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Nathaniel Herz

The city sold $43 million in bonds Wednesday to finance work at Chester Valley Elementary School in East Anchorage, Sand Lake Elementary School, and create plans for a school in Girdwood, among other projects in the Anchorage School District.

Fourteen financial firms put in bids to buy the bonds, all of which were sold to the J.P. Morgan investment division of JPMorgan Chase, according to Chief Fiscal Officer Lucinda Mahoney.

The city will pay 3.3 percent interest on the bonds, Mahoney said, which is below what the Sullivan administration had projected when the bond package was presented to the Assembly for approval in September. "We had a fantastic sale," Mahoney said...

Nathaniel Herz

How on earth did tennis legends Andre Agassi and Venus and Serena Williams get drawn into Anchorage politics?

That's the question people were asking after Tuesday evening's Assembly meeting, when members heard testimony from citizens on the proposed construction of indoor tennis courts in Anchorage's Turnagain neighborhood.

During the meeting, Assembly members revealed they'd received phone calls offering to put them in touch with the tennis greats -- who between them have won 32 of the sport's major championships -- though none of the Assembly members followed up.

"I was truly, truly honored. But I said, 'No, thank you,' and hung up," said Assemblywoman Elvi Gray-Jackson...

Nathaniel Herz

The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday heard two hours of testimony on a dispute over whether to spend millions of dollars in state grant money on new indoor tennis courts or upgrades at city ice arenas -- but it put off making a decision until later in November.

The monthlong debate over the grant culminated with the Assembly's meeting on Tuesday evening, where a stream of anxious tennis players testified in favor of the courts and a handful of residents registered their opposition. And in a sign of how high-profile the dispute has become, a pair of Assembly members said they'd turned down opportunities to talk with tennis legends including sisters Venus and Serena Williams, and Andre Agassi...

Nathaniel Herz

Anchorage Assembly members voted Tuesday evening to postpone paying a $5 million bill they say they got stuck with for work that a Municipal Light and Power contractor did without their approval.

The city-run power company allowed Roger Hickel Contracting to do $4.95 million in work at a site off the Glenn Highway, where ML&P is preparing to build a new power plant.

The contractor ran into delays and needed to do extra work because of the presence of federally protected migratory birds, the discovery of "excess unusable soils," and the unexpected need for additional structural materials, according to documents that ML&P presented to the Assembly...

Nathaniel Herz

The Sullivan administration has agreed to give the city's largest municipal union a 1.5 percent raise in 2014 and 2015 as part of a new contract, which would also eliminate an performance incentive program -- though only for new employees.

The membership of the 525-person union, the Anchorage Municipal Employee Association, will vote on whether to approve or reject the deal on Thursday, according to President Mark McKee. The union includes nurses, engineers and other city employees.

If the union agrees, then the Anchorage Assembly would have to approve the proposal as well...

Nathaniel Herz

Anchorage has received a rating upgrade from Standard and Poor's, raising the city's bond rating to the top level of AAA, Mayor Dan Sullivan announced Tuesday.

The upgrade could save the city nearly $1 million in interest payments on $43 million in school bonds it's scheduled to sell Wednesday, according to Chief Fiscal Officer Lucinda Mahoney -- though depending on market conditions, the savings could end up being less, she said.

The other agency hired to rate the bonds, Fitch, kept the city's rating at AA+, or one notch below the top score...

Nathaniel Herz

The debate over the construction of indoor tennis courts in West Anchorage is coming down to the wire, with last-minute meetings Monday between Mayor Dan Sullivan and Assembly members over a Tuesday vote on a state grant that has splintered the city's regular political alliances.

Several of Sullivan's usual backers on the Assembly are poised to break with him over the use of $8.5 million from the state capital budget. Sullivan is lobbying for the construction of new indoor tennis courts in the Turnagain neighborhood, while Assembly members Bill Starr, Amy Demboski and Adam Trombley are likely to support a measure that would spend most of the money on upgrades and renovations to city ice arenas...

Nathaniel Herz

The dispute over state funding for an indoor tennis facility in Anchorage's Turnagain neighborhood has essentially boiled down to a single question: Spend the money on upgrades at city hockey arenas, or spend it on the tennis courts?

That's the dilemma the Anchorage Assembly will take up at its meeting Tuesday, with Mayor Dan Sullivan advocating for the tennis project and Assemblyman Bill Starr leading the charge for hockey.

On Friday, Starr, who represents Eagle River and Chugiak, led Assembly members on a tour of three city ice arenas built in the 1970s and '80s, making his case for why they should vote to spend a total of $26 million of a $37 million state grant on upgrades there -- $7.5 million beyond what Sullivan proposes...

Nathaniel Herz

The Anchorage Police Department is fighting a small spike in the time it takes for its staff to answer 911 calls.

The number jumped to 11 seconds in the third quarter of this year, after seven straight quarters holding steady at nine seconds. The department attributes the change to a rise in calls and diminished staffing, Chief Mark Mew said in an interview.

The department is hiring new dispatchers and is trying to bring down the times, which are tracked in the city's quarterly performance reports. And in October, the delays dropped to 10 seconds...

Nathaniel Herz

The Sullivan administration has named Nancy Usera as a temporary employee relations director, following the departure of Danielle Fegley, who is resigning after holding the job for two years.

Usera will lead the Department of Employee Relations, which is responsible for negotiating contracts with Anchorage's municipal unions.

Seven of the city's nine unions have contracts that have expired or are expiring this year.

Usera served as Mayor Dan Sullivan's first director of employee relations before retiring in 2011. A spokeswoman for Sullivan, Lindsey Whitt, said that Usera had agreed to head the department until the city finds a permanent replacement...

Nathaniel Herz

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