Phillips gears up for oil exploration near Anchor Point

ANCHOR POINT - As the tungsten steel bit below the towering Nabors Drilling Rig 273 chewed nearly 3,000 foot deep in the rock and mud near Anchor Point, Phillips Alaska Inc. officials said the oil company’s Cosmopolitan Exploration Project has progressed smoothly since a planned 90-day drilling operation began Oct. 21.The 152-foot-tall derrick, shipped in from Wyoming, is the largest rig operating in Alaska, according to Paul Mazzolini, statewide exploration team leader for Phillips.While the rig is large, drilling operations and related facilities cover an area of only about 650 feet by 310 feet on the bluff overlooking Cook Inlet west of the Sterling Highway about 5.5 miles north of Anchor Point.The drill site is called the Hansen well after landowner John Hansen, who leased the surrounding 11 acres or so to the drilling partners.Using a technique called "extended reach drilling," the drill will grind its way down through the bluff about 6,800 feet before curving at a 45-degree angle to reach about three miles out under the Inlet to seek oil.Based on an updated computer analysis of data from two offshore wells drilled by Mobil and Pennzoil in 1967, Phillips geologist Bob Swenson believes drillers have a good shot at finding commercial quantities. Some oil was found at the 1967 Starichkof State No. 1 well, but the site was not developed, he said.It would take about three to five million barrels of oil to make the project viable to plan production drilling and perhaps more wells on the site, Swenson estimated.Phillips Alaska Inc. is fronting 75 percent of the cost of the exploration well, with Forest Oil Corp. picking up 25 percent and Devon Energies 5 percent, according to Phillips spokeswoman Dawn Patience.The exploration phase is expected to cost about $18 million to $23 million, she said.While saying that drilling from land, then angling under the Inlet bed, offers protection from offshore oil spills, Mazzolini noted that working so close to homes along Sterling Highway is an unusual situation.In an effort to monitor any potential effects on local water wells, 40 wells, including 21 within one mile of the derrick, were tested before drilling began, Patience said.After about six years studying the entire basin and the possibility of exploring the old Starichkof offshore well, the Hansen test site was pinpointed based on requirements that it be 500 feet from the high-water mark and at least one-quarter mile from Stariski Creek."This is a lot different from most of the wells we drill in Alaska," Mazzolini said.With most residential drinking water wells in the area tapping water 25 to 150 feet deep, he said drillers are taking the unusual step of casing the oil well with steel pipe sealed with cement down to the 700-foot level."That’s well below where any of the neighbors get water," he said.In addition, Swenson said four 30-foot wells were dug around the rig to regularly monitor for any potential contamination.Drill foreman Ray Springer said most of the 50 to 70 workers typically at the site are from the Kenai Peninsula.Springer, a retired Arco engineer and fisherman from Seldovia, now a Phillips consultant, said that 45 of his 62 workers on site last week were from the borough, with about 15 hailing from south of Nikiski.While the directional-angled method of drilling offers environmental advantages and allows a smaller footprint for the rig, Phillips officials acknowledged there are also practical and economic advantages as well.While oil is the target on this lease, drilling manager Marty Lemon said tests will be conducted for natural gas as the drill digs.Once the planned 18,500-foot drilling depth is reached about mid December, the data and samples collected will be analyzed to see if a sustained drilling operation is feasible.

Struggling commercial fishermen search for solutions

HOMER - Alaska’s fishing businesses are in a world of hurt these days, reeling from the effects of everything from fish farms to climate change, but how to resolve the myriad problems facing fishermen is a million-dollar question.Rep. Drew Scalzi, R-Homer, has some radical proposals for the state-managed salmon, crab and other fisheries, which he pitched to a state convention of commercial fishermen in Petersburg and may introduce to the Alaska Legislature in January.And in Homer, the Alaska Marine Conservation Council board of directors met to discuss a broad range of ideas about revamping federal fisheries, some of which could dramatically strengthen or work to undermine coastal Alaska fishing towns.All this talk comes under the umbrella term "rationalization," meaning efforts to increase efficiency in a notoriously inefficient industry."Rationalization is a huge word," said Alan Parks, a longtime fisherman who is the conservation council’s citizen outreach coordinator in Homer. "People really need to think about what that means."The most familiar example of rationalization in Alaska was the institution of individual fishing quotas in the halibut and black cod fisheries. Before 1995, anyone could fish for either species, which caused the fleet to get so large that federal managers reduced fishing time to two 24-hour periods a year.With IFQs, the public harvest rights were awarded to individuals, allowing them to fish whenever they wanted. That improved safety and fish quality and spread the harvest over eight months.Other results were less savory for many in the fishing industry. Processing plants lost much of their markets for frozen fish, and many fishermen who felt they deserved IFQs didn’t get them. The number of boats has dwindled, reducing the number of crew jobs.Now federal managers are considering IFQs for the big Bering Sea crab fisheries and possibly for bottomfish boats in the Gulf of Alaska. With the halibut and black cod experience behind them, many in Alaska’s fishing industry either want IFQs desperately or will fight them to death.However, IFQs aren’t the only option for rationalizing a fishery. Other options are to create fishing co-operatives in which boats, as well as processing plants, get individual quotas and can work together to wring the most money out of their harvest. That might include timing their fishing trips to coincide with the highest market demand or fishing more carefully to reduce the bycatch of unwanted species.The Alaska Marine Conservation Council doesn’t support or condemn any particular rationalization plan, but wants any plan to reflect its conservation ethic, Parks said."One of our guiding principles is that there is an intrinsic value to fishing in our coastal communities," he said, "and decision makers have the responsibility to take those intrinsic values into consideration when discussing rationalization plans."Other principles include the need to reduce bycatch of unwanted species, to protect the habitat that is crucial for the long-term health of fish and other marine animals and to convert boats to less-destructive means of fishing, such as using pots rather than bottom trawling."Bycatch, habitat protection, gear conversion - they all need to be talked about now and incorporated into rationalization plans," Parks said. "If not, you don’t really address the issues" that are casting doubt on the viability of Alaska’s fisheries.The council has about 800 members in Alaska, many of whom are coastal fishermen, Parks said.Some of the problems inherent in federal crab and groundfish fisheries are mirrored in state waters, but at least their markets are relatively strong. Salmon fishermen, on the other hand, have seen their valuable markets undercut by salmon farms, and the combination of low prices and high expenses has made salmon fisheries less viable now than at any time since the mid-1970s.Across Alaska, fishermen are scrambling to find an edge in the increasingly global salmon market.In Kachemak Bay and elsewhere, fishermen have formed cooperatives to ensure high quality and take advantage of niche markets. Scalzi thinks the Alaska Legislature could lend the industry a hand, and he has nearly a dozen bills ready for introduction that shore up the hard-pressed salmon industry.His proposals could be shot down by fishermen, the Legislature or the governor, Scalzi said, but that’s not the point of bringing up these issues. He’s trying to get people to "think outside the box.""The industry has to take a good look at the next 20 to 30 years," he said. "What we are going to need to be viable again? What are we going to do to keep canneries in remote areas? A love-hate relationship exists between canneries and fishermen, but we need each other. We have to make the business climate acceptable to processors as well as to fishermen."

