State briefs

Posted: Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Ranger boat open house Sunday

JUNEAU - Public tours of two U.S. Forest Service ranger boats will be offered in Juneau on Sunday as part of the Tongass National Forest centennial celebration.

Tours of the Chugach Ranger and the Tongass Ranger will be offered from noon to 6 p.m. at Aurora Harbor.

The Chugach Ranger, which was built in 1925, is based in Petersburg. It is one of two Alaska vessels listed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to the Forest Service. The steel-hulled Tongass Ranger, which is based in Ketchikan, is a twin to the Sitka Ranger. Both boats were built in 1959.

Five ranger boats are touring through Southeast Alaska this month on the way to Ketchikan for more centennial events on Aug. 19.

The Sitka Ranger and the wooden-hulled Sea Bear, formerly the ranger boat Forester, will be open to public from 2 to 8 p.m. Aug. 13 in Hoonah.

Authorities catch fugitive

JUNEAU - A New Jersey fugitive is awaiting extradition to his home state after Juneau police and local customs agents nabbed him Monday morning, police said.

James J. Pierri, 32, was arrested at the downtown cruise ship terminal when the cruise ship he was a passenger on came into port from Vancouver, British Columbia, said Dan Holland, area port director for U.S. Customs in Anchorage.

Juneau police Lt. Walt Boman said Pierri's New Jersey charges include distributing drugs within 1,000 feet of a school and within 1,000 feet of a public park.

Holland said Pierri's outstanding warrant was detected on a routine computer background check of all passengers coming through customs. Such checks are done, he said, on any passenger coming into port from a foreign country. Holland said baggage also is routinely checked, but he did not know if Pierri's bags were checked or if Pierri possessed any drugs.

Holland said that when customs officers became aware of Pierri's warrant he was detained and local authorities were called.

Pierri was lodged at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center.

Borough to back $5 million bond

KETCHIKAN - The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly agreed to back $5 million in bonds for Alaska Ship and Drydock.

Alaska Ship and Drydock is pursuing a contract to renovate the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research ship Fairweather.

The Borough voted 5-1 to approve the bond guarantee at its Monday meeting. Assembly member George Lybrand cast the lone vote against the proposal.

Alaska Ship and Drydock operates the Ketchikan Shipyard under an agreement with the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.

The five-year agreement, which was to have expired July 15, required the company to pay $1,500 per month to AIDEA and share its profits with the state agency.

Jim McMillan, deputy director for AIDEA, said the state agency has received no profit-sharing revenues from the shipyard since the arrangement began in 1997.

The AIDEA board voted in June to extend the agreement for three months while it negotiates a lease or sale to a Ketchikan municipal government.

Boat burns; fishermen rescued

NORTH BEND, Ore. - Two men, including one from Ketchikan, were rescued by the Coast Guard after their boat caught fire Tuesday off the Oregon coast.

Officials at the North Bend Coast Guard station received a Mayday call from the fishing vessel Mistasea shortly after 6 a.m. while the boat was about 40 miles west of Depoe Bay.

The boat's captain, Jerry Kiffer, 59, of Ketchikan, and Jung Van Nguyen, 45, of El Monte, Calif., were aboard the boat when it caught fire.

Within moments of issuing the Mayday and reporting a detailed description of their location, Kiffer and Nguyen were forced to abandon ship and get into a life raft.

A Coast Guard helicopter and ship reached the boat at about the same time.

The men were taken to North Bend, checked by paramedics and were reported in excellent condition. They declined to be taken to a hospital.

Ellis reappointed to Western states panel

JUNEAU - State Sen. Johnny Ellis was reappointed to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education on Tuesday by Gov. Tony Knowles.

The Western states commission began in 1953 to encourage the 15 western states to share information affecting higher education.

The Boulder, Colo.-based commission is made up of three representatives from each state.

Diane Barrens, executive director of the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, and Mark Hamilton, president of University of Alaska, also serve on the commission.

Ellis, a Democrat state senator from Anchorage, will serve a four-year term. Ellis is the Senate Minority Leader.

Petitioners aim to dump food tax

KENAI - Petitioners promoting a sales tax initiative to exempt nonprepared foods for the Kenai Peninsula Borough's sales tax turned over more than 2,600 signatures to borough Clerk Linda Murphy late Monday afternoon.

If 1,935 of them are found to be valid, voters would be asked to approve or reject the tax exemption at the Oct. 1 municipal election.

"I'm confident that we have the appropriate number and everything is covered," said James Price, who led the push for the tax exemption.

If voters back the initiative, municipal income will drop significantly, according to an analysis by the borough.

The borough could lose upward of $2 million in sales tax revenue, while the various cities would find healthy percentages of their revenue streams drying up as well, according to officials with the cities.

Price is running for the Alaska House from District 34. A Republican Moderate, he will challenge the incumbent, Rep. Mike Chenault, a Nikiski Republican, in the November general election.

Murphy said it would take at least this week, and possibly part of next week, to determine how many of the signatures are valid. Price said he is confident the tax provision has a chance at the polls.

"I do think there is going to be a battle," he said.

Price has experience drumming up public support on issues. He led the recent successful fight against building a private prison on the Kenai Peninsula.

Compiled from staff and wire service reports.

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