State and local briefly

Posted: Monday, April 03, 2000

Burned Gastineau Avenue apartments rebuilding

JUNEAU - The six-plex apartment building that burned on Gastineau Avenue is rising from its ashes.

The two-story building, with open parking beneath, went up in flames Jan. 30 while still under construction. The finished value of the structure was pegged at $600,000.

Superior Buildings Inc. is now raising the second-floor walls and expects to roof over the structure during the week of April 3, said Superior's Kelly Stephens, who is in charge of the project. The building is owned by Alphonso and Nenita Soriano, who could not be reached for comment. Stephens said the building should be completed by the end of July.

The fire marshal is still investigating the blaze.

Disaster aid for crabbers faces opposition

ANCHORAGE - An effort by Sen. Ted Stevens to secure $10 million in disaster aid for Alaska crab fishermen is running into a sizable obstacle - the Senate's majority leader.

On Monday, Stevens, an Alaska Republican who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, will face off against Sen. Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican on an ``emergency'' spending bill.

Lott has complained that the $13 billion spending bill approved by a wide margin in the House on Thursday is bloated and unnecessary. Lott's view is that the bill's funding should be included in routine spending bills for the 2001 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

Emergency money for crabbers, suffering because of a collapse in snow crab stocks, is among roughly $40 million in Alaska projects Stevens said he'd like to add to the emergency bill.

Verdict mixed on Kodiak Wal-Mart

KODIAK - Discount retailer Wal-Mart has been operating in Kodiak for a year now, and its impact on the local economy looks to be a mixed bag.

Some local stores have closed since Wal-Mart arrived on March 31, 1999, and others are struggling to adapt. But the city's tax revenue is up, prices and joblessness are down and wages are higher.

Wal-Mart employs 130 people, nearly all of them full-time. That has made competition for workers even stiffer in Kodiak's already tight job market.

``Beginning salaries have gone up and wages in general have increased over the past year in a variety of different occupations,'' said Doneen Tweten, who heads Kodiak's Job Service office.

The cost of living in Kodiak dropped significantly in the third quarter of 1999, according to figures from the city's chamber of commerce.

Economist Kenneth Stone studied Kodiak's retail trade and projected the impact of a big-box store like a Wal-Mart. He predicted that retail prices in the city could drop by as much as 10 percent and that retail sales would likely increase, boosting local tax revenue.

Quarterly retail sales rose more than $13 million in the first six months after Wal-Mart opened, according to city figures.

The city's retail community has been restructuring their inventories to fill needs Wal-Mart doesn't satisfy.

Sutliff's Hardware, near the small boat harbor, has expanded its stock of plumbing and electrical supplies, and it built a computerized paint center.

``We're also expanding our Made-in-Alaska lines for visitors,'' said Sherie Crosby, a store manager.

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