Board appoints new chief executive at Valley Hospital

Valley Hospital’s operating board of directors has approved the appointment of George V. Larson as new chief executive.His contract begins Dec. 1. However, Larson probably will start his new post on the first workday, Monday, Dec. 3, said Elizabeth Ripley, Valley Hospital Association director of community health planning.The board gave Larson the nod Oct. 26.Larson will move to Alaska from Wickenburg, Ariz., where he serves as administrator of Wickenburg Regional Medical Center, an 80-bed acute care hospital. He has held similar positions in Holyoke, Colo., and Bethel, Maine. Larson, a certified public accountant, earned a master’s degree in personnel administration with a concentration in health care administration from Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant. He received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from La Sierra University.At Valley Hospital Association Larson will lead an organization with annual revenues of $50 million and 500 employees. VHA includes Valley Hospital in Palmer, Valley Hospital Medical Center in Wasilla and home health, hospice and pharmaceutical agencies.Last February VHA compiled a task force to begin the search for a new chief executive, although work began in earnest in May, Ripley said.The organization worked with an executive search company that narrowed the list of candidates to nine, Ripley said."We interviewed five of the nine," she said, adding that on-site interviews were conducted in late September."George personifies these corporate values and brings with him the expertise to provide sound organizational leadership to our growing hospital system," said Kathleen Kelly, VHA operating board president. "From business analysis to finance and relationship building, George brings extensive skills and experience that make him an excellent match for the needs of our organization."In a statement, Larson described his new position in Alaska. "I am eager to begin my role in the leadership of this progressive health care organization and in developing a relationship with the board of directors, employees and community residents."

Timing is key to The Alaska Club's growth

Ten years ago, Andrew Eker and Tom Behan had a dream: to build a statewide network of athletic clubs in Alaska. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions, the partners have grown from owning a single location in Anchorage to 12 in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Eagle River and Wasilla.The Alaska Club Network now has about 40,000 members and 800 full- and part-time employees. Eker projects total company revenues to exceed $24 million in 2002. The statewide network is now largely in place."We’re getting close to accomplishing that goal," Eker said.But getting there wasn’t easy. On Feb. 10, 1986, a limited partnership formed by Eker and Behan, with 50 investors, purchased the Teamsters Recreation Center in Anchorage for $9 million in an owner-financed deal. That was right around the time oil prices collapsed and the Alaska economy went into a tailspin."We really scrambled the first couple of years to get it up to where it could pay the rent," Eker said. "There were no returns right away to our investors."It was a trial by fire that taught Eker and Behan how to run a successful fitness club."You learn going up, but you learn a lot more going down," Eker said. Those lessons were never forgotten. "We’ve been in an expansion mode ever since."Eker and Behan were uniquely suited to running fitness clubs. For one thing, they both are active in sports. Behan was a handball player, while Eker enjoys skiing, biking, tennis and golf.Behan, as former president of Alaska Pacific Bank, understood financing. Eker was a real estate developer and was involved in construction and business management. Asked what he likes to do best, Eker’s eyes light up and he replies, "mergers and acquisitions."And merge and acquire he has. Here’s the list:1989: purchase of Anchorage Racquet Club Inc.;1994: purchase of the Anchorage Racquet & Fitness Club building;1995: purchase of the Fairbanks Athletic Club;1997: purchase of three Alaska Athletic Clubs, two in Anchorage and one in Fairbanks;1997: conversion of the former Alaska Builders Cache into The Alaska Club South;1998: purchase of World Gyms in Eagle River and West Anchorage; and1999: purchase of Valley Fitness Center in Wasilla.This year, the company leased a former Alaska Marketplace store in Anchorage and began converting it into a new home for The Alaska Club West, plus a new women-only facility. In October, the company announced the purchase of the two Juneau Racquet Clubs.Any business professor - and any observer of the dot-com debacle of the past year - will tell you that rapid growth, when not properly managed, can cause a company to collapse, usually for lack of cash. So how did The Alaska Club grow successfully? Eker cites a variety of reasons.Find talented peopleThe original partners, Eker and Behan, brought real estate, construction and financing skills to the table. Eker also cites two other key team members: John Marchetti, vice president of administration and finance, and Robert Brewster, vice president of operations.Those four key players have worked together to make the company grow, Eker said.Use creative financingFor each acquisition, Behan and Eker formed a limited partnership and sought investors. The original group of 50 investors now numbers about 150, most of them Alaskans; many have invested in more than one transaction, Eker said. The partnerships provide the cash needed to make a sale work.Another technique the company has used repeatedly is to offer equity in The Alaska Club to the owners of the firms they buy. This minimizes the amount of cash needed for each deal, Eker said. Owner financing has been used in several transactions as well, he said.Actual operation of the clubs is divided between two corporations: The Alaska Club Inc., which owns the Anchorage, Eagle River and Wasilla facilities; and Athletic Clubs Inc., which owns the Fairbanks and Juneau clubs. Eker is president of both.Timing is everything"If there’s anything I’ve found out in business, it’s that timing is the governing factor," Eker said. "Until the timing is right, nothing happens." He said it took five years to persuade the Teamsters to sell their Fairbanks facility; the Wasilla transaction took three years.Then there’s the timing of the fitness craze in the United States, which began about the time the partners bought their first club - and it has been growing ever since.Eker pointed out that fitness equipment generates far more revenue per square foot than tennis or racquetball. An 800-square-foot racquetball court provides exercise for four people. That same space, used for fitness, can accommodate 20 paying customers, he said.Location, location, locationWhat’s true for McDonald’s is true for fitness clubs: Location is vital."We’ve discovered that the distance people will travel for fitness is limited," Eker said. "Also, they will travel shorter distances for fitness than they will for tennis or racquetball."That explains the company’s drive for multiple locations in Alaska’s three largest cities. Eker said that opening a new location drops attendance at existing facilities at first, but in the long run it attracts people who were never customers before, for a net gain.Serve the customerEver since Day One, the company has invested heavily in upgrading the clubs it buys. In 1993, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority backed an $8 million loan from National Bank of Alaska, now Wells Fargo Bank Alaska. The money was used to expand The Alaska Club’s original location, refinance existing loans and pay off the Teamsters Union, which had helped finance the original purchase."Buy it, then fix it up" could be a motto for the company because it has done so many times."Annually, we create a plan to update and upgrade," Eker said. "I think the membership appreciates it. We don’t want them to get bored. We rely on them coming back every month."Eker said he learned a lesson about the changing needs of his customers when he opened The Alaska Club South. "Parents wanted something for young people 8-14 to do," he said. "We missed the market," he freely admits. His response: Add things kids like - a rock climbing wall, a game room, a pool and a basketball court. Membership promptly took off and the club is now a success, he said.Eker said another important way he serves his customers is with what he calls "reciprocity." That means any person who signs up at any club in the state can use any other club in the network."We’re trying to create value through convenience," he said. "It’s really viewed as a value by our customers."Eker said reciprocity for Juneau will begin when the final paperwork is signed, which he expects to occur by Dec. 1.Eker pointed to the Wasilla facility as an example of how his company’s experience can turn things around."When we bought it, it had 600-800 members. It’s grown to almost 2,000 members in 18 months," Eker said. "The original owner created a nice facility and he had good intentions, but he didn’t understand the business."Eker said he’s focused now on completing the two clubs at the West Anchorage facility and is beginning the analysis of what will be required at the newly purchased Juneau clubs.And while he won’t disclose any other future plans, you can be sure he’s got more deals in the wings. He’s just waiting until the timing is right.

