State and local briefly

Posted: Monday, April 10, 2000

Trees cut near Boy Scout Camp trail

JUNEAU - Some people enjoying the sunshine near Herbert River over the weekend were surprised to see a clearcut by the Boy Scout Camp trail.

`It was so shocking,'' said Mary Waston, who went for a hike in that area on Sunday. ``As you go up the trail, all of a sudden it's just completely neutered of trees and there's a gravel road up to the clearcut.''

Channel Construction, owner of the privately held land, logged 8 acres late last week. The company received approval last year from the state's Department of Natural Resources to harvest up to 15 acres, said Coastal Region Forester Jim Eleazer.

The owner of Channel Construction, William ``Shorty'' Tonsgard, is out of town and could not be reached for comment this morning.

Channel Construction recently attempted to change the logged parcel's zoning from a rural reserve to an industrial area but was not successful, said Murray Walsh of Walsh Planning and Development Services, who worked for Channel Construction on the proposed zoning change.

Police find missing man

JUNEAU - A man who was reported as missing since Wednesday afternoon from a mental health apartment was found in good condition over the weekend, police said.

``He was out camping. He was fine,'' said police Lt. Walt Boman today.

Ken Lemieux, 34, had walked away from a temporary apartment on North Franklin Street operated by the Juneau Alliance for the Mentally Ill. A JAMI staffer spotted Lemieux about noon Sunday downtown, and he told police he had been camping, Boman said.

House OKs welfare reform bill

JUNEAU - A bill allowing regional nonprofit Native corporations to administer the state's public assistance program under contract with the state won approval in the House on Saturday.

Gov. Tony Knowles sponsored House Bill 98 and called it welfare reform for rural areas. The measure would allow regional nonprofit organizations to develop welfare programs that vary to meet needs of different Alaska communities.

The bill received the strong endorsement of rural legislators. ``This is a way for the Native community to be part of the solution,'' said Rep. Albert Kookesh, an Angoon Democrat. ``It's about local control,'' said Rep. Carl Morgan, an Aniak Republican.

Native nonprofit corporations are in the best position to administer welfare programs, Morgan said, because they already have a presence in rural communities.

Rep. John Coghill, a North Pole Republican, expressed reservations about the bill and said nothing within it prevents the state from contracting with Native regional nonprofit corporations to operate welfare programs in Alaska's urban areas.

On Friday, he offered an amendment that would have allowed people applying for state public assistance to opt out of administration by the nonprofit corporations and receive services directly from the state. Coghill said programs developed with a cultural bent might not be appropriate for his constituents, such as residents of Fort Wainwright.

Coghill's amendment was defeated, but the House approved an amendment Saturday allowing clients to deal directly with state employees if they show ``a compelling interest to use the state program.'' The bill was approved 27-3.

Three kids abandoned in Fairbanks

FAIRBANKS - State social workers took custody of three children in two separate incidents Friday after the children were apparently abandoned.

A 4-year-old boy was picked up by Fairbanks police Friday afternoon at a coin laundry. A few hours later, police took charge of a 2-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy at the Fairbanks Rescue Mission. Their mother had failed to return to the mission, where the family was staying, before the doors were locked at 10 p.m.

The boy at the laundry was brought inside by a woman who saw the child sitting beside a nearby street and crying, according to the manager. The boy was dressed in just a T-shirt and jeans, she said. ``He was crying, he was scared. He said his name was Johnny,'' said Alina Pena.

He could not, however, tell them his mother's name, she said. ``All the little boy told us was his mom took off in a cab.''

Fairbanks Rescue Mission staff had a similarly heartbreaking tale. Executive director Wendell Otness said the two children were dropped off at the mission by child-care center workers when their mother didn't pick them up.

Otness said the mother didn't start looking for her children until Saturday. He said the woman, about 20, had been staying at the mission for about three weeks.

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