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Jan 27 2015
Bars on State Ferries Closing
Tuesday, 27 January 2015
Leila Kheiry/KRBD
    The Alaska Marine Highway System is closing bars on state ferries, a move that state Department of Transportation officials say will save about $750,000 a year.
    According to a DOT, the ferry bars lose money every year, and closing them will help limit other potential reductions in service. Spokesman Jeremy Woodrow says the biggest savings will be in salaries, but no current employees will lose their jobs.
    “Crewmembers that work in the bars currently, they’ll be put in other positions. Then those positions woulnd’t be hired for the summer and then through the next winter.”
    Six state ferries have bar service: The Kennicott, the Matanuska, the Columbia, the Tustumena, the Malaspina and the Taku. The bar-closure dates will vary, depending on when they’re scheduled for their spring overhaul.
    Woodrow says bar lounges will be offered as additional general lounge areas. The bars themselves will be closed off, but not removed, in case the state decides to offer that service again in the future. 
    Even though the bars will be closed, passengers 21 and older will be able to purchase beer and wine in the cafeteria areas during scheduled meal service times. 
Woodrow says how that will work has not yet been determined.
    “That’s something the department is going to be working on as these ships enter into their overhaul status, they’ll be working on the ship and finding a safe place, but also a convenient place to be able to store the beer and wine so that when passengers are purchasing their meal, they also can purchase a beer or wine to go along with their meal.”
    Woodrow says the first ship due for an overhaul is the Kennicott in March. The last one is the Taku, which is scheduled for June.
Jan 27 2015
Teuber Named to U of A Board of Regents
Tuesday, 27 January 2015
Alexandra Gutierrez/APRN
    Gov. Bill Walker has named four new members to the University of Alaska Board of Regents, including replacing one Kodiak resident with another.
    KANA President and CEO Andy Teuber of Kodiak chairs the Alaska Native Health Tribal Health Consortium. He replaced Patricia Jacobson, whose eight-year term was complete.
    Of the four new members, three hailed from Anchorage. Only one replacement comes from the big city. Sheri Buretta chairs the Chugach Alaska board of directors, and serves on the board of the Alaska Federation of Natives. 
    Lisa Parker was appointed from Soldotna, and she handles government affairs for the Apache Corporation, and oil and gas exploration company. She is a former planner for the Kenai Peninsula Borough. 
    Fairbanks gains a member with John Davies, a former state legislator who now works for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center.
    With four members, Fairbanks now has the most representation on the 11-person board. A spokesperson for the governor says the governor desired “more regional representation.” 
Jan 27 2015
Senator Taking 'Wait and See' Approach to KLC
Tuesday, 27 January 2015
1.1 MB | Download MP3 | Open in popup

Jay Barrett/KMXT
    Last week two members of the Alaska House urged Governor Bill Walker to sell off the Kodiak Launch Complex as part of the austerity measures to reduce state spending in light of plummeting oil prices. There has been no comment from Walker on the idea, proposed by Representatives Les Gara and Scott Kawasaki, Democrats from Anchorage and Fairbanks respectively, but Alaska Aerospace Corporation's budget was zeroed out in the governor's proposed budget released late last week.
    Kodiak Senator Gary Stevens says he isn't necessarily against the idea, but, "Is anybody interested in buying it? I don't know. Let's find that out. Maybe Lockheed or one of the launching companies would be. But at this point that has not been pursued."
    Stevens says that given the amount of investment that has gone into the Kodiak Launch Complex it should be allowed to continue if it still has a chance.
    "I guess what I'm concerned about is we've put so much money into it, the federal government has put so much money into it, if it can work, you shouldn't be pulling out of it. I know there's a lot of opposition to the rocket launch in Kodiak from several folks, but you just can't walk away from something that a lot of money has been put into."
    One way or another, Stevens says it won't be long before the future of the Kodiak Launch Complex - and the Alaska Aerospace Corporation - becomes clearer:
    "You know there's a possibility that it will work. We'll find out in the next few weeks if there's some contracts. There's one contract for 2015 to relaunch the rocket that caused the damage. They have received, are receiving the insurance funds to replace, to repair, to put it back to its normal condition. I guess the main issues is, is there some business with a medium size rocket? They'll have to enlarge the pad on which it sits, and there'll be some costs there. I think there are some plans, but whether it really works or not, we'll know soon."