Brewery owners manage growth

Marcy Larson, co-owner of Juneau’s Alaskan Brewing Co., has some hard-won advice for small business operators managing growth: Be careful, pay attention to quality and make sure you’ve got strength in your home market before you expand out of state.Listen to your banker is another bit of advice."There have been many times our banker has looked at sales projections and made us scale back, to make sure we can pay our loan even if sales didn’t meet expectations," she said. "That conservative view helped us."It’s easy to dream," Larson added. "Alaska is full of optimists, and it’s real easy to get up there in the stars without knowing where the ladder is."You have to take risks. That’s business. But do everything you can to mitigate those risks."Alaskan Brewing, which makes amber, pale ales and English strong bitter that have become popular in the Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, has had brisk growth since the company started in 1986. Eighty Alaskans bought shares to help launch Alaskan Brewing, and 75 are still with the company.Since that first year, production has grown ninefold to 90,000 barrels per year. Seventy-five percent of the company’s output is now sold out-of-state, in Pacific Northwest states.The popular Alaskan Amber is now the second-best-selling microbrew in Washington state and is outsold only by Red Hook, which is helped by its part-owner, a major brewing company.

As travel rules evolve, here's what to expect

The rules at airports and airlines continue to evolve since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. New Federal Aviation Administration security measures have altered airport procedures across the country. Some airports have made specific changes that may further affect your travel logistics. So, what is the latest?Airport arrivalTravelers are being asked to arrive at least two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights to allow for tighter security procedures. At Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, two hours for domestic flights is definitely enough. The lines will be long and check-in/screening process will be slow. Stress levels can be reduced by allowing more than enough time, and then enjoying a cup of coffee with a good book.Parking and curbside accessThe FAA prohibits parking within 300 feet of an airport terminal. This has forced some airports to close short-term parking areas. Valet parking at some airports has also been suspended. Be sure you don’t leave packages or other materials in your car that could appear suspicious. No curbside check-in is available at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Do not plan to pick up your friends or relatives at the curbside upon arrival. The Anchorage short-term parking garage gives you free parking for up to 45 minutes.IdentificationPassengers must have government-issued photo identification. It can be either federal, state or local. Be prepared to present your ID upon check-in and at subsequent points along with boarding passes. Minors do not need photo ID as long as an accompanying adult certifies their identity.Airport check-inAutomated check-in kiosks are available at Alaska Airlines. Make sure to check in before you go through the security gate. Web check-in has also been restored. Consequently, electronic tickets are being accepted again. Written confirmation, such as a letter from the airline acknowledging the reservation might be required.Carry-on baggageOne carry-on bag and a personal item, such as a purse, briefcase or laptop computer is allowed. Do not carry on knives of any kind including straight razors, scissors, and metal nail files. Other prohibited items include corkscrews, baseball bats, golf clubs, pool cues, ski poles and hockey sticks. Permitted items for carry-on, however, include walking canes, umbrellas, nail clippers, safety and disposable razors, tweezers and eyelash curlers. Of course, these rules are subject to change. Please check with the airline for the latest information before traveling.Security checkpointLimit the metal objects you wear. There have been several reported cases where women wearing underwire bras set off metal detectors. Allow ample time to go through the line. This process may take as much time as check-in procedures if not more. Only ticketed passengers are allowed beyond the checkpoints. Say your goodbyes before you head for the gate. Exceptions are for those with specific medical needs or for a parent escorting a child. Again, check with the airline for specific requirements.Be patientEveryone, including the traveling public, government officials, airport staff and airline crew members, now has to adapt to a wide range of new regulations. The rules will continue to evolve. There are many factors that are beyond our control; however, you can control your outlook on travel to have a pleasant trip.Yoshi Ogawa is president of ITC Travel & Tours in Anchorage. He can be reached at 907-561-7722 or via e-mail at ([email protected]).

