Alaska Digest

Posted: Sunday, December 04, 2005

Gov. Murkowski to host Christmas Open House

JUNEAU - The governor and first lady will host their annual Christmas Open House from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Governor's Mansion.

People with special accessibility needs should contact Karen Newton, in advance, at 465-3500, to arrange entry from 2:30 to 3 p.m.

An annual tradition, the open house has been held every year since 1913, except for two years during World War II. More than 300 guests attended the first open house and more than 3,000 have attended in recent years.

"This year's beautiful Christmas decorations reflect more of a child's theme, complete with candy canes, gingerbread men and antique carousel horses," first lady Nancy Murkowski said.

The staff at the Governor's Mansion is preparing more than 19,000 cookies, 30 pounds of homemade candies, 1,400 cheesecakes and raspberry tartlets, in addition to coconut and pumpkin breads and cranberry scones. Gingerbread houses created by Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School students will be on display in the dining room.

State commissioners will serve hot apple cider and cookies to guests waiting in line outside the residence. Entertainers from community and school groups will perform both inside and outside the residence.

The entertainment will include the Alaska Youth Choir; the Aurora Strings; the Glacier Valley Baptist Messengers; Jeff Brown, commissioner of mirth; the Juneau Christian School Carolers; the Juneau-Douglas High School Brass Ensemble; the JDHS Instrumental Ensemble; the JDHS Choral Ensemble; and the Victorian Carolers.

City manager issues disaster declaration

JUNEAU - The high winds and record rain that caused landslides, flooding and property damage throughout Juneau last month has led City Manager Rod Swope to issue a local disaster declaration to the state.

Initial damage estimates exceed $500,000 and may approach $1 million when repairs are complete.

Personnel from the State Division of Emergency Management will arrive on Monday to tour the area and begin assessing damage for various communities in Southeast Alaska, including Juneau.

Information will be compiled to help the emergency management office determine whether the city and residents who suffered property damage are eligible for assistance. Residents who suffered property damage during the storm are requested to contact Michael Patterson, the city's emergency program manager, at 586-0221.

Both Lanes of Glacier Highway remain closed between Wickersham Avenue and the North Egan Drive on-ramp until cleanup efforts are completed. Fire hoses used to clear debris from culverts with high-pressure water stretch across the roadway and citizens are asked not to drive over them. Cleanup will take several more days to complete due to weather conditions.

Former manager wants to withdraw plea

JUNEAU - A former Nugget Mall Radio Shack manager is now seeking a trial over an assault charge he agreed to plead no contest to this summer.

Before his scheduled sentencing hearing Friday, James White decided to withdraw the misdemeanor assault plea, his attorney told Ketchikan District Court Judge Kevin Miller in a Juneau courtroom.

"We believe the restitution demands are bloated," defense attorney Louis Menendez said. He questioned some of the alleged victim's therapy sessions submitted for repayment and said he and his 46-year-old client took exception with some of the things said by "the alleged victim" since the plea was entered in June.

White now lives and works in Wasilla, Menendez said. The Juneau fourth-degree assault charge stems from a Feb. 25 incident at the Nugget Mall store he managed. A Harborview Elementary School teacher told police he went to the store to ask White questions about an incident where a 12-year-old boy was asked earlier in the week to leave the store.

The man told police that when he asked if White directed the boy to leave because he was Native, White "lost it," according to court records. The man sustained a dislocated shoulder in the incident.

Juneau District Attorney Patrick Gullufsen told the judge he will file an argument against White withdrawing his no-contest plea.

Miller set deadlines for the attorneys to submit written arguments concerning the plea's status. He set a Jan. 10 date to begin the trial or sentence White.

Damage to state ferry LeConte repaired

JUNEAU - A minor accident at the Petersburg dock Wednesday night delayed the state ferry LeConte for a couple of hours in Juneau for repairs on Friday, according to a spokesman for the Alaska Marine Highway System.

The damage "was pretty much cosmetic," John Manly of the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities said Friday. A metal structure on the Petersburg dock left a 10-inch gash 18 feet above the water line, he said. Welders temporarily repaired the boat at the Auke Bay dock in Juneau and will complete the job later, he said.

The LeConte has been through worse. On May 10, 2004, the ferry ran aground on Cozian Reef during a run from Angoon to Sitka. It sustained gashes on both sides of its bow and was out of action for more than six months.

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