Northwest Digest

Posted: Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Absentee voting period announced

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JUNEAU - Early and absentee in-person voting for the 2007 statewide special election on April 3 began Monday and will continue until April 3.

Absentee by mail or fax, and special needs voting is also available. To vote by mail, voters must submit an application by March 24 to receive a ballot in the mail for the special election. The Elections Division's Absentee Office will be open on March 24 to receive mail applications. To contact the Absentee Office, call (907) 375-6400.

The advisory election was set by the Alaska Legislature to gauge public support for a constitutional amendment barring job benefits to same-sex partners of public employees.

For more information, contact the local Division of Elections Office at 465-3021 or by mail, 9109 Mendenhall Mall Road, Suite 3, or visit the Web site:

Wildfire claims exceed $14 million

FAIRBANKS - Damage claims from a wildfire last summer have exceeded $14 million, with the state of Alaska wanting the biggest chunk.

The state and affected residents are seeking the money from the man blamed for the Parks Highway Fire.

Thad Kolwicz stated in court filings that he has no money or assets to add to the $340,000 his insurance company is willing to pay and has asked that a judge release him from liability, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported Monday.

Besides the state, also seeking money for fire damage are a village corporation and at least five families who lost homes, cabins and outbuildings in the fire.

The fire started June 7 at a home at Mile 290.8 of the Parks Highway when a homeowner dumped ash from a burn barrel used the previous day. The fire burned through the summer.

The district attorney declined to charge the homeowner with a burn violation, saying the fire was not set recklessly. However, Kolwicz has been named as the homeowner in civil lawsuits.

The $340,000 from Kolwicz's insurance company is being held in an interest-bearing account until the claims are resolved. A settlement hearing is set for next month.

Fort Richardson soldier killed in Iraq

FORT RICHARDSON - A Fort Richardson paratrooper has been killed in Iraq, Army officials said Monday.

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher R. Brevard, 31, was killed Friday when his dismounted patrol was struck by a roadside bomb in Baghdad, spokesman Maj. Kirk Gohlke said in a prepared release.

Brevard, of Phoenix, was an infantryman who joined the Army in August 1995 and was assigned to Fort Richardson in October 2001, Gohlke said.

Another paratrooper was injured in the incident, and taken to a military hospital in Iraq.

Both were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Gohlke said.

Feds open up another probe into Troha

WASHINGTON - Lawmakers who championed legislation easing truck hauling regulations said Monday they had no idea that Kenosha businessman Dennis Troha's consulting company stood to gain financially with the legislation's passage.

The legislation was included as an amendment in a highway spending bill that became law in 2005. It was offered by Reps. Don Young, R-Alaska, and Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., at the time the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the House Transportation Committee.

Both members have received more than $20,000 from Troha, his family members and associates.

U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic said Sunday that federal investigators are looking into the deal, in which Troha will be paid by his former trucking company, JHT Holdings, through 2010 because Congress passed legislation helping the company.

In addition, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., had written to Young and Oberstar urging them to support the new regulations.

Troha's deal and the federal investigation were first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Bank records obtained by the newspaper show that Troha's consulting firm, T Group Consulting, received two wire transfers of more than $107,000 from JHT a month after the highway bill became law.

Troha was indicted March 1 on charges of illegally funneling more than $100,000 in campaign donations to Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle and the federal account of the state Democratic Party.

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