Alaska Briefs

Posted: Sunday, September 07, 2003

Dock repairs, bridge plan before Assembly

JUNEAU - A plan to spend $550,000 on repairs to downtown waterfront docks will be before the Juneau Assembly on Monday night.

The funds, from tonnage fees paid by cruise ships, would be used for the Alaska Steamship and Cold Storage docks. Work would include replacement of planking and one mooring bollard as well as construction of a new bollard to allow more flexibility for tying up ships. A bollard is a heavy, dock tie-down.

A state plan to reconfigure the Douglas Bridge and make changes to its approach lanes will be up for another vote during the meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in Assembly chambers and is broadcast live on KTOO-FM.

Also on the agenda is creation of local improvement districts to share costs of improvements to Tonsgard Street and Aisek Court in the Lemon Creek area and Salmon Creek Lane.

Three injured in boating accident

JUNEAU - A charter boat collided with a concrete breakwater at the Auke Bay harbor Friday night, injuring the operator and two passengers, police reported. The boat, identified by the U.S. Coast Guard as the Reel Time, sank.

The harbormaster's office at Auke Bay reported at 9:15 p.m. that a 36-foot aluminum charter boat struck a floating breakwater at the harbor's entrance and was partly submerged.

The operator, a 38-year-old man, told authorities he didn't see the breakwater until the last minute, police reported.

The operator and two local passengers, a man, 23, and a woman, 19, were injured and taken to Bartlett Regional Hospital in ambulances. The woman was later medevaced to a Seattle hospital. Capital City Fire and Rescue Capt. Jerry Godkin described her injuries as serious.

Police and the U.S. Coast Guard are investigating.

St. Paul man sentenced in Coast Guard killing

ANCHORAGE - A St. Paul man who first pistol-whipped the commander of a Coast Guard station and then shot him several times after he fell face-down in a ditch was sentenced to 99 years in prison on Friday.

Carl Merculief Jr. was sentenced for killing Cmdr. Timothy Harris in a jealous rage July 24, 2001, because his wife was having an affair with Harris, who three weeks earlier had arrived to command the Loran Station on the Bering Sea island.

The slaying is believed to be the first of a guardsman on Coast Guard property.

Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Bachman said Superior Court Judge Fred J. Torrisi found that Merculief ambushed a defenseless man when he went into the unlocked Coast Guard station, found Harris sleeping in his bed and pistol-whipped him before shooting him.

Defense lawyer Michael Moberly argued for a prison term of 45 years based on other cases. During the trial, Moberly argued that Merculief didn't mean to kill Harris.

In February, a jury found Merculief guilty of the most serious charge, first-degree murder, and nine lesser charges.

Harris, a 14-year veteran of the Coast Guard, had been on St. Paul for just three weeks when he was killed. His wife, Jeannette, and their two young children remained in Bogalusa, La., because the station does not have accommodations for family members.

Haines ordered to reformulate layoff plan

ANCHORAGE - A Superior Court judge has ordered the Haines School Board to rework a teacher layoff plan that resulted in three tenured teachers losing their jobs.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks did not order teachers reinstated immediately. But in a lawsuit brought by NEA-Alaska, the state teachers union, Weeks said the procedure in which the teachers lost their jobs was flawed.

NEA-Alaska President Rich Kronberg called the decision a big win.

"Judge Weeks' ruling validates what we've been saying all along - Superintendent (Woody) Wilson broke the law with his layoff plan - and he also applied the plan in a highly subjective manner," Kronberg said.

Wilson questioned how the union could conclude the ruling was a victory. He said the School Board would review its plan and then decide the employment fate of the teachers.

NEA-Alaska maintained that tenured teachers can be laid off because of poor performance or a decline in student enrollment - but not an anticipated drop in enrollment.

In his oral opinion Aug. 30, Weeks said neither teachers nor the public had a meaningful opportunity to comment on the Haines layoff plan.

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