Providence sleep disorders center wins five-year accreditation

The Sleep Disorders Center at Providence Alaska Medical Center recently received a five-year accreditation from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.To receive this accreditation a center must exceed all standards for health care set by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Accreditation follows inspections of the center’s facility and staff including an evaluation of testing procedures, patient contacts and physician training.The Providence Sleep Disorders Center was originally accredited in October 1990.The American Academy of Sleep Medicine is a professional membership organization dedicated to assuring quality care for patients with sleep disorders, promoting the advancement of sleep research and providing public and professional education.Providence sponsors benefit bazaarProvidence Alaska Medical Center has scheduled its annual holiday bazaar from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Anchorage hospital.The event will be conducted near the cafeteria. The bazaar will feature more than 70 booths organized by Providence employees who will sell their handmade craft items.Proceeds from the event will support the Children’s Miracle Network, which helps Alaska’s children. For more information, call 907-261-6078.Breast cancer support group schedules meetingThe Mat-Su Breast Cancer Support Group scheduled its monthly support group meeting for Nov. 13. The group will meet from 7-9 p.m. at Valley Hospital Medical Campus Classroom C in Wasilla.Guest speaker is Dr. David Mayschak, a general surgeon from the Matanuska-Susitna area.In December the group plans to meet on Dec. 11.For more information call 907-376-8689.Alaska Regional plans eventsAlaska Regional Hospital plans to conduct a family health fair this month. The Healthy Family Holiday Fair on Nov. 17 will feature health information and screenings, children’s activities, hospital department exhibits and a holiday book fair among other activities.The fair will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Anchorage hospital. For more information call 907-264-1113.Alaska Regional also has scheduled a free, four-week education program beginning Nov. 20 for adult cancer patients, their families and friends. The program is sponsored by the hospital and the American Cancer Society.Oncology specialists will lead the program called "I Can Cope." They will discuss topics ranging from knowledge of human anatomy in relation to cancer diagnosis and treatment, methods of managing physical challenges resulting from cancer treatment, identifying community resources and support, and maintaining self-esteem and a positive outlook.The class will meet Tuesdays, 6-7:30 p.m., through Dec. 11 at the Alaska Regional Hospital Cancer Resource Center on the second floor of the Medical Office Building B.For more information, call Judie Link at 907-264-1579.Doctor approved for deviceA physician at Providence Alaska Medical Center is one the first physicians to offer a high-tech device used as a new treatment for heart failure.Hospital officials said Dr. Steven Compton of the Alaska Heart Institute and Providence is the only physician in the state trained in the procedure. He has implanted the device in four of his patients to date, according to Providence officials.InSync cardiac resynchronization therapy, developed by Medtronic, received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval in late August. Providence officials said the InSync cardiac resynchronization therapy is the first implantable therapy to be approved by the FDA for heart failure patients.Of the estimated 5 million Americans with heart failure about 650,000 patients would be candidates for the treatment, according to hospital officials.Providence features guest chef, nutrition at eventProvidence Alaska Medical Center plans to host its 15th annual Elegance of Good Nutrition fund-raising dinner. The event runs from 6-8 p.m. at the Sheraton Anchorage Hotel Howard Rock Ballroom.Anchorage chefs will prepare low-fat, low cholesterol dishes for the event. Guest chef Graham Kerr, author and television series host of the "Galloping Gourmet," will share information with area chefs.Proceeds from the event will benefit the Providence Heart Center.Tickets cost $45 and are available at the Providence Alaska Foundation office, Providence Alaska Medical Center gift shop, Cafe del Mundo and Great Harvest Bread Co., or by calling 907-261-5643.

ASMI gets badly-needed grant funds from unusual source

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is about to receive a virtually string-free $25 million grant to expand its international promotions effort. The only potential problem is that ASMI will get the money as Jamaican dollars on deposit in a Jamaican bank.One of the stipulations in the law is we can only disperse this money in local currencies, explained Ed Covey, a marketing specialist for the U.S. Department of Agricultures Foreign Agricultural Service in Washington, D.C. The State Department cannot convert it to (U.S.) dollars. The recipients can convert it to any currency they wish to.At a current exchange rate of 45 greenbacks to one Jamaican buck, the grant drops to 550,000 U.S. dollars. But ASMI is facing a $1.3 million cut in its overall fiscal year 2002 budget, mainly due to decreased salmon prices, and isnt in a position to be picky.Ive heard some horror stories from some people depending on what currencies they seek, said K.C. Dochtermann, ASMIs international marketing director, but hes also found another recipient who secured its grant in U.S. currency for only a $20 fee.What weve found is if they deal with an international bank its no big deal, Covey said. Theres administrative charges, but other than the currency devaluation, you have to figure that in, its being done.The grant will allow ASMI to add $250,000 to its European Union promotional budget, $200,000 to its China program and $100,000 to a new Korean marketing effort. And while the available funds are dwindling, Dochtermann expects up to the equivalent of $5 million will be available from Jamaica and will apply for another grant from the so-called Section 108 program next year.Its a program that came out of the Food for Peace program, USDAs Covey said.That Carter-era program offered loans to needy countries to buy grain from U.S. suppliers. Loan repayments were not required for 10 years, and the borrowers had 10 years to repay the funds. They were also permitted to make the payments in their national currency, Covey explained.Borrowers were also permitted to reborrow up to 95 percent of the repaid funds, but the remainder went to the USDAs market development program for U.S. exporters.In 1996 the State Department began receiving repayment and managing recirculation of the funds in banks around the world, but it had no access to the money for its own use.Around 1999 the State Department said give it to us, and thats when we made a conscious effort to spend it, Covey explained. We just werent pushing it to the extent we could. We were spending little dribbles of it, but it was coming in in big chunks.Only seven countries participated in the original program, so funds are available in their currencies. Beside Jamaican dollars they include Costa Rican colones, Dominican Republic pesos, Moroccan durhams, Sri Lankan rupees, Guatemalan quetzales and Tunisian dinars.Bob Tkacz is a free-lance writer living in Juneau. He can be reached at ([email protected]).