CSX announces new Yukon Pacific Corp. leader

ANCHORAGE -The parent company of Yukon Pacific Corp. has announced a new director for the corporation.John Snow, CSX Corp. chairman and chief executive officer, said Ward Whitmore will be director of project development and will direct daily operations for Yukon Pacific.Yukon Pacific holds the major state and federal permits and authorizations for an 800-mile natural gas pipeline and liquefaction facility. Under the company’s Trans-Alaska Gas System project, natural gas would move via pipeline from the North Slope to Valdez, where it would be refrigerated to produce liquefied natural gas for shipment to Asia.Whitmore has worked on the project for 12 years. An Anchorage resident since 1989, Whitmore joined Yukon Pacific after holding several engineering-related positions with Union Pacific Resources and Phillips Petroleum.He replaces Jeff Lowenfels.

State hopes to name new telecommunications provider this month

State officials said they hope to announce in mid-November the vendor for a $26 million annual contract to provide state government telecommunications.Earlier this fall, Administration Department Commissioner Jim Duncan had expected the contract award would be announced by Nov. 1.He said in early November the state is finalizing the process and would make the announcement later in the month."We are concluding negotiations with the top-ranked vendor based on their response to the RFP (request for proposals) and hope to give public notice of intent to award by Nov. 13," he said.When state officials declare a contract award winner, documents and other bidders once proprietary during the process will be made public, he told the Journal earlier this year.Also, after the vendor is announced the state kicks off a 10-day period during which protests can be filed, he said.When state officials issued the bid for the telecommunications contract in August 2000 they estimated that 42 state employees would be laid off as a result of the new contract. However, many of them might be hired by the winner of the contract, officials said.The state received three proposals for the new contract which went out for bid last August, Duncan told the Journal earlier this year. He was unable to list names of vendors because the procurement process was ongoing.Start-up dates for providing service are part of negotiations, but Duncan hopes to implement the services as soon as possible after the award date.In December, representatives from major Alaska telecommunications players AT&T Alascom, Alaska Communications Systems and General Communication Inc. told the Journal they submitted bids.Originally, state officials had planned to award the contract in mid-March. However, once they started evaluating the proposals, officials determined the process would take longer than expected because the proposals were more complex than anticipated, Duncan said.The new contract aims to streamline state telecommunications services.The request for proposal calls for a vendor, including possibly a consortium of companies, to run the state’s telecommunications networks for four years, with two optional one-year renewal periods.The contract covers providing service for wired telephones, data networks, video, paging, cellular, satellite transport, tech support including a help desk, and operating and maintaining the state’s microwave system.

State promotes seafood in South Korea

Officials from the state trade department report strong results from a seafood promotion in South Korea. Seafood exports to South Korea so far this year have eclipsed last year’s exports.Two years ago the state Division of International Trade and Market Development coordinated a campaign to introduce Alaska seafood to deluxe hotels in Seoul and other Korean cities.Dating back through July 2000, Korean hotels have purchased about $1 million worth of salmon, halibut, crab, scallops and other Alaska products to serve at promotional events and as regular menu items.State officials organized events to educate importers and hotels about Alaska seafood. The trade representatives also helped promote the seafood at hotel events. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, a Korean importer and Korean Air helped department employees coordinate Alaska visits for hotel chefs and food and beverage managers.For the first eight months of 2001, seafood exports to Korea totaled $188.2 million compared with $85 million for the same period last year.Two major promotions were conducted at Korean hotels earlier this year, the Westin Chosun Hotel and other Westin properties in Seoul and Pusan plus at the Sheraton Walkerhill and Seoul Plaza.Trade department officials say these promotions and the work with hotel chefs and managers have led to purchases of Alaska seafood by eight major hotels in Seoul, Pusan and Kyangju, Korea.

Entrepreneurs must learn how to delegate

For its small population, Alaska has more than its share of creative and independent entrepreneurs, the kind of people who want to own their own businesses."Alaskans seem willing to take risks. We seem eager to do something different, which is why we all live here," said Gary Selk, a professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage’s School of Business and Public Policy.At the same time, Selk said, many entrepreneurs and small business owners lack a complete grasp of the skills they need to make the right decisions, particularly if the business is growing.Fortunately, many seek advice and training, which is available through the university and a number of consulting services, he said.Two areas where business owners commonly encounter trouble is, first, when rapid growth outpaces financial and accounting systems, and second, when it comes time to bring on more help and delegate authority, Selk said.One local company Selk has been advising has seen rapid growth, but while the record-keeping system was adequate for the business at a smaller scale, it was completely inadequate for the size the firm has grown to or where it is headed."Also, no one in the management, which were also the owners, had the skills to really understand what the financial reports were telling them," he said. "They also had no clear direction of where they were going," as a business.In this case, some help in developing a strategic plan was a starting point. But the clients were also unwilling to lose control by bringing in a chief executive officer with the needed skills, he said.Additional training for the management team will address part of this problem, but unwillingness to delegate authority is the most common hurdle owners and managers of growing businesses must overcome."It’s a quantum leap to someone to give up that sense of control, but if you don’t, you’re just so caught up in day-to-day tasks that you lose the big picture," Selk said.Selk has experienced the difficulty himself with a small nonprofit corporation he started and continues to operate, the Alaska Business Development Center, which offers management consulting services."It’s hard to give up control over the checkbook, hiring and firing, and other key decisions," he said.

