State Briefs

Posted: Wednesday, January 02, 2002

Christmas still going in N. Pole

FAIRBANKS - Many Alaskans have packed away holiday lights, candles, stars and Santas by now. But not in North Pole, where Christmas is a way of life.

Given the town's name, many feel obligated to live up to the city's motto: "Where the spirit of Christmas lives year round."

Here, candy cane light poles line Santa Claus Lane and City Hall is decorated for the holidays every day of the year. Christmas trees are just as likely to be around in June as in December and there's just no avoiding the 48-foot-tall statue of St. Nicholas towering alongside the Richardson Highway near Santa Claus House.

Susan Miller, operations manager at Santa Claus House, can't get away from Christmas. She is surrounded by it day in, day out at the holiday shop her family owns. "I never found it a problem to get into the Christmas mood," Miller said.

At City Hall, clerk Genia Duhamel said out-of-state visitors who walk into City Hall in June or July are surprised and delighted to see the bells, wreaths and Christmas tree. "They love it. They think it's a great thing." Duhamel said working around Christmas every day can cause it to become background. "I enjoy it but after a while you don't really see it."

Gateway veneer plant closes

KETCHIKAN - The Gateway Forest Products veneer mill shut down Dec. 22 and will remain closed until about Jan. 14 due to a lack of logs.

Gateway's owners are asking U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Donald MacDonald for permission to loan the company $300,000 to buy new logs for its Ward Cove veneer mill. A hearing on that request has yet to be scheduled, said Gateway's bankruptcy expert Stephen Hartung.

The company has been operating on a $2.5 million loan obtained in April from the Ketchikan Gateway Borough but has nearly run out of cash at this time, according to recently filed court documents.

Gateway filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors in February and is scheduled for a financial reorganization confirmation hearing Jan. 9. The company hopes to raise cash and pay in advance for a supply of Canadian logs it would use to continue mill operations after Jan. 14. The supply of logs would last about one month with the mill operating at its current one-shift level, Hartung said.

If the company's proposed reorganization plan is adopted, it would have enough new financing to hire a second shift, he said.

School vandalism hits $100K

ANCHORAGE - Damage at the construction site of the new Dimond High School is now estimated to be more than $100,0000.

Vandals over the weekend broke into the construction site in south Anchorage and shattered windows, smashed ducting, splashed paint and damaged heavy equipment. A construction worker discovered the damage Sunday afternoon.

The vandals broke safety railings to push materials off the roof and onto heavy equipment.

Police have no suspects in the incident. Contractors are considering 24-hour security at the site or television surveillance to prevent further vandalism.

Woman assaulted by driver

ANCHORAGE - An 18-year-old woman was sexually assaulted Saturday night by a man who gave her a ride as she walked along a downtown street, Anchorage police said Monday.

The woman was walking on Fourth Avenue at about 9 p.m. on her way to find a friend to give her a ride home when a van pulled up, police spokeswoman Anita Shell said. The driver asked her for a lighter and then offered her a ride. After the woman accepted, they picked up a bottle of liquor and drove around town drinking, Shell said. The woman went to the back of the van to lie down and the man sexually assaulted her, Shell said.

Compiled from Associated Press reports.

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