Alaska Digest

Posted: Monday, April 23, 2007

State turns to aircraft broker to jettison jet

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ANCHORAGE - After four failed attempts to sell Alaska's unwanted state jet through the Internet, Gov. Sarah Palin's administration has enlisted the help of an Anchorage aircraft broker.

The state has signed a contract with Robert Heckmann, owner of Turbo North Aviation, who said his company has sold more than 1,800 planes - including about two dozen jets - in the past 27 years.

Heckmann suggested an asking price of $2.45 million based on the current jet market, state officials said. The administration promised Heckmann a 1.49 percent cut of the selling price.

"The eBay thing didn't work out very well," said Dan Spencer, director of administrative services for the Department of Public Safety.

In the meantime, the state is making quarterly payments of about $62,000 on the jet.

Spencer is in charge of trying to get rid of the Westwind II, purchased for $2.6 million in state dollars by former Gov. Frank Murkowski despite protests from the Legislature.

Murkowski used the jet to fly around the state, sometimes mixing campaign errands with government business.

Top federal prosecutor in Alaska could lose job

ANCHORAGE - The recent U.S. attorney scandal could cost the state's chief federal prosecutor, Nelson Cohen, his job because of recently amended legislation that changes how district attorneys are appointed. Alaska's two senators said they are already looking for candidates to replace him.

Cohen was appointed under a provision inserted into the Patriot Act in 2006. It allowed interim U.S. attorney appointments to become permanent without Senate approval.

Eight U.S. attorneys were fired, then replaced under that provision, which was requested by the White House.

As the scandal over the firings unfolded this year, the House and Senate passed bills restoring the previous selection method. Cohen would lose his appointment if the bill is approved, according to a statement from the office of Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.

Unions testify in favor of Palin's gas line bill

FAIRBANKS - Union workers testified on Saturday in support of Gov. Sarah Palins natural gas pipeline legislation, which includes a requirement that prospective builders agree to negotiate a labor agreement that would cover its construction.

Mike Littlefield, a business agent for Alaska Teamsters Local 959, said the bill would also ensure that training needs were identified, that Alaskans were hired to build the pipeline, and that workers could rely on defined wages, hours, and working conditions.

The administration's Alaska Gasline Inducement Act calls for would-be builders to establish an Alaska headquarters for the project and hire qualified Alaskans whenever possible to build and operate the line.

The original bill didnt include a requirement for a project labor agreement. It was added later by the House Oil and Gas Committee and the Senate Resources Committee.

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