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Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- A court decision settling the estate of the late Bill Stroecker will help a $25 million foundation become fully operational in Alaska, eventually providing more than $1.2 million a year to 50 or more groups, 36 of them in Fairbanks.

The Bill Stroecker Foundation, under IRS rules that require distributions of 5 percent of the value of the endowment each year, aims to distribute funds to dozens of groups Stroecker named in his will, ranging from the Fairbanks Curling Club and the NRA to the Salvation Army and the Fairbanks Community Food Bank.

In advance of the final settlement, the foundation gave out $500,000 in 2012 and $500,000 in 2013, money provided by the estate, to benefit groups named in Stroecker's will...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS — The company that wants the state to build a 200-mile one-lane road to mining prospects in Northwest Alaska says “substantial doubt exists as to our ability to continue as a going concern,” a statement it made in July and repeated to investors as recently as October.

NovaCopper says the doubt is because it is dependent “on our ability to obtain additional financing,” according to documents filed with regulators by the Canadian mining company...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- A second credit ratings agency raised a warning flag Thursday about Alaska’s state budget.

Standard & Poor’s said that “to avert credit quality deterioration, we believe the state must make material progress in reducing the deficit in its fiscal 2016 budget.”...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- The state-backed plan for a 200-mile road in northern Alaska west of the Dalton Highway sparked intense debate this week among dozens of tribal and village leaders who questioned the potential impact on their way of life.

A two-day meeting ended with a public hearing Wednesday where dozens of people spoke about the road, mining, subsistence and economic development.

“We need to stop being controlled by foreign investments,” said Julie Roberts-Hyslop, vice president of the Tanana Chiefs Conference. “They’re coming into our land, tearing up our land and leaving what? They take the dollar with them.

“When is the government going to start listening to our voice and what we want? Not what they want, but what we want,” she said...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- Moody's Investors Service said Tuesday it lowered the credit outlook for Alaska because the plunge in oil prices "threatens to rapidly and significantly reduce the state's budgetary reserves."

The rating agency said the change in outlook could apply to $840 million of general obligation bond debt, $290 million of "subject-to-appropriation debt" and about $870 million of bonds backed by the "moral obligation" of the state and issued by the Alaska Municipal Bond Bank and the Alaska Energy Authority.

It said it affirmed the Triple A ratings on general obligation bonds and its other existing ratings on Alaska debt, but warned about the effect of continued low oil prices. It changed the Alaska outlook from stable to negative...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- When the command post at Eielson Air Force Base summons an U.S. Air Force chaplain, it’s almost always a crisis that requires immediate attention.

After the phone rang at 6:15 a.m. that Saturday morning in November, the Rev. Chad Zielinski, 50, thought it was not an emergency, but a big mistake.

In this case, the caller, perhaps not fully aware of the time zone, identified himself as Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the ambassador from the Vatican who represents Pope Francis in Washington, D.C.

“Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has appointed you Bishop of Fairbanks,” Vigano told Zielinski...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- In the jailhouse phone business, the usual practice in the United States has been for the company that provides telephones behind bars to pay a “commission” to the government agency that allows it to serve a captive customer base.

In Alaska and 41 other states, the Prison Policy Initiative says, the system has allowed what it calls “kickbacks,” with phone companies charging excessive rates to prisoners' families and quietly paying some of the proceeds back to the entities that own the jails. This makes the governments partners in preserving phone monopolies, the group charged...

Dermot Cole

The Alaska Aerospace Corp. said Friday it hopes to drum up new business for the state-owned rocket range in Kodiak and has started negotiations on a $21 million incentive plan with Lockheed Martin.

The “intent to award” letter does not commit Lockheed Martin to scheduling launches from Kodiak and it does not commit Alaska Aerospace to providing money to the private rocket company, Craig Campbell, chief executive officer of Alaska Aerospace, said at a Friday press conference.

“My reason for wanting to have this press announcement is to demonstrate momentum,” Campbell told reporters. “I know there’s a lot of interest in what are we doing and why we are doing it."...

Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- Anyone looking for evidence that oil production in Alaska is headed up and up because of the SB 21 tax change will not find it in a new report from the Alaska Department of Revenue.

The report, released Wednesday , predicts there will be new production in the years ahead, but not enough to offset the continued decline of the largest oil field in North America.

Parnell administration officials predicted repeatedly over the past year that the report would show that the SB 21 tax law had stopped the decline in North Slope oil production...

Dermot Cole

The international oil market held more bad news for Alaska on Wednesday as prices fell to near $60 per barrel, while the state released its major annual report on revenue expectations -- showing a one-year decline in oil revenue of more than $2.7 billion.

Bank of America said a price of $50 per barrel is possible in the short term, while Morgan Stanley said it could go even lower.

The market decline Wednesday further clouds the outlook for Alaska's finances in the coming fiscal year, with a budget deficit of $3.5 billion or more expected if oil prices average $65 until next July...

Dermot Cole

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