$3 million Kenai public health center officially dedicated

KENAI - The new Kenai Public Health Center, is more than just a place to get a flu shot or have an X-ray taken. It is a testament to what can be accomplished when an entire community gets behind a project, said Elmer Lindstrom, the special assistant to the state commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services.Staff of the new facility, area politicians involved in the project, interested community members and others came together to celebrate the grand opening and dedication of the new facility, located at 630 Barnacle Way, Oct. 26. The building houses Alaska Public Health Nurse services and a Central Peninsula General Hospital outpatient clinic.The public health services program gives a wide variety of immunizations for babies, children and adults. In addition, it offers communicable diseases follow-ups, a family planning clinic, health education programs, screening and referrals for children with special needs and an intensive home and hospital visiting program for prenatal clients or clients with young children.All childhood services are free and adult services are offered with sliding scale fees, meaning certain procedures carry a certain fee based on federal Medicare rates, but if a patient can’t afford to pay the fee it can be waived or reduced so everyone can receive services.The CPGH portion of the facility serves as a nonemergency extension of the hospital that offers imaging services and a lab, although blood and other samples must be sent to the hospital for processing. The facility is equipped to do several imaging services, including mammograms, X-rays, electrocardiograms and bone density scans.The CPGH outpatient facility did not exist before the new building was completed. It is a convenience to both the hospital, which can send nontrauma patients to the outpatient clinic, and patients."It makes a great deal of difference for the people that would previously have to drive all the way to the hospital to have services done," said Renee Howarth, a certified medical assistant at the facility."At the hospital sometimes you have other departments you have to go through to get a procedure done," she said. "Here it’s a clinical setting; the minute you walk through the door you’re greeted with a smiling face. It’s a lot less waiting time and the registration procedure is faster. That’s what everyone has commented on - it’s painless."Housing all the public health services under one roof is a convenience for the staff, patients and everyone involved as well, said Hagen. The public health services used to be spread between the basement of Kenai City Hall, the Tangent Building and the old courthouse.The plan for the building came about five years ago after the city council initiated a study to determine how much need there was in the community for such a facility. The results of the study showed an overwhelming need for a medical facility in Kenai, said Kenai Mayor John Williams. Kenai is the largest community on the peninsula, yet it had no hospital or public medical facility, Williams said.The study also included several possible sites and cost estimates for the facility. The Barnacle Way site was chosen because the parcel of land was unused. There was no danger of soil contaminants, it was quiet, off the main roads, had utilities nearby and at 1.6 acres, it was large enough to accommodate the facility, Williams said.The city council donated the land, which was valued at around $180,000, Williams said. The state Legislature granted $1.7 million to the project, the hospital board kicked in another million, and the Kenai Peninsula Borough footed the bill for a lot of the facility’s equipment.According to Williams, the facility cost well over $3 million."We’ve got our money’s worth out of it," Williams said. "It’s a first-class facility."The building itself is sectioned into two areas, with the public health program on one side and the outpatient clinic on the other. It provides a friendly environment for patients, Howarth said, and even has an Italian-tile mural titled "Sea Life See Health" by Homer artists Paula and Brad Dickey in the waiting room."It’s a beautiful facility; spacious, light and bright, and welcoming and warm," Howarth said. "Everybody that’s come in has commented on the beautiful colors and artwork that’s been done."The building was completed in July, five years after its inception. This was a good time line for this type of project, Williams said, especially considering how many government agencies and other organizations were involved and needed to come to an agreement on it. The facility has been seeing patients since a few days after opening.

State weighs ferry cost claims from Ketchikan shipyard

JUNEAU - Alaska Ship and Drydock officials say they are encouraged by discussions with the state this week about who is responsible for delays in returning the ferry Columbia to Southeast waters after months of repairs.The Columbia went through a $10.5 million refurbishment project at the Ketchikan shipyard earlier this year. The project included repairs after a switchboard fire as well as upgrades to the ship’s staterooms and public spaces.The ship was to be turned over to the state May 26, but was delivered July 19, according to Bob Doll, Southeast regional director for the state Department of Transportation. Under federal rules, the shipyard is responsible for about $4 million in damages for the delay, according to the state.In a move to keep the struggling shipyard afloat financially, Alaska Ship and Drydock argued late last month it is not solely responsible for the delay and asked the state for about $2.8 million in compensation."Essentially our position is that the state has some responsibility for the delay," said Doug Ward, director of shipyard development. "There were problems with the initial specs put out by the state and change orders."As an example, the shipyard is arguing the specified cabin bulkheads didn’t meet requirements and acceptable switchboard breakers weren’t available. Asbestos led to schedule delays throughout the project, and the state’s contractor didn’t finish abatement until July 14, days before the vessel sailed, according to the shipyard.DOT’s Doll described the meeting, which lasted a day and a half, as an "informal presentation" by the shipyard. The state has not received a formal claim from Alaska Ship and Drydock asking for compensation, he said."We’re considering the presentation. There was a lively discussion about the validity of various assertions made by ASD," Doll said.The state will ask for more information about costs and employee hours, he said. Whatever decision is made, Doll said the state must adhere to federal procurement rules."It has been asserted by some, including people at Alaska Ship and Drydock, that the AMHS does not want a shipyard in Ketchikan or doesn’t want to send its ships there. Let me state as emphatically as I can that that is not correct," Doll said. "DOT’s attitude is that the shipyard is important to the success of our operations and we will do everything we can to encourage its success."Ward said the shipyard hopes to avoid a formal dispute-resolution process."We’re encouraged the state is looking for ways to find early resolution and is working in good faith," he said.Because of the Columbia delays, the shipyard has had a difficult time attracting new work, he said.The Ketchikan Borough Assembly in August allowed the shipyard to use $1 million in local funds as a bond guarantee so it could qualify for routine state ferry maintenance overhauls, Ward said. Other projects, such as the Annette Island ferry construction and the $15 million reactivation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship Fairweather, hang in the balance, Ward said. ASD was unable to bid on the third phase of Columbia upgrades, he said.The Columbia is now in Ketchikan and a Portland, Ore., shipyard is the apparent low bidder on the federal upgrade project, Doll said.The shipyard now employs 41 people, down from 100 workers at this time last year. Winter is the busy season for the shipyard, and peak employment last year was 200 people, Ward said."This is the time of year we should be going into our repair season and we should be ramping up," he said. "Instead, we’re having to reduce our work force."Alaska Ship and Drydock has an agreement with the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority to operate the shipyard. As the landlord, AIDEA is not involved in the Columbia discussions but is mindful of the shipyard’s position, executive director Bob Poe said."ASD has been the first operator to make this a financial success and is a significant employer in Ketchikan," he said. "We’ve enjoyed working with them and think they’ve done a good job."Poe said AIDEA will continue to work with ASD to help it move ahead, but is cognizant it will need to get other operators interested if things can’t be resolved."(ASD) has been in regular communication with us and has been frank about the challenges. They’ve been a great partner in this," he said. "We want to stay focused on jobs in Ketchikan."

