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Assembly OKs Steamship Wharf bonds
JUNEAU - The Juneau Assembly on Monday unanimously approved the sale of $6.2 million in revenue bonds for upgrades at Steamship Wharf and Marine Park downtown.
The bonds will be issued through the Alaska Bond Bank for a term of four years. The city estimates it will need $5.9 million in bonding to fund the project, but approved the larger amount in case interest rates change before the sale. The current interest rate for similar bonds is about 3.25 percent, according to the city.
The $5.9 million total includes about $5.2 million for the project, $593,600 in required reserves, and $110,000 in costs to issue the bonds. Estimates last fall placed the construction cost at $4.7 million, but the new numbers reflect the actual costs to install the structural pilings and decking, the city said.
The project is on schedule to open on May 1, Interim City Manager John MacKinnon said Monday. Noisy pile driving is nearly complete, he said.
Under an arrangement previously approved by the Assembly, 75 percent of the project cost will be paid for with a new port development fee from cruise ships. The remaining funding will come from a $5-per-passenger cruise ship fee.
Assembly approves raise for MacKinnon
JUNEAU - The Juneau Assembly approved a 10 percent pay raise for Interim City Manager John MacKinnon on Monday.
The vote will increase MacKinnon's pay from $91,350 to $100,485 a year. It is effective immediately and is not retroactive, Mayor Sally Smith said. MacKinnon, a former Assembly member, took over as interim manager in July. Under the city's charter, he cannot serve as interim manager for more than one year.
The Assembly voted 7-2 to approve the pay increase, with Assembly members Marc Wheeler and Stan Ridgeway voting no. Wheeler said he objected to a 10 percent increase when the city is preparing to enter negotiations this year with its largest employee union, the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association.
Assembly member Dale Anderson said he supported the raise because MacKinnon had been doing the work of city manager and deputy manager for the last six months. Former Deputy Manager Donna Pierce returned to her old job this month after a six-month break.
Homeless man's tent burns
JUNEAU - No one was injured when a homeless man's tent, set up north of a city-owned campground, burned down Monday afternoon.
Capital City Fire & Rescue responded to the scene near the Thane Road campground around 3 p.m. The tent, valued at $100, was destroyed, according to CCFR's recorded media phone line. Fire staff did not return calls from the Empire for more details.
Though the tent's owner, Dale Jones, did not live in the Thane campground, its caretaker, Jason Layton, said the man was "obviously in such a way that he can't stay somewhere better."
Layton said it's very dangerous for people to camp in the winter because they sleep close to the cold ground and have to deal with the changing weather conditions, and sometimes use inventive but dangerous ways to stay warm.
"This happens at last once a year," said Layton. "That's why we don't offer year-round accommodations yet."
Layton said he is accepting donations of wood for platforms for campers who have no choice but to sleep outdoors.
Layton said Jones is staying at the Glory Hole, the downtown homeless shelter. Layton said Jones received a notice from the city to stay away from the property where he was camping. Layton said it is owned by the city.
Courthouse adopts security measures
JUNEAU - Alaska court administrators are asking the public, including prospective jurors, to leave all weapons and sharp objects at home before entering Dimond Courthouse. The request is part of a new security system at the courthouse completed Monday.
As part of the new security measures, courthouse patrons must go through a metal detector and have their belongings X-rayed in the lobby of the building before being allowed to continue through, said Neil Nesheim Area Court Administrator for Southeast.
All Leathermen tools, pocketknives, other sharp objects and weapons will be confiscated, he said. People who have items taken from them will not be able to get them back.
Further, all doors, other than the Fourth Street entrance to the courthouse, have been closed to the public. Court employees may use those doors and some have been turned into emergency exits. Also, attorneys, legislators and legislative staff will have to use a key card to enter the building after regular business hours to use the law library.
