ANWR provision could prevail in Senate, White House aide says

A provision to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain to oil exploration and development is still alive in the U.S. Senate despite the best efforts of the Democratic majority, a Bush administration official said Oct. 23.Andrew Lundquist, executive director of the National Energy Policy Development Group, said President Bush, a staunch proponent of drilling in ANWR, believes the measure will prevail if it comes to a vote on the Senate floor."Guess what? I believe we have the votes on the floor, and I believe the votes should prevail," said Lundquist, who played a central role in crafting the administration’s national energy policy."We still hold out hope the Senate will act, but time is short and America needs an energy plan," he told members of an oil industry trade group gathered at the Sheraton Anchorage Hotel.Lundquist, a former longtime aide to Alaska’s Republican Sens. Ted Stevens and Frank Murkowski, was the keynote speaker for the annual conference of the Alaska Support Industry Alliance. He has coordinated White House efforts to get an energy bill through Congress this year.Even if the energy bill doesn’t pass with the ANWR provision this session, Lundquist said the measure will not die and the Bush administration will continue the fight when Congress reconvenes.Gov. Tony Knowles also spoke at the Alliance event, reiterating his unqualified support for both the ANWR provision in Congress and the Alaska Highway route for a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to the Lower 48.

Palmer farm first to offer fresh cheddar cheese curds

What began as an experiment in a Palmer farmhouse kitchen several years ago has resulted in the start-up of Alaska’s first commercial cheese processor.Gary and Carla Beu, who own Windsong Farm, process fresh cheddar cheese curds from milk produced by the farm’s dairy cows. Cheese curds, when pressed together and aged, form cheese blocks or rounds.During cheese-making experiments, the couple learned of some people’s fondness for fresh cheese curds."Carla and I had never heard of fresh cheese curds till 2 1/2 years ago," Gary Beu said. "People kept saying, ’What people really want are fresh cheese curds.’ They’re a really big deal in the Midwest."The craving is so strong that former residents of Wisconsin, Minnesota and other states have shipped the cheese curds north to Alaska, he said.That demand could bolster business."It looks like a huge market," he said.So far it has translated into sales for Windsong Farm.At 3 p.m. Oct. 23 Windsong Farm delivered its first supplies to two New Sagaya stores in Anchorage, and by 1 p.m. the next day, store operators called to reorder, Beu said.The Alaska product has sold well, said Gerhard Vierthaler, general manager of New Sagaya’s L’Aroma bakery and deli."It’s gotten a really good reception," he said.The retailer stocks Alaska-grown produce in summer and adding Palmer-produced cheese curds worked well with New Sagaya’s inventory of various cheeses including others from small U.S. dairies, he said.The area supplier now restocks the cheese daily, he said."It really took off," Vierthaler said, noting that the Alaska cheese curds sell fast.Windsong Farm owners are considering other outlets to sell the cheese curds.The Beus make 90 pounds of cheese curds every Monday and Friday. They sell the product at their farm store. Sometimes eight cars will be waiting in the driveway."A lot of people want these absolutely fresh," Beu said.Windsong Farm also sells natural beef, organic vegetables by subscription in summer and other farm-raised goods. The Beus run "the smallest dairy farm in Alaska" with 11 adult cows and 13 heifers - future milk cows - both Holstein and Jersey, Gary Beu said.The dairy came first. Two years ago the couple began investing time and money to prepare to process cheese at Windsong Farm."We decided making and selling cheese was a more value-added product than selling milk to Matanuska Maid," he said. Preparations required securing permits from the state and adding a new building. Beu estimates they have invested $200,000 into the effort so far.The state Department of Environmental Conservation, which tested Windsong Farm’s pasteurizer and approved plant operations, inspected the farm Sept. 10, said DEC dairy sanitarian June Muniz. Milk and cheese products are among the most highly regulated food items, she said.Muniz praised the Beus’ round the clock hard work to gain approval as the state’s first cheese producer. She believes Windsong Farm may gain a foothold in the state agriculture industry by cultivating a niche market."Historically, Alaska has been really up and down in the dairy industry. This is another outlet for someone who wants to be in the industry," Muniz said.Muniz, who had not tasted fresh cheese curds before the Windsong Farm project, described them as buttery.The Beus received two state permits: a grade A milk processing permit like a permit held by Matanuska Maid and a grade A dairy permit.Windsong Farm’s own supply of milk for cheese making is at its highest level."If we go to one more day we’d have to buy milk (from a local dairy,)" he said. "We’d like to make cheese five days a week."Beu hopes to add a third day of cheese making in November. He is negotiating with other area diaries to buy additional milk to accommodate the change.On cheese-making days one employee helps the Beus, and in summer they employ up to five people.Cheese-making days begin at 5 a.m. when the cows are milked. They handle a second milking at 5 p.m. By 6:30 p.m. the fresh curds have been packaged and the plant cleaned up, Beu said.They sell the fresh cheddar cheese curds in 8 ounce and 16 ounce packages, priced at $4.50 and $8.75 respectively. The Windsong Farm cheddar cheese is white, not dyed typical cheddar yellow."It’s as natural as we can make it," Beu said.Windsong Farm sells the product on its Web site ( and will ship via United Parcel Service.