Alaskaland adopts Pioneer Park name

FAIRBANKS - Alaskaland is officially now Pioneer Park.The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly adopted the new name with an almost unanimous vote on Oct. 25. Only Assemblywoman Victoria Foote voted against the measure, saying she wanted a more multicultural sounding name."We need to be more inclusionary," she said.The vote came after an attempt to postpone the issue was defeated. Some Assembly members said they were tired of prolonging it."We have had masses of e-mails," said Assemblywoman Bonnie Williams, a sponsor of the name-change measure. "I’ve had lots of phone calls. We’re elected to make decisions, so let’s do it."The name Pioneer Park is the historical park’s original name. It was changed to Alaskaland when it served as a focal point for the celebration of the United States’ purchase of Alaska from Russia.The park is one of the area’s main tourist attractions.But over the years many Fairbanks residents have complained about the name. They say it conjures images of roller coasters instead of rustic cabins."The pioneers are the ones who originated the park and they should be recognized," said pioneer Merrill Hakala, one of several people who testified on the issue.The Assembly’s action came despite a memorandum from borough Mayor Rhonda Boyles requesting a visitor focus group to select a new name, since the reason for the change is to make the park’s purpose clearer to tourists."If we are going to change the name of Alaskaland, I feel strongly that the new name needs to be targeted to increase visitor traffic," Boyles’ memo said.The Pioneer Park proposal called for the new name to become effective on Labor Day 2002.

Adak jet service thrown into limbo

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 have put Evergreen International Airlines Inc.’s plans to provide jet service to Adak and the Russian Far East in a tailspin.Evergreen in July was awarded a $1.5 million annual subsidy by the federal Department of Transportation to provide twice weekly cargo and passenger jet service to Adak, under the condition the airline would purchase a Boeing 727-100 combi or similar airplane by mid-November.Evergreen officials said the two-year subsidy intended solely for Adak would help underwrite service to the Russian Far East scheduled to begin early next year.The problem for Evergreen now is that airlines have been prohibited from flying cargo in the bellies of passenger aircraft under a new rule by the Federal Aviation Administration put in place immediately after the terrorist attacks on the East Coast.In other words, the federal government is requiring the company to fly both passengers and cargo in the same airplane, but new rules prevent that from happening."It’s a Catch-22," said Greg Thies, Evergreen’s director of marketing in Anchorage.The company was set to lease an airplane that would meet the requirements of Department of Transportation’s Essential Air Service program, said Christina Wallace, Evergreen’s director of sales in Alaska.But then came the terrorist attacks in Washington and New York."It takes a lot of coordination to bring something like this on line, and everybody here has been going full bore," said Wallace of coordinating flights to Aleutian Island communities and the Russian Far East. "Sept. 11 put everyone back a step, not just in aviation. For us it’s added another hill to climb."We are not going to lease an airplane we can’t fly," Wallace said.Exactly what the company will do next is yet to be determined."It’s still up in the air," Wallace said. "We’ve done everything we can do. Right now, we’re on hold."Evergreen and other airlines in Alaska are hopeful of some congressional help to, among other things, allow cargo and passengers on the same airplane.Sens. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, authored an amendment that would give the secretary of Transportation the authority to waive any of FAA’s new restrictions, given the noncontinental states’ uniqueness and inordinately high dependence on air travel.The Adak flights could be the poster child for the amendment to the Aviation Security Bill, which passed the Senate on Oct. 11.The House version of the bill has yet to be addressed and may not be until after the first of next year, according to aides in Republican Rep. Don Young’s Washington, D.C., office.Meanwhile, the communities of Adak and Cold Bay are being served.Peninsula Airways Inc. is providing passenger service to the Aleutian Island communities, under an interim federal award of about $4,000 weekly in its turbo-prop airplane. Evergreen is being paid roughly $7,000 for each of its cargo flights with its DC-9 cargo jet.Evergreen still hopes to provide Adak and nearby Cold Bay with two one-stop round-trips a week to Anchorage, year-round, under the terms of the federal contract.Whatever happens, Evergreen will not leave the Aleutian Island communities out in the cold, Evergreen officials said."We are not going to abandon anybody in Adak or Cold Bay, period," Thies said.

In 40 years, Evergreen expands around world

From helicopters to hazelnuts and from 747s to Christmas trees, Evergreen International Airlines Inc. has grown to one of the most diversified aviation companies in the world.Founded in 1961 in a hangar at Anchorage’s Merrill Field by former crop duster and Air Force pilot Delford Smith, Evergreen International Airlines now employs more than 4,000 people at about 185 locations worldwide.The company had more than $700 million in revenues last year from its dozen subsidiaries, whose services include air cargo handling and hauling, selling and leasing aircraft, and assorted agricultural enterprises.Smith remains the sole owner."It’s the Alaska homegrown success story," said Greg Thies, Evergreen’s director of marketing in Anchorage.Smith, who lived in Anchorage throughout the 1960s, established Evergreen’s corporate headquarters in McMinnville, Ore. But the company is anchored in Alaska, with a helicopter division, an aviation services and cargo company, and an avionics retail and service business, Avionics Specialists of Alaska Inc.About 350 people are employed in Alaska by Evergreen.Evergreen holds the U.S. Postal Service contract for Southeast Alaska, flying mail in DC-9s between Seattle, Ketchikan, Sitka and Juneau.Evergreen Helicopters of Alaska holds one of the oldest postal contracts in the United States, flying mail via helicopter from Nome to the tiny northwest communities of Diomede and Wales. The postal contract, begun in 1982, is the only one that uses helicopters to deliver the mail, Thies said.Evergreen Aviation Ground Logistics Enterprises, or EAGLE, at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport handles more than 100,000 pounds of mail daily for the Postal Service, said Roger Kegley, EAGLE general manager. EAGLE also provides ground handling, aircraft maintenance, de-icing, cleaning and refueling for various air carriers in Anchorage.Evergreen International has a fleet of 11 Boeing 747 cargo airplanes in worldwide service. About 26 of those flights arrive and depart Anchorage weekly.Evergreen charters its Anchorage-based DC-9 airplane for cargo operations throughout Alaska, the Lower 48 and the Russian Far East.From its Anchorage base, Evergreen runs operations for five Spanish-made turboprop CASAs, running passengers and cargo throughout Central America. The airplanes are based in Panama.Evergreen’s health, safety and environmental management company is in Anchorage, a division that monitors and ensures the aviation company’s compliance with federal laws.The company operates its Aerospaciale high-altitude mountain rescue helicopter, the Denali Lama, at Denali National Park and Preserve.Evergreen Helicopters of Alaska started 40 years ago in a building that is now occupied by Dan’s Aircraft Repair Inc. The helicopter division is now across the street on Merrill Field Drive. The company’s helicopters provide firefighting, construction, oil exploration, movie filming and rescue support throughout Alaska.Evergreen’s growth soared in the 1960s and 1970s, flying soldiers and cargo to Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War era.During that time, the company also operated passenger and cargo routes to the Bush for now-defunct Wien Air Alaska. Evergreen provided helicopters and airplanes during the construction of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline and the oil exploration in the Gulf of Alaska and Prudhoe Bay.The Alaska operations laid the groundwork for the Evergreen’s expansion around the world, Thies said.Evergreen’s aviation services company provides logistics, ground handling and maintenance for carriers like United Parcel Service and the U.S. Postal Service at about 20 domestic airports. The company transports cargo for other airlines, freight forwarders and the U.S. government, including during wartime.Evergreen Air Center at Pinal Air Park in Marana, Ariz., is the largest airplane storage and maintenance yard in the world. The 1,700 acre facility caters to commercial, military and private aircraft.This summer, the company’s nonprofit Captain Michael King Smith Evergreen Aviation Educational Institution opened the Evergreen Aviation Heritage Museum in McMinnville, Ore. The museum features the HK-1 Howard Hughes "Spruce Goose" and many other historic aircraft from around the world.Beyond aviation, the company owns Evergreen Agricultural Enterprises Inc., consisting of more than 6,000 acres of farms and nurseries in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.Evergreen produces nursery plants, grass seed, cereal grains, clover seed, walnuts, hazelnuts, wine grapes and Christmas trees sold in the United States and in international markets.A subsidiary processes dried nuts, fruit, candies, cookies and chocolates under the brand name Evergreen Orchards.

