State Briefs

Posted: Thursday, February 20, 2003

Gov. wants to continue regulatory panel

JUNEAU - A bill proposed by Gov. Frank Murkowski would extend the life of the state's regulatory commission for public utilities four years to 2007.

The Regulatory Commission of Alaska was set to expire June 30 of this year, with a one-year "wind-down" period after that.

"The continued operation of the RCA is essential to ensure that Alaskan consumers have reliable and affordable utility services and to assure a stable business environment for utilities and pipelines," Murkowski wrote to the Legislature in the letter that accompanied the bill, which was submitted Wednesday.

The governor expressed concern the commission would have to use its wind-down time to plan for closing operations rather than regulating utilities.

The RCA is responsible for regulating public utilities, but does not have authority over city-owned utilities, very small utility companies, cable television and cellular phone companies and cooperatives whose members have voted to deregulate.

Last year the Legislature extended the commission one year and instituted requirements for the commission to meet monthly with regulated utilities and the public to discuss its procedures.

The commission has been accused in the past of being unfair, particularly in its dealings with the so-called "phone wars" between ACS and GCI. GCI has expressed support for RCA, while ACS has accused the commission of bias, complaining that the vast majority of its rulings favor GCI.

West Egan Drive meeting tonight

JUNEAU - Transportation planners are seeking comment tonight on proposals to reroute traffic on West Egan Drive from Yandukin Drive to Industrial Boulevard.

The state Department of Transportation is reviewing four alternatives for the area. Three would include overpasses at major Egan Drive intersections. The fourth option would keep traffic signals and add lanes.

Tonight's open house is from 4:30 to 8 p.m. at the Mendenhall Center, also known as the Mendenhall Mall, with half-hour presentations at 5 and 6:30 p.m. Maps will be available and staff will be on hand to answer questions. More details are available at projects.ch2m.com/WEDCOR/.

Passenger fee collections up

JUNEAU - The Juneau Assembly's Finance Committee on Wednesday decided to spend extra funding from the city's $5-per-person cruise ship passenger fee on trail maintenance and waterfront property.

Passenger fee revenue from fiscal year 2002 was $3,393,500, or about $60,900 higher than budgeted. About 722,000 cruise ship passengers visited Juneau last summer, but the city's fiscal year runs from July 1 to July 30.

Assembly members decided to use $25,000 of the extra funding for work on Perseverance Trail and the trail at Sunshine Cove, with the rest going to waterfront land acquisition. The full Assembly will need to approve the expenditure.

City staff members also are expecting extra passenger fee revenue in fiscal year 2003, but recommended the Assembly wait to allocate the money. Complete information on fiscal year 2003 will be available in August, city Finance Director Craig Duncan said.

Ice rink grand opening Saturday

JUNEAU - The community is invited to an official grand opening for the Treadwell Arena on Saturday. The event runs from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the new ice rink at Savikko Park in Douglas.

The rink opened to the public earlier this month and city's Parks and Recreation Department and the Douglas Fourth of July Committee are sponsoring the celebration.

The grand opening schedule Saturday is:

• 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.: Hockey exhibition with local teams.

• 11 to 11:30 a.m.: Grand opening ceremony with Mayor Sally Smith.

• 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.: A figure skating exhibition with the Anchorage Figure Skating Association.

• 12:30 to 1:45 p.m.: Free public skate.

• 2 to 3 p.m.: A youth hockey exhibition with the Whitehorse Youth Hockey League.

• 3:30 to 5 p.m.: Free public skate.

The free skates will be limited to the first 250 people and event sponsors are asking people to skate at one session only so as many people as possible can try the ice. The rink has a limited number of figure and hockey skates to rent at $2 a pair on a first-come, first-serve basis. Parking is available along Savikko Road and not next to the building, except for designated blue spaces.

Sen. Murkowski will back Iraqi invasion

ANCHORAGE - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski will back a resolution supporting a war in Iraq if it comes before the Senate for a vote, she said Wednesday.

Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, said Wednesday the final deadline is drawing near for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to demonstrate that he has rid his country of weapons of mass destruction.

"The issue is that Saddam has not demonstrated to us that he has gotten rid of them," she said.

Murkowski said anti-war protests last weekend couldn't help but make an impression, whether they were the vast crowds in European cities or smaller numbers demonstrating in Alaska. An estimated 750,000 protesters gathered in London against the prospect of a U.S.-led war in Iraq. In Juneau, an estimated 1,500 people crossed the Douglas Bridge during a walk for peace.

But Murkowski said the burden of proof has been on the Iraqi president to demonstrate he has disarmed and he has failed to do so. She questioned how much more time is needed before the United States intervenes.

"That time is drawing near," he said.

She said that as a senator, she has been briefed by the Bush administration about the threat represented by Iraq.

"I'm not going to sit here and tell you I have seen the smoking gun," Murkowski said. But she said President Bush has made a convincing case for military action, and that if it comes to a vote in the Senate, she believes he will have the backing of Congress.

Anchorage youth shot accidentally by teen

ANCHORAGE - A 15-year-old boy was shot in the head Wednesday afternoon by another teenager playing with a handgun, Anchorage police said.

"It didn't look life-threatening, but anything could go wrong," Sgt. Rick Shell said. "The hugest concern right now is what brain damage there is."

The victim's sister identified him as Barry Wold. The shooting took place at about 2:45 p.m. in a trailer home in Spenard.

An 18-year-old man, who had removed the bullet cartridge, believed the weapon was unloaded as he twirled it around his finger, Shell said. But a round remained in the chamber.

"We hear that in 99 percent of these things. 'I thought the gun was unloaded,' " Shell said.

The victim's sister, Sarah Wold, 18, identified the teenager playing with the gun as her boyfriend, Ben Shipp.

Even if the police investigation concludes that the shooting was accidental, Shell said, Shipp could be charged with reckless endangerment.

It was unclear who owns the handgun.



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