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AROUND THE STATE

Posted: Monday, July 24, 2000

Cafe may be source of E. coli outbreak

KENAI - Nine of the 10 people suspected of E. coli infection ate at the same restaurant in Sterling, according to state health authorities.

Leana Moore, owner of the Mad Moose Cafe, says she's not sure whether her place is responsible, but just in case, she voluntarily closed the restaurant until the state Division of Public Health gets its test results back.

``I only gave my name for purposes of protecting the public and community,'' said Moore. ``I'm not admitting guilt.''

While the E. coli question isn't answered for sure, state officials said an inspection revealed some food-preparation problems at the Mad Moose.

Among the problems were cooked and uncooked meat not being adequately separated and use of a cutting board that could not be cleaned thoroughly, said Dr. Michael Beller, a state epidemiologist. E. coli is often associated with undercooked meat, though it can also be transmitted by other foods.

Authorities were led to the Mad Moose Cafe after nine of 10 ill persons were interviewed. ``The only common exposure identified by the ill persons was ... the Mad Moose,'' Beller said. ``Ill persons ate at the restaurant ...''

Of the 10 people suspected to have the disease, nine of the 10 were from Sterling, Soldotna and Kenai. Their ages ranged from 26 to 70. One person suspected of having E. coli poisoning worked at the Mad Moose.

Olympian suffers stroke in Ketchikan

JUNEAU - Lowell North, 70, suffered an apparent stroke in Ketchikan late Friday, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

North, a California resident who won an Olympic gold medal in 1968 in a sailing event, was tied up to a dock at Petro Marine fuel waiting for it to open, according to Petty Officer Roger Wetherell, a Coast Guard spokesman. North's wife called the Coast Guard shortly after 10:30 p.m. Friday to report the possible stroke on the 43-foot-long Justina, he said.

North was taken to Ketchikan General Hospital. Hospital staff said North was admitted Friday and released Sunday.

Home-buying assistance program reopens

JUNEAU - Applications are again being accepted through Aug. 31 for a low-income home-buyers program offered by a local nonprofit organization, Housing First.

The Home Opportunity Program, which is funded by the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. with federal funds, is intended to help individuals and families buy homes. To qualify, a single person can make no more than $35,150 a year, while a family of four can make no more than $50,200 a year.

About $150,000 is still available in Juneau for interest-free, forgivable loans under the program, which opened for applications early in the year. Loans can be made for single-family homes, attached houses, mobile homes and condominiums. Homes must meet certain safety standards and be occupied by the owner to qualify.

An informational meeting about the program is scheduled for 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 2 at the Gruening Park recreation room at 1800 Northwood St.

For more information, call 364-3573 or send an e-mail to bstreet@alaska.com.

Railroad blames derailment on tracks

ANCHORAGE - A recent derailment and gasoline spill near Wasilla was caused by track flaws, according to the Alaska Railroad and its consultant.

The derailment came at a fairly sharp curve in the track after metal plates under the rail cut into the wooden ties on the outside of the curve, according to Gary Wolf, president of Rail Sciences Inc., which analyzed the accident for the railroad. That cut in the ties allowed the rail to lean outward as the heavy tanker cars pushed against it.

Once the gauge - the distance between the rails - was wide enough, wheels on a 130-ton railcar dropped into that space and started bumping along on wooden ties and gravel.

Nine cars jumped the track, four of them gasoline tankers that tumbled down a 25-foot embankment. One of the 23,000-gallon tankers leaked nearly 600 gallons, state environmental officials said. The railroad maintains the spill was less than 100 gallons.

Spill cleanup has been completed, and the damaged track repaired, the railroad said. The July 12 derailment was the third accident and spill since last November for the railroad.

Three problem bears killed

ANCHORAGE - State wildlife biologists had to kill three problem black bears in Anchorage last week.

On Saturday, they killed a 280-pound adult male that had been feeding on garbage at the Girdwood dump. The killing came fast on the heels of two others.

Earlier in the week, state biologists trapped and killed a 4-year-old black bear that had been roaming the Anchorage Hillside. The 220-pound bear had taken to eating pets, particularly rabbits, and had become too comfortable around people, said state wildlife biologist Rick Sinnott.

And at midweek, state biologists killed a bear near the Eagle River Nature Center. It had been raiding the center's trash and was suspected in the deaths of at least three neighborhood dogs. Biologists found it in the woods near a dog's mauled carcass.

Then on Friday evening, Sinnott responded to a bizarre incident in the Hillside area.

A woman said a black bear had come inside her garage snooping after her gosling. Her two herding dogs chased it out. The bear, in quick flight, crashed through a neighbor's basement window, apparently tricked by the reflection of trees. Cut and bloody, it tromped through the house, knocking over an exercise bike and leaving a dung pile before the neighbor banged on the outside of the house and the bear escaped through the broken window, Sinnott said.

Bristol Bay fishery unlikely to hit target

ANCHORAGE - This year's Bristol Bay red salmon fishery is winding down, and it looks unlikely that the catch will reach the preseason forecast of some 22 million fish.

And if that weren't disappointing enough for the fleet, prices are also down from last year. As of Thursday, the catch was just over 20 million.

Fishermen in most of the bay's five fishing districts were unimpressed by this summer's haul, both in quantity and value. The fleet was being paid 65 cents a pound for their fish, down a dime from 1999.

Some processors pay top-catching boats a little more, and most fishermen receive a few cents a pound extra during the winter as the Japanese salmon market firms up.

Processors say they too are working for less this year.

``There's less demand for Bristol Bay fish in the Japanese market than I've seen in the last 25 years,'' said Chuck Bundrant, president of Trident Seafoods Corp., one of the bay's biggest buyers.



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