Metals prices low, but mining projects still see progress

Progress is being made on several Alaska mining projects despite low metals prices.In Southwest Alaska, a summer drilling program at the large Donlin Creek gold project has confirmed more high-grade gold resources, and Novagold Resources Inc., of San Jose, Calif., says the information will allow it to develop gold resource estimates as well as a pre-feasibility development scoping study this winter.Both will be done by mid-March 2002, the company said. The scoping study could lead to an engineering pre-feasibility study, an important step in the development of the project.In Southeast Alaska, Coeur Alaska Inc. officials have told Juneau community leaders they intend to initiate a permit effort for the Kensington Mine redevelopment, a major gold project on Berners Bay north of Juneau.Kensington had been approved by federal, state and local agencies, but the permits issued are for a development plan that requires onshore tailings disposal and storage that would be too costly under low gold prices.Coeur, the project developer, has a new, lower-cost alternative tailings disposal plan, but it will require new permits. Juneau Mayor Sally Smith said she has been told the company will file for a supplementary environmental impact study in mid-November.In eastern Interior Alaska, Ventures Resource Corp., a mining exploration company, announced finding significant base metals mineralization in ore samples from two properties in the Fortymile River area, the Fish and Little Whiteman prospects.Twenty samples taken at Fish show zinc values of more than 6 percent, with five samples exceeding 20 percent and three others between 10 percent and 20 percent.In contrast, the Red Dog Mine in northwest Alaska produces ore that is 18 percent to 20 percent zinc, which is considered a good grade, according to independent geologists.Samples taken at Little Whiteman showed lead-zinc values ranged from 6 percent to 40 percent and silver values ranging to 13 ounces per ton.The company said it is preparing a drill program for both prospects for the 2002 season and is soliciting partners in the project.Independent geologists cautioned that while the prospect deserves further work, a few high-value samples dont indicate an economic mine by themselves. What is important is determining the extent of the mineralization and the range of ore grades extending through the area.Donlin Creek, meanwhile, is of great significance for its landowner, Calista Corp., the Alaska Native regional corporation for Southwest Alaska. With gold resources estimated at more than 10 million ounces, the mine would be one of the largest gold mines developed in the state if it went into production.Novagold took over as operator last year from Placer Dome, which holds the lease on the property with Calista. Novagolds strategy in its 2001 exploration program was to drill and expand the gold resource at a known high-grade zone in the ore body.Novagold announced results from its 2001 drilling in midsummer and again on Oct. 25. Both reports confirmed the presence of high-grade ore.The hope is that even with gold prices low, the high-grade zone may support a small-scale development that would ultimately expand once the mine was in production, according to Jeff Foley, a minerals geologist with Calista.Donlin Creek faces other challenges, however. The ore process that will be needed requires large amounts of electricity.A Calista subsidiary is working on a regional power development plan that would include coal-fueled power plants generating electricity, including one near Donlin Creek.Donlin Creek could be a major employer in the Calista region, an economically depressed part of the state. Since 70 percent of Native corporation mineral royalties are shared with other Native regional corporations, all Alaska Natives would benefit from Donlin Creek development.The Kensington Mine near Juneau would also become a significant local employer if the mine is developed. Estimates are that more than 200 production jobs would be created by the mine.The development plan approved under current permits provide for onshore storage of tailings behind a large earth retaining structure. The capital cost required for this makes the mine uneconomic under current gold prices, company officials said.The companys new plan involves tailings disposal in a small nearby lake and is considerably less expensive. That, along with efficiencies in operations, means the mine could be economic even with gold markets at relatively low levels.

Tourism shortfalls mean 40 jobs lost from Goldbelt Inc.

Layoffs spurred by reduced income from tourism will total 40 Goldbelt Inc. employees, including nearly half of the executive staff, corporate officials said Oct. 24.Juneau’s urban Native corporation began eliminating positions early in October to cut costs, with the last phase of layoffs set for Oct. 26. Goldbelt employs 600 people.In addition to 11 executive staff cuts, it is scaling back five positions at Goldbelt’s Juneau subsidiaries, 12 positions in Glacier Bay and 12 positions in its Seattle subsidiaries, said Gary Droubay, chief executive officer .The corporation, Droubay said, also is requiring some managers to take two weeks’ unpaid leave over the winter and cutting some management salaries by 10 percent. Droubay said Goldbelt may have to cancel its winter cruise offerings off Baja California in the Sea of Cortez because of abysmal bookings."It’s hard to quantify what we are losing," said Karen Livingston, corporate human resources manager. "This has a real human quality to it because they were not only employees but also shareholders, so to my thinking it’s been terrible. It’s still fresh and it’s been very emotional around here."The layoffs come after a slow season that came on the heels of a $3.5 million loss in 2000. Droubay said he doesn’t know yet the projected losses for this year.Goldbelt has more than 3,300 shareholders, more than half of whom live in Juneau, according to a corporate press release. The corporation operates tourism, cruise and lodging businesses in addition to managing stocks and land. Its tourism ventures include the Mount Roberts Tramway, Glacier Bay tours, Auk Nu tours and the Goldbelt Hotel.Livingston said the corporation usually hires about 350 seasonal employees whose jobs end with the summer tourist season. However, this year Goldbelt decided to make eight of its executive accounting positions seasonal also, she said."We’ve always kept these people through the winter in order to keep the talent we have even if there wasn’t much for them to do," Livingston said. "But we’ve had to find ways to cut costs, and it’s just not efficient to run things that way."She added that with new accounting software the corporation is able to do the same work with fewer people. Livingston said that some of the executive positions may be available again in the summer.Glacier Bay Lodge bookings, Auk Nu tour bookings, and Goldbelt Hotel sales were all down 10 percent this year. Droubay said the company relies heavily on independent travelers, whose numbers already were down over the summer. Terrorist events on the East Coast dealt the final blow, however, and affected cash flow across the board, he said."September definitely hurt," Droubay said. "Between the slow economy which was already there and the incident on 9-11, ... we’re just trying to hold things together right now."Livingston said the corporation has tried to help place the laid-off workers in other companies and has offered help with resumes. She said many have obtained other jobs, and Goldbelt has received inquiries from other companies looking for accounting help.