This Week in Alaska Business History November 4, 2001

Editor’s note: "This Week in Alaska Business History" revisits events that shaped our past. "Those who cannotremember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana, 1863-195220 years ago this weekAnchorage TimesNov. 7, 1981Amendments unveiled in railroad transfer billby Ded DavidTimes WriterRights of way for expansion or realignment of the Alaska Railroad will be transferred to the state when ownership of the line changes from federal to state hands, a draft amendment to federal legislation written by state officials says.The right of way provision is one of several changes the state wants to make in railroad transfer legislation introduced by Sens. Ted Stevens and Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska.Officials and some special interest groups said the Stevens-Murkowski bill dumps too much liability on the state while giving it little flexibility to run an efficient railroad. So they rewrote it."The amended bill has immeasurably improved on some of the problems (in the original bill)," said Ron Hauver, chairman of the Resource Development Council’s Transportation Committee.Hauver, an Anchorage attorney, said the Hammond administration used the bill as a foundation, expanding on it in addressing state concerns.Anchorage TimesNov. 9, 1981Gas firm lines up lobbyistsBy Betty MillsTimes Writer BureauWASHINGTON - The sponsors of the Alaska Highway gas pipeline are lining up support on Capitol Hill for the package of waivers needed to secure private financing for the project.The law firms of former Democratic National Committee chairman Robert Strauss and former Federal Power Commission chairman Lee C. White have been retained to plead the case for the waivers.The Senate Energy Committee is expected to vote next week to approve the waiver package, sending the matter to the floor for consideration as early as Nov. 16.The outlook is less rosy in the House, where a final day of hearings by two Energy subcommittees will be. A vote in the House Interior Subcommittee on Energy and Environmental, headed by Rep. Morris Udall, D-Ariz., could come next week, but no timetable has been set for action by the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Fossil Fuels.Both houses of Congress must approve the waivers to allow consumers in the Lower 48 to be billed before gas starts to flow and provide for equity participation in the project by the North Slope producers.10 years ago this weekAlaska Journal of CommerceNov. 4, 1991Chugach looks for outside help to reopen its Seward sawmillBy Tim MoffattFor the Alaska Journal of CommerceSEWARD - Chugach Lumber Products’ $22 million foray into the dimensional lumber business came to a halt last month when the last 50 employees finished their work at the company’s Seward sawmill. Whether the mill will reopen depends on parent company Chugach Alaska Corp.’s finding a joint venture partner or a buyer for the mill, according to President Neil Anderson. The sawmill operated less than two years.Falling domestic demand as well as a soft Japanese market combined with cost overruns in developing the mill contributed to its early demise, Anderson said. He also pointed to the disruption caused by the March 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill as a factor.Alaska Journal of CommerceNov. 4, 1991State plans Mat-Su coalbed methane wellBy Ray TysonAlaska Journal of CommerceThe state Department of Natural Resources is planning to drill a test hole on the Matanuska-Susitna Valley next year to help gauge the potential for methane gas production from coal deposits that underlie as much as a tenth of Alaska’s land mass.DNR believes there’s plenty of coalbed methane in Alaska but isn’t sure how much or whether it can ever be produced economically. Geologists estimate Alaska contains a third to a half of the U.S. coal reserves and 15 percent of the world’s reserves.Coalbed methane is so expensive for companies to produce in the Lower 48 it requires government subsidies. Nevertheless, it has piqued the interest of natural resources officials here who want to know more about its role in Alaska’s energy future.The existence of coalbed methane has been known for years.- Compiled by Ed Bennett

