Juneau Digest

Posted: Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Man falls through ice on Mendenhall Lake

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JUNEAU - A man investigating an iceberg Sunday on Mendenhall Lake fell through weak ice, officials with the U.S. Forest Service said Monday.

The man saved himself by rolling out of the hole and was attended to by his wife. The time of the incident and the man's identity were not available.

Visitors to Tongass National Forest should stay off the lake until it freezes to a safe thickness, Forest Service officials said.

Marc Scholten, forester at the Juneau Ranger District, said repetitive thawing and freezing cycles have made the ice on the surface of the lake unstable and unpredictable. The ice is full of air and is uneven and brittle.

"The conditions on Mendenhall Lake are hazardous," Scholten said. "With a fresh coating of snow on the lake, it covers up all the potential hazards out there."

Assembly increases charges for 911 line

JUNEAU - The Juneau Assembly voted Monday to increase the rates callers with Juneau billing addresses will pay for the emergency 911 surcharge beginning Feb. 1.

The resolution, which passed 8-1, increases the charge from 75 cents to $1.90 per month, per phone line. Money raised by the fee will pay for new technology that will enable the city's dispatch to better locate callers using cell phones.

Assembly member Jonathan Anderson opposed the measure because he said the costs would not be evenly distributed by those who used the system.

"Visitors to our town would not use this," he said. "This is something that we could have made a decision to pay for in our city budget."

Juneau resident Debbie White said she did not necessarily oppose spending the money, but balked at how quickly the costs would add up for her family and business. She said she estimated she would pay roughly $70 per year for all her phone lines.

Assembly member David Stone voted in favor of the increase. "We need to know where these people are to respond to them. We need to bring the technology up. This is just a fact of life."

Alaska soldier killed by small arms fire

ANCHORAGE - A soldier from Alaska has died in Baghdad of injuries suffered by enemy small arms fire in combat.

Staff Sgt. Charles D. Allen of Wasilla was assigned to a support group for a Stryker brigade - 296th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division - at Fort Lewis, Wash.

He died Thursday.

Allen, 28, had been in the Army since September 1995, according to Fort Lewis spokesman Bob Reinert.

Allen arrived at Fort Lewis in February 2006 and worked in the medical field as an emergency care sergeant, Reinert said.

Match play likely caused fatal fire

ANCHORAGE - A house fire in Eagle River that killed a 4-year-old boy apparently was caused by children playing with matches, Anchorage fire officials said.

Matthew Leighton died of severe burns and three other children were critically burned and suffered smoke inhalation in the blaze Saturday. The injured children were flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

The injured children - Daiquiri Wright, 4; Christopher Dirkes, 2; and Amber Leighton, 3 - remained in critical condition on Monday, hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg-Hanson said.

Long wooden fireplace matches were found on the floor in the living room near fire's starting point, said Fire Department spokesman Tom Kempton.

The house had no working smoke detectors, Kempton said.

Helicopter pulls four fishermen to safety

JUNEAU - A Coast Guard helicopter from Kodiak hoisted four fishermen to safety from a life raft Monday.

The men had left the fishing vessel Hunter and activated an electronic distress beacon about two miles east of Cape Ignak, on the Southcentral coast.

All four were taken to Kodiak, where they received medical attention, the Coast Guard public affairs office said in a press release.

The Hunter is based in Cordova.

Pesticide initiative doesn't qualify for 2008 ballot

JUNEAU - A proposed ballot measure that would protect school children from pesticide exposure has failed to gather enough signatures to be placed on the 2008 primary election ballot.

Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell announced Monday that the initiative fell 6,853 signatures short of the required number of qualified voters. Sponsors needed at least 31,450 signatures, or 7 percent of voters in the last statewide election, to qualify.

Sponsor Pam Miller with Alaska Community Action on Toxics said the group may ask the Division of Elections for a recount. She said the petition gatherers believed they had thousands more signatures than required.

Miller said if the measure does not qualify for the ballot, sponsors will ask state lawmakers to consider passing similar legislation this year.

"We hope the legislature would view this and see it is something Alaskans do support and need," Miller said.

Barring legislative action, Miller said the group would begin the signature gathering process again.

The initiative would require school districts use pesticides only as a last resort and then use only the smallest amount of the least toxic pesticide for the job. The measure also includes requirements on storage, record keeping and notification of when herbicides and insecticides would be used.

The measure would mirror a policy in that has been in place in the Anchorage School District since 2001.

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