What's up with that?

The Empire ponders Juneau's puzzles, unravels its mysteries and contemplates its conundrums

Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2002

Q: Sometime within the last year or so I contacted the Empire with a query about that ratty-looking building at 307 S. Franklin (i.e., what's to become of it?). I found out that the owners live in the Netherlands so I wrote them a letter. It was courteous and pleasant, asking what their plans were for it, explaining that the entire street had been renovated with the exception of their building, and it was an eyesore. Was it to be sold? Was it to at least be painted? I never heard a peep from them even though I made it very easy for them to respond. I find it curious, indeed, that the city Assembly, rabid as they were to other establishments, permitted a place like that, in such extreme disrepair to remain so, is waaaaay beyond me.

I have a proactive suggestion. The city should take it upon "ourselves" to paint the thing and put a surcharge on their tax bill. And that would be the end of it. Why should we, as a community, be required to put up with such an extreme eyesore?

A: According to Chris Roust in the Building Division of the city Community Development Office, being an eyesore is not a concern of City Hall. He did say his office investigates any complaints of this nature submitted to it and officials will look at this particular property from the standpoint of other possible violations including safety-related ones.

So ... we'll just have to wait and see what becomes of the building. Story to be continued.

Q: I moved to Juneau last fall and will not become a resident until the end of September. I was recently touring the Alaska Fish and Game Web site trying to determine how much my upcoming moose tag (as a nonresident) would cost. It was interesting to note in the fee schedule that blind fishermen are charged only 25 cents for an annual license. However, it was frightening to note that there is a special hunting license for the blind at a cost of $25, which is the same as the normal resident license cost! What's up with blind hunters? No offense to the disabled, but I can't imagine giving a blind person a gun. How do they aim? Will someone coach them?

A: According to Kristan Wright in the licensing office at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, "blind" doesn't necessarily mean totally without sight. "Anyone applying for this type of license must furnish a signed affidavit of blindness that includes a statement from their physician confirming the applicant's condition. The definition of blind includes the inability to distinguish light from darkness or a central visual acuity that does not exceed 20/200 in the better eye with correcting lenses or that the applicant's widest diameter of visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees."

Ryan Scott, another Fish and Game representative, said in the interest of public safety, this license is primarily "aimed" at giving blind residents the opportunity to enjoy the wild game harvest - not to encourage them to go hunting. Even though the cost is the same (for hunting) there is a distinct benefit. When hunting with another resident, who also holds a hunting license, the other person can harvest game by proxy on behalf of the blind licensee (subject to some additional rules).

Speaking of the Alaska rules pertaining to residency requirements, another reader wants to know:

Q: What's up with the Alaska residency law? I want to do what is right concerning my first PFD check and buying a hunting/fishing license, but what happens if a person lies and claims they are a resident when they really are not? How would the state find out about the lie? What would happen to the liar? What proof do the agencies look for?

A: There are a number of problems and penalties associated with trying to claim that one is a resident of Alaska when one either is not or was not (technically speaking) at the time one claimed to be. The agencies most concerned with this are indeed the two mentioned.

At the Department of Revenue Dividend Division, Chief of Operations Paul Dick said the proof of residency requirements for a first-time filer are checked thoroughly. A first-time filer must provide documentation that he or she was indeed a resident. Proof can include rent receipts, utility statements and bank account information, etc. The Department of Revenue also has access to other state databases including motor vehicle registration, driver's license and voter registration, etc. "If someone is caught, they could lose the next five dividends and/or be required to pay a $5,000 fine. If the violation is deemed criminal in nature, a person could lose all future dividends and be required to pay back all money previously paid by the state," Dick added.

Meanwhile, back at Fish and Game, Sgt. Steve Hall in the wildlife protection division said, "We'll check the license in the field and ask questions on the spot if need be. We have the same database capabilities that PFD has plus one more - the 'hunt report.' This is a report filed within 15 days after a season ends on which the hunter must state whether or not he or she was successful. If the report is not filed, a certified letter is sent to the last known address, which, in some cases, is bogus. So, the letters come back marked addressee unknown and we then begin our investigation." As for the fines, "If a person claimed to be a resident, but was not, the (resident) license issued to him would be void and therefore all game taken would become illegal. We would then seize the hunter's guns, antlers, meat, etc., and the fine could be as high as $5,000 and one year in prison."

The moral to the story ... don't fib to Alaska agencies. It will cost you!

Mel Cheek can be reached at mcheek@juneauempire.com. To get the answers to your "What's Up" questions, call Andrew or Mel at 586-3740, or send an e-mail to whatsup@juneauempire.com.

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