Business Profile: Digital Computer Solutions

Name of the company: Digital Computer SolutionsEstablished: 1997Location: 619 E. Ship Creek Ave., Suite 321, AnchorageTelephone: 907-274-9911Web site: www.dcsalaska.comMajor focus of services: Digital Computer Solutions provides computer networking and engineering services and also offers training courses. Instruction can help trainees learn computer programs or other training to earn technical certifications.History of the company: Alaskan Mike Conner started Digital Computer Solutions with a partner after working as a manager at another computer-related business. Today Conner is sole owner of the firm.For the first seven months Digital Computer Solutions operated from a condo before moving to an office. The company gained momentum and tallied first year annual revenue of $600,000. In 1998 Digital Computer Solutions diversified its services by opening a training center. We focused on a few things, and it has paid off, Conner said.The computer lab now has 12 computer stations, and courses chiefly feature Microsoft programs including Access, Excel, Power Point and Word. Digital Computer Solutions also offers training customized to emphasize programs requested by companies or students. Technical training instructs students in classes to earn the designation of Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. Often Digital Computer Solutions employees travel around the state to teach computer courses at company offices.One major project Digital Computer Solutions completed in January called for design and implementation of a computer network linking 1,500 people for the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Conner, company president, called the project the largest deployment of Citrix networking technology in the state. The system allows users to access applications or programs from any device, from computer to Palm Pilot, at a variety of connection speeds.The firm has seven full-time employees with annual revenue now surpassing the $1 million mark.Top accomplishment of the company: Conner is pleased with the growth of business at the training center this year. He credits his companys customer service for the growth as well as repeat business.Major player: Mike Conner, president, Digital Computer Solutions.Conner, who has experience in sales and marketing, started working in the industry in 1991. He worked at an Anchorage computer company in sales then later as a manager before starting his own company. Nancy Pounds

NANA Corp. president says he'll retire, cites health

ANCHORAGE - Charlie Alasuk Curtis, the president of NANA Regional Corp., has announced he is retiring at the end of the year.Curtis, 51, cited unspecified health reasons as part of his decision to step down Dec. 28.Curtis, an Inupiat Eskimo and Vietnam veteran, agreed to serve a decade when he was hired as president of the Kotzebue-based Native corporation in 1992."I’ve been blessed in having done that," he said.Under his leadership, NANA profits increased by 500 percent, the corporation said. Revenue blossomed from $38 million in 1992 to $176 million last year.Some of his greatest accomplishments as president were increasing shareholder hiring and expanding scholarship opportunities."Charlie has had a vision of success for NANA," said Helvi Sandvik, president of NANA Development Corp. She said that in the past five years, NANA had more net profits than in the previous 18 years and has paid out more shareholder dividends than in the previous 11.NANA built three hotels in Anchorage and one in Fairbanks. It owns or has partnerships with 35 companies, including TeckCominco, which operates the Red Dog Mine near Kotzebue. The world’s largest zinc mine sits on NANA land.Like many other Native corporations, NANA contracts with the federal government as a minority-owned company. NANA has five so-called 8(a) subsidiaries that are allowed bidding preferences with the government.Curtis said he plans to spend his retirement in the company of his family in Kiana, a Northwest Alaska village. He said his goals center on spending time with his grandchildren and living life "day by day."

