Alaska Digest

Posted: Monday, January 29, 2007

Interior lawmakers call for more regents

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FAIRBANKS - None of Gov. Sarah Palin's latest appointments to the University of Alaska Board of Regents are from Interior Alaska and two of the region's lawmakers are voicing concern.

Palin last week announced the appointments of Fuller Cowell II, Kirk Wickersham and Tim Brady, all of Anchorage, plus Patricia Jacobson of Kodiak, to the 11-member board that oversees the university.

Two of the four outgoing regents are from the Interior, Brian Rogers of Fairbanks and Joseph Usibelli Jr. of Healy.

"The governor appointed three Anchorage people and one Kodiak person. I just think one of those appointments should have been a Fairbanks replacement for either Brian Rogers or Joe Usibelli," said Sen. Gary Wilken, R-Fairbanks. "I think the flagship campus deserves the reputation it has, and I'm disappointed our representation on the regents has been diminished and I would like to know why."

Only two remaining regents are from Fairbanks - Cynthia Henry and Jim Hayes. Hayes is facing federal charges of theft, conspiracy and money laundering. Six regents are from Anchorage and there is one each from Sitka, Juneau and Kodiak.

There is no rule that says Palin has to appoint a certain number of regents from each campus but Wilken said doing so was "traditional."

Warm weather raises avalanche dangers

ANCHORAGE - Heavy snow and pleasant temperatures sound like invitations to recreate in Southcentral Alaska but avalanche experts are warning people who venture near mountains to be careful.

Heavy, wet snowfall in some parts of Southcentral Alaska was followed by warm, above-freezing temperatures. That has loaded mountains to risky levels, experts warn.

"Picture a piece of plywood on top of marbles," said Alaska State Trooper Sgt. Rex Leath on Friday.

The state Department of Transportation set off a controlled avalanche where the Seward Highway meets the Sterling Highway. It brought down so much snow that a swath 900 feet long by about 200 feet wide covered both highways in eight feet of snow. The Seward Highway was closed most of the afternoon as state crews cleared the debris.

In Anchorage, more than 74 inches of snow has fallen since winter began, more than the average for an entire winter.

Eviction flier worries Fairbanks residents

FAIRBANKS - For months, tenants of the Fairview Manor Apartments have heard talk that the complex's four apartment buildings could be razed, a possibility given negotiations between the city of Fairbanks and a development group.

As city officials moved closer toward selling the land under the apartments to the Weeks Field Development Group, questions over where tenants would live when the existing buildings come down are becoming more apparent.

And judging from the fliers peppered throughout the complex's three occupied buildings last week, at least one person has a problem with the sale, which under the developers' plan would replace the 1950s apartments with new housing for residents and seniors.

Army Spc. David McMillen has lived at the low-rent apartments - one-bedroom units rent for $575 per month, a figure that includes utilities - with his wife, Jessica, after moving from Anchorage a month ago.

He was surprised Wednesday to find a flier tucked into his door jam when he returned home from work.

The flier, which was unsigned, urges tenants who might be worried about talk of a land sale to call city officials. It lists work and home phone numbers of city officials and even suggests talking points: one reads, "I am living at Fairview Manor and will be evicted if they tear down the current building and replace it with condos for retired people."

The same anonymous flier had been distributed to most of the complex's 200-plus apartments that day, the complex's managers would soon learn.

McMillen expressed more amusement than concern over the flier. He is stationed at the Fort Wainwright Army post and said he likely won't be in Fairbanks through the end of this year.

"So this doesn't really affect us," McMillen said. "We'll be out of here by the time they knock this place down."

Apartment managers said the fliers' assertion that evictions are eminent are exaggerated.

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