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Thursday, April 7, 2005 6TH EDITION
 

CBJ coffers includes a four million dollar surplus
Last summer's good weather may have contributed to a four million dollar budget surplus for the City and Borough of Juneau.

City Manager Rod Swope says sales tax revenue was almost three million dollars more than predicted.

City Finance Director Craig Duncan says he can't say for sure, but it could be that residents and visitors spent more time outside in the sun, and along with it, spent more money last summer.

Also contributing to the surplus are increases in property tax assessments.

Property within the CBJ continues to increase in value every year.

As an example, Finance Director Duncan says the value of property along Franklin and South Franklin street has skyrocketed over the last couple of years, most likely, due to the booming cruise ship industry.

Swope says the surplus does take into account increased costs to the city such as fuel costs. The current budget is based on a price of $1.42 a gallon, which is considerably less than the going rate of over two dollars today.

Another unanticipated increase in funding is for the school district, which will see an increase in local funding of about $800,000 dollars due to the legislature's expected increase in the foundation formula.

Swope says he'll have some suggestions for the Assembly as to what it can do with the surplus, including a property tax reduction, putting the surplus into a reserve account or any other option the Assembly wishes will also be considered, according to the manager.

Swope presented an overview of the proposed fiscal year 2006 budget to the Assembly Finance Committee yesterday. [Wednesday]

The committee will meet over the next 8 weeks to finalize the F-Y 06 budget.

Mayor Botelho expresses concern over long term economic situation
With news of a budget surplus at yesterday's [Wednesday] Finance Committee meeting, Mayor Bruce Botelho noted that the Assembly might want to look at the city's long term economic situation.

The mayor attended yesterday's monthly meeting of the Juneau Economic Development Council which focused on various economic indictors.

He says one of the things that is somewhat distressing was an indication that Juneau lost population between the years 2003 and 2004 by about 300 people.

He said it's hard to say whether that's a trend or not, but one of the concerns expressed continues to be the shortage of affordable housing as one of the factors driving residents out.

Mayor Botelho said he mentioned it, because the Assembly and others seem to work on the assumption that the city will see increased revenues every year, and that may not be the case.

Eaglecrest to wrap up season after this weekend
This weekend will be the last one of the season for the Eaglecrest Ski area.

When asked how they faired, Business Manager Gary Mendivil says they missed most of December and won't achieve their entire revenue budget, but they're hoping to do okay.

The revenue target was one point one million. They're about $80,000 shy of that mark, but Mendivil adds that could even out with decreased labor costs in December.

When asked if they considered remaining open longer into the year, Mendivil says they decided to close after examining recent skier visits.

He says visits have been on the decline since about the middle of March with people getting their bikes and boats out in preparation for summer activities.

Coeur purchases Australian silver mine
Coeur d'Alene Mines, the developer of the Kensington Mine near Juneau, has agreed to acquire all the silver production and reserves contained at the Endeavor Mine in Australia.

The mine which also produces zinc and lead, is located north of Sydney in New South Wales.

It has been in production since 1983.

CDE Australia, the wholly owned subsidiary of Coeur agrees to pay $15.4 Million at closing and $23.1 million once the company determines that recently installed paste backfill plant is successfully operating.

House sends operating budget to Senate
The operating budget proposed by the State House is now on its way to the Senate.

The measure approved 30 to 7 Wednesday night did not come up for a reconsideration vote today.

After the Senate completes work on its version, and the differences between the two chambers will have to be worked out in a conference committee.

Retirement overhaul bill heads to full Senate
JUNEAU (AP) - A proposal to overhaul the state's retirement system was approved yesterday (Wednesday) by the Senate Finance Committee.

The retirement system rewrite aims to fix a 5-point-6 (b) billion dollar hole in Alaska's 16-point-4 (b) billion dollar retirement system.

State officials say the shortfall is a result of rising health care costs, poor performance in the stock market and missed estimates on investment returns.

Employees retiring earlier and living longer and rising health care costs have also contributed to the retirement system shortfall.

The bill creates a new tier for teachers and other public employees, establishing a defined contribution plan similar to a 4-0-1-K for new employees.

The proposal also increases payroll contributions for existing employees by point-five percent.

Democratic Senator Lyman Hoffman of Bethel says the bill could make it harder to attract and retain teachers and other public employees.