Evergreens Denali Lama rescues climbers

The number of Christmas cards Jim Hood and Ray Touzeau receive every year closely corresponds with the number of climbers they have helped rescue off Mount McKinley.The humble helicopter heroes each have a mantelful.Hood is the pilot and Touzeau is the mechanic for Evergreen Helicopters of Alaska Inc.s high-altitude mountain rescue helicopter based in Talkeetna.The duo have been a team at Denali National Park and Preserve for the past several years.Dubbed the Denali Lama by Hood a decade ago, the French-made Aerospaciale helicopter has plucked many stricken mountaineers off North Americas highest peak.Hood, 42, has been flying the Lama since 1991 and has logged about 4,000 hours in the Alaska Range.Over the years, Hood, relief pilot Francisco Orlaineta and Touzeau, along with National Park Service rangers and rescue volunteers have been credited with saving dozens of lives.Weve alleviated a lot of pain and suffering, Hood said from his home in Alpine, Wyo., where he flies rescue helicopters in the winter.One of Hoods most memorable rescues in Alaska came years ago. It involved a climber who suffered severe frostbite and likely would have died without the Lama.The former mountaineer stays in touch with Hood more than just at Christmas.He lost his feet, but he still ballroom dances, Hood said.Not all climbers are as fortunate.Too often, the helicopter has been used to remove the bodies of climbers from the 20,320-foot mountain, where 31 people have lost their lives since 1990.Hood holds two records for high-altitude rescue on Mount McKinley, one at 19,700 feet using a remote control grappling device on a long line below the helicopter that was used to grab a climber and lower him to safety. The other record was at 18,800 feet, where a rescuer was attached to the line to haul a climber off the mountain.The National Park Service pays Evergreen about $300,000 a year to provide the helicopter and three-member crew at Denali National Park and Preserve.The helicopter is used at the height of the climbing season, from mid-April through mid-July.About 1,100 climbers attempt Mount McKinley annually, but the success rate to the summit is a little better than half, according to the Park Service.Climbers on Mount McKinley and nearby Mount Foraker are charged a special-use fee of $150 per climber. The money is used to offset costs related to rescues, such as climber education programs and a high-altitude ranger station.But many climbers balk at the user fee, and some oppose the use of the Lama rescue helicopter.In a letter to the National Park Service, American Alpine Club President James Frush said the Lama helicopter should be cut out to contain the costs associated with mountain rescues in the Alaska Range.The Lama definitely has allowed some rescues to be conducted that otherwise would not have been possible, and some people who survived may have died without it, Frush wrote.But the Lama is used as a sort of safety net by some climbers, who might not attempt the mountain if the helicopter were not there, Frush wrote.Beyond saving money, reducing the rescue infrastructure in the park also sends a powerful message to climbers, particularly foreign mountaineers, that rescue services are no longer near at hand, Frush wrote.Hood strongly disagrees.Hard-core climbers dont want to pay until they are the ones up there that need some help, Hood said.The Lama is not cheap, Hood said. Without it, the national park would fill up with dead bodies.Evergreen owns three of the 33 Lamas that are in service in the United States. Two are used in the Lower 48.Mechanic Touzeau, 31, said the Lama is the only civilian helicopter to have oxygen bottles on board.The helicopters were produced through the 1960s and early 1970s. They weigh a wispy 2,600 pounds and produce nearly 900 horsepower from a single turbine engine.The high power-to-weight ratio allows the helicopter to climb at more than 1,700 feet a minute at altitude, said Touzeau, who works at Evergreens corporate headquarters in McMinnville, Ore. during the winter.The helicopter holds altitude records at more than 42,000 feet. The Lama also holds the auto-rotation record for a helicopter, where one dropped safely more than 2 miles without power.

Retirees: Research your mortgage

For most people, conventional wisdom supports the idea of paying off the home mortgage before retirement. Therefore, a retiree should be debt free, allowing income from pensions, Social Security and retirement distributions to support living expenses. From an estate standpoint, the home would be transferred to the children free and clear at death.Could there be reasons for maintaining a mortgage in retirement? Individuals with a large amount in a retirement program, individual retirement account or 401(k) in the form of securities, or paper assets, may want to consider the following:1) A balanced portfolio of paper assets to hard assets.2) Potential substantial tax burden imposed on mandated retirement fund withdrawals at age 70 1/2.3) Life in a beautiful home that could increase the size of an individual’s legacy.4) The income tax benefits of deductible mortgage interest.Instead of paying off the mortgage on an existing house, you may consider trading up to a more valuable home or purchasing a second home. The increased mortgage can be covered by an increase in withdrawals from the retirement plan. A recent article on this subject suggested $2 million as a minimum retirement plan to provide for a mortgage payment without diluting value to meet future retirement needs.The results of this transaction are a shift of capital from paper assets to real estate, retention of a deduction for income tax calculation and an improved lifestyle in retirement.In addition, by making the purchase before 70 1/2, the increased withdrawals at an earlier age will cause reduced taxes from mandatory distributions, since there will be less money accumulating in the retirement plan from which to draw.Let’s look at a simple scenario of a retiree at age 65 with $2 million in a retirement plan, and we’ll assume a 6 percent return on the investments in this plan. We’ll call our retiree Joe. Joe trades his house valued at $500,000 for a house costing $1 million and borrows $800,000, with the remainder coming from equity in his current home. The mortgage rate is 7 percent and term is 15 years.Under this example, Joe would draw the earnings each year, about $86,000 for mortgage payments and $34,000 for living expenses. The first year, he would reduce taxable income of $120,000 by the interest expense of about $55,000. At a 30 percent tax bracket, Joe would save $16,500 excluding all other factors. At 70 1/2, the amount remaining to be drawn from retirement is still $2 million and the remaining estate is in the value of the residence.If Joe hadn’t purchased the residence as proposed, his retirement nest egg would have compounded to about $2.75 million. Using the same 6 percent formula, Joe will be taxed on $165,000 in distributions vs. about $78,000 in the sixth year, a savings of $26,000 in taxes that year alone.The argument can be made that Joe would save about $105,000 in taxes if he didn’t draw from his plan since there wouldn’t be income from retirement withdrawals. That savings is only for the 5 1/2 years before 70 1/2, while the tax savings from carrying the mortgage for the next five years would be about $128,000 and savings would continue until death or repayment of the mortgage.Of course, this simple scenario about Joe, while interesting and may result in some thinking about the options, isn’t complete. All factors in a financial decision like purchasing a more expensive home need to be considered before spending the money. They include: Does the real estate fit well in Joe’s portfolio? Are there other tax issues like other earnings or other deductibles? Will Joe be in a different tax bracket during retirement? Does the investment portfolio support the decision? Does Joe want an expensive home to live in? What would be the consequences of pulling retirement funds and paying off the existing mortgage vs. maintaining the existing home and mortgage? Would Joe be better off purchasing a second home?Before planning to retire without a home mortgage, consider the scenario of Joe and the potential advantages in purchasing a larger home, retaining a mortgage on the existing home or mortgaging a second home. If you are unsure, check with your accountant or a certified financial planner.Ron Kukes is president and chief executive of First Interstate Bank of Alaska. He can be reached via e-mail at ([email protected]).

