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Awareness to action: community leaders try to stop domestic violence


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Inflation: 2014 PFD dividend check not as big as it looks


In 1982, the first year that Alaska paid a dividend to every eligible Alaskan, a gallon of gas cost about $1.25. A carton of eggs was less than a buck.

Money went a lot farther, and in other words, the $1,000 check that the state mailed to each resident that year was worth the equivalent of $2,180.

With inflation in mind, KTUU.com analyzed all 32 dividend amounts to see which checks really had the most buying power. This year’s payout is $1,884, a windfall for Alaska families that will inject more than $1 billion into the state.

While it may be the third-largest dividend on paper, it drops to No. 10 when you account for inflation.

Below are the amounts for every dividend paid since the program began, ranked in terms of buying power.

These amounts were calculated using the consumer price index for Anchorage in 2013, the most recent numbers available from the state Labor Department. The value of a dollar rises and falls differently in Alaska than the national average, in part because of the state’s isolation.

“We’re affected maybe more-so than a lot of other states by increases to the cost of fuels, because we have to transport everything here,” said Alyssa Rodrigues, a Labor Department economist. “All of our goods, a lot of our food, a lot of things have an extra amount that’s tacked on that you wouldn’t pay down south just because of transporting things up to Alaska."

BUYING POWER: Top 10 Permanent Fund Dividends

Year    Buying power, with inflation    Amount on the check

2000    $2,764                                         $1,964

1999    $2,533                                         $1,770

2001    $2,532                                         $1,850

2008    $2,319                                         $2,069       

1998    $2,228                                         $1,541

1982    $2,181                                         $1,000

2002    $2,068                                         $1,541

2007    $1,938                                         $1,654

1997    $1,902                                         $1,297

2014    $1,884                                         $1,884

Find the amount paid every year, as well as the number of people who received the dividend over time on the Permanent Fund Dividend Division timeline.

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Trucker convicted after failing to report Wasilla man's death


A truck driver has been convicted of failing to report a crash on Interstate 90 in south-central Montana where an 81-year-old Alaska man was killed. Officials in Sweet Grass County say 45-year-old David Welk was convicted Wednesday. District Judge Katherine Bidegaray ordered a presentence investigation and did not set a sentencing date. Elgie Bedford of Wasilla, Alaska, died early on Sept. 30, 2013. Investigators believe several vehicles ran over his body before officers discovered it at about 7:30 a.m. Welk was arrested in Iowa on Jan. 23 after his co-driver reported that the truck hit something in Montana. Defense attorneys argued investigators couldn't determine how many time Bedford was struck. A Washington state woman who drove through the area is charged with leaving the scene and tampering with evidence. Her trial is set for November.

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Alaska refuge proposes killing invasive caribou


ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Federal wildlife officials are considering deadly measures to keep an Alaska big game animal introduced more than 50 years ago to a remote island in the Aleutians from expanding its range.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing that caribou swimming from Adak (AY'-dak) Island to Kagalaska (kag-ah-LAS'-kah) Island be killed to prevent a new herd from being established.

Adak Island is 1,300 miles southwest of Anchorage. Caribou were transplanted onto Adak in 1958 to provide sport-hunting for military personnel assigned to a remote naval base formerly located there.

Kagalaska Island is part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and a short swim away from Adak.

Refuge manager Steve Delehanty (del-ah-HAHN'-tee) says Kagalaska is a wilderness area and caribou would change its vegetation and natural diversity.

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No injuries in paraglider crash near Flattop trailhead


Anchorage Fire Department rescue units are responding to a paraglider crash with no injuries near the Flattop trailhead Wednesday afternoon. According to AFD dispatchers, the crash near the trailhead at 13101 Glen Alps Rd. was initally reported to Anchorage police, then relayed to AFD at 2:07 p.m. A caller initially said the paraglider had been seen crashing in trees, but no line of sight was available on its occupants. This is a developing story. Please check KTUU.com and the Channel 2 newscasts for updates.

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Friends, family of slain Chevak woman turn to Facebook for justice


More than a month after a woman was found dead near a village health clinic in Western Alaska, her family and friends are mounting a social-media campaign to learn more about her suspicious death. According to Alaska State Troopers, 19-year-old Roxanne Smart’s body was found  Aug. 27 near the Chevak clinic. Members of the Alaska Bureau of Investigation traveled to the community of 980 people, about 17 miles inland, east of Hooper Bay.

Troopers labeled the death a homicide but have revealed no information about the investigation in the following weeks.  