    The suggestion to sell the KLC by Gara and Kawasaki was just that, and was not introduced in the legislature. And as far as Alaska Aerospace's budget being zeroed out, that was so far only in Governor Walker's proposed budget. Both the House and Senate will hammer out their version of the spending plan as the session goes on. 
Jan 27 2015
Blind Baby Seal Being Raised at SeaLife Center
Tuesday, 27 January 2015
SEWARD, Alaska (AP) — A blind harbor seal is learning basic behaviors such as being fed by hand at an Alaska aquarium.
    Officials at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward say the pup, named Bryce, was rescued in late December in Homer, Alaska.
    The veterinary staff at the center believes he suffered a head trauma, which caused his blindness.
    Officials say in a release that Bryce is learning basic husbandry behaviors, such as hand-feeding and learning how to target based on audible cues when staff members shake a rattle in place of a target buoy.
    Center staff members say he might have improving sight, but only in one eye.
    Federal officials say Bryce can't be released back into the wild, so he will stay at the center until a permanent home can be found. 
Jan 26 2015
Sen. Stevens Supportive of Gov. Walker's Budget Approach
Monday, 26 January 2015
1.56 MB | Download MP3 | Open in popup

Jay Barrett/KMXT
     Last week Governor Bill Walker took to the airwaves not once, but twice to impress upon Alaskans the dire situation the state's finances are in. On Wednesday, his State of the State address was akin to a pep talk before the big game, while on Thursday, his State of the Budget address was a wake-up call that declining oil revenue will require belt-tightening across the board.
     We checked in with Kodiak Senator Gary Stevens on his reaction to the two speeches.
     "I think he's really done a remarkable job to really look at the situation we're in, to honestly face it and figure out how we're going to get through this."
     Walker called for spending cuts in all state departments, and said he was cutting the governor's office budget by 11 percent this year. The cuts for education would be less, but is still something Stevens wants to keep an eye on.
     "I'm really concerned about education of course. The governor has made some reductions to education. I'm hoping we can find a way to make sure that doesn't damage the education opportunities our kids have. So we'll see how that works out."
     The governor, as he did during his campaign, vowed to expand Medicaid coverage, which he said would not only bring health care to thousand more Alaskans, but also create jobs. Conservatives in the Alaska Legislature, just like those nationwide, are largely against an expansion because it is a part of the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare. Stevens says it's worth a look.
     "Any time we can cover 40,000 Alaskans at not much additional cost, I think we should be doing that. The question is, is there going to be a cost to it, are we going to have to hire folks, will there be administrative duties. I'm sure there will.  We'll be looking at that very very carefully, but I think all in all it sounds like a good idea to me to make sure people who are not covered by insurance have some Medicaid coverage."
     After the State of the Budget address on Thursday night, Walker released his endorsed budget, and in it, one local item stood out  the Alaska Aerospace Corporation funding was eliminated completely. Stevens says he was not surprised.
     "There's going to be a meeting the next few days to find out specifically what they planning on doing. So we'll see how that works out. But, you're right. They were reduced from the budget, but they were on a schedule to go from I think 6-Million to 4-million to 2-million to zero. So, it's just a little earlier than the board had anticipated, I believe."
     Though much smaller than the State Operating Budget, the Capital Budget  which funds projects in communities, such as building libraries or repairing infrastructure  will get reduced as well, but Stevens says the effects won't be felt right away.
     "We've got a lot of projects that are in operation, in development now. A lot of money out there. Kodiak has the Pier 3 project, so money will still be spent locally and hiring folks and jobs and that sort of thing. So it's certainly not the end of the world, but we just have to be very very careful how much of our savings we spend right now."
     Tomorrow we'll have Stevens' reaction to the call by colleagues in the State House for the Kodiak Launch Complex to be sold. 
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