Alaska Club expands with Juneau facilities

Operators of The Alaska Club Network have acquired a key link in its statewide chain, adding two facilities in Juneau.On Oct. 22 Alaska Club officials said they planned to merge with JRC Inc., which operates Juneau Racquet Club-Downtown and Juneau Racquet Club-Valley. The deal should be completed in November.A purchase price was not disclosed.The Alaska Club Network operates 10 fitness centers in the state: six in Anchorage, one each in Eagle River and Wasilla, plus two in Fairbanks.The addition of the Juneau facilities brings another 2,085 members to Alaska Club’s roster, bringing the total to 40,000 members.Alaska Club Network President Andrew Eker said the Juneau deal is significant because it offers advantages for members who travel between Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau."We’ve been working on it for a while," he said. "It’s the other major population center in the state of Alaska."Eker estimated that several hundred members travel between Anchorage and Juneau. Company officials have been tracking the number of members traveling between its facilities in Anchorage and Fairbanks, he said.Additional fees are not required for members visiting different Alaska Club Network facilities, he said. Anchorage members have a choice of two types of membership, with one offering limited access to some services.Eker does not anticipate immediate major changes at the two Juneau fitness clubs. However, Alaska Club officials are considering possible facility improvements at the Juneau facilities, he said.John McConnochie, one of the owners of the Juneau Racquet Clubs, will serve as Juneau area manager. Another owner, Jamie Parsons, will become a shareholder in the merged company.McConnochie said he and Parsons have known Eker and his Alaska Club partner Tom Behan for 10 years."We think very highly of them," McConnochie said.He believes the timing was right for the merger."It seemed like an appropriate time and a good mix to bring the operations together," he said. "It looked like a good way to plan for our future."One major change for the Juneau fitness clubs will be changing the name to JRC The Alaska Club probably after the merger is completed, he said.Juneau Racquet Club-Valley was built in 1978 by Red Samm Construction and remodeled in 1990. That project removed two racquetball courts, expanded office space and added free weight areas and a cafe among other improvements.The 2.56-acre site, 9.5 miles north of downtown Juneau, includes 49,500 square feet of fitness space with four tennis courts, six racquetball courts, an aerobics studio, a group cycling area and other facilities. The location employs 79 people and has 1,350 members.The downtown Juneau facility has 12,000 square feet of fitness space and is on the second floor of the Foodland Annex. The facility features cardio, weightlifting and aerobics areas, tanning services, a day care and a pro shop.The next milestone for The Alaska Club Network will be the relocation of The Alaska Club West in Anchorage. The new location should open early next year, Eker said. Operators are now renovating the new location, a former Alaska Marketplace store across Minnesota Drive from the club’s current location at the Aurora Village Shopping Center.

Survey to test visitor intentions

JUNEAU - With six months before the next cruise ship arrives and Sept. 11 changing the course of international events, tourism industry officials are doing their best to gauge what next summer might look like in Juneau.The Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau has been talking with tour operators, the cruise industry and other convention and visitor bureaus about changes after Sept. 11. Bureau President John Mazor said the new travel climate will mean changes in marketing and planning."We’re pretty confident things are going to change," he said. "There’s a continued trend for shorter vacation trips and shorter planning periods."Starting this month, the organization plans to survey potential travelers about their likelihood of visiting Juneau, he said. The JCVB plans to focus marketing on "key corridors," such as California, Oregon and Washington and will use the Internet to keep up with changes, Mazor said."We are also not going to be as aggressive as working on our international developing markets. The impact on the German-speaking and Asian markets has been extremely profound," he said. "We won’t be as aggressive as we have in the past."About 10 percent of Juneau’s visitors are international travelers, Mazor said.The JCVB earlier estimated that fallout from the terrorist attacks cost Juneau businesses approximately $2.5 million, Mazor said. Final cruise passenger numbers for the summer should be out in the next couple of weeks, he said.The city gets sales tax data for July through September at the end of October, and it should be processed by mid-November, City Finance Director Craig Duncan said. Although some cruise ship sailings to Juneau were canceled in September, there was an overall 5 percent increase in passengers from the year before, Duncan said."The increase in passengers in July and August was greater than the fact that September was down," he said.Although the city doesn’t have enough information to make tourism-related sales tax predictions for next summer, Duncan said an economic downtown and a possible capital move could hurt sales tax revenue. A draft budget is submitted to the Juneau Assembly in April.City Tourism Director Maria Gladzisweski said her office doesn’t plan to assess or survey business owners about next summer, but would be willing to talk about it if people are interested."The thing is that nobody knows what will happen. Everybody knows something might happen," she said. "It’s possible it could bring more people to Alaska because it’s a safe place to come."The city is surveying Juneau residents about tourism issues in a series of Web polls, with the results factoring into a long-range tourism plan.

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.


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