Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- The 28-year-old Wasilla man arrested in a string of armed robberies in the Valley said his acts were a "cry for help" and meant to impress his estranged wife, according to court documents filed in the case. Alaska State Troopers arrested Michael A. Longiny III late last week after serving search warrants at his ex-wife’s apartment in Wasilla, where they set up surveillance and stopped his 1995 Jeep as he pulled in, according to an affidavit filed Saturday at the Palmer courthouse by trooper Ronald Hayes. Longiny’s ex-wife pulled in behind him in a white minivan. The robberies began in late September. Troopers say a man matching Longiny’s description walked into the Valley Country Store on Church Road around 1:15 a.m., threatened the female clerk with a large silver butcher...Zaz Hollander
WASILLA -- A young-adult sex education book that sits on Wasilla Public Library’s juvenile nonfiction shelf has sparked calls to relocate the book -- if not remove it altogether. “This Book is Gay” is a rainbow-covered guide for LGBT teens written by U.K. young-adult author James Dawson and published last year. The copy in Wasilla is one of two public copies in Alaska. The other is in Barrow, where it’s shelved with adult nonfiction. The book drew sudden attention in recent weeks after Wasilla resident Vanessa Campbell's 10-year-old son pulled it off a shelf in the library's lower-level children's area. Campbell, shocked by what she considered vulgar language and graphic sexual concepts, started the unusual process of getting the book "reconsidered" by the library director because she...Zaz Hollander
WASILLA -- The Matanuska-Susitna Borough will pay more than $160,000 to nine emergency responders who say they didn’t get paid state retirement benefits due them. The out-of-court settlement resolves a 2014 lawsuit filed by a dozen responders who claimed they deserved Public Employees’ Retirement System payments for years of responding to fires and medical calls at full-time or nearly full-time levels. The suit highlights the reliance of Alaska’s fastest growing region on a largely paid on-call rather than full-time emergency response force. Responders involved say it also shows that the borough failed to recognize them as true employees despite the importance of their jobs and the hours they put in. The settlement was signed earlier this month, according to Tom Daniel, a partner at the...Zaz Hollander
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski plans to fight the appointment of the next U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner over the agency’s decision that genetically modified salmon is safe to eat. The action comes amid objections to what Murkowski and other critics call “Frankenfish” -- Atlantic salmon engineered with a chinook salmon growth hormone gene and genetics from the eel-like ocean pout that can grow up to twice as fast as their farm-raised counterparts. The FDA last week announced the approval of a new animal drug application involving AquAdvantage salmon, a genetically engineered salmon created by AquaBounty Technologies. Murkowski, chair of the Senate’s powerful Energy and Natural Resources committee, said in a statement Monday she intends to block the confirmation of Dr. Robert...Zaz Hollander
WILLOW -- State crews spent Friday clearing snow from main roads in the upper Susitna Valley after about a foot and a half fell in the area overnight Thursday. The snowfall closed five schools. Amanda Cornell told her 9-year-old son that he’d have to go to Willow Elementary Friday even if it was snowing really hard Thursday night. Then the call came at 4:30 a.m. Friday: no school. Cornell spent Friday with her two younger sons, ages 4 and 6, at the Raven Lunatic Espresso stand where she works as a barista. The older boy helped his dad plow the 10 inches of snow that fell at their place 10 miles up Willow-Fishhook Road. She and others heard the issue was state budget cuts that slowed plowing response time. But Shannon McCarthy, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Transportation and...Zaz Hollander,Chris Klint
Officials say the Matanuska-Susitna Borough needs to pay for nearly $900,000 in repairs to the never-used ferry M/V Susitna before the borough’s insurance company will cover the costs. To that end, the Assembly on Thursday voted unanimously -- with member Matthew Beck absent -- to forward the ferry repair funding ordinance for introduction at the next meeting on Dec. 1. The Susitna, which was supposed to carry passengers and cars across Knik Arm from Point MacKenzie to Anchorage, foundered on short money and political will. It’s been moored since 2011 in Ward Cove near the Ketchikan shipyard where it was built, costing millions in storage and matching grant money.The federal government has also demanded the borough return $12.3 million in grant funds spent on the ferry, which never...Zaz Hollander
PALMER -- Despite what one Alaska state trooper described as “a huge rise in heroin” in recent years, Alaska’s fastest-growing region has no place where addicts can undergo detox when they make the hard choice to get clean. That's according to panelists at a substance abuse forum hosted by the Mat-Su Health Foundation and attended by about 130 people at Mat-Su College's Glenn Massay Theater Monday night. Detox is the process of clearing the chemical dependence on drugs or alcohol from an addict’s system. Most experts advise doing it under medical supervision. Symptoms of heroin withdrawal can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or seizures -- none generally considered life-threatening in the way alcohol detox can be. Many addicts end up detoxing in jail after getting arrested on drug- or...Zaz Hollander
Juneau police had made no arrests by Monday evening in the murders of two people found in a West Juneau condominium Sunday afternoon. At 12:21 p.m. Sunday, police received a 911 call from a man who said he’d found the bodies of two people in the Admiralty Condos on Roger Street on Douglas Island, across Gastineau Channel from downtown Juneau. The victims, 34-year-old Elizabeth K. Tonsmeire and 36-year-old Robert H. Meireis, both of Juneau, were discovered by a 69-year-old male relative of one of the victims, according to Juneau police Lt. David Campbell. Both had been shot. “At this point we’re not ruling out anything because we’re still trying to figure out exactly what did happen,” Campbell said. Police could offer little information about any suspects, people of interest or details...Zaz Hollander
State jobs and population numbers show Alaska may be on the cusp of an economic recession or already in one, a University of Alaska Anchorage economist said Friday. Gunnar Knapp, director of UAA's Institute of Social and Economic Research , told a demographics forum in Palmer the state is “probably already in or entering into at least a mild recession.” Knapp's assessment was based on two straight months of declining employment . He also factored in the state's first population drop since a major recession in 1987-88, and a $1.9 billion cut in state capital spending over the past three years. Nons easonally adjusted employment data from the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development showed a loss of 1,600 jobs statewide in August compared to the same month last year and 800 in...Jeannette Lee Falsey,Zaz Hollander
PALMER -- If the Matanuska-Susitna Borough keeps growing like it is now, the Ireland-sized municipality could hit 100,000 residents this year. But even as that milestone surfaced Friday at a forum on demographics hosted by the Mat-Su Borough School District in Palmer, experts questioned the sustainability of the borough’s rapid growth. Mat-Su is far and away Alaska’s fastest-growing borough and the only one with significant numbers of people still moving in from year to year, according to state demographer Eddie Hunsinger, essentially Alaska’s people counter. The borough with a population just over 98,000 is increasing by about 2,000 people a year through a combination of migration and births. The school district predicted about 350 new students this year, Superintendent Deena Paramo said...Zaz Hollander