Zaz Hollander

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough, a place the size of Ireland that’s home to three mountain ranges located within an hour’s drive of Anchorage, is a distinctly Alaska destination that offers world-class fishing and exploring with shops, restaurants and the occasional oddity in between. Cities include Palmer — an old-fashioned farm town with a contemporary main street — and Wasilla, the city known for former mayor Sarah Palin, big-box stores at which to stock up on supplies, and four-wheelers rolling through a small but historic downtown...

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- An Anchorage company looking for a place to dump waste generated by a thriving construction and demolition recycling business at Ship Creek has put on hold its state permit for a contentious landfill near Palmer.

Central Monofill Services on April 14 withdrew a permit application before the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to put shredded debris on the site, according to a state official.

The proposed debris dump, classified as an “inert monofill” and subject to few state regulations, generated loud criticism from hundreds of nearby residents concerned about the potential for groundwater contamination at the 35-acre site located over an already unstable water table...

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- The Wasilla pilot killed in a Prince William Sound plane crash April 14 had hoped to descend below the clouds and land on an island before he went down, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report.

Searchers late the next day found the remains of 53-year-old Dale Carlson and parts of his wheel-equipped Cessna 180 near Culross Island, an area of remote fjords and steep terrain about 18 miles east of Whittier...

Zaz Hollander

TALKEETNA -- Feeling the pinch of the state budget crisis, the Alaska Department of Public Safety announced this month that the state is closing Alaska State Troopers posts in Talkeetna and Girdwood this year.

The Talkeetna post is scheduled to close at the end of May when a $17,000 annual building lease runs out, and Girdwood at the end of the year.

Closing the post near the Parks Highway, 14 miles up the Talkeetna Spur Road from town, will save the state about $80,000 a year, according to Col. James Cockrell, director of the Alaska State Troopers. A sergeant, four troopers and one administrative assistant will move to the Mat-Su West post, 45 minutes away at Pittman Road in Meadow Lakes, west of Wasilla...

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- The Matanuska-Susitna Borough has filled its top emergency position without advertising the job or interviewing other candidates.

The borough announced this week that West Lakes Fire Chief Bill Gamble, a longtime local responder who rose through the ranks, will become the new director of the Department of Emergency Services on Monday.

Gamble was named acting director in early April after former director Dennis Brodigan resigned, citing personal reasons. Brodigan’s last day was April 1.

Gamble comes on board at a turbulent time: The Mat-Su's top three EMS officials earlier this month resigned or were fired after a union complaint about leadership issues...

Zaz Hollander

Gov. Bill Walker’s latest nominee for the Alaska Board of Fisheries faced a barrage of critical questions at a hearing Monday over the depth of his support for sportfishing, even as a decision by the Senate majority caucus threw the whole appointment process into limbo.

Robert Ruffner, director of the conservation group Kenai Watershed Forum, has faced criticism from some personal-use dipnetters and sportfishermen from Copper River, the Kenai and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. They’ve accused him of supporting commercial fishing interests instead, and have opposed his appointment to the seven-member board that sets and revises fishing regulations in Alaska...

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- State officials have charged a Big Lake contractor with safety and wage violations for its work last year on a troubled, federally-funded salmon restoration project near Trapper Creek.

The contractor, Tew’s Inc., is well known in the Valley for its pink-painted equipment and its Mat-Su Borough road contracts and garbage hauling...

Zaz Hollander

One-third of the committee that represents the people of Anchorage at the boards that regulate hunting and fishing in Alaska resigned this week, saying their advice is consistently ignored.

Six of the Anchorage Fish and Game Advisory Committee’s 17 members resigned Tuesday at an annual meeting. Two members serve as alternates.

The resigning members say the boards regularly disregard advisory recommendations, as evidenced by the game board’s decision last month to ban the use of aircraft to find Dall sheep over committee objections.

Several also expressed frustration about the board authorizing Anchorage-area cow moose hunts without support from the committee or complete moose survey information from Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists...

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- The Alaska State Troopers say budget cuts are forcing the closure of their post in Talkeetna this year. Another post in Girdwood is also closing.

A sergeant, four troopers and an office assistant work at the post, according to an email from troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters. They will be reassigned.

The next closest post to Talkeetna is Mat-Su West in Meadow Lakes, at least an hour’s drive away.

Closing the Talkeetna post will save $90,000 a year, Peters said. Other post closures will be considered next year.

Additional troopers reductions this year include the loss of 27 positions and six special investigative positions, including the statewide Cold Case Unit, she said.

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- The owner of a Wasilla center for the disabled was sentenced Thursday to four months in jail and more than $1.6 million in restitution for criminal Medicaid fraud charges linked to altered medical records.

The hefty sentence comes as the Alaska Legislature grapples with Gov. Bill Walker’s proposal to expand Medicaid in the state.

Laura Sasseen, 58, was sentenced as part of a plea deal approved Thursday afternoon in Anchorage District Court.

Sasseen owns Mat-Su Activity and Respite Center LLC, a now-shuttered facility known as “MARC” along the Palmer-Wasilla Highway. The center served 29 developmentally disabled clients with jobs, day activities and caregiver support...

Zaz Hollander