State Briefs

Posted: Thursday, April 10, 2003

E-mail harassment bill passes Senate

JUNEAU - Sending harassing electronic mail would be a crime under a bill that passed the Senate on Wednesday.

The measure adds e-mail harassment to the existing state law dealing with obscene or threatening phone calls. Such harassment would be a misdemeanor.

House Bill 12, which was sponsored by Rep. Kevin Meyer, an Anchorage Republican, passed the Senate 19-0.

It already passed the House, so the measure now goes to Gov. Frank Murkowski for consideration.

City plans pocket park improvements

JUNEAU - The city is considering plans to add restrooms, a visitor information kiosk, a police substation, a refreshment stand and new benches to Gunakadeit Park downtown.

The Juneau Assembly's Public Works and Facilities committee heard about plans Tuesday to refurbish the park at South Franklin and Front streets. Nearby businesses and downtown residents asked the city to improve the pocket park at meetings last year.

The city has appropriated $71,000 for the project's design and estimates another $480,000 would be needed to complete construction. If funding is approved, the park could be refurbished next summer.

The city also is working on plans to add restrooms to the Marine Park-Steamship Wharf area.

Glacier Bay vessel meetings set

JUNEAU - The National Park Service is sponsoring a series of public meetings this month about motorized vessels in Glacier Bay National Park.

The agency released a draft environmental impact statement last month that suggests cruise ship visits remain at 139 per year with the possibility of increasing to 184. It also sets quotas and operating requirements for tour ships, charter boats and private vessels.

The public meeting schedule is:

• April 14, Hoonah City Hall.

• April 15, Gustavus School multipurpose room.

• April 16, Pelican Community Hall.

• April 17, Elfin Cove Community Hall.

• April 23, Juneau, Egan Room, Centennial Hall.

• April 24, Anchorage, Hawthorne Suites, Ballroom A.

• April 29, Seattle, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, Pioneer Square.

The meetings will start with an open house from 4 to 7 p.m. with a 15-minute presentation at 7 p.m. A public hearing will follow from 7:15 to 9 p.m. A court reporter will record verbal comments.

Written comments on the draft study will be accepted through May 14. They can be sent through the project Web site at or by mail to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, VQOR Draft EIS, c/o Nancy Swanton, 2525 Gambell Street, Anchorage, AK, 99503.

Anchorage hospital gets SARS false alarm

ANCHORAGE - An Anchorage hospital responded to a suspected case of severe acute respiratory syndrome this week that turned out to be a false alarm.

Providence Alaska Medical Center reported four suspicious cases to the state health department, one of which the state suspected as a possible SARS case, said hospital spokeswoman Karina Jennings.

A laboratory test showed the patient likely had influenza.

The patient is a crew member from a cargo plane that arrived in Anchorage on Sunday, said Kerre Fisher with the state Division of Public Health. The patient had flown from Hong Kong, where SARS has been reported, and was admitted to Providence with SARS-like symptoms.

Infection-control officials put him into a hospital isolation room. But laboratory tests showed he didn't have SARS.

Nearly 150 suspected SARS cases have been reported in the nation, but none have been reported in Alaska.

Sex offender names returned to Web site

ANCHORAGE - Responding to a court order, the Alaska Department of Public Safety has returned 3,000 names to the state's sex offender registry Web site.

The names were returned Tuesday afternoon, Alaska State Troopers said. There are now nearly 4,600 names and photographs of convicted sex offenders on the site.

The names were returned as a result of a ruling in March in a federal lawsuit challenging the registry.

U.S. District Judge Russel Holland's ordered that the names be returned in response to a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court said that posting the information does not equal additional punishment. That applied even for offenders who finished their sentences before Alaska enacted a sex offender registry law in 1994.

Fairbanks man convicted of sex abuse

FAIRBANKS - A Fairbanks man has been convicted of sexually abusing two teenage girls last year.

Chad E. Nelson, 27, was found guilty on charges that he fondled his wife's sister, 15 at the time, and the girl's 16-year-old friend after giving them alcohol April 20, 2002.

After a four-day trial last week, Nelson was convicted of one count each of first- and second-degree sexual abuse of a minor, one count of third-degree sexual assault and two misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor for providing the girls with alcohol.

Nelson is scheduled to be sentenced on July 22.

Errant rocket recovered

ANCHORAGE - Parts of an errant rocket have been retrieved by a team from Poker Flat Research Range.

The rocket was one of four launched March 27 for aurora borealis research. It was lifted out to Poker Flats by helicopter Saturday after an explosive-ordnance team punctured a chemical canister on board, range officials said.

There did not appear to be any trimethyl aluminum in the canister, said Bob Shefchik, a spokesman for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, which operates the range near Fairbanks. TMA, to be released as a chemical tracer during the flight, ignites on contact with air or water.

The 12-foot-long second stage of a larger rocket was recovered. Crews continue to search for the first-stage motor.

Officials from the range, the institute and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will review all aspects of the launch, including the process of public notification after the rocket was lost, Shefchik said.

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