Now, supporters of Roxanne Smart have launched a Facebook page, Justice for Roxanne Smart, where friends and family have posted memories of the teen. The page includes photos from a candlelight vigil held behind the Chevak Clinic and seeks to draw attention to the case from troopers and Alaska media.

The organized push for information borrows techniques from a similar page set up after 22-year-old Michelle Lane’s Sept. 2 death in Anchorage. “Roxanne did not deserve this,” organizers wrote on the page Saturday. “The person who did this to her needs to found and put away. If anyone has any information any suspicion we ask you to go to the cops.”

Roxanne’s mother, Matilda Smart, says that she is satisfied with the pace of AST’s investigation, although she hasn’t heard much since it began. “We had a visit from the state troopers a few weeks ago, and he said they’re still investigating what happened,” Smart said.

Trooper spokesperson Megan Peters says investigators working on the case had not responded to a list of Channel 2 questions forwarded to them as of Wednesday morning. Troopers have not answered, for example, whether authorities have determined the cause of Smart's death in an autopsy,

Henry Smart, Roxanne's father, says a prosecutor told him about a month ago that an initial forensic analysis hadn't turned up anything. He says that during their last visit, troopers requested Roxanne's phone number and a copy of her phone bill.

"Last time that trooper came, he said they won't stop, they'll keep trying to find answers," Henry Smart said. Roxanne's mother credits family friends Jessica Ayuluk and Kerri Tall with creating the Justice for Roxanne Smart page. It was a good idea, she said.

“I don’t Facebook myself,” Matilda Smart said. “I did not find out about the Facebook page until yesterday, when I was visiting one of my friends.” The mother says her family hopes the social media effort plays a role in bringing Roxanne’s killer before the law. “We really just want, want whoever did it -- I just really wish they’d give themselves up,” Matilda Smart said. The family remembers Roxanne as an outgoing young woman who loved fishing, as well as listening to music, taking walks and collecting bird eggs. “She was happy, and she was very helpful of anybody that was outside our house,” Matilda Smart said. “She was willing to go any which way and give them help.” Roxanne wasn’t known to be in a relationship at the time of her death, Matilda Smart said. Family members haven't been told when or where she was last seen alive. “All we know is that she was found behind the clinic,” Smart said. “That’s the last place we saw her.”

Editor's note: An initial version of this story inaccurately named one of the Justice for Roxanne Smart Facebook page's creators as Katie Tall, not Kerri Tall.

Channel 2's Corey Allen-Young contributed information to this story.

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South High School seeks input on proposed football stadium


At South High School, one of Anchorage's only high schools without a football stadium, the varsity team wants to play on its own home turf.

School administrators want that to change -- but neighbors have big concerns about noise and traffic.

This isn’t the first time the school has tried to build a football stadium. Earlier this year, the city's Planning and Zoning Commission voted down the state-funded field in a 3-4 vote with two commissioners absent.

In 2012, students and parents lobbied the Legislature for a $2.2 million grant to add seats, a scoreboard and lights -- but it was never built.

That’s why parents, students and community members packed South High's commons area Tuesday night for a public meeting on the issue.

“Students were very disappointed last year when they didn’t receive approval from Planning and Zoning," said South's principal, Kersten Johnson-Struempler. "Parents were equally disappointed, so there was efforts to keep trying to adjust our application this time."

“It’s a shame for this school that we haven’t gotten this done,” said Jim Andres at his son’s football game Tuesday afternoon.

But neighbors of the school are concerned about noise and traffic congestion that comes with a full stadium.

“They say only 10 events but they have been a serial violator of the noise ordinance," said Alex Slivka, president of the Turnagain View Estates Homeowners Association. "We have asked them for years to stop using their external paging system, which has reached blocks in the neighborhood.”

“We would like to have a better buffer there and we just need the school district to be a better neighbor,” said Cornelius Eastman, a neighbor of South, at Tuesday’s meeting.

The school is trying again with a new proposal addressing concerns about noise and buffers between the stadium and surrounding community.

“We want the field and I want to play on it before I graduate,” said Nathan Lujan, a junior who plays on the varsity football team at South. “The seniors this year want to play on it before they graduated and I hope it just happens soon.”

The Turnagain View Estates Homeowners Association has spent more than $70,000 in legal fees battling the proposed stadium.

Meanwhile, students and parents hope the Planning and Zoning Commission changes its mind so a stadium can be built by next fall.

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Stay put or lockdown?: How Anchorage schools react to a crisis


The Anchorage School District's crisis plan includes the use of two detailed procedures -- the lockdown and stay put modes. 

An empty hall is the key to protecting students during emergencies at East High School.