But Senator Gary Wilken, a Fairbanks Republican, says the bill puts Alaska on par with many other states in terms of retirement age and years of service.

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

Alaska Marine killed in combat was on second tour of Iraq
FAIRBANKS (AP) - The Alaska man killed in combat Monday had been in Iraq less than a month on his second tour in the country.

Twenty-two-year-old Lance Corporal Jeremiah Colt Kinchen of Salcha -- a member of the Marine Corps Reserves -- died in an explosion in the Al Anbar province in western Iraq.

Kinchen was a 2001 graduate of Eielson High School.

He's believed to be the first Alaskan killed in combat in Iraq. Army Sergeant Mason Whetstone, who grew up in Anchorage, died in Baghdad of unspecified non-combat injuries in July 2003.

Family and friends last saw Kinchen about four weeks ago when he traveled to Anchorage to see his 20-year-old brother, James ``Colby'' Kinchen, who had suffered a serious head injury in a snowmobile accident.

Jeremiah Kinchen was assigned to the Marine Corps Reserve's 4th Reconnaissance Battalion of the 4th Marine Division, which is based in San Antonio, Texas.

As of Tuesday, 15-hundred 44 Americans have died in Iraq.

School Board names Sorenson as next high school principal
The Juneau School Board officially named Assistant Superintendent Bernie Sorenson as the next principal of Juneau Douglas High School during its meeting this week.

Sorenson was one of three final candidates.

The search committee and Superintendent Peggy Cowan recommended Sorenson for the job.

She's the former principal at Glacier Valley Elementary School and, among other things, she's coordinated grants and the English as a Second Language and bilingual programs for the district.

Retired Alaska school administrator John Norman is serving as interim high school principal.

Norman replaced Deb Morse who is head of facilities planning for the Juneau School District.

Jury considered first-degree murder in Anchorage trial deliberations
ANCHORAGE (AP) - The jury foreman in the Earl Voyles murder trial says ten jurors wanted to convict him of first-degree murder.

But the foreman says two others held out and the jury instead settled on a second-degree murder conviction.

The 38-year-old Voyles was convicted yesterday (Wednesday) of killing 22-year-old Megan Maxwell, a university student whose body was found October 4th, 2003, in a stairwell of her condominium complex.

She had been stabbed and strangled.

The jury foreman asked that her name not be revealed.

Voyles denied being the killer but investigators found drops of Maxwell's blood found on Voyles' sneakers.

The jury foreman says shoe the evidence put Voyles at the murder scene and cemented the second-degree murder conviction.

Prosecutor Marcy McDannel says she has she has the option of retrying Voyles on the first-degree charge.

But she says she probably will put her available resources into persuading Judge Philip Volland that Voyles should be locked away for the rest of his life.

Voyles faces a second murder trial later this year. He's been indicted in the death of Evette Briggs, a prostitute found strangled in 19-92.
(Anchorage Daily News)

Hitchhiker cops plea in murder of Soldotna man
KENAI (AP) - A hitchhiker accused of killing a Soldotna man along the Seward Highway has pleaded no contest to murder.

Twenty-two-year-old Robert Owen Holt Junior will spend between 25 and 50 years in prison under a plea agreement reached with prosecutors.

Sentencing has been set for July 8th.

Prosecutors say Holt shot and killed 44-year-old Harold Sipary in May of 2001 after Sipary stopped to give him a ride.

Holt then took Sipary's truck and drove to Anchorage.

Sipary's body was found in the pullout by passers-by who called Alaska State Troopers.

Alaskan with San Antonio-based Marine unit killed in Iraq
UNDATED (AP) - A 22-year-old Marine attached to a San Antonio-based Marine Corps Reserve unit has died in combat in Iraq.

The Pentagon says Lance Corporal Jeremiah C. Kinchen of Salcha, Alaska, died Monday in an explosion during combat in Al Anbar province in western Iraq.

The Marine Corps doesn't usually provide details on its combat casualties, citing security concerns.

The Defense Department says Kinchen was assigned to the Marine Corps Reserve's San Antonio-based Fourth Reconnaissance Battalion of the Fourth Marine Division.

He'd previously served in Iraq with the Third Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team Eight, Second Marine Division, Second Marine Expeditionary Force.

