State and local briefly

Posted: Wednesday, March 01, 2000

Three get every-fourth-year birthdays

JUNEAU - Three leap-day babies were born Tuesday at Bartlett Regional Hospital.

Bert Kristian Fawcett Jr. was born at noon Feb. 29, a day added to the calendar every four years to bring the human calendar back in line with orbital realities. A few hours later twins were born, said Marijo Toner, regional affairs coordinator for Bartlett.

Not yet recovered from the birth, Fawcett's parents hadn't thought about the challenge of future birthdays.

``We never discussed that yet,'' said father Bert Fawcett Sr. He discussed it for a moment with Julie Nielsen, the tired mom. ``My wife said the 28th.''

Though his first-time parents were dragging from three hours of sleep, Fawcett Jr. was alert this morning. He was 9 pounds, 7 ounces at birth and 20 inches long.

``He's doing fine, looking around, checking out the world,'' said Fawcett Sr., who works at Four Eagles Construction. Nielsen used to cook at the Juneau Pioneers' Home.

The parents of the twins chose not to release any information, hospital officials said.

Fuel tax on hold for now

JUNEAU - Gov. Tony Knowles' proposal to boost motor fuel taxes is on hold while legislators watch what the marketplace does to the price of gasoline.

House Bill 59 was pulled from the agenda of the House Transportation Committee on Tuesday amid concerns consumers already will have to pay significantly more at the pumps.

Committee Chairman Andrew Halcro said gas prices have jumped 6 cents per gallon in the past two weeks. The bill would more than double fuel taxes from 8 cents to 17 cents per gallon.

A measure allowing video gambling machines in Alaska may also die in Halcro's committee. He said unless House Bill 182 moves out of his committee Thursday, it will be filed away for the session. Halcro said the bill's sponsor, Anchorage Republican Rep. Pete Kott, hasn't been able to get enough support to move the bill out of committee.

Inmates beat escape charges

ANCHORAGE - Two Alaskans charged with escaping from a private prison in Arizona have been acquitted by an Arizona jury. They are among roughly 850 Alaskans housed at the Central Arizona Detention Center in Florence, Ariz., run by the Corrections Corporation of America.

Inmate Mark Hartvigsen claimed he had to escape because he was denied heart medication, said his attorney, Richard Gierloff. Inmate Edward L. Martin's attorney claimed prosecutors failed to prove he escaped.

Alaska Corrections Commissioner Margaret Pugh said she and other state officials were astounded at the verdicts. Prosecutors denied Hartvigsen and Martin's claims.

Officials said the pair were among six Alaskans who cut through fences and escaped in October 1996. All were captured within a week.

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