"The assets in our schools are our students," said East High Principal Sam Spinella. "It's protecting them and making sure they are safe. What we do in order to protect them is done in a safe way as well." 

Dealing with crises, like a fire or attack, in Anchorage schools, requires coordination between the principal, police and district officials.

In both stay put and lockdown modes, all students and staff members are brought inside the building to get people away from possible criminal activity or a problem animal.

"We are fortunate, actually," Mike Abbot, ASD's chief operating officer. "The level of investment that our community has made actually puts our facilities among the top in the nation in terms of their ability to protect themselves in the event of an intruder."

Stay put and lockdown modes are applied during natural disasters, as well.

The earthquake that rattled Southcentral last week Romig Middle School to activate its safety protocol.

"Those are really the only spaces in the district that we had to kind of temporarily close and they were back up and running in a couple of days," said Abbott.

In both stay put and lockdown modes, school doors and classrooms are closed. During lockdown, students are kept away from visible areas, like windows.

"All the doors are locked," said Spinella. "No one is allowed to the building. No one is allowed to leave the classroom. They have to stand in a quiet place." 

As part of local and state requirements, Anchorage schools and 50,000 students practice a variety of emergency drills every month. 

During crises, the school district keeps families updated through online, phone and text messages. 

For a complete list of ASD's lockdown and stay put safety procedures, click here.

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Suspects enter pleas in Juneau park fires


A Juneau man has pleaded guilty to felony criminal mischief for 2012 fires that caused $26,000 in damage at a city park.

The Juneau Empire (http://bit.ly/1E08U4D) reports 26-year-old Ryan Martin changed his plea Tuesday.

A second man, 26-year-old Dillon West, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal mischief and was sentenced to 80 hours of community service.

A third defendant, 20-year-old Ashley Rae Johnston, was convicted of felony criminal mischief last year.

Prosecutors say the three were recorded on park video surveillance cameras before the June 19, 2012, park fires.

The fires damaged a tractor and material owned by a company replacing artificial turf at a city football field.

Martin, with no prior felony convictions, faces a presumptive prison sentence of zero to two years. The maximum is five years.

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Frontier Airlines to end seasonal flights to Fairbanks


The only low-cost air carrier operating between Fairbanks and the Lower 48 will eliminate the seasonal route next year.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports Denver-based Frontier Airlines plans to eliminate its Denver-to-Fairbanks schedule.

Frontier ended seasonal service last month.

It flew three to four no-frills Airbus 319 flights every week from mid-May to mid-September.

A spokeswoman for Fairbanks International Airport says the airline cited the closure of the Flint Hills Resources refinery in North Pole and higher fuel costs as a major factor in the decision. Flint Hills ended production in May.

Angie Spear says the carrier in a letter also has decided to reposition its national fleet.

Frontier will continue flying between Denver and Anchorage.

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State: New Xerox-run Medicaid system doesn't deliver


An updated Medicaid payout system was supposed to help providers get paid, but it has ended up costing them and the state millions of dollars. 

Last fall, the state updated its 27-year-old Medicaid payout system by hiring Xerox to run a new, more advanced system to receive reimbursement claims from medical providers for work they completed.

"They haven't been able to deliver that," said Alaska Health and Social Services Commissioner Bill Streur. "We believe the provider system and, in many respects, the Medicaid recipients, as well as the state, have suffered harm as a result of that."

Only about 60 percent of claims are being successfully processed, Streur said. As a result, the state paid out $150 million in advanced payments while providers waited on claims.

Channel 2 spoke with local providers who said they are still having a difficult time meeting their bottom line. None wanted to speak on-camera about the problems it has created.

Xerox Public Relations Director Jennifer Wasmer would not answer questions about the system but offered a written statement.

Wasmer said, in part, "new claims are paid within nine days; and the system is paying at better levels than the national industry average. We continue to optimize the system to further improve speed, accuracy of payments and reduction of claims backlog with the aim to deliver a high-performance system."

Streur said he is holding Xerox accountable to its word. He filed a claim to notify the state department of administration of Xerox’s breach in contract for services.

Within six months, he said he expects to have payouts working at a 90 percent success rate.

In the meantime, DHSS is considering stopping payments to Xerox because the company cost the state and providers so much time and money over the past year.

The total cost of the system from Xerox is $32 million. So far, the state has paid Xerox $12 million for its services. 

The issue could end up in superior court if Xerox does not meet expectations, Streur said.

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Armed robbery reported in parking lot of Tudor Road Taco Bell


A woman was robbed at gunpoint Monday afternoon in Midtown, according to the Anchorage Police Department.