Valdez health authority seeks new hospital, sets meeting

Operators of Valdez Community Hospital have proposed building a new facility, and a public meeting is scheduled this month as part of a required state review process.The Valdez Regional Health Authority has proposed construction of a new facility to replace its current property, located in part of the former state-owned Harborview facility, said chief executive Jim Culley.That building, built in 1967, was closed and boarded up in 1997, he said.The state Department of Health and Social Services, which regulates major health care facility construction, has scheduled a public meeting for 6:30-8 p.m. Nov. 10 at the City Council Chambers in Valdez.The health authority in Valdez has proposed building a $24.7 million, 68,500-square-foot building, Culley said. That cost includes design and bonding requirements, Culley noted."If everything went well, we would break ground in late summer 2002," he said.Using that timeline the project could be finished by summer 2004, he said.Currently, the Valdez Community Hospital occupies 25,000 square feet of the former 80,000-square-foot mental health facility.A new facility would provide needed updates to Valdez area health care providers, Culley said."Most hospitals have ongoing programs of modernization," he said.The health authority decided to pursue construction when estimates for renovating the existing building climbed close to new construction costs, he said.The new, one-story facility would be larger because it would include services not currently offered at the hospital, he said. The replacement hospital could include a laundry and dietary facilities, he noted. Meals are now prepared at Providence Alaska Medical Center and flown to Valdez, he said. Other proposed services include physical therapy and mental health services.Proposed changes include approval for 11 acute care beds and 10 long-term care beds, he said. Currently, Valdez Community Hospital is certified for 15 acute care beds, which are also used for non-acute care patients.The Valdez Regional Health Authority aims to create a health care campus on 15 to 18 acres near the senior center, according to Culley. The plan includes building the new facility on city-owned land and developing the health care campus on land that includes the current Harborview facility. State officials have said the health authority could acquire the land but have not allotted money for demolition of the old building, he said."We’re trying to negotiate with the state on that," he said.If the health authority did pay for demolition, the total project would cost $26.5 million, he said.The Valdez Regional Health Authority, which operates the hospital and Valdez Counseling Center, submitted a certificate of need application June 16, he said.On Oct. 9 state health department officials notified Culley that the application was complete, kicking off the next step."Once they declare the certificate application complete, the department has 90 days to complete a review of the application," Culley said. "Then they submit an analysis and recommendation to the commissioner."The review is to be finished Jan. 8. Reviews study the community health care needs of the area that might be served by a new hospital, said David Pierce, certificate of need coordinator for the state Department of Health and Social Services. The process also will analyze the estimated number of bed days at the hospital and gauge whether the proposed facility is the appropriate size, he said.The state health department will look at the financial feasibility and staffing needs of the project, he noted."The thing we will be looking for is ’does it seem reasonable that this will be a successful endeavor?’ " he said.

Around the World November 4, 2001

STATEFort Greely site work nears completionFAIRBANKS - Initial site work at the National Missile Defense Test Bed at Fort Greely is expected to be finished soon.Lt. Col. Richard Lehner, a Missile Defense spokesman in Washington, D.C., said workers are about 75 percent finished removing the top soil and about half finished drilling water wells."That’s going to be it for this year," Lehner said.The work should be completed by Nov. 7. That means the project is on or ahead of schedule, with the next question being whether there will be government approval to begin construction in the spring."We’d like to start building five test beds there in April," Lehner said. But no contracts can be awarded until the project receives approval from the Secretary of Defense and Congress.If the project moves forward, Fort Greely will be the site of test interceptors for training and maintenance. Actual testing would be done from the Alaska Space Port on Kodiak Island.Winter slows pipeline spill cleanupANCHORAGE - The cold temperatures and snow have slowed the cleanup of oil spilled earlier this month when a man shot a hole in the trans-Alaska oil pipeline north of Fairbanks.The cleanup rate is about 700 gallons a day compared with 70,000 gallons a day immediately after the spill.In total, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., the company that runs the pipeline, has recovered more than 171,000 gallons of fluid.That’s more than half of the 285,600 gallons of crude oil that spilled after the shooting Oct. 4 near Livengood about 75 miles north of Fairbanks. Alyeska and state officials both say that getting more than half the oil is a good cleanup.As oil recovery slows, cleanup will turn toward more aggressive steps: clearing the stained forest and removing about 3 acres of topsoil.NATIONALFedEx optimistic about earningsMEMPHIS, Tenn. - FedEx Corp. expects its second-quarter earnings to beat Wall Street expectations even without government assistance being offered to airlines to offset the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.Alan B. Graf Jr., executive vice president and chief financial officer, said Oct. 29 that solid growth of FedEx Ground, the company’s home-delivery business, contributed to the company’s profitability this quarter.He also credited the company’s broad portfolio of services for helping offset the impact of the terrorist attacks, which hit the company’s air cargo express service the hardest.The express delivery company said its earnings are expected to range from 40 cents to 45 cents a share for the quarter ending Nov. 30.Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial/First Call had been forecasting earnings of 35 cents a share.The estimated quarterly earnings exclude the company’s $101 million share of a $15 billion federal relief package for the airline industry.Wary Americans push down new home salesWASHINGTON - Wary about making big financial commitments, Americans pushed sales of new homes in September down to their lowest point in a year. Rising layoffs and new uncertainties raised by the terror attacks darkened the mood of prospective buyers.New-home sales dropped 1.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 864,000, the lowest level since August 2000, when a rate of 839,000 homes were sold, the Commerce Department reported Oct. 26.Last month’s drop came on top of a 2.9 percent decline in new-home sales in August, according to revised figures.Lockheed Martin posts profitBETHESDA, Md. - Defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. posted a profit for the third quarter in contrast to a loss a year ago, citing stronger sales and cost-cutting measures that shrank the company’s debt.The earnings report was released hours before Lockheed found out it had won the $200 billion contract to build the Pentagon’s new high-tech, next-generation fighter jet.Lockheed earned $213 million, or 49 cents a share, in the July-September period in contrast to a loss of $704 million, or $1.74 a share, a year earlier.No-interest financing extendedDETROIT - DaimlerChrysler AG said Oct. 26 it will extend until Nov. 19 its offer of no-interest financing on certain 2002 vehicles.The move comes nine days after General Motors Corp. said it would extend its own zero-percent finance offer to Nov. 18.Ford Motor Co. also is offering no-interest financing.Kraft plans to cut 1,000 jobsNORTHFIELD, Ill. - Consumer foods giant Kraft Foods Inc. said Oct. 26 it plans to eliminate 1,000 jobs from its work force of 117,000 through voluntary retirements based on increased benefits.The nation’s largest food company with brands like Maxwell House coffee, Oscar Mayer meats and Post cereals said the reductions are part of its continuing integration of Nabisco, the maker of Ritz crackers, Chips Ahoy cookies and Planters nuts which it acquired last December.The company said the enhanced retirement program should result in annual savings of about $80 million.WORLDJapanese beef sales plungeTOKYO - Hiromichi Murakami stands beside a glistening, 1,000-pound carcass that once was the Japanese cattle farmer’s equivalent of gold - a near perfect hunk of Matsusaka beef.Now, demand is so low it’s hardly worth trying to sell, he says."These are the worst times our business has seen since I got in, and that’s more than 30 years ago," Murakami, who owns a beef wholesaling company.For years, Japanese beef was synonymous with an almost over-the-top emphasis on quality. Cows were massaged in their barns to the sounds of Mozart and fattened up on a diet of, among other things, beer.But since the discovery last month of a cow just outside Tokyo that had developed mad cow disease, Japanese beef has been banned from many foreign markets. Cattle farmers, wholesalers, butchers and restaurateurs are looking at a domestic market that has collapsed - and may take years to recover.- Compiled from business wire services.

