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
WASILLA -- The Matanuska-Susitna Borough is moving ahead on a regional floatplane base -- the first of its kind in the Valley, home to a burgeoning population that includes scores of pilots. The proposed facility would accommodate local traffic as well as ease private plane crowding at Lake Hood, the large, regional seaplane base in Anchorage. Some aviators wonder, however, about the out-of-the-way location of the three sites currently being proposed, all on relatively undeveloped Point MacKenzie. Others say the borough and the state should be resolving the floatplane conflict happening right now in the Susitna Valley instead of focusing on a future regional facility. A survey circulated by DOWL , a consulting firm working with the borough, asks for input on three potential sites winnowed...Zaz Hollander
WASILLA -- More than two years after Wasilla rejected a towering Matanuska Electric Association transmission line along the Parks Highway corridor, the city planning commission has approved a new route for the line. The Wasilla Planning Commission on Tuesday voted to approve an MEA permit application for one of three routes the Palmer-based electric cooperative submitted after almost a year of public input, according to an MEA statement. The route of the above-ground line parallels the highway to the south, then runs along it west of the Palmer-Wasilla Highway intersection. The commission in August 2013 told MEA any transmission line along the Parks corridor would have to be buried, citing the city’s “viewshed” and threats to future development in the area. MEA balked at the cost and...Zaz Hollander
PALMER -- The longtime director of the Alaska Division of Agriculture is leaving that position at the request of Gov. Bill Walker, who wants an aggressive new vision for getting Alaska-grown produce in stores. Franci Havemeister was appointed agriculture director in 2007 by high school classmate and former Gov. Sarah Palin. The 51-year-old Wasilla resident is related by marriage to one of the Matanuska Valley’s only surviving dairy families. Her more than eight years as Alaska’s top agriculture official makes her one of the longest serving directors at any state division, officials say. Havemeister said Friday morning she was asked to step down during a phone call three weeks ago with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources commissioner and deputy commissioner. Her last day on the job...Zaz Hollander
Anchorage House of Hobbies is a toy store that sometimes ends up on the front lines of the battle between drones and Alaska’s prolific fleet of small planes. Co-owner Ryan Raffuse says many new owners of the DJI Phantom -- the most popular model capable of the sweeping aerial videos taking YouTube by storm -- come into the store and know little about aviation or their new "toy" that can fly thousands of feet high and miles away from an operator. He’s all too aware of the low-altitude small plane traffic that dominates Alaska airspace, given the vantage he has from his home near a private airstrip in South Anchorage. “A lot of people come in with absolutely no experience in radio control aircraft. They want it because they see the YouTube videos and want those really cool photographs and...Zaz Hollander
WASILLA -- A planned transitional living center in the Valley, home to one of the country’s fastest growing senior populations, is drawing fire for displacing a long-standing veterans memorial. The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly on Tuesday night approved the $1.215 million sale of property near Mat-Su Regional Medical Center to Idaho-based developer Spring Creek Enterprise LLC. The company plans to build a 60-bed, 14,000-square-foot facility to provide transitional care for senior patients leaving the hospital as well as longer-term care. Visible from the Parks Highway, the site is the current home of the Mat-Su Convention and Visitors Bureau visitor center, which is moving to a new facility on the Glenn Highway. But it also houses the Veterans Memorial Wall of Honor -- dark granite...Zaz Hollander
PALMER -- Matanuska-Susitna Borough officials will spend the rest of the week in Washington, D.C., trying to smooth the long-awaited departure of the M/V Susitna. The 195-foot Susitna was supposed to carry passengers and cars across Knik Arm from Point MacKenzie to Anchorage, but money and political will for landings fizzled and the ferry never made it to Southcentral Alaska. The vessel has instead been moored since 2011 at a dock in Ward Cove near the Ketchikan shipyard where it was built and costing the borough more than $2 million. The borough assembly in early September authorized the $1.75 million sale of the ill-fated craft to the Philippine Red Cross, provided several conditions could be met. Among them: establishing that the federal government would allow the U.S. Navy prototype...Zaz Hollander
WASILLA -- Erick Cordero will never again see his older brother alive. The Mexican-born Palmer resident, a past Mat-Su school board member and former chief of staff for state Rep. Lynn Gattis, R-Wasilla, learned Tuesday that his brother, Victor Hugo Cordero, died Monday night in a prison in the Mexican state of Durango. Erick Cordero, 40, and now a real estate licensee and political consultant in the Valley, flew to Mexico City Wednesday to help his family deal with the death, the grief -- and a human-rights complaint perhaps forever left unfinished. Victor Hugo Cordero, 53, was a police chief in Durango when he was arrested in January 2013. His family believes drug cartels were involved and that his captors tortured him. “The last time I talked to him -- it’s hard to tell because there...Zaz Hollander