Two armed men entered the woman's vehicle, which was parked outside a Taco Bell restaurant on Tudor Road, around 5 p.m.

The unidentified suspects demanded money and personal belongings before leaving.

Police set up a perimeter and searched the area with K-9 units and officers patrolling with assault rifles drawn.

No one was immediately arrested, and a physical description of the suspects was not provided.

Hours later, near a Downtown Taco Bell, a man was shot in the neck and critically injured.

APD spokesperson Jennifer Castro said it is not immediately clear if the two incidents are connected.

"There's no clear indication that they're connected," she said, "but there's no clear indication that they're not connected.

"We're investigating."

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Federal agency expresses concern with dam studies


A federal fisheries agency has raised concerns about the accuracy of some studies being conducted for a massive proposed dam in south-central Alaska.

In a letter to the project manager for the Susitna-Watana dam, the regional administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service, James Balsiger, said new study requests can't be developed given the current problems with the data.

Among other things, he questioned the accuracy of the identification of fish species.

Project spokeswoman Emily Ford said overall, the Alaska Energy Authority, which is pursuing the project, is confident in the information it is gathering.

She said the comments raised by agencies and others will be discussed during an upcoming round of technical meetings, at which the authority also will discuss its plans for next year.

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Alaska health officials brace for respiratory diseases


Alaska has seen no reported cases of a respiratory disease sweeping across the Lower 48 states, but state health officials ask residents to be on guard against a variety of cold and flu-type illnesses this season. A Tuesday statement from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services says there are no confirmed Last Frontier cases of Enterovirus D68. Hundreds of D68 infections have been reported Outside, with symptoms ranging from runny nose and fever to difficulty breathing and wheezing in more severe cases; no vaccines or treatment beyond supportive care are currently available, with children under age 5 and those suffering from asthma at elevated risk. DHSS spokesperson Dawnell Smith emphasizes that the lack of D68 reports involves only cases examined by Alaska doctors. Louisa Castrodale, with the department’s Section of Epidemiology, says state health workers have been keeping an eye out for D68 cases despite their apparent absence here so far this year. “Like all the other states, we’ve been conducting surveillance for the enterovirus,” Castrodale said. “There’s no reason to think that we’re free from it.” The department is also keeping track of more common respiratory diseases, with “high levels” of pertussis cases reported statewide and influenza rates at a relative low going into the traditional flu season. “Pertussis, which is a bacterial infection or whooping cough, we’ve definitely seen that,” Castrodale said. “Influenza has never really gone away during the summer.” While epidemiologists can’t readily associate particular outbreaks with a specific disease, Castrodale says anecdotal symptoms of a long-lasting cold and cough in Anchorage workplaces, including the Channel 2 newsroom, are consistent with pertussis. “That’s a lot of coughing, and it can continue for a long time,” Castrodale said. “For a good two and a half weeks, people can pass it on to others.” Smith says the reports of illness even extend to DHSS. “We’ve all been sick in this office,” Smith said. DHSS has these tips to fight the spread of respiratory diseases: •        Get a flu shot early this fall. •        Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds (alcohol hand gel is not as good as hand washing with soap and water). •        Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. •        Avoid kissing, hugging and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick. •        Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick. •        Children and adults with asthma should be sure to have their asthma symptoms under control and see a health care provider if they develop a respiratory infection and their asthma worsens. •        Cover coughs and sneezes. •        Do not go to day care, school, or work while ill.

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How do you think the Anchorage School District should handle budget shortfall?


Facing another round of possible cuts, the Anchorage School District is projecting a $22 million budget shortfall for the 2015-2016 school year.

Monday night the district held the first of three “listening sessions” for community members to weigh in on what the district should and should not focus on when it comes to funding.

After a year where the district slashed $23 million, ASD is looking at a $73 million shortfall over the next three years if current funding doesn’t change.

The idea of the “listening sessions” is to give people the opportunity to speak directly to the school board before the budgeting process begins.

“The goal should be to seek increased funding to benefit students in all camps,” said Debra Fitzgerald a parent who attended Monday night’s session.

“We’re in a crisis now, our school board and district is doing the best they can,” said Starr Marsett.

“I know there are limited resources due to a lack of legislation appropriations and the cuts had to come from somewhere but I object to cut funds for kids who have special needs,” said Celia Rozen, student advocate.

ASD officials predict a loss of more than 700 positions if the current funding formula from the legislature does not change.

“You can’t keep running a school district on the budget that we have,” said Marsett at Monday’s “listening session”.  

“This is going to have to be a Juneau fix, a state-wide fix,” said school board president Eric Croft.

