State news in brief for Monday, Nov. 25

UAF frat hosts men’s beauty pageant

FAIRBANKS — A fraternity is hosting a “Mr. UAF” beauty pageant for men next month at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Alpha Phi Omega is organizing the event, which will include formal wear, swimsuit and talent portions, along with an interview.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports half of the proceeds from the pageant will be donated to a charity of the winner’s choice.

It will be held Dec. 11 at the Hess Recreation Center on the UAF campus.


Alaska’s alcohol taxes among highest in nation

FAIRBANKS — Alaska’s reputation as a low-tax state doesn’t extend to alcohol taxes.

The News Miner reports a study released last month by a consumer-oriented finance website shows Alaska’s alcohol taxes are the third highest in the nation, after Washington and Alabama.

Using 2013 data from the Distilled Spirits Council, the Nerdwallet study looked at tax rates for beer, wine and spirits, then adjusted for the proportion of those beverages consumed in each state.

The Distilled Spirits Council says Alaska has second-highest beer and wine taxes in the U.S., and with the seventh-highest taxes on spirits.

Dale Fox is president of the Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association. He says Alaska’s high alcohol taxes have been among the nation’s highest for more than a decade


Murkowski launches Thanksgiving campaign

JUNEAU — U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski wants to know what you’re thankful for.

Murkowski is asking Alaskans who want to participate to use the hashtag #AKThanks when posting pictures, messages or videos on Facebook or Twitter.

Murkowski’s office, in a release, says she’s starting the social media campaign to kick-start a statewide conversation to “accentuate the positive.”

Murkowski says it’s sometimes easy to get caught up in the negative things. She sees the social media campaign as a way for Alaskans to remind themselves about all there is to celebrate in their lives.

The senator also plans to share things she’s thankful for.

The campaign will lead to the premiere of a video called “Appreciating Alaska” that Murkowski is featured in on Tuesday.


Volunteers help repair storm-damaged ski trails

FAIRBANKS — Dozens of volunteers have repaired damage to cross-country ski trails near Fairbanks after a storm toppled trees and power lines last week.

Local high school and college students, training groups and others helped trail groomers at Birch Hill Recreation Area and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Tom Helmers, grooming boss for Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that nearly all trails had trees down, although some were harder hit than others. A trail known as the Outhouse Loop was the worst. Trees took out lights on two trails.


Ketchikan man to serve 9 years after drug bust

KETCHIKAN — A man described by the district attorney as a large-scale drug dealer in southeast Alaska will serve nine years in prison on drug and weapons charges.

David Bach, 53, the former owner of a party supply store in Ketchikan, was sentenced Thursday, the Ketchikan Daily News reported.

In August 2012, Ketchikan police seized 3 pounds of marijuana, 25 grams of methamphetamine, five handguns and nearly $190,000 in cash at his apartment. They later found another 24 pounds of marijuana stored at another apartment he owned.

For Southeast, Bach “was an extremely large drug dealer,” said District Attorney Steven West.

He said there is a huge mark-up on the prices of drugs sold in Ketchikan.

Bach’s attorney, Michael Smith of Anchorage, countered that his client was “a longtime member of the Ketchikan community” who intended to return to the city and find gainful employment once his sentence is served.

Bach could be eligible for parole in six years with good behavior.

He said Bach was “intellectually curious” with a number of interests and has a “significant upside.”

“Mr. Bach is not your typical offender,” Smith said.


Kodiak College director resigns after 7 years

KODIAK — The director of Kodiak College has announced her resignation after seven years in the position.

Barbara Bolson says it’s a good time for a transition since the college is stable and financially in a good position, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported.

“We’ve had a lot of change in the last seven years,” she said. “We’ve brought an influx of technology and public recognition. It’s time for the next person to come in with the next new ideas and the next stage of development.”

She came from Washington on a one-year contract to be an administrator at Kodiak High School in 2005. When that ended, she stayed on the island.

