Northwest Digest

Posted: Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Juneau man charged with 'very savage beating'

JUNEAU - Bail for a 29-year-old Juneau man, accused of committing what the prosecutor called "a very savage beating," was set at $10,000 Tuesday.

Leonard Schenck appeared in Juneau District Court on a charge of felony third-degree assault. Juneau police arrested him Monday night after a woman reported a fight in the woods in the Jordan Creek area.

Police Capt. Tom Porter said officers allege from the investigation that Schenck was attempting to rob the victim.

Assistant District Attorney Doug Gardner said in District Court the victim sustained two broken eye orbs. He told District Judge Keith Levy that there was a possibility the victim would lose sight in one eye.

Gardner recommended Levy set bail at $10,000, given Schenck's criminal record, which includes a conviction last year on a felony charge of second-degree forgery.

Levy agreed with the recommendation. He said he worried about Schenck's record as well as the nature of the crime against him.

Murkowski staff chief given gas line role

JUNEAU - The governor's chief of staff, Jim Clark, has been assigned to work full time on negotiations for a North Slope natural gas pipeline, a top-level administrative source said Tuesday.

The source, who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity, said Clark would cease most or all of his duties as chief of staff to become a special counsel to Gov. Frank Murkowski. Clark will work full time to wrap up fiscal terms for a pipeline with at least one of the three applicants under the state's Stranded Gas Act and present a contract proposal to the Legislature this year, the source said.

Clark, reached in Anchorage on Tuesday evening, would not confirm or deny that he would be leaving his position.

"I'm doing more work with respect to the gas line issue," Clark said. "How we're going to do it has not been decided yet."

Murkowski has scheduled a news conference Wednesday. Spokesman Mike Chambers said a staff change will be announced then, but he provided no details.

Murkowski press secretary Becky Hultberg also declined to answer questions about Clark, saying they would be answered at Wednesday's briefing. However, she said, "the chief of staff has been spending a significant amount of time in gas line negotiations."

TSA warns against bringing fireworks in

JUNEAU - As families prepare for the Fourth of July holiday, the Transportation Security Administration has asked that travelers not bring fireworks to the airports.

Fireworks, including sparklers and bottle rockets, are prohibited in airports beyond security check stations, in the cabins of aircraft and in checked baggage.

Other common prohibited items include firearms, knives, pocketknives, scissors, lighters and box cutters. TSA intercepts more than 1 million prohibited items each month, which causes delays for every passenger at the security checkpoint. Bringing these items to the checkpoint can result in a fine up to $10,000 and possible arrest and imprisonment.

This summer, the airports expect to receive 200 million travelers during the peak summer travel period through Labor Day.

Oil pipeline's assessed value challenged again

FAIRBANKS - Three Alaska municipalities are contesting a state review board's decision that assessed the trans-Alaska oil pipeline value at $3 billion.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough, North Slope Borough and the city of Valdez filed an appeal in Superior Court on Monday.

This is the governments' third attempt to change the value, which, if it stands, means about $1 million in lost property tax revenues for the Fairbanks borough.

"It's a disagreement about statutory interpretation of replacement costs," said Fairbanks borough attorney Rene Broker.

Earlier this year, the state petroleum property assessor dropped the value of the pipeline and its associated properties from $3.017 billion to $3 billion. The three municipalities appealed that decision with the assessor's office and lost. They then went to the State Assessment Review Board to seek a reversal.

The board issued a decision that upheld the state petroleum assessor's ruling.

Part of the assessment was determining how much it would cost to replace the pipeline.

The municipalities based their current appeal on points that the review board failed to rule on, according to the court documents.

Smoke again closing in on Fairbanks

FAIRBANKS - Thick smoke is again showing up in the Fairbanks area this summer.

Smoke slid into valleys in the Interior on Monday, reducing air quality and visibility while evoking memories of last summer's inescapable haze.

The National Weather Service said conditions will only worsen this week because a change in wind direction has started pushing smoke from wildfires north of the Yukon River into the southern Interior.

The forecast calls for the hottest weather so far this year and winds from the east and northeast to continue for several days. The smoky conditions across the region are likely to persist most of the week, forecasters said.

The weather will remind many Interior residents of last summer, when smoke from wildfire shrouded the area with particulate levels so high at times that air-quality instruments were unable to track them.

Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker said if particulate levels reach hazardous levels and remain there for 24 hours, a respite center will be opened.

Washington GOP pays for court challenge

SEATTLE - The Washington state Republican Party has paid the Democratic Party $15,000 to cover court costs in the GOP's unsuccessful challenge to the election of Gov. Christine O. Gregoire.

Officials said the check was cut Friday as Chelan County Superior Court Judge E. Bridges signed a final order in Wenatchee to dismiss the Republican challenge, affirming a ruling he issued June 6 that upheld the election results.

Democrats had asked the judge to award nearly $48,000 in court costs for the challenge to the election of Gregoire, a Democrat who won by 129 votes in a hand recount after Republican Dino Rossi finished ahead in the initial tally and again in a machine recount.

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