APRN Alaska News

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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: 24 min 57 sec ago

Fairbanks Will Help Fund New Mental Health Drop In Center

Thu, 2014-04-10 17:28

The City of Fairbanks will help fund a new mental health drop in center. Earlier this week, the city council approved $58,000 for the Northern Door Clubhouse.

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Categories: Alaska News

Retired Detective Discusses ‘Finding Bethany’

Thu, 2014-04-10 17:27

Retired Anchorage Detective Glen Klinkhart has written a true crime memoir called Finding Bethany. The story reveals the years of work it took Klinkhart and others within APD to find the killer of Bethany Correira, a young woman from Talkeetna who had moved to Anchorage for college and in 2003 was murdered by Michael Lawson, the man who managed the apartment building where she lived. Klinkhart says he also wanted to tell the stories of the dedicated people who helped solve the case in big and small ways.

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April 14th, Monday, at Little Italy Restaurant, 2300 East 88th Avenue, Anchorage, Alaska, 5pm to 9pm

April 25th, Friday at Blue-Hollomon Art Gallery, 3555 Arctic Blvd., Anchorage, Alaska, 5pm to 9pm

April 26th, Saturday at the Anchorage Senior Center Activity Center, Giant Book Sale, 1300 East 19th Avenue, Anchorage, Alaska, 11am to 4pm

Saturday May 3rd, Barnes and Noble Bookstore, Anchorage,  noon to 4pm

May 31st, Saturday, at Arctic Rose Gallery and Art Center, 423 West 5th Avenue, Anchorage, Alaska, 3pm to 6pm

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: April 10, 2014

Thu, 2014-04-10 17:18

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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House Debates Limiting Medicaid Funding For Abortions

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Debate is underway in the Alaska State House on a bill that would put limits on state Medicaid payments for abortions.

Sponsor Wants Vote On Judicial Council Issue

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

The sponsor of a constitutional amendment to reconfigure the Judicial Council says he wants a vote on the bill, even if the outcome is not guaranteed to be favorable.

Sen. Pete Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican, has been trying to shore up support for Senate Joint Resolution 21 since Monday, when the measure was initially scheduled to appear on the Senate floor.

Geraghty Testifies On Tribal Law And Order Commission Report Findings

Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage

State Attorney General Michael Geraghty again testified before a legislative committee this week to respond to a national report that singles out Alaska for its high rates of violence against Alaska Natives, especially Native women. The Indian Law and Order Commission report was deeply critical of Alaska’s law enforcement and judicial system. But the state’s Geraghty says the Indian Law and Order Commission is trying to impose lower 48 solutions that won’t work in Alaska.

Army Sets New Protocols During Fire Season

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Army has a new protocol for live ordnance training during times of high wildfire danger. Army artillery practice sparked the Stewart Creek 2 wildfire that burned east of Fairbanks though much of last summer. The 87,000 acre blaze forced evacuations and cost more than $20 million to fight.

Exit Exam Bill Could Bring Diplomas To More Students

Angela Denning, KFSK – Petersburg

Graduation time is just around the corner and for most seniors that means walking a stage and accepting a diploma. But a few students a year in Petersburg do not receive a diploma because they don’t pass a test. A bill making its way through the state Legislature would change that. House Bill 220 would repeal the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam.

Assembly Passes Anti-Smoking Law

Rachel Waldholz, KCAW – Sitka

The Sitka Assembly passed a controversial amendment Tuesday night, tightening the city’s anti-smoking laws. The question before the assembly was whether children should be prohibited from entering any business that allows smoking — even for a non-smoking event. The decision came down to different interpretations of what voters intended nearly a decade ago.

Fairbanks Will Help Fund New Mental Health Drop In Center

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The City of Fairbanks will help fund a new mental health drop in center.  Earlier this week, the city council approved $58,000 for the Northern Door Clubhouse.

Retired Detective Discusses ‘Finding Bethany’

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Retired Anchorage Detective Glen Klinkhart has written a true crime memoir called Finding Bethany. The story reveals the years of work it took Klinkhart and others within APD to find the killer of Bethany Correira, a young woman from Talkeetna who had moved to Anchorage for college and in 2003 was murdered by Michael Lawson, the man who managed the apartment building where she lived. Klinkhart says he also wanted to tell the stories of the dedicated people who helped solve the case in big and small ways.

Categories: Alaska News

FEMA Head Meets With Mat Su Officials

Thu, 2014-04-10 11:47

A year and a half ago, a series of severe windstorms hammered Southcentral Alaska. The first toppled hundreds of trees in Anchorage, but a later storm combined with torrential rains to swell rivers and creeks in the Matanuska Valley.

 Well over one hundred Valley homes were damaged and several  were declared a total loss. The Borough  received an emergency declaration in the wake of the storm, and FEMA representatives soon arrived on scene to assist those who filed damage claims. But there have been glitches. In a meeting with FEMA adminstrator Craig Fugate, Mat Su Borough manager John Moosey said the Boro is still facing challenges due to the spread of the damage. During the storm, pockets of flooding affected the Borough from Talkeetna to Palmer

“..and it was unusual, because usually you have flooding in a smaller area. The Borough is the size of West Virginia, and it occurred in a large portion.”

 ”We are going to be hurting if we don’t correct the glitches going forward”,  Moosey told a group of Borough and FEMA officails.

