Northwest Digest

Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2007

City threatens to bill residents for cleanup

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FAIRBANKS - A handful of homeowners are cleaning up the mounds of trash on their properties before the city does it for them and sends them the bill. Dalton Boster's backyard is layered with rusted junk, from a hand cart to old tires, piled around a sky-blue bus filled with more items.

The 80-year-old Army veteran said he's a "junk collector," and said he understands why neighbors and the city want his house cleaned up.

"We've been working on it every day," he said. He said he and a few helpers are hauling the junk to the landfill or his second property north of Fairbanks.

Boster has about a week left before city work crews start clearing his land for him. His is one of four properties the city will clean or demolish homes on next week.

City law bans property owners from neglecting their properties to the point of constituting a "public nuisance" or fire or health hazard.

The city recovers the money for labor, landfill fees and other costs from the homeowners through bills or property liens, said Pat Cole, city chief of staff.

Roy Moore, city public works supervisor, said the notifications that precede the cleanups often prompt people to clean their land before the city moves in with loaders, workers and trucks.

"That's the best-case scenario," he said.

Anchorage officials consider closing pools

ANCHORAGE - City recreation managers are proposing to cut costs by closing two of the five municipal swimming pools, including the only Olympic-sized pool in Anchorage.

n response, hundreds of pool users are strongly protesting the move by the Parks and Recreation department to drain the lap lanes at Service and Bartlett high schools.

Parents of swim team members are concerned it will be logistically impossible to have all the high school teams practicing at the same three facilities. Other Alaskans, who use the pools for fitness and competition, say it's too expensive to sign up for pools at private gyms such as the Alaska Club. And military pools are off-limits to most civilians.

"From our perspective as users, aquatics has been a very low priority for Parks & Recreation, and as a result things are falling apart," said Cliff Murray, head coach of the Northern Lights Swim Club, one of five such clubs in town.

A memo to Mayor Mark Begich by Parks & Recreation director Jeff Dillon this month details the reasoning behind the proposed closures.

"Pools receive the largest public subsidy of any user group and our pools are used at less than 50 percent of minimum capacity on average over the year," Dillon wrote.

He noted that the Service pool, built in 1982, had a serious upgrade in 10 years and needs more than $1 million in maintenance and repairs, Dillon wrote. He said closing the pools would save the city up to a half-million dollars a year.

Spokane Hells Angels leader gets 7 years

SEATTLE - Richard "Smilin' Rick" Fabel, who presided over the Spokane chapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang, was sentenced Monday to 7½ years in prison after being convicted of racketeering.

U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik issued the sentence Monday morning in a courtroom packed with Fabel's supporters, including Hells Angels from around the West. He also ordered Fabel, 50, to pay nearly $55,000 in restitution, mostly to Progressive Corp. for fraudulent insurance claims. The sentence exceeded the guideline range, which Lasnik determined to be between five years, three months and 6½ years.

In June, following a 10-week trial, a jury convicted Fabel of racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering - specifically, mail fraud, extortion and trafficking in stolen motorcycles.

The judge noted that while Fabel kept his distance from the most serious crimes committed by the Hells Angels' Washington Nomads chapter - including murder - he also stocked the Spokane clubhouse with people willing to do violence. And, Lasnik found, he rewarded them for criminal behavior that enriched the organization.

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