Business Profile: Automated Laundry Systems & Supply

Name of the company: Automated Laundry Systems & SupplyEstablished: 1979Location: 621 W. 54th Ave., AnchorageTelephone: 907-561-3178Web site: www.autolaundrysystems.comMajor focus of services: Automated Laundry Systems & Supply sells and services commercial and industrial equipment and supplies to care for different fabrics. The company also designs, installs, trains and provides consulting services for industrial, on-site and coin-operated customers.History of the company: Its origins date back to the 1950s when the company was called Alaska Boiler but was later renamed Dubois Chemical Co. In 1979 Dick Wells and Glen Miller purchased the equipment and service division from Dubois Chemical, renaming it Automated Laundry Systems.The company purchased its current building in 1985 and later added a warehouse, office and shop space. Miller left the company in 1987. In 1995 the company took on a new moniker: Automated Laundry Systems & Supply.Automated Laundry became a general contractor in 1997 to expand services. In 1998 company officials started the Cointronics Division to provide equipment rentals and shared revenue leasing.Clients include the health care, hospitality, mining, fishing and oil industries as well as dry cleaners, coin-operated laundries, health clubs, correctional facilities and federal, state and local governments.Automated Laundry employs 15 Alaskans.Top accomplishment of the company: Automated Laundry officials cite projects in Alaska including the new Anchorage jail and downtown fire station; a new laundry for BP (Exploration) Alaska Inc. at Prudhoe Bay; equipment and air handling upgrades for Phillips Alaska Inc. at Kuparuk; upgrades at Providence Alaska Medical Center, Central Peninsula Hospital and Fairbanks Memorial Hospital; a new laundry at Johnson Youth Center in Juneau and fire service laundry equipment for North Slope Borough villages. Other laundry projects included a joint venture in the former Soviet republic of Kazakstan during oil field development there and supplying equipment to clean workers’ suits during cleanup of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.Major players: Dick Wells, president, and Kim Aho, general manager and president of Cointronics, Automated Laundry Systems & Supply.Wells came to Alaska in 1976 to work at RCA Alascom, then started with Automated Laundry a few years later. In 1982 Aho was hired as an administrative assistant and has learned the business through the years. She is a partner in the company.- Nancy Pounds

Morris donates Klatt land

MMC Radio LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Journal parent company Morris Communications Corp., has donated a conservation easement to the Great Land Trust to permanently preserve 17 acres of the Klatt Bog in Anchorage.The easement, donated to the nonprofit land conservation organization serving Southcentral Alaska, is located just south of the Minnesota Drive-O’Malley Road curve and is adjacent to municipal ballfields currently under development. It is part of a 21-acre parcel containing a radio station and two radio transmission towers."Conserving this land is very helpful for the long-term health of the Klatt Bog wetland complex," said Beth Silverberg, executive director of the Great Land Trust. "This deal protects open space and provided important habitat for the animals that people in Anchorage enjoy seeing, particularly moose and birds."The Anchorage Wetland Management Plan identified the 17 acres as high-quality "B" class wetlands for conservation and to provide wildlife habitat for numerous species including fox, moose, birds, waterfowl and birds of prey. The acreage is considered an integral part of the larger Klatt Bog wetlands complex.During the public process and drafting of Anchorage 2000, the Anchorage Comprehensive plan, the public identified the area for the Great Land Trust as a high priority for conservation.Morris Communications is a privately-held media company based in Augusta, Ga. The company’s holdings include newspaper and magazine publishing, outdoor advertising, radio broadcasting, book publishing and distribution, and computer services.

Around the World November 11, 2001

STATEColumbia dispute goes to mediationJUNEAU - A mediator will attempt to resolve a dispute between the state and a Ketchikan shipyard operator. Each contends the other owes millions due to delays in returning the ferry Columbia to service last summer.Alaska Ship and Drydock and state Transportation Department officials will begin mediated talks in Seattle late this month, said Doug Gardner, an assistant attorney general.The shipyard operator had a $10.4 million contract to refurbish staterooms on the state’s largest ferry as well as repairing a switchboard damaged by a June 2000 fire.But the work was finished more than 40 days late and the ship did not return to service until July 19 this year.State officials say the shipyard operator owes $4 million in damages as a result.But Alaska Ship and Drydock blames the delays on poor state specifications for the work and $287,347 in more work added to the project.The state should set aside the $4 million penalty and pay the shipyard operator $3.1 million in additional compensation, said Doug Ward, a company spokesman.NATIONNation’s unemployment shoots up in OctoberWASHINGTON - The nation’s unemployment rate shot up to 5.4 percent in October and job losses surged to the highest level in more than two decades as the full brunt of the terrorist attacks hit a weak economy.Job losses touched every part of the economy, not just airlines, hotels, restaurants and other travel-dependent industries, the Labor Department reported Nov. 2."It was pretty clear the report was going to be bad, but this was beyond bad in every way,’’ said Mark Zandi of Economy.com.Businesses slashed 415,000 jobs in October, the worst monthly cut in payrolls since May 1980.On Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats both seized on the new jobless figures to push their own plans to jump-start the economy. Despite President Bush’s demand for a stimulus plan by Nov. 30, it remains unclear how both sides will resolve their differences over tax cuts vs. increased spending to help unemployed workers.Texas gas prices dip to one dollar a gallonSAN ANTONIO - Do you have a dollar? In San Antonio and other places around Texas these days, that’s all you need to pump a gallon of regular into your car’s gas tank, and have enough change left over for a piece of Bazooka Joe gum.Motorists in the Alamo city, Austin and the Rio Grande Valley are among those who can readily find self-service gas for less than $1 a gallon, while determined shoppers in Houston and Fort Worth can find similar deals.Statewide, the average price for self-service regular is $1.18, about 7 cents under the national average, according to AAA Texas.Groups seek late fee moratoriumWASHINGTON - Consumer advocates and some lawmakers want a nationwide temporary moratorium on fees for late payments of credit card bills because of mail delays resulting from the terror attacks and the anthrax scare.Many banks that issue Visa cards have helped customers who were directly or indirectly affected by the Sept. 11 attacks by waiving late fees and interest charges on accounts, said Richard Fischer, an attorney representing Visa USA Inc.Lawmakers of both parties have recited a litany of complaints against credit card companies. Despite nine interest-rate cuts this year by the Federal Reserve, rates on many card accounts have remained relatively high, and card companies continue to trick consumers with small print detailing terms and conditions and with sudden changes in rates.Boeing will still build 737, 757 modelsRENTON, Wash. - Boeing Co. will continue to produce its Boeing 737 and 757 commercial airplanes in Renton, Alan Mulally, head of Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes division said Nov. 2.But, Mulally said, the Seattle area will have to become more competitive and fix traffic congestion more quickly if it wants to keep Boeing’s airplane production in Renton over the long term.Doing business in Renton, a 51,000-resident town centered around Boeing’s massive airplane production plant, can be costly and frustrating, Mulally said. Traffic has gotten so bad, he said, that aircraft parts much be delivered in the middle of the night, at considerable cost.Marathon spends $1 billion for African assetsHOUSTON - Marathon Oil Co. is paying $993 million for CMS Energy Corp.’s production and refining interests in Equatorial Guinea, a tiny nation on Africa’s Atlantic coast.The purchase announced Nov. 2 will give Houston-based Marathon large stakes in several offshore production blocks and a condensate separation facility, a 45 percent interest in a methanol production plant and a 43 percent stake in a liquefied petroleum gas processing plant.Marathon said it will net 142 million barrels of liquid reserves and 646 billion cubic feet of gas reserves with the acquisition.- Compiled from business wire services.