 Casey Cook, the Borough’s emergency response manager, outlined some problems with 2012 flood response paperwork and building plans.  Cook said it was not possible to meet a FEMA three year deadline, due to Alaska’s extremely short building season. To which Fugate responded:

 ”So I’m wondering if this is something we’re driving on our end, or is this something internal. Because, I’ve got projects that go far past three years.” 

Fugate said FEMA allows extensions in paperwork and reporting all the time.

 Fugate told them thatthe Sandy Recovery and Improvement Act of last year made changes to the Stafford Act.  The Stafford act is the 1988 legislation that provides the legal authority for the federal government to provide assistance to states during major disasters.  Fugate said the changes  to the law   simplify the  repayment and reimbursement  process. Prior to the changes, FEMA could only reimburse actual costs, not cost estimates.

“Congress gave us new authorities under the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act. Where instead of now having to do everything [based on] actual cost, give me an estimate on the project. We agree that this will be for projects over a million dollars. If we agree to that, we write the project worksheet, obligate the funding at the front end, and we are done.”

 Fugate said, now if repairs cost less than estimated, the saved dollars can be used for disaster mitigation, rather than returned to FEMA.

Cook told Fugate that, during the flood emergency, the Borough spent 100 thousand dollars on emergency responders’ pay, but did not get reimbursed under the FEMA rules. FEMA does not reimburse normal working hours for Borough staff, but does reimburse overtime hours for emergency work, Fugate explained.

One big problem the Borough faces is the available flood plain mapping data.  It is not up to standard with the Lower 48,   Moosey said.

“We are behind on that, and so the new laws really don’t match up well, and kind of put people in tough spots and having to spend additional personal funds to try to correct something that should be corrected already. I think the staff will take a look at that. I believe and after our conversation that they understand what our needs our , our concerns and how we are different and how we are behind at times. “

 The Borough is relying on flood plain maps that are no longer accurate, Moosey said.  Insurance companies want accurate data when assessing flood insurance costs.  Homeowners who applied for FEMA assistance in 2012 got a nasty shock when they were informed what flood insurance costs would be if they rebuilt in a flood plain.  Up to date mapping helps to determine exactly where those flood plains are.

 Borough emergency manager Cook said that the FEMA rule  changes only apply to a few small projects  the Borough is completing.

Categories: Alaska News

Microphones Cut During Senate Hearing On Oil Production

Wed, 2014-04-09 22:45

After rejecting a request that oil industry experts be required to testify under oath, the Senate Resources Chair cut off microphones when the Minority Leader attempted to explain why he thought the request was appropriate.

Sen. Cathy Giessel, an Anchorage Republican, said it was “inappropriate” and “unprofessional” of Sen. Hollis French to “spring an under-oath requirement on invited citizens” during a Wednesday hearing of the Resources Committee. Representatives from Exxon, BP, ConocoPhillips, and Repsol were there to give updates on how their work was proceeding under a new oil tax regime.

When French – an Anchorage Democrat — asked for a chance to respond, he was again denied.

GIESSEL: As the chair it is my decision, and I’ve gotten a legal consultation on that.
FRENCH: I guess I’ll just — As a point of person privilege I will say that …
GIESSEL: Sen. French, you are out of order.
FRENCH: The only …
GIESSEL: Brief at ease.
FRENCH: I’m going to keep talking …

What followed was a half-minute of silence on the Legislature’s official recordings of the proceedings, even though French continued to address the committee and its audience in the room.

French and Giessel later sparred on the Senate floor, through a pair of seething speeches.

In his address, French said his request complied with statute, even if that statute was rarely used. He also argued that the state has historically been too trusting of the oil industry.

“What does it say about us when we think it is unprofessional to use these statutes in the furtherance of our duties, of our obligations as Alaska state legislators?” French asked the body.

Giessel responded by pointing out that the last time the statute to compel testifiers to speak under oath was last used in 1997.

“I think that if we distrust the citizens who are coming, than we need to execute a different process. But simply asking for informational reports to a committee does not justify placing them under oath,” said Giessel.

Giessel also noted that it was “unfortunate” that the tension between the two senators had come to a verbal “duel” on the floor.

Categories: Alaska News

State Senators Prefer To Leave Minimum Wage Question On Ballot

Wed, 2014-04-09 19:48

While a minimum wage bill that could pre-empt a ballot initiative is on the fast track in the Alaska State House, Senate leadership says the idea is unlikely to get traction in their body.

Sen. Lesil McGuire, an Anchorage Republican who is in charge of scheduling bills, says some members of her caucus feel the question of raising the minimum wage is best left to voters.

“The public is fundamentally suspicious of the Legislature interceding on a minimum wage bill, because we did this in the past and we changed it,” says the Rules Chair.

Majority Leader John Coghill, a North Pole Republican, also expressed doubt that the bill would advance in the Senate at a press availability on Tuesday.

The last time a minimum wage initiative was certified to appear on the ballot, the Legislature kept it off by passing their own version. A year later, they gutted the legislation by removing a provision that pegged the minimum wage to inflation.

The House held its first and only hearing on the bill on Wednesday, and initiative supporters were blunt in their testimony that they did not trust the Legislature with this issue. The House could hold a vote on their bill as early as Thursday.

Categories: Alaska News
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