November-Issue-1 2001

Knowles creates task force to study cost of terrorism

JUNEAU (AP) - A new state task force will study how terrorist attacks on the East Coast will ultimately affect Alaska’s economy, Gov. Tony Knowles said Wednesday. The 11-member task force will analyze what cost businesses and industry expect to experience as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks and make recommendations on lessening losses, Knowles said.He announced the formation of the ``Task Force on Jobs and the Economy since September 11th’’ during a speech before the Alaska Chamber of Commerce in Juneau.``I have the same questions you do about what this means to tourism, oil and gas, air cargo, and other industry sectors, and I am determined that we will answer these questions to the best of our ability,’’ Knowles said.Debby Sedwick, commissioner of Community and Economic Development, and Chris von Imhof, general manager of the Alyeska Prince Hotel, will co-chair the task force. Sedwick said the state has not seen a jump in unemployment in the wake of the attacks. But she has heard fears expressed from the tourism industry.``One of the things the tourism industry wants is an infusion of cash so they can do a media campaign as some states have already done,’’ Sedwick said.Other members include Dennis Brandon of Cook Inlet Region, Inc.; Judy Brady, Alaska Oil and Gas Association; Eric Britten of CSX; Jim Jansen from Lynden; Mike Burns of Key Bank; Terese Sharp of Fairbanks; Terry Hoefferle of the Bristol Bay Native Association in Dillingham; Scott Goldsmith, University of Alaska Anchorage; and consultant Brian Rogers of Fairbanks.A report will be filed within 60 days that could include suggested legislation or administrative action to lessen the effect on jobs and businesses, Knowles said.

Anthrax scare might crimp popular North Pole holiday letter effort

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Anthrax fears may claim an unexpected casualty this year - mail from Santa Claus.Security measures imposed by the Postal Service in response to anthrax-contaminated mail could mean the end of a popular Christmas letter effort in Alaska’s Interior that has thrilled children all over the world for nearly five decades. As many as 60,000 letters a year pass through the tiny post office in North Pole, a town of 1,570 southeast of Fairbanks. Some are addressed simply as Santa, North Pole. Each letter with a return address usually gets a personal reply and a North Pole postal cancellation mark.This year, however, piles of mail might lie unopened, as postal workers grapple with how to handle such a large volume while dealing with the ongoing anthrax danger. The bacteria has contaminated several postal facilities on the mainland, killed four people and sickened more than a dozen others.``I’m hoping our project remains consistent with other years,’’ said Raymond Clark, postmaster of the Fairbanks Post Office, where most of the letters are processed. ``So many children write letters to Santa, writing about their dreams. Getting a reply puts a twinkle in their eye. But it’s too early to tell yet what we’ll do.’’ The scare hasn’t affected the influx of Santa letters. They’re already trickling in at a rate of 100 a week, according to Clark. Now he is waiting for postal officials in Washington, D.C., to decide what to do with them. Usually they are answered by volunteers from North Pole and other Alaska cities, as well as folks from other states. But the letters aren’t being handed out to volunteers now. Clark said he isn’t even sure whether they will be opened at all.Part of the problem postal workers face in handling children’s mail is that:``These items are often addressed by kids,’’ Clark said. ``And a lot of them don’t have great writing.’’Young penmanship that might have been ignored in the past now fits the profile postal workers are warned to look for to identify a letter as suspicious.But postal officials in Alaska remain optimistic they’ll get the go-ahead from headquarters. ``We urge children to continue to write to Santa _ he’s immune to everything,’’ said Nancy Cain Schmitt, the agency’s Alaska spokeswoman. ``If Santa doesn’t answer, parents can just say he must have been really busy this year.’’Clark said another alternative is for parents to write their own Santa replies, put them in a sealed, self-addressed envelope and enclose them in another envelope addressed to North Pole Christmas Cancelation, Postmaster, 5400 Mail Trail, Fairbanks, AK 99709-9999. Postal workers need only open the outside envelope, add the North Pole cancellation and send Santa’s ``reply’’ to children. The Fairbanks post office already uses that method to cancel many parent-written letters, as well as about 150,000 Christmas cards and packages that pour in from outside the state each year. Clark said that service will continue this holiday season.Despite the anthrax threat, Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks is offering another alternative through a much smaller letter project. Santa’s Mailbag was started in 1954 by base weather forecasters who didn’t like seeing letters to Santa unanswered and thrown out by busy postal workers before the North Pole volunteer effort evolved.And they still don’t want to see that, said Tech. Sgt. Darrell Robertson, coordinator of the project, which handled nearly 4,500 ``letters from Santa’’ last year. ``I would hate to break the tradition,’’ he said. ``Through thick and thin, through war after war, it has gone on. We have not missed a beat.’’It’s not as enchanting as the North Pole effort: Replies are sent on a variety of form letters customized by weather office workers and their families.Also, scribbling Santa on an envelope won’t reach the base. To get a letter from this program, children must address their letters to Santa’s Mailbag, 354 OSS/OSW, 1215 Flight Line Ave., Ste. 100B, Eielson Air Force Base, AK 99702-1520. The air base replies, however, do feature those coveted North Pole cancellations.

