Alaska Digest

Posted: Thursday, December 30, 2004

Prop blades put ferry out of service

JUNEAU - Damaged propeller blades will put the state ferry Matanuska out of service briefly next month while it is repaired in Ketchikan, according to the state Department of Transportation.

The ship will be out of service on Jan. 10 and 11, resulting in the cancellation of a round trip sailing to Bellingham, Wash., the southern terminus of the Alaska Marine Highway System.

The state is investigating the cause of the damaged propeller, ferry system manager John Falvey said in a written statement.

"We are operating the Matanuska safely within Coast Guard parameters for speed and vibration," Falvey said. "However, it is important to repair the prop as soon as possible."

PFD application period begins Jan. 2

JUNEAU - The application period for the 2005 Alaska Permanent Fund dividend begins Sunday, Jan. 2. Applicants can file by paper application or on the Internet.

The online application can be found at www. pfd.state.ak.us and will be available until midnight March 31, 2005, the deadline to file for the PFD.

"Folks who tried the online application last year will find a much more 'user friendly' application process this year," said Sharon Barton, director of the Permanent Fund Dividend Division, in a written statement. "Filing online has several advantages over paper. The system is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week; online filing requires no postage and no trip to the post office; and online filers receive immediate confirmation when they submit their applications, while paper filers receive no confirmation."

Applications booklets will be distributed by mail beginning Jan. 3, 2005. Additional forms can be found at public libraries, city clerks' offices and legislative information offices throughout the state.

Juneau man arrested for vehicle theft

JUNEAU - Police arrested a 31-year-old man Tuesday on a charge of vehicle theft and continue to investigate two reported van thefts downtown in the late afternoon.

Jeremy Karl was lodged at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center. Juneau District Magistrate John W. Sivertsen Jr. set his bail at $5,000 for the felony charge, with an additional $500 in bail for a charge of violating his probation from a previous misdemeanor conviction.

Karl was arrested after he was found with a 17-year-old boy near Glacier Highway and Anka Street, the site where one van was discovered.

That van was reported stolen at 5:37 p.m. from a parking lot in the 600 block of West Willoughby Avenue. At about 6 p.m., a person reported seeing the vehicle in the Lemon Creek area. The van was parked behind a storage unit, and police questioned a 19-year-old woman and 29-year-old man nearby. They later found Karl and the 17-year-old boy.

Shortly after the first van was reported stolen, a second van, reported stolen earlier, was found where it was parked originally, in the 800 block of W. 12th Street downtown.

That van was reported stolen at 4:28 p.m. When it was found at 5:55 p.m., a purse was reported missing.

Weather delays efforts to off-load oil

ANCHORAGE - Plans to begin offloading tens of thousands of gallons of fuel from a freighter broken in half off Alaska's coast were delayed Wednesday because of poor weather, officials said.

Weather conditions were not expected to improve until Friday.

A salvage team from Smit America flew by helicopter from Dutch Harbor to the wreck of the Selendang Ayu but found it was too unsafe to work.

Winds were expected to increase overnight with winds gusting to 65 mph. Rain and snow showers also were expected.

The Houston-based company spent most of Tuesday preparing to remove fuel from the Selendang Ayu. Pumping equipment staged in Dutch Harbor must still be delivered to the vessel.

The team managed Tuesday to cut away a large arch-shaped mast from the pilothouse. A heavy-lift helicopter then carried the pieces to the No. 5 cargo hold in the stern section of the ship for storage. The mast was cut away as well, as other obstacles on the vessel's decks, to make it easier to place equipment and people on board.

Former Lt. Gov. accepts university job

ANCHORAGE - Former Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer has been selected to head the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska Anchorage, the university announced Wednesday.

Ulmer, who from 1994 to 2002 served as Alaska's lieutenant governor under Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles, was one of two finalists for the position.

In her new job, Ulmer will be involved in public policy research. She will be paid $125,000 a year and will begin work Feb. 14.

Troopers release details in shooting

FAIRBANKS - A man killed in a shootout with authorities in Fairbanks last week died of a single bullet wound, Alaska State Troopers said.

George Riley Williamson, 37, was shot after he fired a 9 mm semiautomatic gun at officers, striking a Fairbanks police sergeant in the right thigh, troopers said Tuesday. Williamson died at the scene of the gun exchange, which began when two airport officers tried to stop him because his pickup truck had a taillight out.

Sgt. James Geier is back on his feet, police said. The 43-year-old department veteran visited the station Monday and is walking stiffly but on his own, said Lt. Dusty Johnson said.

"He seems to be in good spirits," Johnson said.

Fairbanks International Airport police officer Nick Zito, 26, and recruit Casandra Champagne, 23, also were involved in the shooting and were still on administrative leave Monday morning, said Mike Supkis, chief of fire and police for the airport.

Williamson was driving his truck when Zito - with Champagne riding along as part of her training - tried to pull him over near the intersection of the Johansen Expressway and University Avenue shortly after 3 a.m. Dec. 23, troopers said.

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