Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, July 11, 2007

KTOO starts work on new facilities

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JUNEAU - A construction project has begun at KTOO this week that will bring all-new digital television facilities for its 360 North operations and "Gavel to Gavel Alaska."

KTOO received an award of $1 million in the fall to build the new facilities and control centers. It was one of 10 public stations selected for grants from the Rural Development Utilities Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"The new digital facilities will greatly improve our ability to provide a full-time, statewide channel of Alaska public affairs programming, including coverage of the Legislature," station Manager Bill Legere said in a press release. "We will be replacing old obsolete analog equipment, some of which dates back to the 1980s."

The project will include a digital router, new digital switchers, improved graphics capabilities and digital conversion equipment. Construction is expected to be complete by late fall.

Hospital corridors to close for remodeling

JUNEAU - The remodeling of Bartlett Regional Hospital will require the closure of various corridors during the 18-month project, a hospital spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

Patients and visitors may call for directions.

For those who are uncertain about where to go, information telephones near the entrance can be used to call for an escort through the corridors.

For more information, call the hospital at 796-8900.

Creamery Board OK's mik price increase

PALMER - The state Creamery Board is throwing Alaska's dairy farmers a lifeline in the form of increased payments for their milk.

Dairy farmers in the state will get the same price for their milk as what Matanuska Maid paid to farmers in the Lower 48.

The news was welcomed Tuesday by dairy farmers who last saw an increase five years ago.

Point MacKenzie dairy farmer Vicki Trytten said the increase gives farmers some breathing room, allowing them to pay bills and buy needed supplies like fertilizer. She estimated the increase would mean an extra $4,000 a month for her family.

Creamery Board chairwoman Kristan Cole said the boost was needed to keep dairy farmers in business, at least until the state can finally decide what to do about the financially ailing state dairy.

Cole said the increase in the price paid for milk will be passed on to Northern Lights Dairy in Delta Junction, which buys milk from Matanuska Maid, and by raising the price charged to retailers.

Under the new system, the dairy would pay farmers the same price it pays for imported milk, minus the cost Mat Maid pays to truck the milk to the Anchorage plant, about $3 per 100 pounds, the board said.

Alaska Firefighters to battle Utah blazes

FAIRBANKS - With Alaska's fire season cooling off, 100 firefighters were headed to Utah on Tuesday to help firefighters there battle the biggest wildfire in state history.

The Utah wildfire increased to 469 square miles Tuesday, but that was a gain of only about 11,000 acres from Monday, authorities said. The fire about 120 miles south of Salt Lake City was 10 percent contained.

"They're needing people left and right," Laurie Heupel, public information officer with the Alaska Fire Service, said of firefighting efforts Outside. "The fire season is beginning to taper down here and it's just ramping up in the Lower 48."

Fire officials warned that extreme fire weather was expected to continue for the next several days.

Fires in both Utah and California are straining resources, and much of the West is enduring a record-breaking heat wave, Heupel said.

Firefighters on Tuesday were battling huge wildfires in the parched Sierra foothills in eastern California. Cooler temperatures and lighter wind in Northern California allowed crews there to make significant progress toward taming a 35,000-acre fire in the Inyo National Forest.

On a scale of one to five, the national preparedness level for the Lower 48 was at a 4 on Monday. Heupel said fire officials expected that to go to 5 on Tuesday. In Alaska, the preparedness level is a 2, she said.

With no major fires burning in Alaska and the fire danger decreasing on an almost daily basis with higher humidity, cooler temperatures and less daylight, exporting firefighters to the Lower 48 isn't a problem.

Crews from Delta, Huslia, Kiana, Koyuk and Noorvik were to fly to Utah. Each crew consists of 20 firefighters.

"We can spare the people," Heupel said. "If we have to get them back, we can call them back."

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