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Daily Sitka Sentinel from Sitka, Alaska • Page 3

Daily Sitka Sentinel from Sitka, Alaska • Page 3

Sitka, Alaska
Issue Date:

Phone War Erupts Again in Legislature ByBRIANS.AKRE worried By BRIAN S.TM^ Associated Press Writer JUNEAU (AP) What's the last week of an Alaska legislative session without a high-stakes "phone war?" Rare. General Communications Alascom Inc. and their armies of nigh-priced lobbyists are back at it again, this time in a battle over a new potential competitor: the city-owned Anchorage Telephone Utility. ATU since January has been talking about branching out into long-distance telephone service, a market dominated in Alaska by GCI and Alascom. A GCI-sponsored amendment aimed at making it more difficult for "I hate the phone wars," Ellis told his colleagues Monday. "I hate them erupting at the end of every legislative session." Why? Because they involve a bunch of influential lobbyists, two big companies, and, in this case, a union all major contributors to political campaigns. And this is an election year. "It's about money," Ellis said in an interview. always about money. It just very The money at stake for the companies is their of the estimated $470 million long-distance market for volving video and cable television services. ATU in the past has obtained tax-free revenue bonds to finance im-' provements to its monopoly local service. The GCI amendment would prevent local phone companies from using jheir local rate base to guarantee suc bonds if the money were going to be used for a competitive service, such as long distance. The amendment, ATU says, would stated." The issue, Stoops said, is making the rules for competition fair for all involved. Stoops said GCI and Alascom already provide ATU with a large portion of its revenue for providing ac. cess to its local service. If ATU were allowed to get ratepayer-guaranteed revenue bonds, "we would be guaranteeing bonds that would be used to compete agauist us," he said. TvT Daily Sitka Sentinel, Sitka, Alaska, Tuesday, May 3,1994, Page 3 Arco Says Low Prices To Mean More Cost Cuts LOS (AP) The chairman of Atlantic Richfield Company told stockholders what Arco employees in Alaska have been hearing for months: Falling crude oil prices will force the company to cut its work force and streamline operations. At Arco's annual shareholder's midsummer, Arco spokesman Al Greenstein said Monday. The Los Angeles-based oil company employs about 25,000 workers worldwide and is the nation's seventh largest oil company. routine bill that was filed just to extend the Alaska Public Utility Commission's expiration date. The Senate rejected the bill 11-9 Monday, then approved it by the same tally on reconsideration Tuesday. Lobbyists said the telephone companies also were working on a possible compromise amendment that could be insertecHn the House. "We-might be able to call a truce," said Sen. Johnny Ellis, who with fellow. Anchorage Democrat Dave Donley changed his vote Tuesday to ensure bill's passage. So far the skirmish over ATU has not erupted-into anything resembling some of the. past erid-of-session wars involving Alascom and GCI. But with just a week left before the adjournment deadline, it has some lawmakers Crude oil prices have fallen because ine amendment, ATU says, would Mike .7 A i annual shareholder's or. oversupply that "has resulted from all city-owned utili- for the pubHc 9 hairman and Chief PE to restrSn pra- ties the state from borrowing mon- the a IS Executive Officer Lodwrick M. Cook auction," Greenstein said. Arco is selling domestic crude oil at S7.83 per barrel, compared to $12 31 a barrel at this time last year, Greenstein said. an viiy-uwllCU ties in the state from borrowing ey. Though ATU officials declined to be interviewed Monday, in a recent news release they described the go phone-tophone with Alascom, now finds itself in the position of arguing against competition with ATU. The union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, represents about 600 ATU workers. It likes the prospect of new union jobs as the utility expands into long-distance service and the "new world of the "information superhighway." GCI contends that ATU, with its access to tax-exempt bonds and the ability to pass on any losses to its local-service customers in Anchorage has an unfair advantage over the private companies. It contends that with ATU ratepayers to fall back on there is little risk to the utility of plunging into the long-distance market and