Croft said the current BSA – Base Student Allocation – the legislature funds, is not keeping up with inflation.

“Every year until the legislature inflation proofs the formula we’ll have a deficit,” said Croft.

To help aid last year’s $23 million deficit, the district received $5.8 million from the Anchorage Assembly with the Assembly picking up the $2.25 million price tag for funding student resource officers.

But Croft said there’s only so much the city can give the school district.

The next “listening session” will be Tuesday night at Alpenglow Elementary School at 6 p.m.

The third and final session will be Wednesday at Lake Hood Elementary School at 6 p.m.

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Petersburg to host large Alaska Native gathering


Petersburg will be hosting one of the largest gatherings of Alaska Natives in southeast Alaska.

The 102nd annual of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Alaska Native Sisterhood Grand Camp is scheduled for Oct. 8 through 11.

ANB-ANS has grown into a nonprofit that includes 29 volunteer camps in Alaska, Washington and Oregon.

Brenda Louise of Petersburg is ANS 2nd Grand Vice President. She tells KFSK the Grand Camp looks at issues or concerns from different communities. She says individual camps submit resolutions for review that address their concerns.

The Petersburg camp plans to bring resolutions calling for cultural education within the community and a more transparent permitting process for cultural hunts.

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35,000 walrus come ashore in northwest Alaska


Pacific walrus looking for places to rest in the absence of sea ice are coming to shore in record numbers on Alaska's northwest coast.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirms an estimated 35,000 walrus were photographed Saturday near Point Lay. That's about 700 miles northwest of Anchorage.

The enormous gathering was spotted during NOAA's annual arctic marine mammal aerial survey.

The gathering of walrus on shore is a phenomenon that has accompanied the loss of summer sea ice as the climate has warmed.

Walrus dive from sea ice to feed on snails, clams and worms on the ocean floor.

In recent years, walrus have come ashore as sea ice has receded north beyond shallow water and into parts of the Arctic Ocean where the water can be 2 miles deep.

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Three people injured in Huffman Road rollover crash


A South Anchorage rollover crash on Huffman Road Tuesday morning injured three people and closed the road for more than an hour, Anchorage police say. APD’s Twitter feed asked drivers to steer clear of the collision, at Huffman’s intersection with Pintail Street, which was reported shortly before 8 a.m.

Department spokesperson Dani Myren says fears that the vehicles' occupants might be trapped in the wreck turned out not to be true.

"Initially it looked like there may be entrapment, but they were able to get everyone out without extrication," Myren said. APD's communications director, Jennifer Castro, says in an afternoon email that the crash involved a white 2007 Jeep Wrangler which pulled out from Pintail onto Huffman, colliding with a white 2005 Volvo SUV. "Three people were transported to hospital with non-life threatening injuries," Castro wrote. "The driver of the Jeep Wrangler was cited for a stop sign violation. The road was completely reopened just before 10 a.m."

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GALLERY: Whaling in Alaska


Barrow whalers are hitting their marks this fall, beginning a successful season for hunting families in the nation's northern-most city. Check out a few snapshots shared by the whaling community, plus crews in Point Hope. Have a photo to share? Email news_desk@ktuu.com.

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Man shot in neck near Merrill Field was armed robbery target


Anchorage police have released new information about a shooting near Merrill Field that left a man critically injured Monday night, saying it occurred during an armed robbery attempt. According to a Tuesday statement from APD spokesperson Jennifer Castro, the shooting took place near East 4th Avenue’s intersection with Reeve Boulevard shortly before 9:30 p.m. Monday. Investigators later learned that the suspect had attempted to rob the victim. “The suspects were described to police as two black males in an SUV,” Castro wrote. “It was reported to police that one of the males had gotten out of the SUV and approached the male victim who was walking in the area and demanded money from him.” APD spokesperson Anita Shell says the victim was shot after refusing to give money to the suspects, who drove away after the shooting. “Police dispatch received a call from a citizen who was in the nearby Taco Bell parking lot and reported hearing a gunshot in the area,” Castro wrote. “Police responded to the scene and discovered a male near (East 4th and Reeve) with a gunshot wound to the neck.” Medics took the victim to a local hospital, where he remains in critical condition. Castro says the victim suffered a single gunshot wound in the confrontation, with no apparent connection between him and his assailants. "It doesn't appear that the victim and suspects had any prior contact," Castro said. Investigators haven't released a detailed description of the suspects or the SUV. Police are continuing to investigate the shooting, and anyone with information is asked to call APD at 786-8900 or Crime Stoppers at 561-STOP. This is a developing story. Please check KTUU.com and the Channel 2 newscasts for updates.

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