State and local briefly

Posted: Tuesday, January 04, 2000

Head tax study money questioned

JUNEAU - City Manager Dave Palmer asked the Juneau Assembly on Monday to give him $25,000 for a study of the financial impacts of cruise ship passengers on city operations. He proposed the money be appropriated from fiscal year 2000 cruise ship passenger fee revenues.

Assembly members responded with a barrage of questions about how the study would be conducted, what questions would be asked of whom and even what firm would be used.

Palmer sought to limit the study to direct effects on city departments - ``how much money such departments as fire, streets and the attorney's office spend on tourism-related issues.''

Bud Simpson, a lawyer for the North West CruiseShip Association, a cruise line trade group, proposed the study be kept confined to items that can be measured through ``hard accounting,'' rather than such considerations as social effects.

But assembly members were aiming for a broader investigation of cruise ship impacts, including costs of vehicle and road maintenance.

Ken Koelsch wanted the study to include tourism effects on the city's enterprise funds, such as Bartlett Regional Hospital and Docks and Harbors. And member Frankie Pillifant thought the study should include broader considerations, such as quality of life. ``I'd like an accounting group that has some experience in resource accounting,'' she said.

Palmer proposed using the city's accountants - Elgee, Rehfeld and Funk - because of what he said was the firm's long experience with city departments.

The measure was tabled after other members asked the manager to further define the scope of the study. The ordinance will be reconsidered at an assembly work session Wednesday. ``We'll be there in force, Wednesday night,'' Simpson said.

Car fire fund-raising continues

JUNEAU - Firefighters are still trying to help the Nelson family recover from a car fire.

Just off the ferry Dec. 28 after visiting relatives in Sitka, Rachel Nelson, 27, and her three young daughters suddenly found smoke and flames shooting into the front seat of their station wagon. The family escaped unscathed, but cash, Christmas gifts and clothing were destroyed. Firefighter Richard Duncan began collecting on their behalf the following day.

``People donated from the kindness of their hearts,'' Duncan said today. ``We got some cash and gift certificates - but not as much as what I'd hoped.''

Duncan will now approach stores. In the meantime, donations may be dropped off at the Glacier Fire Hall near the airport, 1700 Crest Ave. Call 789-7554 for details.

Diver missing in Whittier Harbor

ANCHORAGE - Authorities were searching for a 59-year-old scuba diver from Anchorage who failed to return after a New Year's Eve dive in Whittier Harbor.

Judson Lanier is believed to have made it in to waist-deep water with six other divers, but did not walk back up on shore, the Alaska State Troopers said. The others didn't notice him missing until they were putting away their gear, troopers said.

Whittier police used a dive team, boats and snowmachines to search the waters and beaches but were hampered by strong winds and poor visibility through the holiday weekend. Troopers were called in to help Monday.

Housing agency settles sale dispute

FAIRBANKS - The Alaska Housing Finance Corp. plans to sell its old South Fairbanks low-income housing units to investors the agency previously sued.

Jalasko Investments was the high bidder on 14 of the 15 duplexes, tri-plexes and four-plexes. Jalasko has cross-ownership with Sprucewood Investment Corp., the firm against which the state housing agency waged a year-long legal battle.

AHFC last year decided to destroy the buildings to make room for new low-income housing. AHFC had determined that it made no economic sense to renovate the buildings, built around 1973.

The agency hired Fairbanks contractor Jerry Timmons for the demolition work. But Timmons decided the buildings had potential and determined the contract language gave him ownership of any materials he salvaged. So he moved the buildings last summer and agreed to sell them for $150,000 to Ashlock and Sprucewood Investments for renovation and eventual rental.

Some South Fairbanks residents complained when the old units appeared in their neighborhood. AHFC sued Timmons and Sprucewood, saying the buildings were meant to be destroyed, and obtained a court order halting their renovation.

Legislators placed pressure on the state housing agency to not destroy the buildings, saying to do so would be an example of government waste. Last month the housing agency announced its plan to sell the buildings to the highest bidder. Jalasko had the high bid on 14 of the buildings - a total of about $235,000.

Coast Guard to inspect crab boats

JUNEAU - The Coast Guard will accompany the Alaska Department of Fish and Game as it inspects the crab fleet next week, Coast Guard officials said Monday.

Fish and Game will be inspecting the vessels' tanks prior to the opening of the Bering Sea Opilio Crab season Jan. 15. The inspections will be held at Dutch Harbor, Akutan and King Cove.

The Coast Guard is accompanying Fish and Game on the inspections to examine the stability of vessels, pot-loading practices and other safety issues.

The Coast Guard will also gather data on incidents where fishermen have gone overboard. During the past 10 years 54 fishermen have been killed falling off commercial fishing boats - 24 of them during the crab fishery.

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