Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Stevens: Eielson's importance ignored

ANCHORAGE - The Pentagon seems to have concluded Eielson Air Force Base has no strategic importance, and "that is an absolute error in judgment," U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens said Tuesday.

Stevens, R-Alaska, spoke as he prepared to travel to Fairbanks to meet with state and community leaders who will try to persuade the Base Realignment and Closure Commission that Eielson should remain at current staffing levels. A hearing in Fairbanks is scheduled for June 15.

As part of the base closure and realignment process, the Defense Department on May 13 recommended that Eielson's active airmen be reduced by 2,800 and that its fighter aircraft be moved to other bases. The Pentagon contends realigning most of Eielson's personnel would save nearly $230 million annually.

Borough and state officials fear that more than 1,700 additional jobs would be lost because of the reductions. The base is about 30 miles south of Fairbanks.

For Eielson to be removed from the realignment list, five of the nine BRAC commission members must disagree with the Defense Department recommendation. Commissioners would have to be persuaded that the Defense Department strayed from its realignment and closure criteria by putting Eielson on the list.

"They overlooked one substantial portion of that, which is that the current deployment here is one of dual mission," Stevens said. "One, to reinforce the North Pacific, particularly in to South Korea. The other is to reinforce northern Europe."

Fairbanks-area teen killed in crash

FAIRBANKS - Fairbanks police have obtained a videotape of a weekend traffic accident that killed a North Pole teenager.

"The video shows the accident as it happened," said Sgt. Doug Welborn, who would not divulge where police obtained the videotape.

Andrew Coker, 18, died at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital shortly after a two-car accident at about 6 p.m. Saturday.

He was the second Fairbanks-area teen in less than a week to die in an accident involving a motorist suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Faith Derendoff, 29, has been charged with DUI.

According to police, Coker was crossing Wembly Avenue and Danby Street in a black Saturn sedan when his vehicle was struck by a Kia Sportage driven by Derendoff.

Coker suffered massive internal injuries and was transported to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, where he died.

Derendoff was treated at for minor injuries, released and arrested by police about two and a half hours after the accident. She registered a .12 percent breath-alcohol content level, above the .08 legal limit, according to police. Derendoff posted bail.

Coker, a 2004 North Pole High School graduate, was an Alaska Scholar and student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he studied accounting. He worked at the UAF Bookstore.

"He was a good student," said his mother, Janice Coker. "He was a good friend."

Bethel man is charged with murder

ANCHORAGE - A Bethel man shot and killed his wife during a domestic dispute in the couple's home, according to the Bethel Police Department.

Tommy Andrew, 40, killed Ballasia Andrew, 41, on Sunday morning, police said.

The shooting took place in front of the couple's teenage daughter, said Bethel Police Lt. Andre Achee. The girl is in the care of relatives, he said.

Officers at about 8 a.m. Sunday arrived at a home in the Larson Subdivision in response to a reported shooting. According to police, they found the victim alive but suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.

She died just more than an hour later, police said.

Tommy Andrew was charged with murder, assault and weapons misconduct.

City evaluating parkland incursion

ANCHORAGE - There are at least 10 cases in Anchorage where private property owners may be impinging on parkland.

In one of the more serious cases, it looks like about a quarter of an acre of parkland was used to develop a homeowners yard and driveway, said Tom Korosei, a city parks planner.

The home of Deborah and Dr. Marvin Grendahl is adjacent to Far North Bicentennial Park. The homeowners removed trees, planted lawn and put in an asphalt circular driveway and rebuilt a large shed that matches the main house.

"Apparently it's been incremental over several years," Korosei said.

Deborah Grendahl said she didn't want to comment on how it happened.

The Grendahls' home is a three-story wooden structure. An expansive lawn with gardens planted here and there surrounds it. The property abuts Far North Bicentennial Park to the north.

The Grendahls have lived on Lodge Pole Court since the late 1970s. Much of the land that became a city wilderness park was handed over to the city from the state in the same era, around 1976.

Korosei said the incursion into the park is one of about 10 cases of homeowners apparently using parkland that have been reported and not yet resolved.

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