Transportation infrastructure needs $7.5 billion in work

Alaska’s highway system is in as good of shape as it has ever been, but more than $7.5 billion is needed in improvements and construction to bring the road system and state’s infrastructure up to "maturity,’’ said Joe Perkins, commissioner of the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.Perkins said Alaska must continue upgrading its entire transportation infrastructure, including airports, marine highways, harbors and roads to compete economically with other states and countries."We must keep pushing projects,’’ Perkins told members of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce Oct. 29. "Anchorage competes worldwide. ... If we don’t advance our infrastructure, we’re going to lose out to those that are efficient.’’Perkins, who was appointed by Gov. Tony Knowles in 1995, said the state has invested nearly $3 billion during his tenure as commissioner.Perkins gave updates to chamber members on the Seward, Glenn, Parks, Dalton and Alaska highways and other major projects in the state, including the $350 million upgrade and expansion at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. He said most of the road construction was completed and work at the terminal is about 40 percent done."We’re on budget; we don’t need any more money,’’ Perkins said of the Anchorage airport project. "It will be a wonderful facility that Anchorage is going to be proud of.’’Perkins is continuing to push an initiative to speed construction of roads and highways across the state, using Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle, or GARVEE, notes.In the last legislative session, Knowles proposed a bill that would allow the state to sell $425 million in the revenue-anticipation notes, but the measure failed in the Senate.The bonds would allow the state to issue revenue obligations based on anticipated federal funds allotted for transportation construction. If approved by the Legislature, funds from GARVEE would be applied to statewide projects in addition to projects that have been identified on the Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan, or STIP.Perkins said federal funding under Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, so-called "TEA-21 money,’’ is up for debate in two years."It is going to be contentious,’’ Perkins said. "The importance to Alaska is unbelievable.’’Perkins said that Alaska gets $6 for every dollar it contributes, about three times the next closest state, Wyoming, receives."We stick out like a sore thumb,’’ Perkins said of Alaska’s share of the federal program designed to fund transportation programs nationwide.Alaska receives about $320 million annually from TEA-21, and Perkins said the funding will likely be safe, due largely to the state’s powerful all-Republican congressional delegation."As long as we have a strong delegation, we’ll do fairly well,’’ he said.For his part, Perkins helped schedule an annual conference in Anchorage next October for the American Association of State Transportation Officials. The conference will allow Perkins to show other state transportation commissioners the unique transportation needs of Alaska.Perkins is chairman of the association’s standing committee on highways, which helps establish design standards for the nation’s roads and bridges.

Committee seeks teacher recruiting, retention solutions

Research has shown that an excellent teacher is a vital factor in a student’s academic success. Unfortunately, school districts across the country are experiencing a severe shortage of quality teachers, especially in the areas of math, science, special education, foreign languages and support service positions such as school counselors, speech-language pathologists and nurses.Districts are also having difficulty keeping the teachers they do have because of factors like retirement and job dissatisfaction. Regrettably, Alaska is sharing in these problems.More than 30 years ago, when my wife and I began teaching in Anchorage, the school district recruited about 300 teachers every year, and virtually all were hired from outside Alaska. Salaries were high compared with those in the Lower 48. Now, estimates put Alaska’s average teacher salaries at sixth or seventh out of the 50 states.A decade ago, 30 new teachers were required for a new school and the district received thousands of applications. This year, schools statewide started the school year with 80 teaching vacancies. Thirty positions still remain vacant.Teacher retention is just as important as recruitment, and is just as much of a problem. In some rural districts, there is 30 percent to 50 percent teacher turnover each year. In the Anchorage School District, 52 percent of those who left the classroom last year did so in the first four years of their teaching career.As chairman of the House Special Committee on Education, I recently conducted hearings around the state to investigate the specific causes of these problems and to identify ways the Legislature can help districts recruit and retain excellent teachers. The committee visited school districts in Kodiak, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Anchorage and Kotzebue. We also held a statewide teleconference.Education professionals testifying before the committee said there were several reasons for the state teacher shortage: First-year teachers feel unprepared for the challenges they encounter in real classrooms; Alaska school districts are unable to compete with the salaries, benefits and incentives provided by districts down south; Rising health insurance costs are eating away at school and family budgets; Salaries are inadequate to support the cost of living in rural areas; Adequate housing can be too expensive or nonexistent; Teachers are dropping their certifications in high-need areas due to the high cost of renewal; and Qualified teachers from other states find it too expensive and time consuming to apply for jobs in Alaska.While those testifying were clear about the problem, they were also eager to offer suggestions on how to enhance teacher recruitment and retention, including: Improving teacher preparatory programs to better equip new teachers for the challenges of today’s schools; Supporting effective mentoring programs for new teachers, both for professional skill and cultural awareness; Expanding mentoring programs for new teachers in more districts; Streamlining the certification process and repealing duplicative fees and paperwork; Establishing a student loan forgiveness program; Hiring more Alaskans; Instituting a state health insurance pool for all teachers to increase benefits and lower costs; Working with Alaska Housing Finance Corp. to provide low-interest housing; Hiring retired teachers as substitutes and full-time teachers and as mentor teachers; Increasing salaries; Making the state’s teachers exam, the Praxis, more effective to help more people become eligible for certification; and Working to increase respect for the education profession.Every state in the nation is trying to solve its teacher shortage in creative ways. Alaska must remain competitive in this very important market, support our teachers, and ensure that every student has an excellent teacher.It has been invaluable for the education committee to hear from those "in the trenches," and I am grateful to the education professionals and community members who shared their ideas with the committee. These hearings provided an important framework for further discussion and new legislation next session.Rep. Con Bunde, R-Anchorage, is chairman of the House Special Committee on Education. He can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

