Alaska Digest

Staff and Wire reports

Posted: Thursday, January 27, 2005

Free bus fares to return for disabled

JUNEAU - Many disabled residents will again be able to board Capital Transit buses for free beginning Tuesday.

Capital Transit has announced that people holding valid VIP bus passes issued by the company may simply show it to bus drivers to board. For about six months, disabled residents could use VIP passes to purchase discount passes after the Juneau Assembly voted to discontinue free bus service to people with disabilities, as well as Juneau's elderly residents.

The Assembly voted in December to reverse its decision. Since the beginning of January, seniors have been allowed to use their tax exemption cards to board buses for free.

Before August, all seniors and disabled passengers were allowed to ride city buses for free. To increase revenue for the system, the Assembly required them to pay for the service, offering them the opportunity to purchase monthly passes at the rate of $12 a month. Full adult bus fare is $1.50 for a one-way trip.

People eligible to receive VIP passes include those eligible for Social Security disability benefits or certified by a licensed physician.

Man who ran out of road sentenced

JUNEAU - A man arrested in September on felony charges after police followed him 40 miles up the coast has been sentenced to 312 months in jail for failing to stop for police.

Theodore Rado, 35, agreed to plead guilty to felony first-degree failing to stop at the direction of a police officer. As part of the agreement, a felony charge of third-degree assault, two felony counts of third-degree criminal mischief and a misdemeanor reckless driving charge were dismissed.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins imposed 105 days in jail with credit for time Rado served since his arrest last Sept. 15. She also placed Rado on probation for 10 years.

Police reported that at 2:23 a.m. on Sept. 15, an officer attempted to stop the vehicle Rado was driving because of an alleged unspecified traffic violation. When Rado continued, multiple police units followed him out of the downtown area.

Speeds during the pursuit were described as being mostly below the speed limit. According to police, Rado attempted to turn around when he reached the end of the road about 40 miles from downtown. Officers reported the vehicle he was driving struck two pursuing police units and ran into a ditch.

Commission OKs JDHS site work

JUNEAU - The Juneau Planning Commission on Tuesday approved the city's proposed outdoor work at Juneau-Douglas High School.

This summer, a contractor will add a playing field 115 feet by 300 feet next to the Augustus Brown swimming pool. It will be a synthetic field if the city can afford it.

Twenty-four parking spaces will face the field so that vehicles' lights won't shine into houses on Glacier Avenue.

The contractor also will reconfigure the parking lot in front of JDHS's main entrance and add several parking spaces there.

The site work is just part of this summer's project, which is expected to cost $4.6 million, including design and administration. Other work includes classroom and gym renovations.

The funds come from bonds Juneau voters approved in October 2003. The state is reimbursing 70 percent of the cost.

Coast Guard sends help to research vessel

ANCHORAGE - A "Semester at Sea" research ship with 990 people on board was temporarily disabled in the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday, and Coast Guard vessels and aircraft from Alaska and Hawaii were dispatched to help.

The 591-foot Explorer lost power in three of its four engines when a 50-foot wave broke bridge windows, damaged controls and injured two crew members, the Coast Guard said.

The ship for a time operated on just one of its four engines and could do little more than keep the bow headed into heavy seas using emergency steering. By Wednesday evening, a second engine had been started and the ship was making headway at a speed of about 10 knots in 35-foot waves and wind gusts of more than 50 mph, said Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Glynn Smith in Alameda, Calif.

The Coast Guard received word of the Explorer's situation at about 2:30 p.m. Alaska time.

The ship was reported about 650 miles south of Adak, Alaska. Adak is in the Aleutian Islands about 1,300 miles southwest of Anchorage.

The Explorer is a 25,000-ton, Bahamian-flagged vessel, that was en route to Korea and Japan from Vancouver, British Columbia. Stellar Maritime S.A. is the owner. It was built in 2001.

Attorney who shaped PFD distribution dies

ANCHORAGE - Anchorage attorney Ron Zobel, whose lawsuit shaped the delivery of Alaska Permanent Fund dividends, died Wednesday. He was 60.

Zobel died of pneumonia brought on by complications of cancer, said his wife, Penny. He had retired in May.

The Zobels came to prominence in the late 1970s when they sued over the original configuration of the permanent fund dividends.

The Alaska Permanent Fund was created in 1976 by an amendment to the state constitution as a means of preserving part of the vast North Slope petroleum wealth that was to become available to state government. The amendment required the dedication of 25 percent of mineral bonuses, royalties and related income to a special fund to be put into income-producing investments.

The value of the fund as of Wednesday stood at nearly $29.3 billion.

Then Gov. Jay Hammond and state legislators devised a law to distribute a percentage of earnings to residents in dividends.

As originally conceived, the amount of each dividend would have depended on how long the recipient had lived in Alaska.

Hammond said the plan would discourage the "rip off and run" syndrome among people receiving the dividend.

The Zobels, lawyers who were then newcomers to Alaska, filed a lawsuit saying the concept was unconstitutional.

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