Alaska Digest

Posted: Tuesday, October 21, 2003

North Pole recipient of homeland security grant

FAIRBANKS - North Pole might not appear to be a likely terrorist target, but the Interior town is considered vulnerable enough to warrant a $557,400 grant from the Alaska Division of Homeland Security.

Factors such as the nearby Williams Oil Refinery, the city's location between Fort Wainwright and Eielson Air Force Base and heavy train traffic bring many vulnerabilities to the community, said Tod Chambers, training officer with the North Pole Fire Department.

Chambers said that most of the money will go to buying equipment to be used for the still-forming Alaska Land Mobile Radio system. The goal for the system is to allow state and federal agencies throughout Alaska to communicate instantly over one communication outlet.

"Once it's all up and running, we'll all be able to communicate with each other from Barrow to Juneau," Chambers told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

North Pole's grant also will buy other equipment, including a thermal imaging camera that allows firefighters to see through heavy smoke and improved lighting systems for the fire and police department vehicles.

Fairbanks received a similar grant earlier this month.

The city was awarded $980,200 in federal money that will help pay for emergency equipment and radios. The money also will go to the salary of a deputy fire chief who will become Fairbanks' top Homeland Security official.

Man arrested in Fairbanks deaths

FAIRBANKS - A 52-year-old man was arrested early Monday morning in connection with the weekend deaths of two men in Fairbanks, police said.

Michael Craig Deneut of Fairbanks was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Ronald Lee Long, 67, and Mark Edward Chambers, 42.

The two men were found dead Saturday evening in a Willow Street home.

Deneut was a business associate of Long and Chambers, police said. Both he and his vehicle had been missing.

Deneut was arrested without incident about 3 a.m. Monday in the parking lot of the Fairbanks Home Depot store, Lt. Ray Miller said.

Police have released no other details about the men's deaths.

But family members said the men had been shot to death and they supplied police with the name of a suspect.

Family members said Long's wife, Elaine, was traveling out of state. She and one of the couple's four daughters, Rhonda, had left Friday morning for Colorado to visit another daughter.

Incumbent mayor wins Mat-Su race

ANCHORAGE - Incumbent Tim Anderson was declared the winner in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough mayor's race after final votes were counted.

Anderson overcame an election night deficit and claimed a six-vote victory over Charlie Fannon, a former Wasilla and Haines police chief.

After the count of about 2,000 absentee and questioned ballots Sunday, Anderson had 5,375 votes. Fannon had 5,369. A third candidate, Steve Menard, received 1,896.

Fannon on Monday asked for a re-count in all 33 borough precincts.

Clerk Sandra Dillon approved the re-count and scheduled it for Thursday and Friday.

Culprits sought in killing of swans

KENAI - Wildlife enforcement officers are trying to find out who killed three swans near Sterling earlier this month in an apparent violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Refuge officer Jim Neely of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the swans were shot on Sunken Island Lake sometime around Oct. 11. He said it's believed the birds were on the lake when they were shot from the adjacent road and left to die.

The dead swans were reported to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge's bird rehabilitation center.

"The eagles had worked over two of them pretty good," Neely told the Peninsula Clarion. "Another one was just left out in the middle of the pond."

It's unknown if the birds died immediately after being shot or were finished off by predators. Neely said an investigation is under way to determine what type of gun was used.

Although swans are not an endangered species, they are covered under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which provides for criminal prosecution in the illegal killing of migratory birds. Punishment varies, but can include fines, jail time or forfeiture of a vehicle used in the crime.

State trooper involved in car wreck

ANCHORAGE - An Alaska State Trooper was slightly injured Monday when his patrol car collided with a taxi cab as the trooper was responding to a report of a burglary in progress.

The accident happened about 1:30 p.m. near Mile 7 of the Palmer-Wasilla Highway, troopers said.

Trooper Jeff Simpson, 24, was driving away from Palmer with his lights and siren on and had overtaken a long string of cars heading in the same direction that had yielded and pulled over to the right, troopers said.

As Simpson neared the last vehicle, the taxi made a left hand turn into the path of the patrol car, troopers said. The cab was driven by Robert Veazie, 38, of Wasilla.

The impact sent the patrol car to the other side of the road, where it went over a driveway and ditch and hit a dirt embankment.

Simpson was wearing his seat belt. The patrol car air bags deployed. Simpson suffered bruises on his knee and minor scrapes from the air bag, troopers said.

Neither Veazie nor his passenger, Joy Naumann, 67, of Palmer, was injured.

Troopers said their investigation of the accident is continuing and no citations have been issued.

Damage to the patrol car was estimated at $10,000, while damage to the taxi was estimated at $2,500.

Simpson has been a trooper for about a year. He graduated from the Public Safety Academy in December 2002.

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