Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2005

New School Board, officers start work

JUNEAU - Sean O'Brien and Margo Waring were sworn in by Judge Larry Weeks as the newest members of the Juneau School Board Tuesday evening. They were elected in the Oct. 4 municipal election.

Outgoing members Rhonda Befort and Bob Van Slyke were also honored with plaques and a copy of a resolution adopted by the board.

"It's been a very fast three years, at times very challenging, sometimes frustrating and most of the time very enjoyable," Van Slyke said.

"I wish the board the best as they work through things from here on out and I will always have a fondness for the district and the students here," he said.

In accordance with the bylaws, the School Board also elected new officers. Phyllis Carlson was elected the new School Board president, while Bill Peters was elected the new vice president.

The board also approved the fiscal year 2005 Audited Financial Statement, after representatives from Elgee Rehfeld Mertz, LLC explained the audit process and the reports findings. The audit, which is required for each school district by an independent firm under state law, was done in conjunction with city of Juneau.

Beaufort Sea mud dumping probed

ANCHORAGE - Federal regulators are investigating the alleged dumping of thousands of gallons of tainted mud by a Texas drilling company into the Beaufort Sea on Alaska's northern coast, a spokeswoman for Alaska's environmental protection agency said Tuesday.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is investigating whether workers from Pioneer Natural Resources Co. of Irving, Texas, dumped the contaminated mud - a mixture of bit lubricant and chemicals drawn from the drilled hole - through ice fissures on Oooguruk Island in March 2003, oil industry critic Chuck Hamel of Alexandria, Va., said Tuesday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Two EPA investigators obtained records and spoke with the response team from the Fairbanks office of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation in August, agency spokeswoman Leslie Pearson said Tuesday.

The EPA wouldn't confirm the investigation to The Wall Street Journal, which reported the investigation Tuesday in its online edition. The EPA's regional office in Seattle did not return calls from The AP.

Pioneer officials didn't immediately return phone calls to the AP, though they told the newspaper they were not aware of an EPA investigation. The company said the spill was an accident, and was properly contained and cleaned.

Anchorage police seek parking meter vandals

ANCHORAGE - Vandals have smashed and looted more than 35 Anchorage parking meters over several weeks, costing the city more than $25,000.

The vandals ram a truck or car into parking meter poles, knock the tops off, then try to crack them open, said police Lt. Paul Honeman.

Only $10 to $25 in change is inside, Honeman said.

Single meters cost the city about $500 to replace. Double-headed meters cost about $800, said Kevin Kinney, chief operating officer of Anchorage Parking Authority.

Most of the damaged meters still have their coin boxes intact, Kinney said, but cannot be repaired.

"They seem to have some kind of pry bar, and they are just beating them," Kinney said.

"The issue for us is these things are not cheap," he said.

Chris Schutte of Anchorage Downtown Partnership said it's unfortunate that someone believes ramming a parking meter is going to generate a lot of money.

The parking meter vandalism follows a summer of vandalism downtown. Someone threw to the ground flowers in Fifth Avenue sidewalk planters in the beginning of the summer, he said. In June, a young man trashed three "Wild Salmon on Parade" statues, leaving them chipped, broken and headless.

Directory planned for social services

FAIRBANKS - Alaskans in need of social services could have answers at their fingertips by next spring.

The Regulatory Commission of Alaska has granted the United Way of Anchorage approval to use the 211 dialing code to provide health and social services information and referrals throughout the state.

The code is patterned after programs such as directory assistance, obtained by calling 411, and road conditions at 511.

The 211 code was designated in July 2000 by the Federal Communications Commission to be used for access to community information and referral services. Since then, 169 systems have been started across 32 states.

The system elsewhere was used heavily after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, according to the United Way of America Web site. People called with questions about services and ways to donate.

The 211 service in Alaska will be fully operational in May, said Sue Brogan, project manager for 211 at United Way of Anchorage.

Phone bank operators will be in Anchorage. They will have access to a database of referral services across the state.

Callers can receive information and referrals on how to obtain food, shelter rent and utility assistance, mental health.

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