Alaska Digest

Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sitka looks to gain bike-friendly status

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SITKA - A new online bike forum has been created so Sitka residents can discuss ways to help the town earn a "Bicycle Friendly Community" designation from the League of American Cyclists.

A bicycle friendly community provides safe accommodation for cycling and encourages its residents to bike for transportation, recreation and physical activity.

Sitka is trying to become the first community from Alaska to earn the designation. It would be the smallest community in the United States to qualify.

Hollywood studio seeks tribal youth

JUNEAU - Fox Studios and the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska are seeking young tribal applicants to attend the Fox American Indian Summer Institute from July 15 to 20 in Los Angeles.

Fox will cover room, board and transportation costs while there. The Business and Economic Development Department of the Central Council will pay for round-trip tickets and will award successful applicants $1,000 scholarships to encourage them to continue developing their talents.

Up to two applicants will be selected for the program: one for the beginning track and one for the advanced track. Applicants must be 18 to 25 years of age. Application deadline is Wednesday.

Applications should be submitted by mail or in person to: Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, Attn: Andrei Chakine, Business and Economic Development Department, 9097 Glacier Highway, Juneau, AK, 99801.

Questions should go to Marianne at 463-7147.

Officials break ground for state virology lab

FAIRBANKS - Alaska is a step closer to a new virology lab after state officials broke ground on a new $32 million building.

The state-owned building will located on the campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks just north of the Museum of the North and the recently completed Biological Research and Diagnostics facility.

"We could handle everything from the common cold all the way to smallpox," Bernd Jilly, the chief of the state's public health labs, said Tuesday, when the ground breaking ceremony was held.

The state Department of Health and Social Services already has lab space on the campus to study human viruses, but Jilly said the labs are in the 40-year-old Arctic Health Building.

"It's all scattered in these really small outdated labs," Jilly said. "We have some labs that are so small that when a person is working in them you can't open the door."

The center, slated to be completed in December 2009, will be nearly 29,000 square feet and include modern equipment and lab space. It will be the only lab in Alaska equipped to diagnose viral diseases such as HIV, hepatitis, rabies, herpes and influenza.

Cause of school fire can't be determined

ANCHORAGE - Authorities can't determine the cause of the fire that destroyed a high school last week near Talkeetna, the State Fire Marshal's office said.

However, officials have ruled out mechanical, electrical, natural and intentional causes of the fire at Susitna Valley Junior and Senior High School.

The fire marshal's office said there were too many remaining "likely" possibilities for fire investigators to determine the exact cause of the fire.

The fire erupted in the school's center, core section the evening of June 5. There were no injuries.

More than 70 state and municipal firefighters responded and found flames shooting out the school roof. Strong winds fanned flames and the fire burned too hot to save the east and west classroom wings.

Officials on Tuesday said the fire burned through three pre-existing roof structures in the 34-year-old school. Authorities said one reason damage was so extensive is the fire burned above all fire prevention systems, including sprinkler systems and smoke detectors.

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough estimated the value of the school at more than $13 million.

The fire was fueled in part by plywood and other material assembled for a $5.5 million renovation and roof reconstruction project, which began in March.

One state fire marshal and three private fire investigators were at the school for five days, trying to determine the cause.

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