Alaska News Nightly: December 31, 2010

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Miller Will No Longer Challenge Election Results
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Joe Miller announced today that he will no longer pursue legal challenges against the election results that gave Lisa Murkowski an historic write in win against him in the general election for U.S. Senate. Miller said he had no immediate plans for a political future, but he signaled he will still be in the mix.

Miller last met with the Alaska press in October when he announced he would no longer speak to them about his background or personal issues.

Roughly 40 Homes Remain Without Power in Savoonga
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Many Savoonga residents are spending New Year’s Eve at the local school, due to power outages that have plagued the St. Lawrence Island community since Monday.   At one point, about 80 homes were without electricity, but Meera Kohler, CEO of Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, says linemen have restored about half of those.

Three linemen are working on the power problems, which started when severe winds mixed with severe cold caused above – ground electric lines to slap against each other, causing the initial problem.

She says none of the lines are actually broken, but finding the exact source of the power fault is proving difficult.

She says the situation is unique in her experience with bush power issues.  Many Savoonga residents were forced to seek shelter in the school after the power failure caused homes to freeze and pipes to burst.  The  school generator kept power, and heat, on at the facility.   Thursday, the Red Cross shipped emergency food and blankets and other supplies to Savoonga from Anchorage.  The local clinic has power.

Kohler says Savoonga has had electricity for about four decades, but the fact that the community is built on rock does not make putting the lines underground feasible.

Alaska OWL Project Celebrates Launch
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
The Alaska OWL, Online With Libraries, project celebrated it’s statewide launch this month. The ambitious undertaking is a three-year, $8.2 million effort to connect all 105 libraries in Alaska to high speed video conferencing. From Barrow to Dutch Harbor to Ketchikan and throughout the interior, every library will receive assistance.

Glen Cook is the deputy director for the state Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums. Cook says many libraries in Alaska serve very small populations but the services are critical. He says the money and the tech support will bring all libraries up to a minimum of 1.5 meg broadband.

Cook says all libraries will receive hardware upgrades.

Cook says many libraries in Alaska operate on an all volunteer or limited hour schedule and those that are open for less than 20 hours per week will be eligible for money that will pay for an additional five hours per week. He says the Alaska Vocational Technical Center or AVTECH will provide training and on call technical support to library staff.

Laura Breeden is with NTIA, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Breeden is the program director for the public computing and sustainable broadband adoption program at NTIA. She says library usage is rising because of internet access for people who need help from a librarian or don’t have online capabilities at home. She says they invested in Alaska communities because of the challenges of access in rural Alaska.

Breeden says the Alaska project is one of 230 programs nationwide they supported as part of a $4.7 billion recovery act grant. She says extending connectivity helps with the overall expense in rural parts of the state.

Funding is through the state division of libraries, the Universal Services fund, and the Rasmussen Foundation. Jeff Clark is with the Rasmussen Foundation. He says the family foundation has always been big supporters of libraries in Alaska and this project will help drive what he expects will be significant changes in the marketplace over the next three years.

APRN’s Look Back on 2010
Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage
This is our last program of the year at the Alaska Public Radio Network, and, like other news organizations, before launching into a new year, we like to take a last look at the old one, with the idea that if we know where we have been, we may get some insight into where we are going.

But, after looking over the things we reported in the state of Alaska in 2010, APRN’s Steve Heimel says at this point we may know that our direction has changed, but that does not mean we necessarily know where we are headed.

Year in Review: Petersburg
Joe Viechnicki, KFSK – Petersburg
Petersburg residents celebrated the town’s centennial, voted to end smoking in bars and restaurants and ended the year with city employees preparing to take a strike vote.

Retrospective on Ketchikan’s Past Year
Maria Dudzak, KRBD – Ketchikan
Debates over the location of a new public library, bonding propositions and a political misstep were only a few of the major stories coming out of Ketchikan this year.

Budgetary Issues Headline Juneau’s 2010
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
As the years rolled in, the world recession appeared to be hitting the capitol city.  CBJ forecast an $8 million budget shortfall based on a decline in sales tax as fewer cruise ships were scheduled to come in. But, local spending helped to make up the difference.

Sitka Emerges as Political Hotbed
Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka
Sitka saw some attention from the U.S. Senate candidacy as then-Mayor Scott McAdams ran for a seat. But, locally, political attention was focused on a squeaker of an election for McAdams’ mayoral replacement.  This is just one of many stories in a year of big news from Sitka.

Tourism Promoters Take Advantage of Alaska-Themed Programming
Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks
Alaska tourism promoters hope to attract more visitors to the state through advertisements that will run with popular Alaska-themed television series.

Bob Babble Sneaks into Exclusive Party
Jeff Brown, KTOO – Juneau
And finally tonight as we prepare to head into the eve of the New Year, we’ll first check in with intrepid spoof reporter Bob Babble. He’s managed to sneak past security and slip into an exclusive year end party.

Bob Babble comes to us through the courtesy – and imagination – of Jeff Brown of KTOO in Juneau.