The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

Associated Press 

News briefs


Valdez Star photo

Tempting treats mixed with fabulous gifts Saturday as Valdez shoppers made the most out of the one-day Christmas Bazaar, hosted by the Emblem Club.

Head on crash

Keystone Canyon was shut down to road traffic last week after a head-on collision occurred during a blizzard.

The one-hour shutdown occurred Thursday afternoon after police say an SUV and a small pickup collided at mile 14.5 of the Richardson Highway.

"Emergency responders arrived on scene at approximately 3:08 p.m. and discovered a small sport utility vehicle and a pickup truck, both with significant damage," the city said in a press release. " Emergency medical technicians treated the driver and passenger of the SUV on scene for non-life threatening injuries. Both individuals were transported by ambulance to Providence Valdez Medical Center for further care. The driver of the pickup truck was treated at the scene and released."

The driver of the SUV was later cited by police for an unspecified violation.

Smoking ban

(AP) The federal government is giving public housing agencies nationwide 18 months to implement a ban on smoking, but the state of Alaska is looking to crack down on tobacco much sooner.

Cathy Stone, the director of the Alaska Housing Finance

Corporation, said the state's ban on smoking in public housing developments could take effect as soon as "April or May, when it's a little warmer and people can adjust to the requirement that they have to go outside to smoke."

She said Alaska already had its own smoke-free policy in the works when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development made its announcement Wednesday, KYUK-AM reported.

"So it was just very ironic that this announcement came out on the same day we were having a board meeting and advising our board that in January we would come out with our own policy," Stone said.

The federal ban applies to lit tobacco products such as cigarettes, pipes, and cigars in all living units. The state is also considering eliminating electronic cigarettes.

Under Alaska's draft policy, residents would receive mailed notice of the smoking change and are allowed to submit feedback.

Residents would then sign a lease agreement regarding the new rule.

Taku gets cut

(AP) The Alaska Marine Highway System is working to get rid of the state ferry Taku.

The Ketchikan Daily news reports that Alaska Department of Transportation spokesman Jeremy Woodrow says the state has not yet decided how it will dispose of the ferry, but it has received permission from the Federal Highway Administration to sell the vessel.

Federal approval was required because of federal cash invested in the Taku throughout its lifetime.

Woodrow says next the ship will be offered to other state agencies and municipalities before it is considered for public sale.

The last time the highway system sold a ferry they put it up for auction on eBay. All Alaskan Seafoods owner Lloyd Cannon paid the state $389,500 for a 193-foot-long vessel that he later donated to the Seattle Maritime Academy.

Pot tax

(AP) The state has begun receiving its first tax payments from marijuana businesses, one month after the start of legal pot sales in Alaska.

The Department of Revenue said the first cash deposit from a pot shop came Monday. Leif Abel, co-owner of Greatland Ganja in Kasilof, became the second owner to pay when he dropped off $5,600 in tax money on Tuesday, KTUU-TV reported.

"We're proud to be able to come in and pay our first marijuana tax. It's something that we've been we've been working toward for between two and three years now so it's nice to finally reach this day," Abel said. "It's kind of as big of a day as our first sale was to us."

The state has set up a deposit safe at the Permanent Fund Dividend office for business owners to drop off their tax payments. It's Alaska's only in-person drop site for cash.

The payment process helps owners avoid having to deal with banks that are leery about working with pot businesses because marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.

Business owners can also submit payments by mail, wire transfer or electronically, according to officials.

Deadly strep

Valdez Star photo

Displays like this beauty on S. Waterfall are springing up around town as the Christmas season descends on Valdez.

(AP) Four Alaskans have died this year in an outbreak of invasive strep bacteria that has mostly affected the homeless and Alaska Natives in the state's two largest cities.

State epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin says there have been 28 confirmed hospitalization cases of a new strain of Group A Streptococcus bacteria, starting with 10 cases in Fairbanks and, more recently, 18 cases in Anchorage. Two of the deaths occurred in Fairbanks and two in Anchorage.

Another three probable cases in Anchorage have not been confirmed.

All four of the deaths were of Alaska Natives. McLaughlin says studies have shown that American Indians and Alaska Natives are at increased risk of invasive disease, where bacteria moves into normally sterile parts of the body.

It's the first time the strain was identified in Alaska.


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