Terrorist threats prompt unprecedented highway checkpoint

JUNEAU (AP) -- Gov. Tony Knowles ordered state civil defense workers to set up a temporary checkpoint along the Dalton Highway to scrutinize traffic near the 800-mile trans-Alaskan Oil Pipeline. The unprecedented move came in response to FBI warnings of new terrorist attacks that may be carried out in the United States within days. Though no specific threats were leveled against the pipeline, Knowles said monitoring traffic on the only road leading to the Prudhoe Bay oil fields is ’’a necessary measure.’’ The checkpoint will be in place for at least two weeks, Knowles said. It may be extended if necessary, he said. Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. and other state agencies were also ordered to step up security along the pipeline during this period of heightened alert. ’’People can be confident that that national asset is well protected,’’ Knowles said. Security workers began stopping motorists at a checkpoint established south of the Yukon River bridge, about 100 miles north of Fairbanks. The bridge structure that carries vehicles across the river also holds the pipeline and was identified by state officials as a potentially important target to guard. ’’That specific point is where the pipeline could be most vulnerable also where a large spill, if it were to happen, could cause the most damage and be the hardest to repair’’ said Knowles’ spokesman Bob King. Seven members of the Alaska State Defense Force, a 250-member volunteer civil defense force, were activated on Monday to provide the security. They will be stationed there 24-hours a day, Knowles said. An Alaska State Trooper will also be assigned to the checkpoint to check drivers licenses and vehicle registrations, said Greg Wilkinson, a spokesman for the troopers. Only about 100 vehicles per day use the highway during the winter months and most are in support of oil operations on the North Slope, Wilkinson said. The security detail will have police powers to search vehicles and detain suspicious motorists for questioning, Knowles said. The oil pipeline has been ever-present on the minds of state disaster officials since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C. The pipeline makes a tempting target since it is the largest structure of its kind in the world and carries 17 percent of the nation’s oil production. There have been several threats and at least two attacks on the line during its history, but none have been the work of international terrorists. In the most recent attack, a bullet pierced the thick steel line causing more than 285,000 gallons of oil to spill. Daniel Carson Lewis, 37 of Livengood, faces both state and federal charges in the Oct. 4 incident. That attack and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C. caused state officials to consider more government involvement in pipeline security. Along with the checkpoint, state aviation units have also been helping Alyeska provide aerial security along the route, King said. That will continue through this recent alert, he said. Alyeska and state officials would not elaborate on other additional security measures taken on Tuesday. Alyeska Spokesman Tim Woolston said the company’s security force has been on heightened state of alert since the terrorist attacks. ’’Certainly, there are additional steps we are taking today,’’ Woolston said Tuesday.


Responding to a national alert for heightenedsecurity against possible terrorist attack, Gov. TonyKnowles today increased Alaska State Trooper presencealong the Trans Alaska oil pipeline with the creationof a security checkpoint on the Dalton Highway justsouth of the Yukon River bridge. Seven members of theAlaska State Defense Force have been called to stateactive duty to work under the operational control ofthe Alaska State Troopers to help them accomplishthis mission."Although we have not been informed of any specificthreat to the pipeline, we know its importance tomeeting the nation’s energy needs makes it apotential target for terrorists," Knowles said."Accordingly, the Alaska State Troopers, withassistance from the State Defense Force, willestablish a security checkpoint just south of theYukon River beginning today. This checkpoint will notrestrict access to the Dalton Highway for legitimateuses, just as we are tightening security at thenation’s airports, we need to know who is accessingthe pipeline corridor, where they are going, andwhy."In addition to establishing the Yukon Rivercheckpoint, Knowles and administration officials havecontacted the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, U.S.Coast Guard, and other public and private agencies,to ensure additional steps are taken to tightensecurity along the pipeline’s entire 800-mile lengthfrom Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. While other actions arebeing implemented as part of the national heightenedalert status, the specific operational details ofthose security measures are not being made public.Knowles noted that pipeline security was identifiedas an issue immediately following the September 11attacks, and he asked his Disaster Policy Cabinet toexamine overall homeland security issues affectingAlaska. While that report is still being finalized,Knowles thought it prudent to implement some of itsrecommendations in the wake of the national alertissued yesterday. "As part of this national alert, we know of nospecific threat to Alaska or any other part of thecountry, but I urge Alaskans to be on guard," Knowlessaid. "Alaskans have a proud tradition of respondingto challenges put before them and I am confident thatthey will cooperate with these efforts to ensure thesafety of their fellow Alaskans and the pipeline onwhich the nation depends."

Native medical center construction feeds into master site plan

Operators of the Alaska Native Medical Center are completing a handful of expansion projects at the health care facility in Anchorage.The construction effort, valued at more than $2.3 million, was funded by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, said hospital engineer Robert Wilson, a commissioned officer with the U.S. Public Health Service.ANTHC manages the medical center with Southcentral Foundation. The operators worked with an architect in 1999 to develop a master site plan with $80 million worth of improvements spread out over 10 years, he said."We’re basically systematically working to implement the master plan," Wilson said.The first year of work on the decade-long plan began in early June, he said.Construction includes renovations to the second floor day surgery, the addition of an eighth operating room, expansion of the clinical lab and adding 1,350 square feet to Quyana House, which provides living quarters for out-of-town patients and family."We’re looking at a completion date of Nov. 15 for all the projects," he said.Most of the work is finished, although expansion of the clinical lab may continue through October, he said. Work at Quyana House probably will last through November, Wilson said.Cornerstone General Contractors of Anchorage led the project, and other area subcontractors were Electric Inc., General Mechanical Inc. and Mechanical Construction & Consulting Inc.A new fiscal year began in October for the Alaska Native Medical Center, and facility operators are considering funding amounts for next year’s construction projects, perhaps totaling $1.2 million, he said."Tentatively, we’re looking at the pediatric ICU (intensive care unit) and expansion of the dining and serving area" as possible projects, Wilson said.The medical center opened in 1997, replacing an aging facility located in downtown Anchorage.According to Wilson, even though the Alaska Native Medical Center is relatively new, plans for the facility sat on a shelf for 10 years before construction began in 1993.During that time, changes in health care services led to alterations of facilities to which ANMC is now adapting, he said. Also, patient numbers have climbed since original facility plans were developed, he said.


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