong was working in Bethel to earn money for her family back home in California. Part of that family is her daughter Alisha McGinty who addressed the court in person.
“My mom is the rock of my family and my extended family. Not only only financially but emotionally,” McGingy said. “She always hosted out family gatherings, Christmas, any holiday, any Korean holiday, Thanksgiving. Celebrating our first Christmas without her last year, despite having almost every family member there. . .felt empty and cold.”
She expressed her grief that her mother missed her recent graduation from college. She says her mom overcame a lot in her life including extreme poverty and a bout with cancer which doctors told her would leave her six months to live.
“I’ve always thought that she was like a super hero and for her to go the way she did is so unbelievable unfair,” McGinty said.
Motgin also got emotional when he spoke and apologized to Chong’s family.
“It’s hard on me, it’s hard on my family, it’s hard on the victim’s family. I’m sorry,” Motgin said.
Through long pauses in his comments, Judge McConnell said there were a lot of unanswered questions surrounding the murder. He said they’re never going to know exactly why it happened but they do know who did it.
The judge talked at length about Motgin’s past criminal history. At the time of the murder he was on felony probation for assaulting an ex-girlfriend.
“You assault women. . .and you seem to like knives,” McConnell said.
McConnell says the fact that Motgin might have been drunk that night is no excuse.
“Alcohol lets you do things you want to do. It makes it easier to do things you want to do,” McConnell said. “That’s what alcohol does. It dis-inhibits you. It makes you more likely to do what you want to do. It’s why people get in trouble. It shows me that you’re such an angry person.”
Whether it was anger that Motgin felt that night and whether it can be resolved in the future is unknown but the sentence allows for the possibility of rehabilitation.
He was sentenced to 80 years with 35 suspended. That leaves him 45 years to serve with 10 years probation, which would put him up for parole when he’s about 50 years old. He also has to serve an additional 1 and a half years for violating his previous probation.
There is several probation conditions including one that prevents Motgin from ever taking a cab again.
Alaska’s transportation department has agreed to pay $332,000 for violations of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
The department also has agreed to close and sample 55 motor vehicle waste disposals well at state vehicle repair and maintenance facilities across Alaska by 2018 as part of the settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
EPA says the wells are outdated and some posed a risk to groundwater used for drinking water.
The wells, according to an EPA release, were used to dispose of storm water, snowmelt and water used to wash vehicles.
Transportation department spokesman Jeremy Woodrow says efforts have been underway to decommission the wells for some time. The release says six have already been closed.
Woodrow says his department will need to request funding for closure-related costs.