Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- The mayor of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough wants to put bans on commercial marijuana operations to a local vote, potentially opening a door to undo parts of Alaska's legalization law in the state's pot growing capital.

The proposed resolution goes before the Mat-Su Assembly on Tuesday night.

Borough Mayor Larry DeVilbiss is seeking Assembly approval of a resolution asking local voters if they support prohibitions on four sectors of commercial marijuana: retail stores, cultivation facilities, manufacturing facilities and testing facilities. If approved, the questions would be placed on the Oct. 6 ballot for borough residents outside the cities of Palmer, Wasilla and Houston...

Zaz Hollander

MOOSE PASS -- A sign of Kenai Peninsula conflicts between dogs and traps marks the start of Chugach National Forest trails to Vagt and Lower Trail lakes, a popular alpine lake access point rimmed by 5,000-foot Kenai Range peaks.

The yellow Alaska Trappers Association sign encourages trappers to “respect other public land users” and reduce potential conflict by avoiding traps near trails, turnouts, populated areas or other high public-use settings.

Then it reminds pet owners to “take responsibility” for their dogs: “Off-leash animals pose a safety issue with other users and themselves."...

Zaz Hollander

Big Lake took yet another step toward becoming a city this week.

A final report issued Friday by staffers at the Alaska Local Boundary Commission recommends Big Lake become a second-class city if voters approve the same road taxes they pay now.

The report also supports a separate petition by the city of Houston to add almost 2½ square miles to the nearly 23 the city now covers.

The recommendations largely echo those listed in a preliminary finding released in December.

Public comment will be taken on the Big Lake finding through March 27...

Zaz Hollander

HATCHER PASS -- Years of conflict between snowmachiners and state park rangers came to a head high in the Talkeetna Mountains in late February.

Six snowmachiners trailered their sleds up to the Gold Mint parking lot at Hatcher Pass and took off down Archangel Road.

They knew it wasn’t legal.

Hatcher Pass, a popular destination for skiers and snowmachiners, is one of the few backcountry access points in Southcentral with any snow this powder-starved winter. But the whole east side of Hatcher Pass -- the side closest to Palmer -- was closed to snowmachines all season until a limited opening Friday. Rangers had said there wasn't enough snow to protect the brush and tundra below.

These snowmachiners said there was plenty...

Zaz Hollander

PALMER -- The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly has delayed a decision on a temporary move down to audience level from the high dais they now occupy during meetings.

The Assembly voted 5-2 Tuesday night to push the decision to March 17 to give members of the public time to weigh in.

Assembly member Jim Sykes initially proposed the change, noting that the current configuration puts the body too far above the public. Sykes is suggesting the Assembly test out his idea by meeting for three months at tables on the floor...

Zaz Hollander

PALMER -- A jury on Thursday began deliberating the murder case against Benjamin Wilson, the 31-year-old accused of shooting 28-year-old Leticia Faller in a Butte parking lot last November.

Wilson shot Faller in the head the evening of Nov. 9 in the parking lot of the Green Store, a convenience store and gas station along the Old Glenn Highway. He later told investigators that Faller lunged into his pickup with a knife. Prosecutors say he sent a barrage of angry, threatening texts to Faller the day she died. Court documents show Faller's sister gave Alaska State Troopers a letter about the care of her 7-year-old daughter in case anything happened...

Zaz Hollander

PALMER -- A proposal coming before the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly on Tuesday night would bring the Assembly down from the high dais where it now sits.

Assembly member Jim Sykes is sponsoring a resolution that would relocate the seven-member body from the dais to tables on the main floor for a three-month trial period. Sykes, in the resolution, says the unusually high dais can make it hard for people sitting in front rows to see Assembly members.

Under his proposal, the Assembly in mid-June would evaluate whether to continue meeting on audience level, go back to the dais, build a small riser or seek “some other solution consistent with the goal to make Assembly meetings be more inviting, accessible and less intimidating to the public."...

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- Citing concerns about the legality of strict new marijuana regulations -- including a ban on homemade pot brownies -- passed just before recreational use of the drug became legal in Alaska last week, two Wasilla City Council members want an overhaul on the manufacturing and transport sections of the regulations.

The proposal from council members Brandon Wall and Colleen Sullivan-Leonard would make it legal to cook brownies and other edibles, extracts or concentrates, but not for sale. It would also be legal for caregivers and others to provide such products to qualified medical marijuana card carriers...

Zaz Hollander

High over Southeast Alaska last August, 82-year-old Bill Bunten was flying blind.

The retired bank president from Topeka, Kansas, realized after leaving Ketchikan that the weather en route to Juneau was worse than he expected. Bunten dropped from 8,000 feet to 7,000 to lose the ice forming on the wings of his Piper Comanche. The autopilot wasn't working and the engine sounded choppy. Suddenly, the small plane’s heading indicator and compass started spinning. Bunten remembered a note on his map about possible navigational problems in the area.

Now he was in the clouds and struggling to get his bearings without the two instruments he needed to do just that...

Zaz Hollander
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WILLOW -- Willow firefighters are accusing their own board of years of budgetary neglect that's left the community underserved and potentially at risk...

Zaz Hollander