Posted: Monday, May 14, 2001

Board hears fewer tax appeals

JUNEAU - The Juneau Assembly, sitting as the Board of Equalization, will have fewer property tax appeals to consider tonight than in previous years. The board is slated to hear 19 appeals this evening compared with between 50 and 60 in past years.

One reason for the change is that city staff members have been able to work out many differences with property owners ahead of time, City Assessor Tom Pitts told Assembly members last week.

Real property values in Juneau have increased 6.8 percent from last year, according to city officials. Six of the 19 appeals deal with airplanes, Pitts said.

The Board of Equalization meeting will follow a special Assembly meeting at 5 p.m. in Assembly chambers. The Assembly will consider an emergency ordinance correcting a description of the roaded service area. Without the change, property north of Tee Harbor will lose funding for police, road and other services, according to city staff members.

If approved, the emergency ordinance will take effect immediately. The Assembly will consider a permanent ordinance before the emergency ordinance expires in 90 days, according to staff members.

Airport study, projects funded

JUNEAU - The Federal Aviation Administration has awarded funding to the Juneau Airport for three projects, according to Alaska's Congressional delegation.

The airport will receive $700,000 for continued work on an environmental impact study for several projects, including hangars and parking. Work on the assessment is starting now, according to airport Manager Allan Heese. The proposal also includes approach lights for the east end of the runway, he said.

The FAA is providing $500,000 to rehabilitate the terminal roof, Heese said. The project will require a local match and work could start within the next year, weather permitting, he said. The airport also will receive $400,000 in federal funds to acquire property near the airport, including one home, because it is has too much airport noise, Heese said.

Two Shageluk boys found dead in slough

ANCHORAGE - Two boys from Shageluk were found dead Saturday in a slough at the edge of the Western Alaska village, Alaska State Troopers said.

Clifford Benjamin, 12, and his cousin, Leroy Benjamin, 15, apparently drowned in the 10-foot deep water, said Trooper Keith Mallard in Aniak. The boys had gone out with their BB guns for target practice, Mallard said.

Troopers in Aniak were notified Friday night that the boys were missing. Many of the villagers joined in the search, Mallard said.

At about 3 a.m. Saturday, searchers found Clifford's hat floating on top of the water, as well as tracks in the mud leading to the water, Mallard said. Searchers began dragging the slough and found the bodies of the boys, locked in an embrace. Mallard said apparently one of the boys fell in and his cousin jumped in to rescue him.

Their bodies have been sent to the medical examiner's office in Anchorage for autopsies, Mallard said.

Sick climber leaves McKinley, heads home

ANCHORAGE - A Mount McKinley climber who suffered acute mountain sickness so badly that he was unable to walk last week made it safely off the mountain and caught a flight home to South Korea on Sunday, the National Park Service said.

Young Tak Chin, 23, left the 14,200-foot ranger camp Saturday after being treated with bottled oxygen and medication since Wednesday, when he and seven other Korean climbers reached the camp along the West Buttress route. The group climbed faster than the recommended rate, something that can lead to altitude sickness, according to Park Service officials.

Two other climbers in the group became ill before Chin and descended Wednesday with the help of another climber, officials said. Climbers are encouraged to ascend 1,000 feet a day to allow their bodies to adjust. Chin and his team climbed about 7,000 feet in about five days.

Man shot dead off Seward Highway

ANCHORAGE - A man was shot in the head and died Sunday night off the road at Mile 107 of the Seward Highway, said Alaska State Troopers.

Hector C. Garcia, 19, died from a single gunshot wound to the head, troopers said. Garcia and another man were shooting at small pieces of firewood with a .357-caliber handgun, said Trooper Sgt. Lee Oly said.

About 5 p.m. someone ran to the highway and flagged down a passing trooper, said spokesman Tim DeSpain.

Troopers today were still trying to determine whether the shooting was a criminal act, a suicide or an accident.

Clothing chain closes Alaska stores

ANCHORAGE - Operators of women's clothing retailer Northern Reflections are closing all U.S. locations including five Southcentral Alaska stores. The move covers closure of the Northern Group stores including a line of men's clothing locations for a total of 323 U.S. outlets.

The stores should be closed by July, said Peter Brown, vice president of corporate development for the stores' owner, Venator Group. "They are unprofitable," he said. "The stores are much more profitable in Canada than in the U.S."

Four Alaska Northern Reflections are in Anchorage. A fifth store is in Fairbanks. The Venator Group also operates seven Foot Locker stores in Alaska - four Anchorage Foot Locker stores, plus one each in Fairbanks, Juneau and Wasilla. Venator also has three Lady Foot Locker stores in Anchorage.

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