more speculative ventures in- M. ocUU- the regulatory panel had no position on the GCI amendment While Alascom's lobbyists have been involved in the negotiations, there were conflicting reports about 'The two camps in this thing, each has different things to say about what Alascom wants," Ellis said. "And that gives me a sense of discomfort." The measure is Senate Bill 213. tvivsvuiiiiiiuJl. vices," the release 'The primary way ATU meets our customers' needs is by borrowing money to pay for new Sloops, a lobbyist for GCI, said ATU criticism was "way over- Senate Nixes Study of Health-Care Changes (AP) Legislation that would set up a commission to study the costs of a universal health-care plan for the state was narrowly rejected in the Senate on Monday. The legislation also would require me state to collect comprehensive nealtn-care information, impose a uniform, claims form, and require health-care insurers to file their rates with the state Insurance Division; But the Division director would have no authority, to reject the rates. Democrats said they opposed it because it would not begin setting up universal coverage any time soon Another health-care bill supported by Democrats would have set up universal coverage under a single-payer plan, a. proposal rejected by Republicans as potentially too expensive Rick Halford, R- he opposed-the -bill Rieger's measure would set up Health Care Advisory Committee within the governor's office. The panel would report to the Legislature by pec. 15 on the costs of a state health- insurance plan that would cover preventative care, immunizations, prenatal care, children's health care, and catastrophic medical expenses. Under the plan to be studied, premiums would be capped at $100 a month, families would pay deductibles of $3,000, and patients would pay least 20 percent of health-care costs. Rieger said the Legislature must know the costs of such a plan before setting it up. The advisory panel is supported by Gov. Walter J. Hickel. Sen. Jim Duncan, D-Juneau, said the state should begin implementing universal coverage now or face haying uwv-11 CldCtQ. it would have placed limits on lawsuits brought on behalf of infants. The 10-10 vote may be reconsidered. The measure needs 11 votes to pass. Halford said he may change his vote. The measure, drafted by Sen. Steve Rieger, R-Anchorage, was brought to the Senate floor as an amendment to a minor health-care bill. "This would just be more study. We ve studied this to death," Duncan said. "We shouldn't let the administration and the Legislature get out of this session saying they did something when they really didn't" State officials estimate'the commission would cost $672,000, and that other, changes in Senate Bill 313 would cost $822,000 in the first year. Home-Care Measure OK'd JUNEAU (AP) A biU that would require criminal background checks for people who provide home care to the elderly passed the Senate unanimously Monday. The bill, which passed the House last month, also would prevent home-care providers from accepting powers of. attorney from clients. The. limits would apply to providers being -paid with public money. The federal government recently approved a waiver allowing Alaska to use Medicaid money for home-care services. Rep. Jerry Mackie, D-Craig and the bill's prime sponsor, said the use of home care as an alternative to nursing homes is likely to expand rapidly soon. The legislation would help ensure that elderly people do not get swindled, he said. "Somebody comes to Alaska, and gets to know an elderly person and does their shopping for them. Then apply to become a home-care provider. The next thing you know that elderly person has lost their life savings." The bill also would require the state Department of Health and Social Services to write regulations outlining how it will deal with reports of abuse caused by home-care providers. The Congratulations Congratulations are extended to the following persons listed on ihe Sitka High School Team calendar. Jessica Baggen, Travis Wolff, Melvin Villanueva and Harry Kelly Fithian are listed with birthdays for today. Also today, Hermin and Caridad Martin and Kim and Bob Hunter are listed with anniversaries. Senate amended the bill to'give the department an extra year to develop the regulations. The Senate returned House Bill 3 to the House for its approval of the change. Mackie said he would urge his colleagues to accept it Babies and Books Party Planned The quarterly Babies and Books birthday party will be held 10:30 sun. Saturday