Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Planning commission approves school permit

JUNEAU - Planning commissioners granted a conditional-use permit Tuesday night including 20 conditions that would allow construction of a new high school in the Mendenhall Valley.

Most of the conditions address traffic the project would add to the area near Riverside Drive and trees that the project proposes to remove from the neighborhood.

The vote was unanimous, with Mark Pusich not participating. Pusich noted a conflict of interest, having done engineering work on the project.

Juneau voters could block construction of the Valley high school.

"This is not the forum for the issue of whether the school should be built or not, which is circulating widely in the community," Commission Chairman Johan Dybdahl said.

Two commissioners, Mike Bavard and Jacqueline Fowler, praised the city's communication with residents in the Dimond Park area.

"I think it's really helpful," Bavard said. "Unfortunately, you can't fix it to meet everybody's wishes and desires."

Conditions will require the city to install crosswalks that would alert motorists to pedestrian's presence. The crosswalks would be on all legs of the intersection of Riverside and Riverwood drives at the entrance to the school, with installation of a traffic signal.

Two new transit stops and bus shelters will have to be sited on Riverside Drive prior to the school's occupancy.

The city will retain trees in the buffer area bordering the common property line between the school and neighborhood residents, except as size and health of the trees require removal.

Man pleads no contest to raping, killing niece

ANCHORAGE - An Anchorage man has pleaded no contest to sexually assaulting and killing his 15-year-old niece.

Marshall Ahvakana on Monday entered the no-contest plea to charges of felony murder and rape. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison for the 2002 death of his niece, Nancy Brower, who was in ninth grade.

Ahvakana, 26, also was sentenced to an additional 10 years for the August 2001 sexual assault of a woman on a city trail.

As part of the plea agreement, a first-degree murder charge against Ahvakana was dismissed, Prosecutor John Novak said.

According to court files, Ahvakana attacked and killed Nancy Brower at the home of his parents, who were her grandparents. He apparently killed her with an aluminum bat, then wrapped her in blankets and left her on the floor of her blood-soaked bedroom at his parents' trailer while they were out. He has said he doesn't remember the details.

Airline wants public's help to add flights

FAIRBANKS - Alaska Airlines wants to add four Washington, D.C. flights, and is enlisting customers for help.

The airline needs federal permission for new flights, so it is asking customers to write letters of endorsement.

Alaska Airlines has three flights a day in and out of the D.C. area.

The Seattle-based carrier wants four new daily round-trip flights between Reagan National and the West Coast. Two would originate in Seattle and two in Los Angeles. The Seattle flights would provide same-plane service to Fairbanks and, seasonally, to Juneau.

At Reagan National, Congress limits the number of flights to and from places more than 1,250 miles away. Last year, it boosted the slots by six, as part of a bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration.

The agency's decisions are expected by April, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

In an e-mail to customers last week and on the Alaska Airlines employee Web site, chairman and CEO Bill Ayers asked for letters of support.

Fairbanks school district axes hockey

FAIRBANKS - The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District plans to drop its popular hockey program, officials said, citing a severe budget deficit.

Hockey is a small but highly visible cut that district officials have proposed to offset an anticipated $8.5 million or more in funding cuts - a budget dilemma facing school districts across the state.

The Fairbanks school district also proposed cuts to high school swimming and gymnastics programs, middle school sports and other extracurricular activities.

This school year, school activities cost the district $1.3 million with $930,000 spent at the high school level. District projections for next year reduce that number between $467,000 and $585,000.

State accepts fisheries grant applications

JUNEAU - The state is taking applications for a $1 million fisheries economic development grant program.

The program will award one-time funding for new fisheries-related infrastructure projects or for the expansion or improvement of existing projects.

State officials received 146 requests for funding in last year's economic development grant program. The state awarded about $9.5 million to 36 recipients, including 14 from Southeast.

The grants are being awarded on a matching basis, requiring a 50 percent contribution from private companies, and a 25 percent contribution from public-sector entities and nonprofit groups.

The grants won't be awarded until the recipients demonstrate the ability to match, said Frankie Pillifant of the Department of Community and Economic Development.

Applications must be postmarked by Feb. 23. Forms and more information are available at

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