“Once I got here, you fall in love with Kodiak and you start to see the possibilities,” she said. “I love the people. I love the students. I love the staff and faculty I worked with. I put down roots very quickly.”

She began as the assistant director at the college in 2006, and moved into the director’s job a year later.

During her tenure, the college increased by almost 300 students, and the mission grew to include online classes and a four-year teaching degree.

Bolson will likely stay in her position until after spring graduation, and the University of Alaska Anchorage will be charge of the process of replacing her.

She plans to return to Washington state to be closer to her children and grandchildren.


JBER ceremony set to formalize return of soldiers

ANCHORAGE — A ceremony is scheduled to take place next week at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to formalize the return of soldiers from Afghanistan.

Army officials say the 2nd Engineer Brigade will host the ceremony that begins 10 a.m. Tuesday for about 80 returning soldiers from the 84th Engineer Support Company.

The returning personnel are called The Kodiaks. Officials say the soldiers deployed to Afghanistan in February.

The soldiers were reunited with their families in October.


Alaska cities rank low in equal rights survey

FAIRBANKS — Alaska cities ranked low in a Human Rights Campaign survey of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports the survey covers 291 U.S. cities, and is based on categories like non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, employment policies and city leader’s public positions.

Fairbanks ranked the lowest of Alaska cities surveyed, receiving two points out of a possible 100.

Two other Alaska cities were surveyed. Anchorage finished with a score of 21 and Juneau was the highest in the state, at 23.

Several U.S. cities got all 100 points possible.


US rig count down 1 this week to 1,761

HOUSTON — Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. says the number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. fell by one this week to 1,761.

The Houston-based company said in its weekly report Friday that 1,387 rigs were exploring for oil and 369 for gas. Five were listed as miscellaneous. A year ago there were 1,817 rigs.

Of the major oil- and gas-producing states, Texas gained six rigs, West Virginia gained five, North Dakota gained two and Kansas, Louisiana and Wyoming each gained one.

California lost five rigs, Oklahoma lost four, Pennsylvania lost three, New Mexico lost two and Arkansas and Colorado each lost one. Alaska, Ohio and Utah were unchanged.

The U.S. rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981 and bottomed at 488 in 1999.


Attorney: Case over Alaska mountain death settled

JUNEAU — An attorney says a settlement has been reached over a Swiss man’s death on Alaska’s Mount McKinley in 2011.

Court records show attorneys for both sides asked a federal judge on Friday to dismiss the case brought against guide company Mountain Trip International, LLC, by the estate of Beat Niederer. It asks that each side bear its own costs and attorneys’ fees.

Plaintiff’s attorney Jeffrey Rubin would only say the matter “settled upon mutually agreed terms.” An attorney for Mountain Trip didn’t immediately return a message.

The lawsuit alleged that negligence by the company resulted in Niederer’s death. It claimed the guided summit team wasn’t outfitted properly and lacked the means to stay together and protect itself from the hazardous conditions.

The company said Niederer knew the risk involved.


Icy roads cause havoc in Anchorage area

ANCHORAGE — Freezing rain is causing traffic problems throughout the Anchorage area Friday.

A school bus with 14 students on board overturned in Wasilla on the way to school. A school district official tells The Anchorage Daily News that a driver and two children were taken to a hospital for evaluation.

KTUU reports Alaska State Troopers dispatchers estimated about 300 vehicles in distress in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough because of ice.

The Daily News reports Anchorage police have closed Minnesota Drive at 26th Avenue because of a tour bus stranded on ice. There are no passengers on board.

City bus service has been suspended until conditions improve, and the University of Alaska Anchorage planned to close its campuses at 12:45 p.m.


October unemployment at 6.5 percent for Alaska

JUNEAU — State labor department statistics show Alaska’s unemployment rate held steady at 6.5 percent for September and October.

That compares to seasonally adjusted rates of 6.9 percent in September 2012 and 6.8 percent in October 2012.

