Alaska Digest

Posted: Friday, May 27, 2005

Lemon Creek burn shut down, again

JUNEAU - For the second time this week, Juneau's fire marshal shut down a controlled burn Thursday amid community complaints.

Rich Etheridge said that with no other fires in the area some of the smoke people are complaining about may be coming in from Canada.

Etheridge said he ordered a land-clearing burn in the Lemon Creek area stopped Thursday because of the large amount of smoke it was producing. He said the contractor was unable to maintain a hot fire for complete combustion and agreed to put it out and not try to burn again until the wind is blowing steadily from the west to push the smoke away from populated areas.

Wednesday, heavy equipment was used to extinguish a fire on Grant Street in the Mendenhall Valley. Etheridge revoked the burn permit after the contractor failed to comply with his agreement to let that fire burn out. The fire marshal said the contractor continued to burn through the night, and that the burn permit would not be renewed.

Airline, workers reach tentative agreement

SEATTLE - Alaska Airlines announced Thursday that it has reached a tentative contract agreement with its flight attendants.

Terms of the agreement will not be publicly disclosed until the language has been finalized and shared with the flight attendants, and the agreement has been ratified by the membership, Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Caroline Boren said.

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA represents about 46,000 flight attendants, including Alaska Airlines' approximately 2,400.

Union spokeswoman Veda Shook, a 14-year Alaska flight attendant based in Seattle, said she thought it was a fair agreement and would be approved by union members. She said she hoped the final language could be worked out by June 9.

"You'd always want more," Shook said Thursday. "You know what I mean. Negotiations is a give-and-take process."

On May 13, the airline laid off 472 airport ramp workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, giving the jobs to contract workers with Menzies Aviation in a bid to cut costs amid rising fuel prices and stiff competition.

The layoffs drew dozens of protesters to last week's Alaska Air Group Inc. annual shareholders' meeting in Seattle.

New fast ferry likely to miss startup date

JUNEAU - The state's newest fast ferry is not likely to go into service as scheduled July 1.

The Chenega, the state's second fast vehicle ferry, is scheduled to serve Cordova, Valdez, and Whittier through the summer season.

Former state Sen. Robin Taylor, the Department of Transportation deputy commissioner for marine transportation, called the delay an unfavorable confluence of circumstances.

The fast ferry arrived late from the manufacturer, he said, and docked May 11 in Auke Bay in Juneau.

The state continues to negotiate with the three maritime unions that represent the crew of the Chenega, Taylor said.

The fast ferry will employ 19 people, including shoreside workers at its home port of Cordova.

Once negotiations are concluded, the crew will have a training period in waters around Juneau. That will be followed by two weeks of route training in Prince William Sound.

Passengers who booked passage on the Chenega will be transferred to a traditional ferry, the Aurora, Taylor said.

The delay follows an announcement last week that the Chenega would be shifted to Southeast waters in the fall.

The state plans to remove two fast ferries serving Lynn Canal and Prince William Sound and divert them to an experimental Juneau-Petersburg-Ketchikan connection through winter months. The changes will be in effect for the season running from about late September until spring.

Man robs credit union across from cop shop

FAIRBANKS - A man with a gun robbed a credit union across the street from the Fairbanks Police Department and got away.

The robbery occurred at about 3 p.m. Wednesday at the True North Federal Credit Union while a handful of employees and customers were inside.

"It's brazen considering you can see the police department as you walk in the door," said police Sgt. Tara Tippett. "We have cameras that look out onto the parking lot out front and the bank."

The credit union is at Ninth Avenue and Cushman Street in downtown Fairbanks.

The robber entered the credit union, pulled a handgun from his sweat shirt, went straight to a teller window and demanded money, according to investigator Peyton Merideth. The robber demanded money from a second teller before leaving in a dark sedan, possibly a Ford Taurus or a Mercury Sable.

"He did point the gun at both tellers and a person who was standing in line," Merideth said.

The investigator estimated the robbery lasted less than a minute.

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