Ellen Lockyer, KSKA - Anchorage
elockyer (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.550.8446 | About Ellen
News that the Federal Highway Trust Fund is running out of money is worrying a lot of states, but not Alaska. In a letter to transportation departments all over the country earlier this month, the federal Department of Transportation announced that if Congress did not take immediate action, the trust fund would be depleted in a matter of weeks, forcing federal highway officials to institute cash management procedures in August.
The death of an inmate at Seward’s Spring Creek maximum security prison has been ruled a homicide. In the early hours of Sunday, 29-year-old Elihu Gillespie was found unresponsive in his cell, and taken to Providence Seward Medical Care Center. Gillespie was pronounced dead about an hour later.
Although the ancient form of dance called English Morris was born so long ago its origins are murky, it remains alive and well, even in frozen Alaska. Rant and Raven, Anchorage’s Morris dance group, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, with a tour on the Alaska Marine Highway.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation has given the go ahead for an air quality permit for Usibelli Coal’s Wishbone Hill mine near Palmer. The move has been met with outrage by members of the Castle Mountain Coalition, an anti-coal group in the Matanuska Valley.
The U.S. Air Force is expected to slow down the demolition slated for Gakona’s HAARP facility. Wednesday, Air Force Research Lab public affairs representative Charles Gulick, emailed APRN saying, “Air Force Leadership is currently considering the option of deferring the dismantling for up to 10 months to allow time for a potential transfer to another entity.”
The Alaska Judicial Council has released its recommendations for retention of state District and Superior court judges. The judges will come up for vote on the November ballot.
The Matanuska Susistna School District’s pre-school program is in jeopardy. “Widening the Net ” brings pre-kindergarden education into selected district schools, but school funding reductions (this year) may force the district to shut down the innovative program in the fall. School district officials vow to continue the program on a reduced basis, if a state grant does not come through in time.
A jump in property thefts in Matanuska Valley communities spurred the Alaska State Troopers to start a new Crime Suppression Unit in Palmer this year. Property crimes in the Valley may be linked to the increased use of drugs, like heroin, and the trend upward – of both drug use and burglaries, has social costs that have yet to be tallied
Starting July 21, Alaska farmers can sign up for the US Department of Agriculture’s Reimbursement Transportation Cost Payment Program. Under the 2014 Farm Bill, farmers outside the contiguous US can now receive a portion of the costs of shipping their agricultural products over long distances.
Another fire near the Alaska Native village of Tyonek is drawing a full response from state firefighters. The blaze erupted late Monday afternoon at the village airport, which is across the Chuitna River from Tyonek. But heavy winds in the area pushed the fire across the river in several spots by evening, forcing an evacuation of the village.
A string of motorcycle collisions have taken five lives in the Southcentral area during the past several weeks. And on a narrow highway shoulder near Palmer last week, riders lined up for an impromptu memorial service at the site of an accident on May 3 that claimed the lives of three members of the Harley Owners Group Alaska Chapter. They placed flowers and flags at the site.