State and local briefly

Posted: Wednesday, May 24, 2000

Ferry building swap OK'd

JUNEAU - The city will get title to the Alaska Marine Highway building next to Harborview Elementary School and, in return, the state will get some rock and an easement across city land at Stabler Point, near Auke Bay, in a swap OK'd at Tuesday night's Juneau Planning Commission meeting.

The state Department of Transportation got rights to 2 million cubic yards of rock for a planned realignment of Glacier Highway in the area and for other projects.

The city has long been interested in acquiring the state-owned property between Juneau-Douglas High School and Harborview Elementary. The existing school campus is considered to be below standards for minimum land area, according to the city's Department of Community Development. School officials have said the area might be used for a playing field or track.

``The city's been interested in acquiring the building for 20 years,'' said city Lands Director Steve Gilbertson. ``Now the (Marine Highway System) is planning a new building at 7 mile.'' Transfer of the existing building to the city is slated for sometime next year, he said.

As part of the agreement with the state, the existing Glacier Highway right of way in the vicinity of Stabler Point will be deeded to the city when the roadway realignment is complete.

The city Lands Committee reviewed and approved the proposal to convey the easement and rock to the state of Alaska at its Jan. 12 meeting.

Village fire cause determined

JUNEAU - The cause of the May 11 fire in a home on Village Street has been determined to be a propane water heater, said Juneau Fire Marshall Randy Waters.

``Combustibles -- household items -- were stacked too close to the heater,'' Waters said Tuesday. ``It was a pretty straightforward investigation.''

Waters said the residence was totaled. He estimates the value of the residence at $69,000 and the value of its contents at $45,000.

George and Velma Paul, her daughter Lenora, 16, and their newborn son Jaden were left homeless by the blaze. Since last fall, they had rented the two-story residence from Stanley Brown and were in the process of renovation.

Donations for the Paul family may be sent to P.O. Box 20497, Juneau, Alaska, 99801.

Auke Bay harbor improvements OK'ed

JUNEAU - Improvements to Statter Harbor got the nod from the Juneau Planning Commission at its Tuesday meeting. Plans are to expand the parking, improve pedestrian access and relocate and replace the harbor office.

The popular harbor provides transient docking for between 200 and 300 boats and busy day-boat access to Auke Bay.

The project entails the construction of a retaining wall about 80 feet from the existing seaward edge of the parking area and backfilling to create room for additional parking and a pedestrian sidewalk. Parking will increase from the existing 80 spaces to about 150, plus 12 truck-with-trailer spaces.

The city recently completed improvements to the intersection of the harbor area and Glacier Highway.

The Planning Commission added a condition to passage of the plan that requires the Harbor Board to post and stripe in the vicinity of the Coast Guard building -- to make sure the driveway stays clear, said Department of Community Development Director Cheryl Easterwood.

Murder trial delay requested

JUNEAU - Two Juneau men accused of second-degree murder want to delay their trial until October.

Attorney Michael O'Brien, representing Rey Joel Soto, has filed a motion to continue the trial until October. Ronald Smith's lawyer, Daryl Gardner, joined with O'Brien in that motion.

Smith and Soto are charged with second-degree murder in the death of Kenneth Thomas in a robbery Jan. 25 near Willoughby Avenue. They are also charged with second-degree robbery and with first-degree assault in the beating of Alfred Torres in the same incident.

At a hearing Tuesday in Juneau Superior Court, Assistant District Attorney Sue McLean said the prosecution was opposed to the motion for several reasons. The trial had been scheduled for July 10 for some time, she said, and it would be difficult to assemble witnesses for a different date.

``The state has subpoenaed over 20 witnesses, and they are all served. Many are professionals that have other commitments, and I suggest to the court that it will be difficult if not impossible to get those people together again,'' McLean said.

Judge Larry Weeks gave McLean an opportunity to file an objection to the motion by Friday. Weeks ordered O'Brien and Gardner to file their reply by the close of business Tuesday. Weeks also suggested the possibility of a trial beginning Sept. 11.

Each side said it needed about three days of trial to present its case. ``We can be ready as quickly as the court can set it on,'' McLean said. Weeks scheduled an evidentiary hearing for June 3.

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