State briefs

Posted: Friday, July 05, 2002

Frederick trial set for August

JUNEAU - A trial date has been set for Joseph Frederick, a recent Juneau-Douglas High School graduate accused of encouraging the random beating of another JDHS student.

Frederick, now in Hawaii, missed his earlier arraignment on June 27. His lawyer, local attorney Doug Mertz, said Frederick received a waiver of summons that allowed the absence. At Tuesday's hearing, Frederick appeared via telephone.

His trial is now set for Aug. 27. Frederick is accused of offering two high school students a ride in exchange for punching another student. Allegedly, one of the boys complied.

Knowles signs alcohol tax hike, effective October

JUNEAU - Gov. Tony Knowles signed a bill into law on Wednesday increasing the state's alcohol tax to 10 cents a drink.

The alcohol tax takes effect Oct. 1.

House Bill 225 by Rep. Lisa Murkowski, an Anchorage Republican, is estimated to raise about $20 million annually.

"This reasonable, responsible and realistic increase in Alaska's alcohol taxes is long overdue," Knowles said in a prepared statement. "It is time Alaskans stepped up the fight against alcohol abuse. It is time we help people who want to stop drinking and protect the public from those who refuse to stop drinking. It is time to ask consumers to help contribute more of the share of the costs of dealing with problem drinkers."

It is the first Alaska tax increase on alcohol since 1983, when tax rates averaged 3 to 4 cents per drink.

The measure is the only part the Legislature's attempt to form a long-range fiscal plan that was agreed upon by the House and Senate. Proposals that would impose other taxes, such as a state income tax, failed to garner support in the Senate.

Marine educators to meet

JUNEAU - Teachers and others interested in marine education are invited to attend the annual Northwest Aquatic and Marine Educators regional conference July 11-14 at Centennial Hall.

The conference includes presentations, keynote speakers, field trips and social events. For more information, call Rich Mattson at 463-1630.

Bettles sees first July snowfall

FAIRBANKS - Bettles this week saw its first-ever snowfall in July.

The National Weather Service said snow fell on the south side of the Brooks Range early Wednesday. For Bettles, it was the first official record of snow during July in more than 50 years of observations.

Bettles is about 190 miles northwest of Fairbanks.

"Nothing surprises me about the weather here," said Rich Thorne, a 12-year Bettles resident. Thorne said the snowfall lasted about an hour and a half.

Neighbors appeal expansion of the True North mine

FAIRBANKS - Residents living near the True North gold mine have filed appeals of the state's decision to approve an expansion of the gold mine, 30 miles north of Fairbanks.

Those who filed the appeals contend the state Department of Natural Resources didn't adequately address more stringent light, dust and noise controls at the mine; didn't limit the number of trucks allowed on the mine's haul road; and didn't fully consider the impact of heavy metals on the environment from True North's ore.

The True North mine is operated by Fairbanks Gold Mining Inc. The public had until July 2 to appeal the state's June 12 approval of the True North expansion.

The state has said it addressed concerns by requiring mitigation measures and monitoring of environmental impacts.

Fairbanks Gold Mining wants to start work on the expansion this month once it receives a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wetlands permit, said mine manager Rick Dye.

Staff with the Natural Resources Department couldn't comment on the appeals. Natural Resources Commissioner Pat Pourchot is not under a deadline to answer the appeals.

Man sentenced to 3 years for smuggling cocaine

FAIRBANKS - A Los Angeles man convicted of smuggling almost two kilograms, or roughly 4.3 pounds, of cocaine through Fairbanks International Airport in January has been sentenced to three years in prison.

Cornelius Tica, 23, was sentenced to 37 months in prison and three years of supervised release by Judge John Sedwick on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Anchorage.

He was found guilty in March of one count of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

Tica was arrested on Jan. 12 after statewide drug enforcement agents, acting on a tip from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Anchorage, searched Tica's luggage and found 1,965 grams of cocaine, Alaska State Troopers said.

Tica had arrived in Fairbanks on a plane from Seattle.

Senate bill includes millions for Alaska bases

ANCHORAGE - A federal spending bill in the Senate includes nearly $48 million for housing on military installations near Anchorage.

The annual military construction bill passed the Senate Appropriations Committee last week with $27 million to improve family housing on Elmendorf Air Force Base, and $21 million for the Army's Fort Richardson barracks complex.

Those items were in the president's 2003 budget, and Sen. Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, added several more items. They include $15 million for a community center on Fort Richardson, $5 million to improve the perimeter fencing there, and $700,000 to plan and design a new "Pararescue Training Complex" at Kulis Air National Guard Base.

The appropriations bill next goes to the Senate floor and must later be reconciled with the version the House is working on.

State gets $1.3 million for victim assistance

ANCHORAGE - The U.S. Justice Department has awarded nearly $1.3 million to the state to help groups that assist crime victims.

The money comes from the Justice Department's Office for Victims of Crime, from fines and penalties paid by criminals, said U.S. Attorney Timothy Burgess.

The state will distribute the money to domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers and other local agencies. It will be used to provide counseling, crisis intervention, emergency shelter and criminal justice advocacy services.

Compiled from staff and wire service reports.

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