Alaska Digest

Posted: Sunday, July 22, 2007

Driver agrees to plea deal in man's death

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FAIRBANKS - A Fairbanks woman has pleaded no contest to manslaughter in the death of a pedestrian she hit with her minivan last year.

Ilsa Burton, 31, also pleaded no contest to driving under the influence and leaving the scene of the Dec. 17 evening accident that killed 57-year-old Chester Druck. Burton registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.093 following the accident, according to Alaska State Troopers. The legal limit in Alaska is 0.08.

Druck was hit while walking in a neighborhood off College Road. A friend told authorities that Druck was walking near the center of the roadway when he was hit. Druck hit the front grill of the minivan, bounced onto the hood and slammed into the windshield before he was thrown 110 feet, court documents say.

Burton left the scene and drove to a home, dropped off some fast food, said she had hit someone and told the resident not to call 911, authorities said. Burton got back in the minivan, drove past the accident scene and saw that someone had stopped to help Druck, authorities said.

Burton hid the vehicle in the woods near her brother's home.

She was arrested after someone at the home called 911.

Under the plea agreement, Burton's minimum sentence would be seven years. An evidence tampering charge is to be dropped at her sentencing in November.

"I'm really angry because I feel like justice hasn't been done," said Lois Verney, Druck's sister. "She just got away with it."

University settles museum dispute

FAIRBANKS - The University of Alaska has agreed to pay $4.65 million to resolve a dispute with the contractor it hired for the expansion of the Museum of the North in Fairbanks.

The settlement ends Alaska Mechanical's $17.4 million claim against the university. The agreement was approved Wednesday by the Board of Regents.

The company had maintained the university owed it more money because the $42 million project was plagued with design flaws, changes, delays and cost overruns beyond the control of the contractor.

Beside the university's payment, the project design team has agreed to pay AMI another $1.6 million as part of the settlement. Members of the design team are GDM; Hammel, Green and Abrahamson; Planning Design and Consulting; and Coffman Engineers.

"This provides finality to the project," university spokeswoman Kate Ripley said. "All claims previously pending through the administrative hearing officer will be dismissed."

The settlement was reached after three days of six-party mediation last month, Ripley said.

The university's settlement amount is above the $23 million contract the university already had with the company for the construction of the building, which formally opened in September 2005. The additional money will come from the university's reserve contingency fund, Ripley said.

Kodiak jail ballot petition awaits OK

KODIAK - A Kodiak citizens group has filed a ballot petition seeking to stop the city from building a jail on Near Island.

Sponsors submitted about 600 signatures in their effort to put their measure on the Oct. 2 city election. The signatures now await validation by city clerk Debra Marlar.

Sponsors had to get 349 valid signatures for the measure to appear on the ballot.

Jack Mann, co-organizer of the group, said there was some confusion when people were asked to sign. Voters who reside outside city limits can only vote in a borough election and are disqualified from signing a city petition.

The ballot measure would specifically ask voters whether to locate the jail on Near Island. If voters said no, then another site would have to be considered.

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