Alaska Digest

Posted: Friday, June 08, 2007

Matanuska Maid closing its doors

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WASILLA - State-owned dairy company Matanuska Maid will end operations July 7, company officials announced Thursday.

The State Creamery Board came to its decision to shut down the 71-year-old company at a board meeting Wednesday, citing escalating shipping and milk prices.

The company suffered more than $700,000 in losses during the past two years, to the point that even a $600,000 state grant couldn't turn the company around, board Chairman Mac Carter said.

"We're trying to be prudent. Right now, there is just no light at end of the tunnel," he said.

Board members voted 4-1 to close the plant with the lone opposition coming from Point MacKenzie dairy farmer Vicki Trytten, who resigned from the board after the vote.

Carter said July 7 is the target date for shutting down milk production at the plant, although plants in Anchorage and Palmer will continue to bottle water until the end of August.

The shutdown will put about 50 employees out of work and leave the half-dozen remaining dairy farms in Alaska with few options for selling their milk.

The state took over the dairy, which began as a farmers' cooperative in the 1930s, in the mid-1980s after it first went bankrupt.

Jury finds Gakona man guilty of wife's murder

GLENNALLEN - A Glennallen jury on Thursday found Derek Sawyer of Gakona guilty of first-degree murder in the 1997 shooting death of his wife.

Superior Court Judge John Suddock scheduled Sawyer's sentencing for Nov. 15.

Gretchen Sawyer was fatally shot in the home she shared with the defendant at Mile .5 of the Tok Cut Off Road.

Derek Sawyer, now 34, claimed at the time of the shooting that his 29-month old son had awakened, picked up a .357-caliber revolver off the kitchen table, walked into his mother's bedroom and fired the fatal shot.

Derek Sawyer claimed he was sitting in his bathtub with the shower running when his son fired the gun.

Sawyer's attorney, Cynthia Strout, did not immediately return a message left Thursday at her Anchorage office. In her opening statements, she denied her client killed his wife and said the investigation was mishandled.

Mooseheart fire grows by thousands of acres

FAIRBANKS - A wildfire about 25 miles southwest of Manley Hot Springs has made a 3-mile run, increasing by 2,500 acres and crossing the Cosna River, Bureau of Land Management fire officials said Thursday.

The blaze covered a total 25,000 acres, despite precipitation Thursday in the area about 115 miles south of Fairbanks.

BLM officials have deployed three fire crews to the west of the Cosna River and south of the Tanana River to battle the wildfire.

They also have deployed smoke jumpers to Mooseheart Lake, where they plan to burn out vegetation surrounding a nearby structure.

Crews will continue burning out vegetation to create buffer zones between buildings and the fire throughout the day Friday, officials said.

There are now 92 personnel assigned to fight the fire, officials said, and it is being monitored by aircraft to watch for flare-ups or changes of direction.

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