Earlier last year the Alaska Supreme Court mandated security updates at courthouses in Juneau, Palmer and Kenai, Nesheim said. He said these courts were chosen because next to Fairbanks and Anchorage, which already had security upgrades, these three cities were the largest in case volume. The Alaska Court System received an $80,000 federal appropriation as part of the Violence Against Women Act for the security system, Nesheim said.
Assembly accepts Douglas Bridge appeal
JUNEAU - The Juneau Assembly on Monday agreed to appoint an outside hearing officer to handle an appeal from bicyclists who object to pending traffic changes on the Douglas Bridge.
The Juneau Freewheelers Bicycle Club is appealing the Juneau Planning Commission's review of a state Department of Transportation project to realign bridge traffic. In December, the Planning Commission signed off on plans to remove bike lanes from the bridge and add a reversible third lane for cars. The pedestrian walkway would be widened by two feet. Bicyclists could use either the walkway or the car lanes.
The Freewheelers' appeal contends the project is not safe for bicyclists, pedestrians or motorists, and it exacerbates parking, air pollution and traffic problems. It also violates city code and state statue, the group said.
City Community Development Director Dale Pernula responded that the Planning Commission had substantial evidence supporting its decision to approve the project. DOT officials have said the project will increase safety and ease congestion.
The Assembly agreed to accept to the appeal and will appoint a hearing officer to review the case. A hearing officer is usually an attorney and could cost $20,000 to $30,000, City Attorney John Corso said.
Park shelter bookings available soon
JUNEAU - The city will take reservations for park shelters beginning Feb. 3.
Shelters can be reserved at Savikko Park in Douglas, Cope Park downtown, Riverside Rotary Park in the Mendenhall Valley, and Twin Lakes near Salmon Creek. Shelters can be reserved on an hourly basis from April 18 to Sept. 14.
Rates are $15 an hour for the Savikko and Cope Park shelters. The Riverside shelter runs $5 an hour, and the Twin Lakes shelter is $10 an hour.
Reservations must be made at the Parks and Rec office in City Hall through Feb. 14, after which faxed and mail requests can be made. For more information, call 586-5226. Dimensions and other details are on the "Picnic Shelters" link at Parks and Rec Web site, www.juneau.lib.ak.us/parksrec/.
Two killed in vehicle accident in Petersburg
PETERSBURG - Petersburg is mourning the loss of two young people killed in a weekend vehicle accident.
Michael Rowe, 23, and Jessica Peterson, 14, were killed when their vehicle went off Sing Lee Alley Bridge in downtown Petersburg on Friday night.
Police told KSTK radio that the wooden roadway was very icy and the Chevy sport utility vehicle skidded through the guardrail and fell into Hammer Slough.
Police, emergency medical technicians, the fire department and local harbor staff responded to the scene. Attempts to resuscitate the victims were not successful. Police are investigating the cause of the accident.
Rowe was a friend of Peterson's older sister and he was giving Peterson a ride home after a high school basketball game.
Rowe was a 1999 graduate of Petersburg High School and Peterson was a freshman. The sudden loss of a student and former student hit the community hard, and the school opened its doors Saturday morning for grieving students to gather and talk with counselors.
The school canceled its Saturday basketball games and several hundred people participated in a memorial walk to the accident site Saturday.
A memorial service for Peterson was held Monday night at the high school gym. A service for Michael Rowe will be held Thursday.
Illness closes Ketchikan school
KETCHIKAN - A rapid outbreak of gastrointestinal illness among students and staff members brought Holy Name Catholic School to an early close Friday.
The outbreak began Thursday and accelerated that afternoon, the Rev. Patrick Travers, pastor of Holy Name Catholic Church, said. The main symptom was vomiting.
After school ended Thursday, a cleaning service used a solution designed to combat Norwalk-like viruses to disinfect the school rooms, Travers said.
On Friday, only 38 of the school's 114 students attended school, Travers said. Several staff members also stayed home.
State health officials requested that students and staff members who had the symptoms not return to the school until 72 hours after their symptoms had subsided.