Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, November 26, 2003

State, ACS resolve lawsuit issues

JUNEAU - The state and telephone service provider ACS Communications Inc. have resolved a lawsuit over a promotion that government attorneys said forced consumers to call to cancel a service they never ordered.

In October, the state filed a suit against ACS dealing with the company's new "Voice Connect" service, which allows users to dial numbers by speaking into the phone. The state said customers had to opt out of the service if they did not want to be billed, but the company said that wasn't the case.

The lawsuit asked the court to require ACS to refund customers' money and to pay civil penalties of $5,000 for each consumer targeted by the promotion. The state also wanted the court to block the company from engaging in opt-out marketing in the future.

ACS spokeswoman Mary Ann Pease had argued that the promotion did not constitute a "negative opt-out" situation. Pease said ACS offered a month's worth of the Voice Connect service free to all customers in May. She said the company originally told customers they would have to opt out to avoid incurring charges, but then changed the policy.

The state dismissed its complaint, and ACS will send postcards to customers receiving the "Voice Connect" service. Only those customers who send back the postcard by Dec. 15 will continue to receive the service, which costs $2 per month.

"Providing the best possible customer service from a fully integrated company is our critical mission as we go forward," Pease said. "... ACS has also committed to respond promptly to all customer concerns about the company received by the Attorney General's office."

State Attorney General Gregg Renkes said he was pleased with the actions ACS took.

Assembly agrees to fire dept. reorganization

JUNEAU - The Assembly agreed to reorganize the city fire department Monday night in an effort to address long-standing concerns. The restructuring comes days after Fire Chief Mike Doyle resigned under pressure.

The new ordinance calls for two new division chief of operations positions. One position oversees the the operation of career firefighters and the other would be in charge of volunteer firefighters.

City Manager Rod Swope wrote in the amended city ordinance that his goal is to create an organizational structure that "promotes maximum efficiency and effectiveness" of a department. The change allows volunteers "to speak with one voice" and gives them a stronger role in the policy decisions of the department, Swope wrote.

Also Monday, the city:

• Agreed to apply for a National Register nomination of the Veterans Memorial Building, originally named the Juneau Memorial Library/Alaska Statehood Site.

The 1997 draft Historic Preservation Plan includes this site on its list of historic Juneau properties selected for nomination.

The city will submit an application to the state Department of Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation for a federal share matching grant.

In a related manner, the Assembly decided to apply for a National Register grant for Perseverance Trail.

• Voted to exempt from sales tax radio, television and newspaper advertising ordered from outside the city, as long as the person places orders on the same day for substantially similar advertising with media in at least five other states. The ordinance is effective 30 days from Monday.

• Approved $20,000 from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development as partial funding to upgrade a software and data system. After the upgrade, city staff and the public will have access to coastal resource information.

• Approved a bid request of $253,115 by North Pacific Erectors of Juneau to conduct work at the Juneau Douglas Wastewater Treatment Plant. It would replace the heat exchanger, outlet gas plenum, expansion joint, parts of the preheat burner assembly and the preheat burner control panel.

• Agreed to appropriate $191,000 as partial funding to replace paratransit vans. The funding comes from the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

• Appropriated $13,301 as partial funding for fixing the Juneau Airport terminal wall and ceiling. The funds stem from passenger facility charges.

• Approved $5,000 to fund the Live Homework Help/Pilot Project. Funding is provided by the state Department of Education and Early Development.

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