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Wednesday, April 30, 2008  8TH  EDITION        

Recommendation on Juneau emergency request due from Disaster Cabinet Thursday
The Governor's Disaster Policy Cabinet is scheduled to reconvene Thursday to take up Juneau's emergency disaster request in the wake of the avalanches that wiped out the Snettisham line April 16th choking off power from the hydroelectric dam.

City Manager Rod Swope's declaration calls for $25 Million in assistance.

Swope tells us the cabinet plans to have a recommendation ready by tomorrow.

He doesn't know what direction the cabinet may be leaning.

Juneau Representative Beth Kerttula tells us she met with Health and Social Services Commissioner Karleen Jackson and her staff Tuesday.

And regardless if a disaster is declared or not, Kerttula she says the state, especially Health and Social Services, is well aware it will be hit with a "wave of need" as she puts it.

And Kerttula encourages residents not to be too proud to request assistance.  

Assembly considers AEL&P loan for 3rd time Thursday
The Juneau Assembly is scheduled to meet again Thursday evening on the proposed $3 Million dollar interest free loan to Alaska, Electric, Light and Power.

After listening to public comment Tuesday, the Assembly gave up on a approach that called for using the loan to spread out payments over 12 months.

The overwhelming opposition expressed fear that the plan would cost rate payers even more over the course of 12 months. 

But many testifying also said that there should be a mechanism to help vulnerable people and businesses.

The Assembly will listen to a presentation from A-E-L and P during the next meeting on what it can do to provide more direct assistance for the most vulnerable.

In response to Tuesday's Assembly meeting and public testimony, the utility issued a release saying it would not be filing for an amended rate hike that spreads payments over a year.

President Tim McLeod said AEL&P will continue to work with members of the Assembly and other political leaders to identify a practical method to ease the financial burden.

Thursday's special Assembly meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. at City Hall.

United Way assisting in identifying vulnerable electric utility customers
The United Way of Southeast Alaska is assisting in figuring out how to get help to the most vulnerable of Alaska Electric, Light and Power's customers.

Brenda Hewitt, the organization's president and CEO, says one of their partners, Catholic Community Service, has an energy assistance program used in Washington State.

She  believes they can tweak the format for use in Juneau and come up with a plan to help the most vulnerable.

Hewitt says they know who the most vulnerable are now. What they're worried about is the next group of people who were already on the edge.

So she says there's going to be a "new class of "vulnerable" that the community will need to look out for.

Energy expert impressed with Juneau's conservation effort, will serve as example
Energy expert Allen Meier was sent here by the U. S. Department of Energy to work with the city and borough on conservation measures at Mayor Botelho's request.

He's wrapping up his visit today (Wednesday).

Meier tells us he plans to point to Juneau's experience in the future. He said it already illustrates more savings than any other place that he's studied.

So he doesn't think that will be the problem, but rather sustaining conservation measures over the next few months until the Snettisham transmission line is repaired.

He has suggestions for residents such as moderating the use of electric water heaters and on a larger scale for CBJ.

A chief one is the conservation of water. Meier says a community wide effort may translate into electricity savings since it takes a lot of electricity to supply the water and then treating it as sewage.

Meier is a senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. He was first notified of the problem here by a student of his from Juneau.

Wayne Leighty is working on his PHD at the University of California, Davis.

Healy leaving CBJ engineering job in favor of State DOT
City and Borough of Juneau Engineering Director Roger Healy is leaving his position to work for Southeast Region of the State Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

City Manager Rod Swope says Healy is leaving as of June 1st.

He says they will advertise nationally in the search for a replacement.

Healy has been in his current position for about five years.

House joins Senate in calling for investigation into Young road earmark
The U. S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly today (Wednesday) to join the U S. Senate in directing the Justice Department to investigate the road earmark in which Alaska Congressman Don Young was involved.

The vote was 358 to 51.

Young took to the floor to defend the ten million earmark for a Florida freeway interchange that was in a 2005 Transportation Bill

One of the questions is how the earmark ended up in the bill signed by the President, when the version passed by Congress included money for widening a road.

Young has been reluctant to discuss the issue, citing the ongoing investigation.

He read a lengthy prepared statement on the subject during debate on a bill that would make technical corrections to the 2005 bill.

"I have been the subject of much innuendo concerning my intent and motivation of this projects," he said, and added, "These accusations have little or no connection with actually occurred."

Young also claims that, as Transportation Committee chair, he had no control over what happened to the bill after it passed Congress, during process known as "enrollment."

The earmark was already under investigation by the Justice department when the Senate took its vote earlier this month. 

Sentencing for former oil field services executives delayed
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) KINY - Federal prosecutors aren't ready just yet to recommend sentences for their two witnesses in an ongoing federal corruption probe.

In a status report filed in federal court Wednesday, prosecutors requested that sentencing for former VECO executives Bill Allen and Rick Smith continue to be postponed as the investigation continues.

Prosecutors wrote the investigation is "exceedingly complex," and they promised to have another update no later than July 31.

Both Allen and Smith pleaded guilty last year to federal bribery charges. They've been key witnesses in the convictions of two former state lawmakers so far.

One more trial is pending, that of former Juneau representative Bruce Weyrauch.
Information from: David Shurtleff/Alaska Public Radio Network

First cruise ship of the season arrives, Juneau to exceed one million mark for first time
For the first time, cruise ship visitors to Juneau are expected to exceed one million this year.

Juneau's cruise ship season begins this (Wednesday) morning with the scheduled arrival of the Norwegian Star at 7.  The vessel was in Juneau's' harbor before 6 a.m. and docked by 6:30.

It will continue until Saturday, September 27th with the scheduled departure of the Infinity at 5 p.m.

Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Lorene Palmer says the estimated number of cruise ship passengers is one million and 50 thousand.

She says they bumped right up against a million last year, but fell a few short of that mark.

It's projected each one will spend $186 per person which amounts to over $195 Million in spending. Palmer says that compares to about $176 Million in 2005. "Just by sheer volume we're going to see more economic impact in Juneau," she says.

The figures cited by Palmer do not include crew spending or spending by independent travelers who are expected to number between 70,000 to 75,000.

Cruise ship visitors will come here aboard about 50 ships owned by 12 different cruise lines.

There are three new ones this year. They include the Millennium owned by Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises" Tahitian Princess, and the Spirit of Glacier Bay owned by Cruise West. Palmer says the name Spirit of Glacier Bay has been used in the past, but this is a new vessel.   

Police release identity of dead Kodiak man
KODIAK, Alaska (AP) - Police in Kodiak have released the identity of the man killed in what is believed to have been a hit-and-run this week.

They say his name is 43-year-old Justin McGriff, who worked as a dishwasher at El Chicano restaurant.

Authorities say McGriff apparently lived in a tent on Pillar Mountain.

His body was found early Tuesday morning along side Pillar Mountain Road.

Police Chief T.C. Kamai says McGriff died of what appeared to be massive injuries, probably inflicted by someone driving a car or a truck.

His body has been sent to the state medical examiner in Anchorage for an autopsy.

Police say they are continuing to search for the vehicle that hit McGriff.
Information from: KMXT-FM

Man dies in house fire in Alakanuk
BETHEL, Alaska (AP) - Alaska State Troopers say an Alakanuk man has died in a house fire.

The Alakanuk Police Department told troopers that the body of 64-year-old Charles Clyde Smith was found in the remains of the house. The fire occurred Monday.

Police say the fire appeared to be accidental.

Alakanuk is a community of about 650 residents near Bethel on Alaska's western coastline. It is located on the Yukon River.

Haines area trailer home destroyed by fire, no injuries reported
Fire destroyed an unoccupied trailer home at 26 mile of the Haines Highway early Tuesday morning.

State Troopers say neighbors heard a loud boom and noticed the flames. Troopers were notified shortly after 3 a.m.

The trailer had been unoccupied for over nine weeks. The Trooper dispatch says the owner was expected to return in a week.

There were no injuries.

The State Fire Marshal's Office is conducting an investigation to determine the cause of the fire.

Downed aircraft found near mouth of the Big Susitna River
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A downed airplane was found near the mouth of the Big Susitna River.

Alaska State Troopers say an emergency signal was received by the plane late Tuesday. The Rescue Coordination Center deployed an aircraft to conduct a search. The C130 spotted the downed aircraft near Flat Horn Lake near the mouth of the Susitna River. The plane was flipped over in approximately 2-3 feet of water.

Troopers say footprints were found leading away from the plane. They ended near the tracks of a second unidentified aircraft, at which point the footprints disappeared.

The pilot has not been located or identified.

Linehan files appeal of murder conviction
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - An appeal has been filed in the case of Michelle Linehan -- the former stripper who was convicted of murdering a former fiance in 1996.

The 35-year-old woman maintains her innocence in the death of Kent Leppink.

The appeal was filed last week by two of Alaska's best known attorneys -- Jeff Feldman and Susan Orlansky.

Employee union backs Begich in Senate race
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The state's largest employee union says its backing Democratic candidate Mark Begich for the U.S. Senate seat held by longtime Republican incumbent Ted Stevens.

The Alaska State Employees Association/American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 52 announced its support on Wednesday.

Jim Duncan, the union's business manager, says Begich "exemplifies the new direction that Alaska needs."

The union represents more than 8,000 members working for state and local governments.

Begich officially announced his candidacy last week. Stevens, the longest serving Republican in U.S. Senate history, filed in February for re-election.

25 Alaska Air National Guard members deploy to Afghanistan
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Alaska Air National Guard members will deploy to Afghanistan this week.

The 25 members of the 175th Wing at Kulis Air National Guard base will leave Thursday. They will conduct combat search and rescue missions, based from Bagram Air Base.

The deployment is expected to last about 60 days, meaning the Guard members should be home in early July.

Anchorage DJs suspended over offensive remark return to airwaves
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Two Anchorage disc jockeys are back on their popular morning show, three weeks after making a derogatory comment on the air about Alaska Native women.

Greg Wood and Chris Wilcox, known as Woody and Wilcox, returned to the air today (Wednesday), saying they never meant to hurt anyone for a comment they now see was offensive.

The DJs were suspended April 15 following a storm of protest over the remark that had many comparing the disc jockeys to Don Imus.

Wilcox and Wood were jesting April 9 about what makes someone a real Alaskan. One of them switched the verbs on an old saying that real Alaskans have urinated in the Yukon River and made love to an Alaska Native woman.

Many also consider the original saying offensive.

Alaska Natives and others have since canceled advertising with KBFX-FM, a Clear Channel hard rock station that features Wilcox and Wood, who are undergoing cultural awareness sessions with the Alaska Native Heritage Center and other groups.

Glacier Bay visitor season begins with new superintendent
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve has a new superintendent at the helm as it gears up for the arrival of its first cruise ship of the season on May 6.

Cherry Payne has traded the balmy byways of the Florida Everglades for the glacial-fed waters of Southeast Alaska.

A 30-year veteran of the park service, Payne was most recently the chief of interpretation and visitor services at Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks.

She has also served as acting superintendent at Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina and at Canaveral National Seashore in Florida.

Payne replaces former Superintendent Tomie Lee, who retired last year.

Glacier Bay is expecting 153 cruise ship calls this year.

                           (Copyright 2008 Alaska Juneau Communications - KINY Radio)