State Briefs

Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Hikers warned about bears

JUNEAU - The U.S. Forest Service is warning hikers using trails around the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center that brown bears have been in the area.

The Moraine Nature Trail was closed over the weekend, said Dale Campbell, director of the center.

"There is a brown bear sow with a two-year-cub there, and because of the nice weather, we had a lot of visitors out there, which contributed to several confrontations," Campbell said. "She got a little aggressive with a couple of groups."

As of this morning, the moraine trail is no longer closed, but a caution sign has been posted to alert hikers.

But the Trail of Time - a short loop on the south side of the road beginning by the center's middle parking lot - is closed.

"People need to travel in groups, keep dogs on leash and make a little noise" as they walk in the area, Campbell advised.

For updates, call 586-8800.

School Board elects officers

JUNEAU - The Juneau School Board elected its leadership positions for the upcoming year Tuesday evening.

Mary Becker was retained as board president for a second year; Chuck Cohen was elected vice-president, replacing Stan Ridgeway; and Carolyn Spalding was elected clerk, replacing Cohen.

Becker and Ridgeway also were sworn in as board members after being re-elected Oct. 2.

Becker said the board's agenda for the upcoming year will be determined at the annual board retreat in November. Unlike previous years, when the board addressed a wide range of issues at the retreat, the board agreed Tuesday to create a short list of topics and discuss them in-depth at this year's retreat.

"We decided to come up with a specific list of topics and make them our focus," Becker said. "This year, our goals will be much more specific."

New refund policy at ski area

JUNEAU - The Eaglecrest Ski Area is changing its credit and refund policy.

The board of directors has set a 40 percent maximum cap on season pass and locker credits and adjusted the refund policy to 75 percent. The policy applies when Eaglecrest misses 30 budgeted operating days in the ski season, business manager Gary Mendivil said.

"It's happened twice in the last 25 years - last season and 1996," he said.

Until now, the ski area offered a 90 percent refund and a sliding scale credit that reached 57 percent this past winter. For example, a $375 adult season pass costs $169.32 with last year's credit, Mendivil said.

Because of warm temperatures and a lack of snow, Eaglecrest opened Feb. 1 last season. Nearly 1,200 people had season passes last season and 73 percent kept them. As a result, Eaglecrest is budgeting for 17 percent less revenue this winter, Mendivil said.

Juneau's ski area usually opens the first week of December, but has opened as early as Nov. 12, Mendivil said.

"It's already started snowing at Eaglecrest," he said. "Canadian forecasters are saying 'cool and wet' for the next three months and that's exactly what we need."

Assembly OKs tax changes

JUNEAU - The Juneau Assembly on Monday unanimously approved two changes to the tax code that will benefit some local businesses.

One change will exempt from taxes the first $2,000 in value of business personal property, cutting down on paperwork for the assessor's office and merchants. The city estimates that 760 merchants, or 29 percent, will be fully exempt from the property tax as a result of the change. The cost to the city in lost revenues should be $50,000.

The second change would amend the sales tax code to exempt what is paid to agents for negotiating the sale or lease of tangible personal property on behalf of the owner. Commissions paid to real estate agents would not be exempt. The city estimated a $20,000 reduction in revenue from the change.

Pipeline suspect pleads innocent

FAIRBANKS - The man charged with shooting the trans-Alaska oil pipeline Oct. 4 and causing a 285,000-gallon oil leak pleaded innocent Tuesday in state Superior Court.

Daniel Carson Lewis, 37, was arraigned on felony charges of first-degree criminal mischief, third-degree assault, and felony drunken driving. His trial is scheduled for the week of Dec. 31.

Lewis also faces misdemeanor charges of oil pollution and fourth-degree misconduct involving weapons. He faces a possible maximum of 22 years in prison for all the charges against him, and could also be fined and ordered to pay restitution to the oil companies and the state.

Lewis also could face federal charges.

Man accused of rape at sea

ANCHORAGE - A 21-year-old man is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman aboard a fishing vessel in the Bering Sea last month.

Jorge Arrequin, on the crew of the Ocean Phoenix, is set to appear this afternoon in federal court in Anchorage.

According to a criminal complaint filed by the FBI, Arrequin was socializing with two other males and one female crew member aboard the vessel Sept. 24 as it traveled in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone off St. Matthew Island.

Arrequin offered the woman a small white pill and said, "Here. Muscle relaxant," the complaint said. The woman said she had known Arrequin since July 2000, when they both started working aboard the Ocean Phoenix, but couldn't communicate with him because he speaks little English.

The woman took the pill and began feeling strange after about 20 minutes. Arrequin moved over and laid on top of her, and she shook her head, according to the complaint. Crew member Adam Ochoa, who pulled Arrequin off, said he later saw Arrequin take the woman into his room.

"Ochoa started knocking hard at his door," the complaint states. "Arrequin told Ochoa to mind his own business and leave him alone. Ochoa went to get the purser to open the door. When he tried to open the door, somebody inside slammed it and locked it again, so Ochoa kicked hard again." They weren't able to get in.

The woman was later examined in Unalaska by a physician assistant, who found bruises on her neck, upper chest and breast.

Unalaska public safety officers interviewed Arrequin and said he admitted having sexual intercourse with the woman but said it was consensual.

The Ocean Phoenix is owned by Phoenix Processor Limited Partnership and managed by Premier Seafoods. Both are based in Seattle.

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