Alaska Digest

Posted: Tuesday, March 01, 2005

City creates water and sewer board

JUNEAU - The Juneau Assembly on Monday established a seven-member board to review the city's water and sewer rates.

Mayor Bruce Botelho appointed an ad hoc utility advisory board in February of 2004 to study operation and management policies of city-owned utilities, especially water and wastewater treatment.

After meeting for almost a year, the ad hoc board suggested that the Assembly establish a permanent board to review water and sewer rate. The Assembly adopted the suggestion.

The board will review utility rates and make recommendations to the Assembly on long-range planning for system expansion.

The board will consist of an engineer with training in utility system design and operation, an accountant, a general contractor, two commercial customers, one residential customer and one member of the general public.

Jury deadlocks in Nome murder case

NOME - A mistrial was declared Monday in the first-degree murder trial of a former Nome police officer accused of killing a 19-year-old woman in 2003.

Matthew Owens was charged with first-degree murder, tampering with evidence and official misconduct in the shooting death of Sonya Ivanoff of Nome.

On their sixth day of deliberations, members of jury told Superior Court Judge Ben Esch that they were deadlocked. Esch declared a mistrial.

"I guess I would just say it's obvious the jury worked very hard on the case," said Owens' lawyer, Jim McComas of Anchorage.

Department of Law spokes-man Mark Morones said no decision had been made by prosecutors on whether to seek a second trial. Prosecutors will review evidence and testimony.

State hires ex-senator who faced recall

JUNEAU - Former state Sen. Scott Ogan is returning to state government after resigning last year when faced with a recall election to oust him from office.

Ogan will head the newly created Easement Management Unit within the Division of Mining, Land and Water. The office will work to resolve land and submerged land access issues between the state and federal governments.

Ogan, a Palmer Republican, resigned from the Senate in August after facing a recall effort by residents of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and the Ogan is So Gone Committee. The effort was fueled by a perceived conflict of interest over his dual role as a state lawmaker and $40,000-a-year consultant for Evergreen Resources Inc.

Ogan co-sponsored a bill in the 1990s to encourage development of coal bed methane. Years later Ogan was hired as a consultant for Evergreen, which is working to develop coal bed methane in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

Myrl Thompson, chairman of the Ogan is So Gone Committee, said he was uncertain about the details of the new Easement Management Unit, but questioned whether Ogan, a former cabinet maker, was the most qualified applicant for the job.

Kodiak crabbers negotiate a price

KODIAK - Kodiak-area tanner crab fishermen dropped pots at noon Monday after six weeks of negotiating for a price.

Fishermen accepted three offers Friday evening with a 72-hour, fair-start delay, so they could get to the grounds, said negotiating team member Bill Fiorentino.

Western Alaska Fisheries offered its boats $1.95 per pound straight across, Fiorentino said. Ocean Beauty is paying $1.65 per pound with the promise of more if wholesale prices improve. Alaska Pacific Seafoods is buying crab for $1.50 per pound with an upward sliding scale based on the wholesale price.

"We're hoping $1.95 is a benchmark, and the other prices come up to that," Fiorentino told the Kodiak Daily Mirror.

Guardianship suit partially settled

ANCHORAGE - A resolution to settle complaints against a private guardianship agency accused of cheating its wards is working its way through U.S. Bankruptcy Court and Fairbanks Superior Court.

There is sufficient money from insurance and other sources to pay off all or most claims of Community Advocacy Project of Alaska's clients, according to lawyers involved in the case.

No one has been charged with a crime in the CAPA case.

The guardianship agency was supposed to help people unable to handle their own affairs. But a lawsuit, now settled in part, claimed that CAPA schemed to cheat its vulnerable clients by charging excessive fees and stealing outright.

Its former director funneled money into his home and his Mail Boxes Etc. franchise business, said an Oct. 11 memorandum on behalf of the bankruptcy trustee.

"The legal system, not just the courts, the legal system let these wards down. I am pleased we at least in part made them whole," said Jim DeWitt, an attorney for bankruptcy trustee Larry Compton.

N. Slope leader opposes NPR-A plan

ANCHORAGE - The mayor of the North Slope Borough is fighting a plan to expand oil and gas leasing in the northeast corner of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

In a 29-page letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton, George Ahmaogak Sr. says that the Bureau of Land Management did not consult with the borough's predominantly Inupiat people on the leasing plan.

According to Ahmaogak, the BLM's plan would reduce protections for the region's migratory bird populations and for caribou important to subsistence hunters.

While the borough supports leasing and development in the NPR-A, it also demands protection for wildlife important to its subsistence users, Ahmaogak said.

His comments are the latest in a wave of discontent about the BLM's plan to roll back protections imposed during the Clinton administration in 1998 and open more land within the remote petroleum reserve to oil and gas exploration.

BLM officials in Alaska want to open another 629,000 acres to oil and gas exploration.

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