Unemployment hit a low for 2013 of 5.9 percent in April and May. But labor department economist Caroline Schultz cautioned against reading too much into those numbers.

She says those lows appear to be an “aberration” and expects they will be revised upward. She notes the numbers the last few months have been consistent.

U.S. unemployment stood at 7.2 percent this past September and 7.3 percent last month.

The department says Alaska’s unemployment rate has been below the national level for five full years but the gap between the two has been shrinking since 2010.


Fence leads to mental health facility closure

FAIRBANKS — The only licensed assisted-living facility in Fairbanks for people with mental illness may have to partially close.

Downtown Care has been ordered to reduce its client load because a fence built by a neighbor less than six inches from building windows blocks escape routes.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that a dozen clients will have to be moved by Monday to unfamiliar surroundings in Anchorage.

The president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Fairbanks, Jeanette Grasto, says it’s “extremely unacceptable” that inadequate facilities in Fairbanks are resulting in a sudden relocations.

It’s the latest in a series of challenges for Fairbanks mental health providers.

The nonprofit Fairbanks Community Behavioral Health Center, which oversaw many local mental-health programs, closed in September and later declared bankruptcy.


Research date remains at 800 to 1,000 years old

FAIRBANKS — Archaeologists and researchers say human remains found last year in silt near McGrath likely are 800 to 1,000 years old.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports the three people likely ate salmon and two shared the same ancestor.

Researchers are working with the Tanana Chiefs Conference on what’s known as the Tochak McGrath Discovery.

Tanana Chiefs senior archaeologist Bob Sattler says the information obtained is unique because researchers don’t have other data points from that time period in Interior Alaska.

He says Interior Alaska Native tribes traditionally cremated remains.

The three people were a 35- to 40-year-old man, a 19- to 20-year-old man and a 2- to 3-year-old child of unknown gender.

They were found without artifacts such as clothing, fasteners or pouches of food and tools.


Report: Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta among lowest incomes

BETHEL — A state report says the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta area has some of the lowest incomes in Alaska.

KYUK says a recent analysis by the Alaska Department of Labor looked at the Bethel and Wade Hampton census areas. A full report appears in the October issue of Alaska Economic Trends.

The analysis found that people in the Wade Hampton area earned a per capita average of $22,000 in 2011 — the lowest incomes in the state. The Wade Hampton area includes communities in western Alaska such as Hooper Bay.

The Bethel census area was the sixth lowest, with a $32,100 per capita average.

State economist Mali Abrahamson says the economy in the Wade Hampton area provides few economic opportunities.


Christian named to Fairbanks judgeship

JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell has appointed a Kenai magistrate as a new district court judge in Fairbanks.

Matthew Christian has been a magistrate and master in Kenai since 2007.

He fills a vacancy created by the appointment of Jane F. Kauvar to the Fairbanks Superior Court.

According to a biography provided in a release from the governor’s office, Christian has previously worked in Fairbanks as an assistant district attorney. He also was in private practice in Fairbanks.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School.


Mon, 02/27/2017 - 10:06

Fairbanks man accused of setting occupied vehicle on fire

FAIRBANKS — Alaska State Troopers say they have arrested a Fairbanks man suspected of setting a vehicle on fire while people were inside the car.

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Mon, 02/27/2017 - 10:04

Snow closes Steese Highway; road impassible at summits

FAIRBANKS — Heavy snow has closed an interior Alaska Highway.

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Mon, 02/27/2017 - 10:02

Biologists begin moose count pilot study in Anchorage

ACNHORAGE — Alaska wildlife officials have begun a study to learn more about Anchorage’s urban moose population and the most efficient way to count the animals in the metropolitan area.

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Mon, 02/27/2017 - 09:58

Officials readying for Eielson F-35s to spur housing crunch

FAIRBANKS — Officials in Alaska are preparing for a possible housing crunch in 2020 that is expected to coincide with an influx of service members tied to the two new F-35 squadrons coming to Eielson Air Force Base.

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