Assembly to debate transactional minutes
JUNEAU - The city Assembly may switch to transactional minutes for all meetings to save time and money, Mayor Bruce Botelho said.
The minutes would summarize the meetings instead of reporting meeting activity verbatim. For every one hour of meetings, five hours is needed for transcription. Given the number of meetings held throughout the city, Botelho said it was a "luxury" he could not justify.
The Assembly will discuss moving to transactional minutes during Monday's regular meeting.
Municipal league survey: Things tough all over
JUNEAU - Tough economic times already being felt by small communities around Alaska have been magnified by state budget cuts, a survey by the Alaska Municipal League shows.
About four of every five communities surveyed said they are planning to make significant cuts in public service as a result.
"We are finding a number of communities are right now either reducing police hours further or eliminating police," said Kevin Ritchie, league executive director.
In all, 65 communities responded this fall to the Alaska Municipal League survey seeking comments on recent budget cuts that sharply curtailed state revenues sent to municipalities. Alaska has 161 cities and boroughs.
The league survey shows that 72 percent of communities responding said they are experiencing significant budget shortfalls.
Also, 63 percent are considering raising local property taxes, sales taxes or fees in response to budget woes.
And 78 percent are planning to make significant cuts in public services, including 17 municipalities that plan to eliminate or reduce police protection.
Stedman sworn in as region's newest senator
SITKA - Bert Stedman was sworn in Thursday as the new senator for District A in Southeast Alaska. Lt. Gov. Loren Leman administered the oath of office at a ceremony here at Centennial Hall.
Stedman, 47, takes the place of longtime Sen. Robin Taylor, a Wrangell Republican, who resigned in September to take a job in Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski's administration.
Stedman, a financial planner and owner of Pioneer Capital Management in Sitka, will represent the communities of Sitka, Wrangell, Petersburg and Ketchikan, as well as a handful of coastal villages in Southeast.
Stedman has served on the Sitka Assembly and the Sitka Planning and Zoning Commission.
Murkowski initially tapped former Ketchikan bar owner Jim Elkins to take Taylor's place, but withdrew the appointment after Elkins made a statement to Alaska Public Radio Network suggesting he had previously raised "a lot of money" for Republican campaigns.
Elkins also caused a stir with an address he gave to the Ketchikan chapter of the AARP seniors' group in which he criticized Murkowski's elimination of the longevity bonus checks for seniors.
Popular Dall sheep shot and killed
ANCHORAGE - A magnificent, full-curl Dall sheep was killed by someone who likely pulled to the edge of the Seward Highway and shot the animal with a high-powered rifle or gun, state wildlife officials said.
The sheep, nicknamed "Old One Eye," had been impressing photographers and wildlife watchers for several years. His body was found about a half-mile south of Windy Corner between Girdwood and Anchorage Wednesday morning.
"It kind of makes me sick," said Alaska Bureau of Wildlife Enforcement trooper Marc Cloward.
Chugach State Park chief ranger Mike Godwin was the first to notice that the animal, discovered along the roadway, had been shot in the rump.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists had at first thought the 10- to 12-year-old ram might have slipped and fallen to its death from the cliffs above the highway, but the thinking quickly changed when Godwin found the bullet hole through both buttocks.
"I can't think of anything more offensive," Cloward said. "This is a slap in the face to every citizen in Anchorage."
"The professional photographers are going to miss Old One Eye," he said.
Village of Newtok given approval to move
ANCHORAGE - President Bush has given the village of Newtok the OK for a land exchange to move to higher ground.
Now the western Alaska community of 330 has an even bigger challenge - finding the $50 million to $100 million needed to establish a new town site eight miles away on Nelson Island.
In spite of the work that lies ahead, Newtok residents were delighted that the bill, introduced earlier this year by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, had been signed into law on Wednesday.
"We're excited. We're elated. We're restless," said Nick Tom Jr., administrator of the Newtok Traditional Council.
With the land swap final, the next step is to seek funding for the gravel roads, water wells, telephone lines and other basic needs to prepare for the move, he said.
The Ninglick River has been chipping away at Newtok since the village was established around 1949 by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Unocal announces gas find on the Kenai
KENAI - Unocal Corp. said Thursday that one of its natural gas prospects on the Kenai Peninsula is a success.
The Happy Valley prospect, about seven miles southeast of Ninilchik, will likely see three development wells drilled in 2004, and six more later, Unocal spokeswoman Roxanne Sinz said.
The field is estimated to contain 75 billion to 100 billion cubic feet of natural gas, she said. First production from the field is expected about a year from now.
Sinz said the find is not shallow coal-bed methane gas. Exploration for that type of gas has been controversial in Homer and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.