State Briefs

Posted: Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Feds to help Wards Cove workers

SEATTLE - About 1,400 laid-off Wards Cove workers in Washington and Alaska have been certified by the U.S. Labor Department to receive help finding new jobs under the Trade Act of 1974.

The agency found the layoffs resulted from growing reliance on imported fish by Wards Cove's major customers.

The decision makes workers who have been laid off or reduced from full- to part-time work since Jan. 10 eligible for career counseling, job placement assistance, job search and relocation allowances, financial support during long-term training and other services.

The action covers workers who produced frozen, fresh and canned fish or supported fishermen at fish camps in Alitak, Craig, Dillingham, Egegik, Excursion Inlet, Haines, Ketchikan, Naknek, Seward and South Naknek.

Also covered are workers in Seattle who provided support services for operations in Alaska.

Coast Guard finds ship suspected in collision

ANCHORAGE - The U.S. Coast Guard said Tuesday it had located the freighter believed to have been involved in a Monday morning collision in the Bering Sea.

Authorities began searching for the freighter after a 101-foot crab boat, the Katrina Em, reported it had collided with the ship and that the vessel hadn't stopped. No one was injured, but a 15-foot section of the crabber's bow was crushed.

A Coast Guard C-130 located the freighter, the Arkona Trader, an Antigua-Barbuda flagged ship, around 4 p.m. Monday about 125 miles north of Attu Island. The C-130 crew reported seeing a 3-foot hole in the side of the Arkona Trader about 9 feet above the waterline, Coast Guard officials said.

Coast Guard investigators talked to the Arkona Trader via satellite phone. The master said he knew his vessel was close to another vessel but was unaware there had been a collision, according to the Coast Guard. The freighter is about five times the size of the crab boat.

The Arkona Trader is headed to Yokohama, Japan, where Coast Guard personnel hope to board the vessel to investigate further. The Katrina Em, a Kodiak-based cod-pot boat, remained in Dutch Harbor, where it was being repaired.

Second man pleads guilty in check scam

ANCHORAGE - A second man has pleaded guilty in a check-cashing scam that involved counterfeit state checks.

Richard Austin pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud Tuesday in U.S. District Court.

Austin was indicted by a grand jury last month on charges of bank fraud. Court documents said he used a computer and laser printer to make the bogus state checks, according to an FBI criminal complaint.

A cohort, Edward Bailey, cashed them at local banks, court documents said. Bailey pleaded guilty to bank fraud last month.

Altogether, the men from the check cashing ring tried to steal about $100,000 with the fake checks in December and January, the criminal complaint said.

Austin's sentencing date was set for May, prosecutors said.

Judge orders second dog cruelty trial

CHOTEAU, Wyo. - Two Alaskans will face a second trial on 181 charges of animal cruelty, Justice of the Peace Pete Howard ruled Monday.

Howard said the retrial of Jon Harman and Athena Lethcoe-Harman will be in April at a time and location to be decided later. It will be either here or in Shelby, depending on whether a change of venue is requested, he said.

Last fall, when the Harman's truck was stopped at the Port of Sweet Grass, officials said they found 181 collies and other animals in various stages of suffering.

Howard denied the request by the Harmans to give them custody of their animals, with one exception: Lethcoe-Harman, a diabetic, may reclaim a short-haired collie she says helps alert her when her blood sugar is about to drop.

When they were stopped at the border, the Harmons said they were in the process of moving from Nikiski, Alaska, to an area south of Woodruff, Ariz. The animals had traveled 2,240 miles over nine days, and investigators said they were malnourished, dehydrated, shivering, sick and distressed. One dog was dead.

Toole County charged the Harmans with 181 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty. Each count is punishable by a fine of up to $500 and up to six months in jail.

A first trial ended in a mistrial in January.

Kenai teachers, district reach agreement

KENAI - The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District has reached a contract agreement with its teachers.

Negotiators reached a deal late last week, averting arbitration and a potential strike.

The three-year pact would provide a 2 percent raise in each year of the contract and an increase in the district's contribution to health care costs.

The two sides have been working on a contract since January of last year. The negotiations have been marked by unfair labor practice complaints, a lawsuit and an alleged e-mail security breach.

The teams declared an impasse in September, and a federal mediator failed to resolve the issue in November. An arbitrator was scheduled to take over the contract dispute next week, and a potential employee strike was scheduled for early May.

Members of the union still must ratify the contract and it must be approved by the Kenai School Board.

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