Alaska Digest

Posted: Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Assembly to move to new schedule in 2006

Juneau - The Juneau Assembly will meet every three weeks beginning in January instead of every two weeks as it did this year.

Assembly members approved the 2006 calendar after the city elections in October. The members and city staff decided the longer break between meetings would allow more time for discussing and researching major issues.

Also under the new schedule, some standing committees will meet the week before rather than the same day of the regular meeting.

Regular Assembly meetings will be held at the same time and day of the week as in the past: 7 p.m. Mondays. The Human Resources Committee will meet an hour before the regular Assembly meetings. Public Works and Facilities will meet at noon and the Lands Committee at 5 p.m.

The Finance Committee and the Committee of the Whole are called at the will of the chairmen.

Taku captain found dead in his cabin

SITKA - The captain of the state ferry Taku was found dead in his cabin Monday while the Alaska Marine Highway System vessel was approaching Peril Strait, Alaska State Troopers reported.

Thomas Reed, a 57-year-old Hollis man, was unresponsive when a crew member attempted to wake him as the Taku was approaching the strait between Chichagof and Baranof islands en route to Sitka, troopers reported.

"We're shocked and saddened by it," said John Manly, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. "The marine highway is a family and a lot of people served with Capt. Reed."

Manly said he did not know of any delays in the Taku's sailings.

No evidence of foul play was discovered after troopers met the Taku at the Sitka ferry terminal, according to the report. The investigation into the cause of death continues.

Technical problems delay LeConte in Sitka

JUNEAU - The state ferry LeConte was expected to be held over in Sitka at least through this morning due to problems with its propulsion shafts, Alaska Marine Highway System officials reported.

Travelers scheduled to sail on the LeConte should check with the marine highway's toll-free reservations line - 800-642-0066 - after 1 p.m. today for an update on its schedule, said Jim Beedle, operations manager for the ferry system.

"We are now making contingency plans in the event the LeConte is required to return to the (maintenance) yard in Ketchikan," Beedle said. "If that is the case, we will fill in the LeConte's schedule with the Taku where possible and work to get the St. Aquilina back under contract to cover those communities the Taku cannot get into."

The St. Aquilina, owned by Alaska Catamaran, was contracted to cover for the LeConte while it was in the Ketchikan Shipyard this fall for its annual overhaul and maintenance.

Toddler shot, killed by uncle cleaning gun

FAIRBANKS - An 18-month-old girl died after she was accidentally shot in the shoulder by her uncle as he cleaned a handgun.

Zoe F. Flemming died Saturday, Alaska State Troopers said.

Michael D. Nash, 22, of Fairbanks had been baby-sitting his niece, troopers said.

The child's father, Brian K. Flemming, 28, arrived at Nash's house to pick up the child.

Shortly after 3 p.m., as the two men were sitting in the living room of Nash's home, Nash attempted to dismantle a Glock .40-caliber pistol.

Nash pulled the trigger to release the firing mechanism so that he could disassemble the gun, troopers said, but did not realize there was a round in the chamber.

The gun fired and struck Zoe Flemming in the shoulder.

Emergency medical personnel rushed the girl to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

No drugs or alcohol were involved in the incident, troopers said. They are continuing an investigation.

Four teens arrested in Mat-Su vandalism

ANCHORAGE - Alaska State Troopers on Monday arrested four young men suspected of disabling buses last week in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District, which forced the school district to cancel classes for nearly 15,000 students.

A 16-year-old and two 17-year-olds were arrested at their homes and taken to the Mat-Su Youth Facility, Troopers spokesman Greg Wilkinson said. They were to be charged as juveniles.

Deryck Harris, 18, was also arrested at his home and taken to Mat-Su pretrial, where he was charged as an adult, Wilkinson said.

All four faced charges of criminal mischief, trespassing and conspiracy to commit criminal mischief, Wilkinson said.

The 16-year-old suspect also faced additional charges of theft and furnishing alcohol to a minor. Troopers allege he stole a bottle of vodka from a local liquor store the night of the vandalism and supplied it to the group.

Employees of First Student, the school district's bus contractor, showed up for work early Nov. 29 and noticed flat tires on multiple buses parked at the company headquarters on the Palmer-Wasilla Highway.

An investigation revealed that 69 tires on 45 of the contractor's 97 buses had been flattened in the unfenced yard. The vandals had removed the tire valves from many of the tires.

Also, cords plugged to engine block heaters had been detached from 93 buses. Temperatures had fallen to 9 degrees below zero.

Damage was estimated at more than $10,000.

Policeman hurt saving girl from fire

KETCHIKAN - A Metlakatla police officer suffered serious injuries as he rescued his daughter from their burning mobile home.

Travis Schiaffo was home Wednesday at the new trailer park in Metlakatla with his toddler when the fire started, said Metlakatla Police Chief Nick Yliniemi.

"I'm not sure how the fire started, but it had something to do with the wood stove," Yliniemi said.

The young girl survived the fire without injury.

Schiaffo was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for burns on his feet, hands, legs and lower back, Yliniemi said.

The fire destroyed the living room and kitchen and caused smoke damage to the bedrooms.

"The bedroom doors were closed, so they were kind of protected," Yliniemi said. The family lost everything in the kitchen and living room, he said.

Schiaffo had recently graduated from the police academy in Sitka. His wife, Jeannie, and a 6-year-old child were not home when the fire started.

The Metlakatla Police Department has been collecting donations.

"We've been getting lots of donations," Yliniemi said. "We've been asking for monetary donations, if possible."

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