Murkowski declares Southcentral disaster
JUNEAU - Gov. Frank Murkowski plans to ask for a federal disaster declaration for Anchorage and portions of Southcentral Alaska struck by powerful wind storms in March.
A state disaster declaration was issued on Friday, the governor's office said.
The storms struck Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough between March 7-14. Winds clocked as high as 109 mph forced the closure of the Anchorage Ted Stevens International Airport and caused extensive damage to several areas around the Southcentral portion of the state.
Preliminary estimates indicate more than $8.5 million in losses were sustained by homes, businesses and public facilities, the governor's office said. Anchorage reported $3.56 million in damage, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough incurred an estimated $4.45 million and the Kenai Peninsula Borough reported $713,771 in damage.
The Alaska Railroad Corp. also estimates it experienced more than $350,000 in damages. Officials expect the totals to rise as additional damage claims are made, the governor's office said.
Soldotna restaurants go smoke-free
SOLDOTNA - Restaurants in Soldotna now are officially smoke-free.
A restaurant smoking ban passed by the Soldotna City Council in October went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday.
The ban applies to all indoor eating establishments that serve food. Bars are exempt from the ban, as are separately ventilated bar areas of restaurants and restaurants being used for private functions.
Local business owners have been aware of the impending ban since the ordinance was passed in October. City Manager Tom Boedeker told the City Council last week that the restaurants are expected to comply with the ban.
Penalties range from a written warning to a $500 fine. Soldotna police will be responsible for citing individual violators.
"Most of the businesses are already in compliance," Boedeker said.
Mykel's restaurant owner Alice Paulson said her business will be one of those that goes entirely smoke-free. She said the restaurant has been posting signs in anticipation of the new ordinance.
Funeral planned for Anchorage brothers
ANCHORAGE - A weekend funeral is planned for the young Johnson brothers of Anchorage.
The family of Malcolm and Isaiah said the funeral is set for 3 p.m. Saturday at Greater Friendship Baptist Church in Anchorage.
Malcolm, 8, and Isaiah, 5, were found dead March 25 in a partially frozen pond, ending a weeks-long search by family members, friends, volunteers and police.
Brandi Johnson, Malcolm and Isaiah's mother, is thankful for the support the community has shown, said Rex Butler, the family's attorney.
Air France Cargo pulls out of Fairbanks, bypassing Alaska
FAIRBANKS - Air France Cargo will begin bypassing Alaska after decades of doing business in the state.
Sunday marks the last of 10 Fairbanks stops a week the company makes to refuel its flights and swap crews between Europe and Asia.
Air France Cargo acquired new Boeing 747s capable of longer flights, making the Fairbanks stop unnecessary. The company's landing fees had accounted for 20 percent of the Fairbanks International Airport's annual $6 million revenues.
The company also draws about 1,000 barrels, or 42,000 gallons, of jet fuel a day from Williams Alaska's North Pole refinery. But that accounts for about 2.5 percent of the refinery's Alaska jet fuel sales per day.
Air France switched from refueling stops in Anchorage to Fairbanks in 1992. The shift saved the company less than an hour of flight time, said Dave Carlstrom, director of airport marketing for the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp.
The company's new route could save as much as four or five hours on round-trip flights, a huge advantage, Carlstrom said.
Congressional delegation announces new grants to Alaska
ANCHORAGE - Federal grants totaling more than $3.8 million have been awarded, Alaska's congressional delegation said.
The grants include more than $2 million to the Rural Alaska Community Action Program for Head Start and early Head Start programs for children.
The Alaska Community Development Corp. in the Mat-Su Borough will receive more than $85,000 to train families to construct their own homes.
And the Alaska Whaling Commission will receive $65,000 to implement an agreement between the United States and Russia to coordinate hunting between Alaska and Chukotkan subsistence hunters.
Grant to provide greater access to museum collections
FAIRBANKS - A grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities will improve access to the University of Alaska Museum's cultural collections.
The grant of $697,211 is one of the largest awarded under the federal agency's Preservation and Access program.
"Needless to say, we're overjoyed," Molly Lee, curator of ethnology, said Monday in a news release. "From 2,000-year-old ivory carvings to Alaska pioneer Ben Eielson's airplane, our collections help illustrate the history of an old land and a young state.
"This grant ensures that we'll be able to safeguard the collections while at the same time making them more accessible."
The funding will be used to stabilize and conserve artifacts from three collections totaling more than 760,000 items, relocate approximately 170,000 artifacts during construction of a new museum wing and purchase and install new storage systems for the collections.