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Nathaniel Herz

Alaska fishermen and fish consumers shouldn't be concerned about the new disclosures of radioactive water leaking into the Pacific Ocean near the site of the hobbled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, according to an ocean chemist and a spokeswoman for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The amount of radioactive material flowing into the ocean is relatively minimal, compared to the size of the spills that occurred in the wake of the meltdowns that occurred at the site in 2011 following an earthquake and tsunami, said Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

"We have a new release that's smaller than 2011," Buesseler said in a phone interview. "And it's still far away, and the ocean is big."...

Nathaniel Herz

The job description of the city's chief fiscal officer, according to the Anchorage Municipal Charter, seems straightforward enough.

"He is the custodian of all municipal funds," the charter reads. "He shall keep an itemized account of money received and disbursed, pay money on vouchers drawn against appropriations, and perform such other duties as the Assembly by ordinance may prescribe."

There's one problem with the description, however: the city's current CFO, Lucinda Mahoney, is a woman. So was Sharon Weddleton, the CFO under the previous mayor, Mark Begich.

That section of the charter, along with several others like it that refer to "chairman" and "assemblyman," are due for an update, according to Assemblyman -- ahem, Assembly Member -- Patrick Flynn...

Nathaniel Herz

The city will hire a private management team to oversee the next phase of construction at Anchorage's problem-plagued port expansion, Mayor Dan Sullivan said Friday.

The city plans to issue a request for proposals for a manager within the next two months, he said at a news conference at City Hall.

Sullivan also discussed the results of a pair of studies released earlier this week that showed missteps with the port project's oversight and design.

"We're going to work diligently to make sure that we hire folks with very appropriate experience in projects of this nature, which was one of the problems in the past," he said...

Nathaniel Herz

The Hard Rock Café has applied for a liquor license at the site of the former Rumrunner's Old Towne Bar on E Street, presaging a potential move to Anchorage's downtown by the international restaurant and bar chain.

Bruce Burnett, who currently operates the Bear Paw restaurant in the same space, says he's in negotiations with Hard Rock, and a representative of the company is due to visit Anchorage in September.

A deal, however, is not guaranteed.

"It looks positive," Burnett said. But, he added: "It never ends until the fat lady sings. And it's a long way 'til she's singing, in my book."...

Nathaniel Herz

The state Department of Labor and Alaska Housing Finance Corp. released a report Thursday confirming something that just about any Craigslist-perusing apartment hunter could tell you: in Alaska, and in Anchorage especially, rental housing is getting more expensive.

Median rent prices in the state's major population centers rose 5 percent over last year, according to the report, to $1,119 from $1,065, or a statewide increase of $54.

That's a steeper jump than between 2011 and 2012, when rents rose just 2 percent.

Those figures include utility costs...

Nathaniel Herz

Anchorage has a new, deep-pocketed venture capitalist in town, looking to put money into small businesses and startups.

It's not Sean Parker, the tech mogul who co-founded the music sharing program Napster, then became the president of Facebook. Nor is it anyone else with ties to Silicon Valley or New York City, two hotbeds of venture capital.

Instead, it's the city itself, which last year set up the 49th State Angel Fund with $13.2 million in federal money from President Barack Obama's Small Business Jobs Act.

Anchorage applied for the funding at the last minute, after the state decided it couldn't meet the U.S. Treasury Department's application deadline, according to Lucinda Mahoney, the city's chief fiscal officer...

Nathaniel Herz

The Anchorage Assembly unanimously passed an ordinance Tuesday evening that takes a second crack at the problem of "bar break," the chaotic period when downtown bars close and send their patrons flooding onto the streets.

The ordinance allows the bars to apply for a permit that would let them stay open for an extra hour on weekends, until 4:00 a.m., as long as they stop serving alcohol and clear away any unfinished drinks.

The measure, which Mayor Dan Sullivan supports, repeals a similar ordinance that the Assembly passed in March. That version didn't get buy-in from bar owners, who were scared off by the prospect of fines up to $10,000 if they were found violating the rules of their permit.

Only one bar, the Gaslight Lounge, applied...

Nathaniel Herz

One of the largest nonprofit providers for Anchorage's homeless residents says it may not be able to operate a 124-person emergency shelter after losing funding administered by the city. Advocates are warning of dire consequences this winter unless the problem is fixed.

Catholic Social Services Executive Director Susan Bomalaski said the city had supplied some $71,000 over the last two years to help pay for the utility and staffing costs of housing homeless people in Bean's Café, a soup kitchen her organization converts to an overnight shelter during the winter.

But the money, which came from the federal government, has now dried up, and officials at the city's Department of Health and Human Services say they haven't yet found another source...

Nathaniel Herz

UPDATE: The U.S. Coast Guard suspended the active search for the third of three boaters from a sunken 24-foot recreational vessel near Baranof Island, Saturday night.

“Suspending a case is one of the hardest decisions that we as search and rescuers have to make and our thoughts and prayers are with the families,” said Scott Giard, a command duty officer with Coast Guard Sector Juneau, in a prepared statement. “We appreciate the support of our partner agencies and good Samaritans to put as many resources on scene as possible and maximize our chances of locating these boaters.”

Original story below...

Nathaniel Herz

Customers of Municipal Light and Power could face a 22 percent increase in their electric bills under a plan released by the city-owned utility Friday.

Costs on average for residential customers would rise about $15 a month, from $69 to $84, ML&P told Anchorage Assembly members in a work session at City Hall.

The utility needs the money primarily to pay for its $130 million investment in the construction of a new power plant that went online in January, General Manager James Posey said, as part of a strategy to phase out old and inefficient infrastructure. The plant was a joint project of ML&P and Chugach Electric Association...

Nathaniel Herz