Senate OKs permanent fund royalties bill
JUNEAU - A bill that would divert half of the mineral lease royalties paid into the Alaska Permanent Fund to the general fund passed the Senate Wednesday.
House Bill 11 passed the House last month and now goes back to the House for approval of changes made in the Senate.
A Senate amendment to the bill requires the commissioner of the Department of Revenue to determine each year what the permanent fund dividend payment would have been prior to the enactment of HB 11. If that amount were more than $20 greater than the post-enactment dividend, the legislation would be repealed.
The bill would divert royalties from oil fields active prior to 1980. It is expected to raise about $54.1 million for the 2004 budget year and about $43.3 million annually for each of the next seven years. Current law requires 50 percent of oil field royalties to go into the permanent fund.
The governor has said he would sign the bill if it was passed.
W. Valley rezoning eyed
JUNEAU - The Juneau Planning Commission is looking to change the zoning in a portion of the West Mendenhall Valley to allow property owners to develop more homes per acre.
The commission voted Tuesday to start the process of changing the zoning in the Lake Creek and Goat Hill area from D1, which allows one residence per acre of land, to D3, which allows three residences per acre of land.
The minimum lot size for a home in a D3 district is 12,000 square feet for a single-family home and 18,000 square feet for a duplex, said City Planner Monique Wheeler. In a D1 district the minimum lot size is 36,000 square feet for a single-family home and 54,000 square feet for a duplex.
The commission looked at the issue because West Valley property owner William Harris requested rezoning the area to D5, five dwellings per acre, so he could subdivide a portion of his land. Harris owns several parcels off Mendenhall Loop Road.
The commission will hold a public meeting on this issue before making a decision. The date for the meeting has not been set.
New hotel wins approval
JUNEAU - The Juneau Planning Commission approved another three-story, 12-unit hotel on the downtown waterfront Tuesday night.
In a unanimous vote, seven members of the commission approved a conditional-use permit for the 4,541-square-foot building near Egan Drive and West Ninth Street.
The latest project is adjacent to another 12-unit hotel under construction near Gastineau Channel and the Douglas Bridge. That project was approved in 1999. Construction began earlier this year. Both projects are being developed by Juneau Hotel Properties, owned by Deborah Madsen.
Though the commission approved the project, some members called the look of the buildings "ridiculously offensive" and "god-awful ugly." The commission said it had no choice but to approve the project because developers followed all of the city's codes and laws in developing them.
Juneau Hotel Properties spokesman Barney Donahue told the commission the buildings will look better once they are completed. He added that the hotels are an improvement on other buildings in the area such as the city's shop.
House passes teacher, nurse housing bill
JUNEAU - A bill to provide housing loans without a down payment to Alaska teachers, school personnel and registered nurses through the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. unanimously passed the state House on Tuesday.
The sponsor, Sen. Gary Wilken, a Fairbanks Republican, said the bill will go to the governor once differences with a Senate version are resolved.
"This resolution is a tool to help attract and keep qualified teachers and registered nurses in Alaska," said Rep. Norman Rokeberg, an Anchorage Republican,. "(These are) two occupations, two professions that we need help in to attract good quality people to our state to help service our citizens."
The bill would create a new AHFC program to provide housing loans to full-time teachers and nurses without a down payment if they purchase owner-occupied, single-family housing. AHFC has a number of similar programs in place but none for teachers.
The bill contains provisions that extend the loans to school counselors, administrators or providers of special education or related services.
The bill passed the House 34-0. It passed the Senate 16-1 on March 31.
Humane society sponsors trail cleanup
JUNEAU - Walkers, hikers and dog-lovers will gather for a Scoop the Poop Walk on the Airport Dike Trail at 9 a.m. Saturday. The event is the first in a series of Saturday cleanup walks sponsored by the Gastineau Humane Society.
"Some people haven't been cleaning up after their dogs, and as a result, the trails aren't very pleasant for anyone," said Chava Lee, executive director. "We don't want to see trails closed to dogs, as some suggest."
Volunteers are asked to bring a scoop and a sturdy plastic bag. The cleanup should take an hour or two, Lee said.
Scoop the Poop walks are planned for 9 a.m. May 24 on the Outer Point and Rainforest Trails on North Douglas, May 31 on the Brotherhood Bridge Trail, June 7 at Cope Park and June 14 at Sandy Beach.
Fairbanks boy dies of injuries from bike crash
FAIRBANKS - Patrick McDonald, 12, died at Providence Hospital in Anchorage Tuesday from injuries sustained when he crossed a South Fairbanks road on his bicycle and was struck by a truck.
The boy and his sister were on bikes with their mother May 1 on their way to pick up a van that was having its winter tires replaced. Patrick attempted to cross Peger Road and was struck.