Alaskans shocked by court ruling on damages from tanker

JUNEAU While others waded the oil soaked shores of Prince William Sound following the Exxon Valdez disaster, Patience Andersen Faulkner was knee deep in something much worse. In the years following the worst oil spill in U.S. waters in history, Faulkner’s job was to chronicle the damage heaped on fishermen and other people in and around Cordova after the 1989 spill. She worked for attorneys pursuing a class action lawsuit against Exxon Mobil and submitted damage claims to the company. ``It was very personal for everyone. We’ve had a number of suicides that I think are from the Exxon Valdez. We’ve had a lot of destroyed relationships,’’ Faulkner said. A 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled on Wednesday that the $5 billion in punitive damages awarded by an Anchorage jury against Exxon Mobil was excessive. The panel ordered a lower court to reduce that amount. The ruling sparked anger among fishermen and others affected by the spill and prompted Gov. Tony Knowles to consider intervening.``That $5 billion would have at least put a finger in the dike,’’ Faulkner said. Her family owned a fishing permit valued at about $210,000 before the spill. If she still owned it, the permit would be worth about $50,000 for anyone foolish enough to buy it, she said. Small numbers of salmon straggle back annually but the herring are long gone and local fishermen blame Exxon Mobil. ``We all recognize violence doesn’t help, but we sure would like to choke them,’’ Faulkner said. R.J. Kobcheck fished for about 28 years but took a job with the city of Cordova to make ends meet three years ago. Herring was about half of his income. Now he’s selling his herring equipment for pennies on the dollar. ``I’m devastated. We were just hoping to be compensated for our losses out of the punitive damages,’’ Kobcheck said. A federal jury in Anchorage ordered Exxon to pay $5 billion in 1994 to thousands of commercial fishermen, Alaska Natives, property owners and others harmed by the nation’s worst oil spill. The amount was equal to a year’s worth of Exxon’s profits and at the time was the largest punitive damage award in history. In its ruling Wednesday, the Court of Appeals in San Francisco said some damages were justified to punish the company for its harmful behavior, but that $5 billion was excessive. Exxon Mobil argued the punitive damages award ``is completely unwarranted, unfair and is excessive by any legal or practical matter.’’ Lee Raymond, chairman of the Irving, Texas oil company, said through a statement the company took responsibility for the spill and has already paid more than $3 billion in clean up costs and compensation. The decision ``confirmed Exxon Mobil’s position that the $5 billion punitive damage award related to the Exxon Valdez accident is excessive,’’ he said in the statement released Wednesday. Exxon paid $2.2 billion on the spill cleanup from 1989 to 1992 and paid $300 million in compensation to 11,000 people, the company said. Exxon also paid another $1 billion in civil damages, fines and criminal restitution. Raymond said the spill ``was a tragic accident that the company deeply regrets.’’ David Oesting, a lawyer representing fisherman in the case, said he was considering whether to ask the 9th Circuit to reconsider its decision or to request the U.S. Supreme Court to review it. He said that no matter the outcome, he expects Exxon will be liable for a hefty penalty. ``The average seiner fisherman’s income here is a little over half what it was before the Exxon oil spill,’’ said Riki Ott, a marine biologist and former fisherwoman from Cordova. Alaska Attorney General Bruce Botelho said the court ruling affirmed that the company should be liable for punitive damages. ``We know that thousands of families have been impacted by the spill. It’s not over,’’ Botelho said. The state was not part of the lawsuit but reached a negotiated agreement with the federal government and Exxon in 1991. Gov. Tony Knowles said Wednesday he will attempt to bring the two sides to a negotiated settlement, saying the case has dragged on too long. ``The Exxon Valdez oil spill has really been a cloud that has hung over those fishing families and communities for more than a decade,’’ Knowles told the Associated Press. ``The court decision today didn’t bring any resolution to that.’’Knowles said he will contact the two parties to determine whether they could reach a settlement. He would not comment on what he thinks that settlement amount should be. ``Exxon does have a lot at stake here in Alaska and they want to be a responsible and good (corporate) citizen,’’ Knowles said.