at Kettleson Memorial Library. The party is for babies bom during April, May or June of 1993 and their families. Parents and toddlers will have a photograph taken, will select a gift birthday board book and join in on songs and fingerplays. The program will conclude with infants taking home a box of cookies and a handout with the fingerplays. Babies and Books is a community volunteer effort to encourage parents to read 'aloud to their infants and Voung children. The program is funded through contributions from businesses, individuals and organizations. The party will be hosted by the Sitka Chapter of the Alaska Library Association. Soroptimists Set Meeting Soroptimists International will meet 1 p.m. May 5,12 and 19 at The Salvation Army. All members are urged to attend and to take a sack lunch. 747-3276 321 Lincoln Street Home Heating Oil Delivered Propane Available Snow Removal Local and Long Distance Hauling Apartment Rentals Available UAA Prof Hired as a Native Says He's Adopted White ANCHORAGE (AP) A professor hired by the University of Alaska Anchorage to increase ethnic diversity on its faculty is not an: Alaska Native as university officials had John Smelcer, a 30-year-old English professor hired by UAA last is the adopted son of a Native. He was given a full-time position on the faculty as part of UAA's affirmative action program, officials said at the time. "He's a blond, blue-eyed Caucasian just like anyone else Charlie Smelcer, his adoptive father, said Monday. fficialstmet Monday after- he didn't know if any action would or could be taken against Smelcer. Smelcer would have been one of only two full-time Native faculty members at UAA's Anchorage campus. The other, Diann Morrison has said she plans to leave-UAA at the end of the current semester. In a letter to a UAA faculty member last year, before he was hired Smelcer wrote that he was "triballv affiliated with Ahtna," the regional Native based in Glen- and referred to his "Native American Indian heritage." John Smelcer said fie did not believe he had misrepresented himself. "I was very careful with the dictionary, finding that word he said. "After all, I was an English major." Smelcer said he knew his letter would leave the impression that he was an Alaska Native by birth. He said he considered himself a Native even though his parents were not. "My entire life has been surrounded by my Alaska Native family," he said. But in a telephone interview from Juneau, Charlie Smelcer flatly denied that description. The senior Smelcer, a retired Army officer, said that John Smelcer "was a middle-class kid who grew up around a military environment, with cars and television and everything else like that If he's used my Native heritage for his personal or professional gain, then that's wrong." Smelcer said no one at UAA ever asked him whether he had been bom into his purported heritage. "The question was never put to me, pointblank, 'Are you a blood he said. But Smelcer said he did not know whether he would be able to pursue his academic career now. The recent interest in his birth and background had left him feeling confused, he said. North Slope Prices Up AXTy'Tiyvn A i ANCHORAGE (AP) Contract prices for Alaska North Slope crude for May delivery rose from last month on both the West Coast and Gulf of Mexico-BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc said Monday. West Coast crude was up $2.02 at $14.90 a barrel, while oil delivered to refiners on the Gulf Coast of Mexico was up $1.84 from last month $15 54 BP spokesman Paul Laird said May was the fourth consecutive monthly contract price increase. "The good news is prices are the highest since November. The bad news is that in November prices were their lowest on an inflation adjusted basis since 1973," Laird said. BP is the state's largest oil producer, accounting for about of all Prudhoe Bay production. It is the only producer to publicly post prices each month, and other producers generally follow its prices. Laird said total North Slope production through April was 1.6 million barrels a day, down 3 percent from the same period in 1993. About three-quarters of North Slope oil production is from the Prudhoe Bay field. Alaska's treasury derives more than 85 percent of its revenues from oil taxes and royalties. A $1 increase in oil prices provides about $150 million in revenue over a year. Senate Passes PermaFund Bill JUNEAU (AP) The Permanent Corp. could own a majority share of a commercial building, under legislation that passed the Senate on Monday. The