Alaska Digest

Wire reports

Posted: Thursday, April 20, 2006

Miner dies when bulldozer falls through ice

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FAIRBANKS - A Fairbanks gold miner drowned after his bulldozer broke through the ice of a pond in the Chugach Mountains.

David Beyers, 48, was plowing a road to move equipment to his mine when he died, Alaska State Troopers said. The accident happened last Thursday. His body was recovered Saturday.

Beyers lived in the Chena Marina subdivision and served as a road service area commissioner for five years.

Trent Mackey, road service area administrator for the Fairbanks North Star Borough, said Beyers fought against junkyards and was instrumental in an effort in 2004 to raise money to improve the roads.

"It wasn't an easy chore to try and maintain roads without any money," Mackey said. "He took on the challenge. He was a dedicated road commissioner in a volunteer position."

The accident happened about 300 road miles south of Fairbanks near the Eureka Lodge.

Beyers had eaten frequently at the lodge over the last six weeks as he worked to establish the mine, according to owner Ryan Fimpel.

Beyers was plowing a road from his base camp two miles beyond the lodge to his mine 75 miles away when the bulldozer went through the ice of the 20-foot-deep pond, according to Fimpel and a trooper report.

Rokeberg, McGuire may run for Stevens' Senate seat

JUNEAU - Two legislators say they may run for Ben Stevens' seat this fall if Stevens doesn't, adding to speculation in the Capitol that the Senate president is considering stepping aside when his term is up.

Stevens' District N in South Anchorage contains Rep. Norm Rokeberg's District 27 and Rep. Lesil McGuire's District 28.

Both McGuire and Rokeberg are Republicans like Stevens, and both say they are eyeing the seat.

"I intend to run for Senate if Sen. Stevens doesn't run," Rokeberg told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

McGuire said she is still weighing the advantages and disadvantages to running for the Senate. Running for office every four years as a senator would be easier on family life than every two years, the new mother said.

She said she will not run against Stevens, but if the rumors that he will not run again are true, she will not have to.

"There's been speculation in the past. This year, there is more active speculation, which has prompted Norm and me to think about it," McGuire said.

Stevens said he will not make a decision until after the legislative session ends next month.

House Finance OKs boost in school district funding

JUNEAU - A House committee bumped up the governor's proposed increase in education funding on Wednesday, but lawmakers said they are still deciding how to divvy up the money fairly among school districts.

The House Finance Committee voted 8-3 to add $6 million to the governor's proposed $90 million increase in school funding next year. The bill goes next to the House floor.

Committee Co-Chairman Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, said he based the increase on the needs of his own district, but added that schools around the state would benefit.

Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Fairbanks, called the increase unsustainable.

But Meyer pointed out that the Senate had just passed its version of the state operating budget with a 15 percent increase for the University of Alaska.

"This is nowhere near that," he said. "There needs to be some equity and it needs to be K-12 first."

The House Finance Committee bill adds $28 per student to the governor's proposed $5,352 base student allocation. That would add $96 million to the current $980 million education budget.

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