State and local briefly

Posted: Thursday, February 24, 2000

Crash victim still in intensive care

JUNEAU - Juneau resident David Valley, 49, remains in the intensive care unit at a Seattle hospital.

Valley, who was injured in a bus-and-truck accident on Back Loop Road on Monday evening, is still in serious condition, said Larry Zalin, spokesman for Harborview Medical Center.

Valley's condition, complicated by the fact that he is ethically opposed to blood transfusions, did not improve overnight. ``He's still the same,'' Zalin said.

Zalin said Valley suffers from injuries to the abdomen and chest. Shannon Bvegni, Valley's daughter, is keeping her father company, but could not be reached this morning.

Valley's wife, child-care worker Claudia Valley, 45, was killed in the crash. No services have been set. The driver of a Capital Transit bus, the second vehicle involved, was slightly injured.

John Kern, manager of Capital Transit, said the driver returned to work Tuesday afternoon. She has been employed there since January 1997.

``It's very tragic, no doubt,'' Kern said. ``It's really affected everyone here at Capital Transit. It's the first time we've been involved in an accident that included a fatality, and we have no experience dealing with the trauma. We're working through that right now.''

College savings bill heads to Knowles

JUNEAU - The House approved a measure Wednesday allowing families to shelter up to $100,000 per child for college tuition.

Senate Bill 186, approved by the Senate last week, creates the Alaska Higher Education Savings Trust to take advantage of a federal law allowing states to set up more generous higher education savings plans. It now heads to Gov. Tony Knowles for his action.

Families would be able to shelter up to $100,000 from taxes and most debt collection to put a child through college under the bill.

Earnings would not be taxed until they were withdrawn to pay for college or vocational school. The money could be used for schools inside or outside the state. Participants would pay a 10 percent penalty on earnings if they used the money for other purposes.

House OKs dispatcher retirement measure

JUNEAU - A bill allowing police dispatchers to retire after 20 years passed the House on Wednesday.

House Bill 230 would allow police and fire dispatchers at retirement to have the option of converting their service as dispatchers into service as peace officers. Dispatchers now must work 30 years before they're eligible for retirement. The bill would make them eligible at 20 years.

``Dispatchers are in a high-stress occupation with a higher-than-average burnout factor,'' said Rep. Pete Kott, an Anchorage Republican. He said few stay for 30 years and the bill would be a strong incentive to stay at least 20 years.

Kott said that could mean less turnover and savings in training costs.

The bill requires dispatchers to pay the full cost of conversion of their credited service to peace officer status, Kott said, and will cost the state nothing. The measure now goes to the state Senate for consideration.

Bill would boost victim notification

JUNEAU - A measure approved by the House on Wednesday requires courts to notify sexual assault victims, or parents of victims, of the bail hearings of people charged with the crime.

House Bill 67, sponsored by Rep. Norm Rokeberg, an Anchorage Republican, would allow victims to comment on bail conditions.

``Victims are usually notified of bail hearings in these cases, but there is nothing in statute that requires judicial officers to inquire if such notification has been made,'' Rokeberg said.

He filed the bill after a victim's family in his district was not informed of the release on bail of a man charged with sexual assault in 1996. The bill, which still must make it through the Senate, also permits judges to impose additional bail conditions to protect victims.

Road-plowing plan draws fire

FAIRBANKS - A plan to have the Taylor Highway and other Interior Alaska remote highways open this spring by thawing rather than plowing is drawing protests from residents of isolated communities and the tourism industry.

The Legislature voted last year to cut $726,000 from the maintenance and operations budget of the Department of Transportation's northern region, said Ralph Swarthout, maintenance and operations director for the region. That reduction eliminated funds for spring plowing on the Taylor Highway, the McCarthy Road, the Boundary Spur, the Eureka-Rampart Road and other remote routes.

In past years the roads have been plowed open in late March and April. A similar dispute over the roads occurred last year.

The department, legislators and the governor are again hearing from residents who want the state to come up with money to plow out the deeper-than-normal snowpack. The fear is that with this winter's heavy snow, roads left to thaw might not be open until late May or June, well after mining and tourism seasons have begun.

``They're trying to build up a tourist industry with one hand and tear it down with the other,'' said Eagle City Council Member Elva Scott.

Sen. Georgianna Lincoln, a Rampart Democrat, has drafted an amendment to the Senate's supplemental appropriation bill that would restore $316,000 to DOT to plow the remote roads. A Senate Finance Committee hearing on the supplemental appropriation is scheduled for Monday. ``It's something we're most concerned about,'' Lincoln said.

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