Northwest Digest

Posted: Sunday, June 17, 2007

After surgery, former governor recovering

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ANCHORAGE - Former Alaska Gov. Bill Sheffield was recovering Friday from a successful surgery to remove an aortic aneurism, a spokeswoman for the Port of Anchorage said.

Laurie Herman said Sheffield, 78, the port director, is expected to make a full recovery.

"He came through it with flying colors," she said of the two-hour operation at Alaska Regional Hospital.

Sheffield went to a doctor Tuesday because of pain in his lower back. Tests Wednesday revealed the aneurism.

He had an angioplasty in 1985.

Sheffield has been port director since 2001. He was appointed by former Mayor George Wuerch.

Sheffield was Alaska's sixth state governor from 1982-1986.

While he is in the hospital, port engineer Todd Cowles will be acting port director.

Protesters rally in support of seniors

ANCHORAGE - About 60 people protested the Legislature's decision not to extend an aid program to senior citizens in a rally organized by AARP.

The SeniorCare program, providing $120 per month to low-income people over 65, is set to end June 30. Supporters hope to pressure the Legislature to extend it. Lawmakers will meet in a special session June 26 in Anchorage.

About 7,000 seniors take advantage of SeniorCare. Couples must make less than $21,641 a year to qualify. Single people must make less than $16,133.

Many demonstrators directed their ire at Rep. John Coghill, R-North Pole, who has said he does not support the program. He helped kill attempts to extend it during the legislative session.

Lynn Cragholm, 73, said she had not taken part in a protest before but she waved a sign that said, "Work Hard, Pay Taxes, Raise a Family, Get Shafted by Rep. Coghill."

"It seems like a small amount of money yet it can make a big difference to the ones who are receiving it," Cragholm said.

Coghill, speaking from North Pole, said he has been hearing criticism from many corners.

"Oh man have I taken some heat over this," he said.

Former Gov. Frank Murkowski set up the program to help with prescription drug costs until a federal drug assistance program, Medicare Part D, started, Coghill said. The state already has adult public assistance for low-income seniors. He supports increasing benefits paid under that program rather than having two programs.

Officers investigate moose federation

ANCHORAGE - A moose conservation group that rescued an orphaned calf is under investigation, its chairman said.

Gary Olson of the Alaska Moose Federation said he and a veterinarian who treated the moose received a call this week from an investigating wildlife trooper.

Matt Robus, director of the state Division of Wildlife Conservation, has said the federation broke the law by handling and transporting the calf from an Anchorage neighborhood to the veterinarian and then the Alaska Zoo.

Robus asked wildlife officers to investigate.

Handling and transporting wild animals without a permit from the state Department of Fish and Game is a Class A misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of $10,000 and one year in jail. The moose federation, and the people who helped, had no permit, Robus said.

CH2M Hill agrees to acquire VECO

DENVER - Denver-based CH2M Hill said Saturday it has agreed to acquire VECO Corp., the oil field services company whose founder pleaded guilty to federal charges of bribing Alaska legislators.

Details of the agreement were not released, but the companies said the deal valued VECO at $463 million.

A spokesman for CH2M Hill, a global management, design and construction firm, did not immediately return a phone message Saturday night.

In a written statement, CH2M Hill Chairman and CEO Ralph Peterson said the deal would allow the combined companies to offer a unique range of services. Meanwhile VECO Chairwoman Tammy Kerrigan praised CH2M Hill's financial and global industry position.

The companies had signed a letter of intent for exclusive negotiations May 15.

They said they expected to finalize details of the acquisition, along with a transition and integration plan, by the end of August.

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