Construction site damage may have been caused by skilled operator
ANCHORAGE (AP) - Workers at an Anchorage construction site say it must have been a skilled heavy equipment operator who caused thousands of dollars damage this week.

Someone late Tuesday or early yesterday (Wednesday) used a front-end loader to cause nearly a quarter-million dollars in damage.

The vandalism took place at an old Kmart building on Anchorage's east side.

The building is being renovated as a Home Depot store.

The vandal used the loader's bucket to crush several other large pieces of equipment into a mangled pile.

The vandal then rammed the loader through a wall of the building.

Police are investigating but have no suspects.

Sergeant Larry Rhodes says police have lifted potentially useful fingerprints from a key left in the loader's ignition.
(Anchorage Daily News) 

Willow musher convicted of animal cruelty
ANCHORAGE (AP) - A veteran of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race from Willow has been convicted of animal cruelty.

A Palmer magistrate yesterday (Wednesday) found musher David Straub guilty of failing to provide his dog team with enough food, water or veterinary care last fall.

Magistrate David Zwink fined Straub 300 dollars for violating Matanuska-Susitna Borough code.

Borough animal control officers in October seized 28 of Straub's 32 dogs.

The officers described them as dehydrated and so emaciated their spines and hip bones showed through their fur.

Outside the courthouse after the decision, Straub vowed to rebuild his kennel for the Yukon Quest sled dog race next year between Fairbanks and Whitehorse.

He says the borough can expect a civil lawsuit for the destruction of his dogs and for revenue he will lose from not being able to provide dog tours. 

Bonds, design work to begin on Anchorage convention center
ANCHORAGE (AP) - City of Anchorage officials say a new 93 (m) million dollar convention center approved by voters probably will not begin to take shape until next year.

Voters on Tuesday agreed to raise hotel room tax from eight to 12 percent to pay for the convention center, renovate the Egan convention center and make other improvements.

City officials, developers and architects will be busy this year working on a financing package, a more refined design, contracts and a final construction schedule.

A 193-thousand square foot facility is planned.

A newly created nonprofit group will sell revenue bonds to investors to pay for the project.

The bonds will be repaid with revenue from the higher hotel tax.

The nonprofit group will be wholly responsible for paying back the revenue bonds.

By Mayor Mark Begich says its board of directors will be comprised largely of city executives. The nonprofit group has until summer 2006 to sell the bonds but Begich says they could go to market as early as this fall.
(Anchorage Daily News) 

Kodiak Launch Complex land subject of resolution
KODIAK (AP) - The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly today (Thursday) will consider a resolution that urges the Legislature to designate as public use the state-owned land on Narrow Cape.

The land contains the Kodiak Launch Complex.

The resolution would give the borough a ``right of first refusal'' should the state decide to sell the property and would allow existing leases to continue.

Assembly member Tuck Bonney introduced the resolution. Bonney says the assembly is trying to get a guarantee that the public will have access to the land.

In addition to the launch complex, the land includes Fossil Beach, a popular recreation site and grazing land used by local ranchers.

Wisconsin teacher to hit trail on next Iditarod
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (AP) - A Wisconsin woman will be joining next year's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race as the race's Teacher on the Trail.

Terrie Hanke is a physical education teacher at Eau Claire North High School.

The program that started in 19-99 has an educator follow the race over its course of about a thousand miles, posting reports and lesson plans on the World Wide Web.

Hanke flew to Anchorage in late February and spent ten days with two other finalists for an audition.

The audition included making presentations to a conference of teachers and a five-member selection committee.

Also included was a writing exercise that tested their powers of observation, deadline writing and ability to use computer technology.

Hanke said her past experience as a canoe guide leading 16-day camping trips may have been an advantage in the selection process.

Fish hatchery funding measure surfaces in Legislature
FAIRBANKS (AP) - A new proposal has surfaced in the Legislature for how to fund fish hatcheries.

Plans call for constructing a fish hatchery in Fairbanks along the Chena River and making improvements to two hatcheries in Anchorage.

The proposal is being put forward by Republican Representative Jay Ramras of Fairbanks. It would take 30 (M) million dollars from the Alaska Permanent Fund to pay for the projects.

That idea differs significantly from two proposals by Interior lawmakers in the House and Senate to add a surcharge to sport fishing licenses to fund hatcheries.


(Copyright 2005 Alaska Juneau Communications - KINY Radio)