Posted: Wednesday, May 16, 2001

State wants comments on ferries

JUNEAU - Now that the road to Skagway is off the table, the state Department of Transportation is seeking public comment on ferry system needs in Lynn Canal and the northern Panhandle.

The McDowell Group and DOT are holding a public comment period from 7-9 tonight in Centennial Hall.

Issues include the remaining life of the Malaspina as a summer dayboat for the upper Lynn Canal, the timing of a fast ferry to connect Juneau, Skagway and Haines, and the possibility of a Haines-Skagway shuttle. Service to smaller communities such as Pelican, Gustavus and Elfin Cove also will be discussed.

The McDowell Group, a Juneau-based research and consulting firm, is due to submit a report to DOT by late September, said Bob Doll, Southeast regional director for DOT. The report will be in the form of a proposed addendum to the Southeast Transportation Plan, which could be adopted by DOT within a month thereafter, Doll said.

Last fall, Juneau voters rejected the road to Skagway on an advisory ballot question asking them to choose between the road and improved ferry service. Now there's an opportunity to talk about ferry service without the possibility of a road clouding the discussion, Doll said.

Schoolchildren's lumber stolen

JUNEAU - What was supposed to be a lesson in gardening at Juneau Montessori School turned into a lesson on crime when the lumber for flower boxes was stolen over the weekend.

"I don't know what to do because we can't afford to buy it again," said Blue Riley, assistant director of the nonprofit school in Douglas. "I had to have a whole fund-raiser just to buy this stuff."

The school had held a taco dinner during the Alaska Folk Festival in order to buy $184 of treated lumber for two large planters. Once built, the 8-by-4-foot planters would be filled with vegetables and flowers. About a month ago the students planted flower seeds inside to transplant to the flower box.

Riley said if someone would just return the lumber, she wouldn't ask questions or press charges.

Redistricting board to meet

JUNEAU - The Alaska Redistricting Board, on the verge of creating a new political map for the state, is holding a statewide teleconference in Juneau on Thursday.

Alaskans can participate at all Legislative Information Offices from 1:30-4 p.m. More information is available from the board at 465-4637 and at, where draft plans for 40 House districts and 20 Senate districts can be viewed. Hearings also will be held Friday in Sitka, Wrangell and Ketchikan.

On Monday, the board will start preparing a final redistricting plan, which must be adopted by June 17. So far there are four draft plans, including two proposed by the board and two submitted by Native groups.

The board's drafts would impact Southeast most notably by putting Rep. Albert Kookesh, an Angoon Democrat, and Rep. Peggy Wilson, a Wrangell Republican, into the same House district.

Johnson joins school group

JUNEAU - Bruce Johnson, a former superintendent for the Juneau School District, has resigned from a high-ranking state job to work for the Association of Alaska School Boards.

Johnson, deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, will oversee QS2 - a newly created school improvement program run by the association, a nonprofit group representing school boards.

As director of QS2, Johnson will help school districts raise student achievement by improving school leadership, staff, programs and resources and encouraging parental involvement, said Sharon Young, associate executive director of the association.

"We think we need to have a professional educator, someone with a professional educator's background," said Young. "He certainly understands the educational needs from a professional point of view, plus he's got such a wealth of experience."

Johnson will start his new job July 1.

Cemetery vandal sentenced

FAIRBANKS - Jerome Phillips, 21, was sentenced Tuesday to serve 4 1/2 years in prison for his part in the Sept. 27 vandalizing of a cemetery, which he captured on videotape.

Superior Court Judge Ralph Beistline expressed shock at the desecration displayed on the video.

"The attitude displayed in the videotape was a source of joy and pleasure for you ... you were evil," he said.

The tape shows the damage done, including urinating on a grave and spitting on another, throwing and breaking statuary, hacking bouquets and a wooden cross with a machete, flipping crosses over and attempting to uproot gravestones.

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