Alaska Digest

Posted: Monday, December 25, 2006

Unemployment rate increases slightly

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JUNEAU - Alaska's statewide unemployment rate increased four-tenths of a percent to 6.1 percent in November, according to a report released Friday by the state Department of Labor.

The increase means that roughly 20,994 people were unemployed during November. The drop was expected, according to the report, because of traditional seasonal worker decline.

Juneau and Anchorage tied for the lowest unemployment rates in the state. Both cities reported a rate of 4.6 percent. Double-digit unemployment was reported in the Skagway-Hoonah-Angoon Census Area, the Yakutat Borough, and the Denali Borough.

The most pronounced losses were seen in the seafood processing, construction, and accommodation industries.

Federal Subsistence Board to meet

JUNEAU - The Federal Subsistence Board will meet Jan. 9 thru 11 in Anchorage to consider proposals to change federal subsistence fisheries regulations.

Regulation changes for Southeast Alaska will be considered, including a proposal to include all communities in the Icy Strait area in the "customary and traditional use" designation, or subsistence rights.

Gustavus was granted the designation in 2006. Other communities being considered at the January meeting include Elfin Cove, Tenakee, and Pelican. The Board will also consider approving money for subsistence-related research and monitoring projects.

The meeting will be held daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Egan Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage and is open to the public.

An agenda and additional materials can be found on the Federal Subsistence Management Program Web site at:

For more information about the meeting or for requests for reasonable accommodations call Larry Buklis at (800)478-1456 or (907) 786-3822, or e-mail

Woman charged in hit-and-run death

FAIRBANKS - A Fairbanks woman has been charged with manslaughter in the hit-and-run death of a pedestrian.

Ilsa E. Burton, 30, also is charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, tampering with evidence and failing to render assistance in connection with the death of 57-year-old Chester Druck of Fairbanks. Burton was indicted Friday and was being held on $200,000 bail.

Alaska State Troopers said Druck was hit as he walked in a neighborhood off College Road shortly after 8 p.m. on Dec. 17. Gerald Frank, who was walking with Druck at the time, told troopers Druck was walking "towards the center of the roadway," according to court records.

Burton told troopers that she did not stop because she was "freaked." She was arrested at the home of her brother - a passenger in the Caravan minivan driven by Burton - after someone at the home called 911.

Burton and her brother told troopers the minivan was traveling 15 mph. Troopers, however, say evidence at the scene suggests they were going faster.

Druck hit the Caravan's front grill, bounced onto the hood and smashed into the windshield, then was thrown 110 feet and before hitting the ground, according to court records.

Burton told troopers she did not see Druck until she struck him. Frank said Burton did not stop or slow down.

Galena eyes buildings for school expansion

FAIRBANKS - Galena's school district is eyeing buildings soon to be abandoned by the U.S. Air Force as part of last year's base closings in an effort to triple the size of its boarding school.

School Superintendent Jim Smith said that the school would need some help covering the cost of utilities from the time the Air Force leaves and until the school reaches an enrollment of about 300 students.

"They are leaving the facility in October of 2008," Smith said this week. "That gives me roughly a year and a half to make something happen in terms of this boarding school growth."

But tripling the student count in that time period is not possible, Smith said, so "we're looking for additional help from the Air Force or congressional contingent."

A top Air Force official said in a letter last month that the military might be able to extend financial assistance past its planned exit date of Sept. 30, 2008. However, he put a condition on that offer that could limit its usefulness to the school.

The Galena Economic Development Committee is developing a plan for the property. The Air Force wants the plan by April 1.

Anchorage gym folds without warning

ANCHORAGE - A debt-ridden women's gym in South Anchorage has abruptly closed, leaving hundreds of customers who paid membership fees in advance.

There are no plans to reopen Women's Nautilus Club, according to the bankrupt owner, John Sankey. The business closed last month.

"We showed up one Monday morning, there was a sheet of paper on the second set of doors that said they were moving and they would be closing up the first of December," said Misty Stoddard, who worked out at the gym for a year.

Stoddard and other members learned the Dimond Boulevard gym wasn't going to reopen or refund the money they'd paid in advance for membership and tanning.

Sankey started bankruptcy proceedings in 2003. He owed money to his landlord, among other creditors and in the late fall, the gym was evicted.

Sankey said all the equipment will be sold by the bank. He said he always thought things would turn around and he had plans to move the gym to a less expensive location.

Sankey recalled being a few months behind on rent to Hilligas Co., the property manager. Hilligas said he owed $300,000.

"The landlord will never see any money," said Tammy Krous, a broker at Hilligas. Sankey is protected by the bankruptcy, she said.

State to pay for Kenai judge's defense

ANCHORAGE - The state will pay for ousted Judge David Landry to defend himself, but it could be the last time the state will pick up the tab.

The Kenai judge was rejected by voters last month after being accused of courtroom misconduct.

The Alaska Judicial Council advised voters to reject Landry this year, citing allegations that he inappropriately allowed prosecutors to fill out the terms of defendants' bail on blank, pre-signed forms; failed to ensure speedy trials, leading to the dismissal of 14 criminal cases in one year; gave the appearance of favoritism for prosecutors; and made inappropriate sexual comments in and out of the courtroom.

Landry remains in office at Kenai District Court until 90 days from the Nov. 7 election.

He will get state money to defend himself before the Alaska Judicial Conduct Commission.

Landry is scheduled for a hearing the week of April 9, but commission executive director Marla Greenstein said she hopes the hearing isn't even necessary. A majority of Kenai Peninsula voters elected not to retain Landry in his office.

"I'm hopeful that we can work something out without a hearing," Greenstein said, "given the reality that the judge will not be a judge (anymore)."

The Alaska Department of Administration has covered legal fees for judges under agreement with the Alaska Judicial Conduct Commission since the 1970s, the same as it would the legal defense of a state agency facing a lawsuit, Greenstein said.

This month, though, she received a letter from the department saying the practice would end.

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