Zaz Hollander

PALMER -- If the Matanuska-Susitna Borough wants to fix its popular pools, hockey rink and trails, the borough Assembly could put a nearly $18 million bond package before voters, officials say. The borough’s aging recreational infrastructure is in need of immediate repair, community development director Eric Phillips told the Mat-Su Assembly at a meeting Tuesday. Pools at Wasilla and Palmer were built in 1980 and 1982, respectively, and the Brett Memorial Ice Arena in 1984. Borough trails date back at least 30 years. The pools average 400,000 visitors a year and the Brett gets about 57,000. Phillips likened the situation to a car with 400,000 miles on the odometer. “They are running but they could fail us at any time,” he said. Phillips said he just wants to start a conversation about the...Zaz Hollander
A 41-year-old Wasilla man this week lost his bid to appeal a 2012 first-degree murder conviction in the shooting death of his neighbor . The Alaska Court of Appeals rejected Phillip Jackson Bailey’s appeal despite agreeing that a Palmer Superior Court jury shouldn’t have heard about his marijuana dealing to establish a potential murder motive, according to an opinion by the three-judge panel handed down Wednesday. Bailey is serving an 80-year sentence at Wildwood Correctional Center just north of Kenai. Bailey and 41-year-old construction worker Dale Prater both lived in an apartment building on North Fanciful Place in Wasilla. Prater often went to Bailey’s apartment to smoke marijuana, according to the opinion. Prater did time himself for a 1989 murder in Oklahoma , according to the...Zaz Hollander
Federal statistics show Alaska has the nation’s highest rate of repeat child abuse or neglect -- a grim barometer that often precedes the death or serious injury of a child. But a new study released Tuesday by the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska Anchorage contends the state's rate of child maltreatment doesn’t even reflect the true extent of the problem here. And the state’s youngest children are the most vulnerable, according to the 24-page study by ISER researcher Jessica Passini and assistant public policy professor Diwakar Vadapalli. Maltreatment is defined as abuse or neglect; the latter makes up about three-quarters of the maltreatment reports received by the state Office of Children’s Services. Many reports of maltreatment aren’t investigated...Zaz Hollander
WASILLA -- Police on Friday were still looking for the man who stole a donations kettle from a Salvation Army bell ringer at the Wasilla Walmart on Wednesday evening. The bell ringer wasn’t hurt and chased after the thief -- as did a construction worker from a nearby site -- but the suspect ran to a pickup waiting in the parking lot of a theater next door. The thief was described as a man with facial hair wearing an orange coat and black pants at the time of the incident, according to a statement from Wasilla Police Department officer Dan Bennett. He got into a dark, older-model pickup with several dents. Anyone with information can call Wasilla Police at 352-5401 or Crime Stoppers at 745-3333.Zaz Hollander
Rebuffing requests from Gov. Bill Walker and local officials, the Alaska Board of Fisheries this week rejected a bid to move a contentious salmon regulation meeting to the Kenai Peninsula. The meeting, scheduled for February 2017 to discuss Upper Cook Inlet fishing regulations that divide salmon among sport, personal-use and commercial fishing interests, will take place in Anchorage as planned. The state fish board decides Upper Cook Inlet salmon regulations every three years. It last held the session on the Kenai Peninsula in the late 1990s, when unruly fishermen disrupted the meeting. The board voted 5-2 against the move at the end of a lengthy session called to talk about Bristol Bay fishing regulations. Opponents of the move said Anchorage was the most balanced place to hold the...Zaz Hollander
WASILLA -- A thief took advantage of the generosity of the season and snatched a Salvation Army red kettle full of cash at the Wasilla Wal-mart on Wednesday night. The bell-ringer had just accepted a donation around 6 p.m. when an unidentified man grabbed the kettle and ran to the adjacent Valley Cinema parking lot, according to Jeff Josephson, a Salvation Army captain who serves as Mat-Su coordinator. A 1990s Dodge pickup was waiting and took off as soon as the thief got there. The bell-ringer and a worker at a nearby construction site chased the thief but couldn’t catch him. Josephson said the kettle held hundreds of dollars in donations -- everything from bigger bills to dresser-top change. “This is our one big fundraiser of the year, so we hit it really hard,” he said. “This is how we...Zaz Hollander
Just in time for the busy holiday season, a shuttered contract post office in the Knik area of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough will reopen on Dec. 14, the U.S. Postal Service said Wednesday. The Knik Contract Post Office, next to Settlers Bay Lodge on Knik-Goose Bay Road, will offer full retail and mail delivery service under a new contractor who has leased the building, the Postal Service said. The new operator of the Knik post office, Giovanna Rossi, did not want to comment. Rossi, who is affiliated with a Wasilla-area private mail service, said people can email with any questions. The Postal Service closed the Knik facility operated under private contract on Sept. 18 after receiving what an investigator described as “an allegation regarding the possible delay of U...Zaz Hollander
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is weighing penalties for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough over high bacteria levels in Talkeetna’s aging sewage lagoon. About 200 households and businesses pay for the costs of the community’s water-sewer system. But it’s the deluge of 100,000 tourists every summer that really taxes the utility. The early enforcement action against the borough marks the latest in a string of DEC penalties involving government agencies across Alaska. The agency has gotten more than $266,000 in penalties from the cities of Seward and Juneau as well as a National Marine Fisheries Service lab in Juneau, through agreements signed this year. The action, announced in a Nov. 23 letter to the borough, marks the start of an enforcement phase to get the borough to...Zaz Hollander
Some say the genetically modified salmon dubbed "Frankenfish" by critics may not be as scary as it sounds -- at least not in Alaska. The Food and Drug Administration’s decision last month to approve genetically modified salmon for human consumption triggered outrage from Alaska politicians and concern from consumers. The fast-growing creation is a combination of genes from Pacific chinook salmon and an eel-like fish called an ocean pout injected into Atlantic salmon eggs. It’s expected to enter the marketplace at least two years from now. Critics condemned the FDA for not mandating a “genetically modified” label. But some analysts say the lack of a label -- and questions about just what’s in farmed salmon -- could drive consumers to wild Alaska salmon instead. During a press conference...Zaz Hollander
WASILLA -- The Matanuska-Susitna Borough and a Palmer contractor paid about $18,000 in penalties for federal Clean Water Act permit violations at the new Talkeetna library. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation announced Thursday that it settled the claims against the borough and contractor E&E Construction for $18,050. The claims relate to violations of permits required to control storm water runoff that can pollute waterways. The borough is the project and property owner. E&E was the general contractor on the job. No pollution was involved, the parties said Thursday. Instead, the problem hinged on issues with paperwork that should have been filled out to indicate contractors were following Clean Water Act requirements. The borough paid about $4,500 in penalties,...Zaz Hollander