Juneau cops help officers at Ground Zero

JUNEAU -- Juneau police officer Kim Martin knows the stress cops and emergency-services workers face in the line of duty.Martin and fellow officers Jerry Nankervis and Paul Comolli recently spent a week at the World Trade Center site, helping their colleagues deal with the devastation and anguish at ground zero. The police officers were joined by Ketchikan firefighter Dave Hull and Juneau psychologist Destiny Sargeant.The five Southeast Alaskans spent several days at the 17 acres of steaming, smoking rubble that has become the largest crime scene, and the largest construction site, in the world. About 50,000 cops, firefighters and construction workers don hard hats and respirators and pass through security checkpoints every day to work in an area the size of downtown Juneau.The five Alaskans are local members of a team trained in critical incident stress management, a program designed to help professionals who deal with trauma."A cop goes to car wreck after car wreck and never gets to unload any personal stress," said Comolli. "Families are usually surrounded by family members, church and all that. People never look behind them and see the first responders who are dealing with all the horror."The daily stress of police and rescue work can lead to depression, alcohol abuse, domestic violence and suicide. Members of the Southeast team were worried about the pressure their counterparts in New York City face - working grueling shifts at the World Trade Center site. They volunteered to spend a week in New York."Our team personally interacted with 1,000 people," said Sargeant. "They’re pretty gray and depleted now and we came in and were not shy."New York police officers recently eased back from 18-hour shifts, seven days a week, to 12-hour shifts with one day a week off, said Sargeant. Given the pressure, it’s no surprise fighting broke out on the site last week."They think the floodgates are about to open with these guys," Martin said.Team members said they walked around the site talking to workers, introducing themselves, asking how they were doing and offering information about dealing with stress."Sometimes it’s just a reminder to tell people to be good to themselves," said Martin.Team members wore shirts with the word POPPA across the back - for Police Organization Providing Peer Assistance."I’d say, ’I’m not a clinician, I’m not a boss, I’m a grunt like you from 4,500 miles away.’ They’d open up," Comolli said.Martin said team members asked recovery workers if they were having trouble sleeping, were cranky at home or were having disturbing dreams."It’s nice to have somebody tell you it’s normal," Martin said. " We’re safe, we’re from Alaska. They can tell us, ’Yeah, I’m yelling at my wife.’ "The stoicism of some cops was chilling. Others were receptive."It’s like a scary room," Comolli said. "You crack the door open and peek inside - that’s what we’re doing. If they come in for counseling, that’s like throwing the door open."Team members had to work a fine line."We didn’t want to bring their defenses down too much," he added."We’ve been there. We know what it’s like to have to finish your shift."One rewarding moment came when they spent time talking about Alaska and joking around with a group of firefighters taking a break."When we left this one guy said ’That was the best 15 minutes I’ve had in the past six weeks,’ " Martin said.

More Alaska Air National Guardsmen mobilized

ANCHORAGE (AP) - More Alaska Air National Guardsmen will respond to the campaign against terrorism.The Pentagon has ordered 38 more Guardsmen to be mobilized. The personnel, assigned to Kulis Air National Guard Base in Anchorage and headquarters at Fort Richardson, are in addition to the 130 mobilized at Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks. The Pentagon said 25 members of the 176th Security Forces Squadron were mobilized, along with 12 members of the 176th Wing and a single headquarters officer. Maj. Mike Haller, spokesman for the Guard, said the security personnel will patrol Kulis, while the Wing call-up is primarily ground personnel.The call-up coincided with the departure to Kuwait of an Alaska Air National Guard team for support duties for Southern Watch. That’s the operation that polices the no-fly zone over Iraq. Haller said the deployment was routine and had been scheduled before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Trading cards for lawyers lack statistics but include zodiac sign

The Connecticut law firm Day, Berry & Howard is printing trading cards featuring its lawyers. The cards will be distributed at trade shows and to potential clients. While sports trading cards typically include the athlete’s personal statistics, the Day, Berry cards will not indicate cases won and lost or number of deals closed. Instead, the lawyer trading cards will have the attorney’s area of specialization and, just in case you need it before selecting legal counsel, his or her zodiac sign.Student vs. law schoolMock court competitions are evidently just not enough to satisfy the litigious urges of some law students. Two students recently had decisions handed down in suits they brought against their schools. A student at California’s Chapman University School of Law was awarded the amount of his tuition by a court after the student sued, alleging the law school had misled him about the likelihood of obtaining ABA accreditation.A student at Duquesne University Law School sued after receiving an F in a class for which she failed to return a question booklet with her final exam. The grade was not reversed but she was allowed to graduate.Prosecutors can be frivolousTurns out personal injury attorneys are not the only ones being accused of filing frivolous lawsuits. A Kentucky court recently invoked the so-called Hyde Amendment allowing federal judges to impose fees against the U.S. Department of Justice for frivolous prosecution. In the Kentucky case, the prosecution was ordered to reimburse the defendant a portion of the money he spent to defend himself. Court watchers note, however, that a bigger deterrent than the fees is the embarrassment of having such a ruling on a prosecutor’s record.Jail mailA new software program now on the market compiles daily arrest information and merges it "into a letter, written by you [the attorney] on your letterhead." The letter is then "sent to those recently arrested" so that "those who do not know how to find a lawyer" can find one.HistoricalThe world record for the most footnotes appearing in one law review article is 4,824.FootnoteHooters restaurants havs been sued again, but not for the usual reasons. A former waitress has brought a breach of contract suit claiming that the winner of a Hooters beer-selling contest was promised a new Toyota. When the plaintiff won the contest, she was instead given a toy Yoda, as in a doll of the "Star Wars" character.Have something to share with Out of Court? E-mail it to Chet Olsen at ([email protected]).

ACS reports third quarter loss, but it's less than 2000's

Alaska Communications Systems Inc. recorded a net loss of $1.4 million for the third quarter, an improvement from a $10.9 million net loss for the same period last year.The Anchorage-based telecommunications company reported revenue increasing to $82.8 million, up from $74.9 million in third quarter 2000.For the first nine months of the year ACS listed a net loss of $9.1 million compared with a net loss of $16.7 million for the same period in 2000.Revenue for 2001 through Sept. 30 increased to $245.8 million, up from $233.8 recorded last year.Local telephone revenue was $53.9 million for third quarter, also a gain from $50.8 recorded for third quarter 2000. Local telephone revenue for the first nine months of this year decreased from $168 million in 2000 to $163 million in 2001.ACS reported a total of 333,166 access lines as of Sept. 30.Cellular revenue climbed to $11 million for the third quarter, up from $10.9 million for third quarter 2000. Cellular subscribers totaled 78,758 for the quarter, an increase from 73,196 for the same period last year. Average cellular revenue per unit was $46.78 for the quarter, down from $49.72 recorded last year.ACS listed 67,211 long-distance subscribers at the end of the third quarter, a jump from 39,734 subscribers recorded a year ago.The company recorded Internet subscribers reached 50,500, up from 43,785 reported at third quarter 2000. ACS attributes the increase to its acquisition of MosquitoNet in Fairbanks early in July.

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