Alaska Digest

Posted: Friday, August 05, 2005

No charges filed in alleged ferry threats

JUNEAU - Juneau police said they will not press charges against a 20-year-old Oregon man who was alleged to have threatened to blow up the state ferry Malaspina.

Juneau Police Capt. Tom Porter said Thursday that the man denied making such a threat and no explosives were found. There was not enough evidence to pursue a charge of terroristic threatening, he said.

On July 24, police reported that the man, who was not identified by name, was suspected of the felony. The Malaspina was evacuated and searched on July 23 in Juneau because of the alleged threat.

Police had received a report that the man was overheard at a hotel in Haines saying he would blow up the Malaspina if he was not allowed to load his disabled Plymouth Neon.

The car was towed onto the ferry before it headed south to Juneau.

Person rescued after falling into fuel tank

JUNEAU - Capital City Fire and Rescue crews helped clean up a person who fell into an open, abandoned fuel tank Thursday in the 500 block of South Franklin Street downtown.

Department Chief Eric Mohrmann said it was the second time this year that someone has fallen into the tank, which has held oil residue for decades.

He said federal privacy law prevents him from discussing any personal information about the victim, including the person's gender.

By the time emergency personnel arrived at the scene, the victim was out of the tank. Emergency crews removed some of the oil from the victim in the woods behind the tank, before taking the person to Bartlett Regional Hospital, Mohrmann said.

He said the department has learned from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation that the oil in the tank will be disposed of.

Health commissioner takes private job

JUNEAU - Alaska Health Commissioner Joel Gilbertson on Thursday announced his resignation, becoming the third cabinet member this year to leave Gov. Frank Murkowski's administration.

Gilbertson will take a newly created position with Providence Health System in Alaska, the not-for-profit organization that runs Providence Alaska Medical Center - the state's largest hospital - and other health facilities across the state.

He will remain at the Department of Health and Social Services until the end of September. Murkowski said he will announce a new department head soon.

Last month, Edgar Blatchford resigned as head of the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. In February, Gregg Renkes stepped down as attorney general. Both men had been dogged by conflict-of-interest allegations, and both denied any wrongdoing when they resigned.

Gilbertson, 32, said he decided to leave because of the opportunity in the private sector and because he and his wife, Sarah, wanted to slow down and start a family. He has worked for Murkowski for more than six years stretching back to when Murkowski was a U.S. senator.

Gilbertson's new job will have the title of director of strategic development and administration. He will oversee several departments within the organization, including governmental affairs, communications and marketing, real estate and planning, and compliance and integrity.

Gilbertson was paid $124,752 a year as commissioner.

Judges urge therapy for drunken drivers

FAIRBANKS - Fairbanks judges are considering a therapeutic court program that would put drunken drivers into treatment rather than jail.

The program would allow offenders to receive shorter sentences in exchange for participating in treatment classes.

Opponents do not believe the courts should be responsible for monitoring treatment on top of the normal business of judgment and sentencing, said Fourth Judicial District Presiding Judge Niesje Steinkruger.

Therapeutic court proponents last year received a $500,000 grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to start a program in Fairbanks that targets repeat drunken drivers.

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