State Briefs

Posted: Sunday, October 20, 2002

Officers aboard cruise ship are issued subpoenas

ANCHORAGE - A federal grand jury has issued subpoenas to officers aboard a Holland America cruise ship in connection to the illegal dumping of about 40,000 gallons of wastewater in to Juneau harbor.

In a financial report, Holland's parent company, Carnival Corp., said one subpoena demands that the cruise line produce documents and that Holland America is complying.

"If the investigation results in charges being filed, a judgment could include, among other forms of relief, fines and debarment from federal contracting, which would prohibit operations in Glacier Bay National Park," said Carnival's third-quarter financial filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company noted the investigation in a section outlining legal matters it faces.

The company declined Friday to comment beyond what was in the corporate filing with the government.

Michele Brown, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, said she hadn't heard about the grand jury investigation but that it didn't surprise her. The DEC is conducting its own investigation of what happened on Aug. 17.

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Joe Paitl said his agency also is examining the events of that day. The Coast Guard will continue its own investigation separate from that of the Department of Justice and the DEC, Paitl said.

The Juneau harbormaster contacted the Coast Guard on the evening of Aug. 17 to report that a brown-colored discharge was flowing from the Ryndam. Coast Guard officials responded and took samples. They identified the discharge as wastewater from sinks, showers and the ship's sewage system.

Coast Guard officials said it appears that Ryndam crew members were transferring waste into a holding tank that overflowed and spilled into Juneau's Gastineau Channel through a vent.

Holland America initially estimated the spill at 250 gallons.

The company, which sails six ships to Alaska, has recently invested an estimated $12.5 million for advanced systems to clean sewage and wastewater before releasing them into the sea.

Sanford, Etheridge tops in campaign spending

JUNEAU - Newly elected Juneau Assembly member Merrill Sanford and outgoing Assembly member Don Etheridge led the spending race in this fall's city election, according to reports filed this month with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

Sanford's campaign reported $21,732 in income and $17,189 in expenses. With final expenses added, Sanford said he probably spent between $22,000 and $23,000. His opponent in the District 1 race, Frankie Pillifant, raised $11,182 and spent $10,385, according to her report.

Reports were due 10 days after the Oct. 1 city election and cover spending through Oct. 8.

Newly elected District 2 Assembly member Stan Ridgeway raised $7,127 and spent $6,810, according to his report. His opponent, outgoing Assembly member Don Etheridge, raised $21,261, spent $21,161 and listed a $729 deficit.

Marc Wheeler, who won re-election to the areawide seat on the Assembly, raised $20,361 and spent the same, according to his report. His opponent, Chuck Collins, raised $12,521, spent $9,501 and listed a $2,446 debt.

The eight candidates for Juneau School Board filed exemption statements with APOC declaring that they intended to spend less than $2,500.

Boys say they were shot with BB guns

JUNEAU - Two 11-year-old boys told police they believe they were shot in the back of their necks with a BB gun at about 1 p.m. Saturday near Second Street in Douglas.

The boys did not require medical attention, but they had red welts from the incident, police said.

The police have asked anyone in the area who saw anything suspicious to call the police at 586-0600.

More Alaskans hanging onto PFDs

ANCHORAGE - Sales of big-ticket items are slightly slower this year as many Alaskans appear to be hanging on to their Permanent Fund dividend checks longer.

Anchorage-area bankers say they are not seeing customers draw down their accounts as quickly after dividends were deposited this year on Oct. 9.

"In years past, 20 to 25 percent of that would leave the bank within the first week. Another 10 percent would leave within the next 10 days to two weeks," Jason Roth of First National Bank Alaska told the Anchorage Daily News. "But this year our deposits haven't decreased at all."

The annual dividend payout boosts the Alaska economy every October. This fall's $911 million, or $1,540 per eligible Alaskan, is roughly 5 percent of the state's entire personal income for this year.

Wells Fargo Bank Alaska spokeswoman Elaine Junge noticed a difference this year as well.

"It's nothing like the runoff we've seen in previous years," she said.

Nancy Usera of Alaska USA Federal Credit Union said about $215 million in dividends deposited into customer accounts "really seem to be sticking."

Her institution's members withdrew several million dollars less in the first week of dividends than they did in that same period last year, she said.

If Alaskans are hanging on to their dividends rather than spending them, the implications for the economy are sobering.

Chuck Hoskins, sales manager for Eero Volkswagen of Anchorage Inc., said that although "business is good this month, we're not seeing as many deals where dividends are used as down payments."

He's also not seeing as many buyers using their dividends to buy a used vehicle for $3,000 to $6,000 cash.

USFS seeks permit for log transfer facility

ANCHORAGE - The U.S. Forest Service wants to reopen what was once the busiest log transfer facility in the nation.

The Forest Service is seeking environmental permits to lease the formerly bustling Thorne Bay log transfer facility, which was operated for decades by the Ketchikan Pulp Co. and most recently by Gateway Forest Products.

At the height of operations in the past, more than 300 million board feet of timber were processed at the transfer facility, said Ken Vaughn of the Forest Service. The agency said it would probably be working with no more than 20 million board feet a year.

Vaughn said the agency intends to lease the facility to small mills in the Thorne Bay area, adding that the agency would operate it.

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