State and local briefly

Posted: Wednesday, May 17, 2000

School board wants vote on repairs

JUNEAU - The Juneau School Board on Tuesday formally asked the Juneau Assembly to put a $7.717 million school repair bond on October's ballot.

The Legislature passed a bill, which hasn't yet been transmitted to Gov. Tony Knowles to sign, that would reimburse Juneau 70 percent of the bond's principal and interest. The city would have to bond for the full amount, and the state would annually pay back 70 percent of the debt.

The $7.7 million in principal would cover about $5 million in renovations and repairs to Floyd Dryden Middle School. The remaining $2.7 million would replace roofs at Auke Bay Elementary, the Marie Drake building and the Harborview Elementary gym; replace floors at the Juneau-Douglas High School auxiliary gym and Floyd Dryden; and improve the heating systems at JDHS and Gastineau Elementary.

The assembly would have to approve putting the bond measure on the ballot. Knowles, who criticized the bill for not including more projects, hasn't decided what he will do with the measure, said spokesman Bob King.

Sentencing delayed in fraud case

JUNEAU - The sentencing of former Juneau hearing aid dealer Kenneth George Klepinger for Medicaid fraud has been postponed until next month.

Klepinger was due to be sentenced May 4 before Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins. However, the sentencing is now tentatively scheduled for June 1, said Rebecca Starry, Alaska Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigator in Anchorage. The date of the sentencing should be finalized next week, Starry said today.

Juneau attorney Thomas Nave is representing Klepinger, who on March 2 pled no contest to the fraud charges. Klepinger has been charged with fraud for billing the state Medicaid program for services he claimed to have provided to 126 Southeast patients from his offices here and in Ketchikan. The Medicaid Fraud Unit in the attorney general's office alleged $138,278 was illegally claimed between Oct. 13, 1997, and Jan. 26, 2000.

Meanwhile, Klepinger, co-owner of the Beltone Hearing Center, is no longer able to practice as a hearing aid dealer. ``Mr. Klepinger mailed us back his hearing aid dealer license on Monday,'' said Catherine Reardon, director of the state Division of Occupational Licensing. ``Also, his bond expired on May 14. So he is not authorized to practice at this time,'' Reardon added.

Oil lease change protects whales

ANCHORAGE - The state Department of Natural Resources said Tuesday that it has dropped 126 tracts from the Cook Inlet oil-leasing program.

The move comes two weeks after a state judge ruled that the tracts - described as key beluga whale habitat - could not be offered in an August sale.

But while he withdrew the leases, Natural Resources Commissioner John Shively didn't agreed that the move was necessary from a biological viewpoint. ``So far only Native hunters and the oil and gas industry have been singled out, which is unfair and without scientific justification,'' Shively said in a written statement. ``It creates the false impression that curtailing these two activities will protect the whales.''

The inlet beluga population is now estimated at 357, down from about 1,000 a decade ago. Overhunting is largely blamed for the decline. The National Marine Fisheries Service has proposed listing the Cook Inlet belugas as ``depleted'' under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

On May 2 Judge Sigurd Murphy denied the state's request to lift his year-old order excluding 70 tracts identified as beluga habitat from the next Cook Inlet oil and gas lease sale, scheduled for Aug. 16 in Anchorage. Murphy also blocked sale of 56 tracts that federal biologists say are whale gathering places.

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