corporation currently is barred from investing in more than 40 percent of any building or other real estate. Sen. Bert Sharp, R-Fairbanks, said the change is needed because the corporation can only sell buildings if it owns more than 50 percent: The corporation hopes to obtain a majority interest in several of its building In the Lower 48 in order to sell them at a profit, Sharp said. The House passed the measure in March with no restrictions on building ownership. Under the Senate version, the corporation would be able to own two-thirds of a building worth $150 million or less. House Bill 373 passed on 19-1 and was returned to the House for its concurrence with the Senate changes. KingVision Closed Circuit TV, See ft Here! Tickets now available at the Elks Lodge. Fight starts 9 p.m. ET Dinner Available. Elks Members Invited Guests Only. CARD SUBJECT TO CHANGE WITHOUT NOTICE. cj tu'iuAu AJLCU.L cum Executive Officer Lodwrick M. Cook said the oil industry will suffer from low crude prices "for some time." Mark R. Bowlin, Arco's president and chief operating officer, told shareholders "that further substantial changes are needed, including more cost cutting and perhaps some paring of our capital "We expect to finalize these decisions by midyear," he said. Cook is retiring this summer and Bowlin will replace him as chief executive officer on July l. The number of layoffs is not known at this time but they will take effect in roughly ,000 barrels a day, that's a big difference, Greenstein said. Bowlin, meantime, also updated shareholders on Arco's natural cas project in the South China Sea off the Chinese island of Hainan. that Pipe-feying along a 3W-mile route is underway, with gas delivery to Hong Kong expected to begin 1996. EPA Seeks $1.9 Million from Army for Violations in Alaska ANCHORAGE (AP) A total of $1.9 million in penalties is being sought from the U.S. Army in Alaska because of improper management of hazardous wastes at Fort Richardson and Fort Wainwright, according to Environmental Protection Agency complaints. The enforcement action is the result of inspections conducted last year by both the EPA and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. "The Army, as one of the largest generators of hazardous waste in Alaska, needs to set the standard for safe and responsible waste management," Chuck Clarke, EPA's Northwest Regional Administrator in Seat- spending large sums of money to be a good environmental steward" Mai Gen David A Bramlett, Army commander in Alaska, said in a statement The EPA has proposed a penalty of Si.3 million in penalties against Fort Richardson for alleged recurrent illegal storage activities, and for failure to develop contingency, closure and waste analysis plans. At Fort Wainwright, the agency is proposing a penalty of $659,450 for alleged violations of the Army's hazardous waste storage permit, The Army has 30 days to challenge EPA's allegations. Army officials said they had been anticipating the EPA action since-last year inspections. In the months following fee inspections, the Army has taken significant steps toward achieving total compliance according to a statement. "I want to emphasize that the Army is not polluting or contaminating the environment," said Col George Vakalis, commander, Army Garrison, Alaska Vakalis said the fine had been imposed for alleged non-compliance of regulatory requirements like record keeping, materials labeling and storage procedures. million for environmental compliance programs in 1993. Army officials say they'll increase that to $5 million in 1994. "The Army is working hard and Knovdes Governor Tony Knowles will be in Sitka May 4-5 and would like to meet you! Here are some get-togethers where you can discuss your concerns ideas with Tony. Community Reception Wednesday 5-7 at the NSRAA 1308 Sawmill Creek Rd. Breakfast Meeting -for Small-Businesses Non-Profit Agencies Thursday a.m. at the Backdoor Coffee Shop 104 Barracks Fisheries Meeting Thursday 1-2 p.m. at the NSRAA 1308 Sawmill CreekRd. Box orage, AK Dave Chair 6 Proxy Deadline: Wednesday, May 4 at 5:00 p.m, John Davis, Lloyd Lee and Loretta Ness deserve your support fan cash distributions to shareholders EQT shareholder scholarships fox the funeral benefit Ear improving and broadening shareholder benefits Eat Improving shareholder communications track record plans for the future These are the cnadidates recommended by the board or re-election. Use the proxy and cast your vote today!

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