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

News Briefs


February 21, 2018

Steve Revis photo

Sea otters are a favorite wildlife spotting in Valdez, and large numbers of the cute and furry carnivores have been congregating near the shorelines in recent weeks. But don't let their delightful looks fool you – northern sea otters are the largest member of the weasel family according to ADF&G – and best admired from afar.

Run for office

Petitions to run for public office in Valdez are available at the City Clerk's office through March 15.

The municipal elections will take place May 1.

Candidates for city council, school board and mayor must collect and then submit completed petitions to the city clerk's office in person to be have their name certified and on the ballot for this year's election.

The nominating petitions must have the signatures of 25 qualified voters in order for a candidate's name to be accepted for the ballot. Candidates running for mayor must submit a petition with 50 signatures.

Candidates must be registered to vote within the Valdez city limits, and have been a full-time resident for at least one year according to the clerk's office.

The mayor's seat – currently held by Ruth Knight – is up for election, as are two three-year terms for city council, and one two-year council term, for a total of three council seats.

There are also two three-year terms opening on the board of education.

Disabled pay

Following a regulatory change that went into affect last week, Alaska employers are no longer allowed to pay less than minimum wage to workers who experience disabilities. In repealing 8 AAC 15.120, Alaska joins New Hampshire and Maryland as the first states in the nation to eliminate payment of subminimum wages for persons with disabilities.

An exemption from paying minimum wage to persons with disabilities has existed for many years, beginning at the federal level with the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and in Alaska regulations since 1978. Historically, minimum wage exemptions were considered necessary to help people with disabilities gain employment. Experience over the past two decades has shown that workers with disabilities can succeed in jobs earning minimum wage or more.

"Workers who experience disabilities are valued members of Alaska's workforce," said Department of Labor and Workforce Development Acting Commissioner Greg Cashen. "They deserve minimum wage protections as much as any other Alaskan worker."

The board received written comments expressing support for repealing the regulation that allowed the minimum wage exemption from the Governor's Council on Disabilities and Special Education, the State Vocational Rehabilitation Committee, the Statewide Independent Living Council, and the Alaska Workforce Investment Board.

DEC warning

(AP) Alaska environmental conservation officials warned lawmakers that budget cuts are increasing the dangers to residents.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation gave the warning as lawmakers work this week to finalize the budgets of various state agencies, the Juneau Empire reported Wednesday.

The department has seen its operating budget reduced from $87.9 million in 2014 to a proposal of $80.2 million for fiscal year 2019.

The department is tasked with enforcing drinking water safety, sanitation standards, food safety, and responding to oil spills.

"You don't have the same amount of inspections, you don't have the same amount of assistance to the small communities that may be having problems with their drinking water systems," said Larry Hartig, the department's director. "You're going to have more instances of problems with human health."

Christina Carpenter, director of the Division of Environmental Health, said the funding cuts have completely changed how the department inspects restaurants, grocery stores and the sources of Alaska residents' food.

"We're in a position where we're now prioritizing work based upon on funding source first and then risk second," she said.

Fishing licenses

(AP) Sport-fishing license sales dropped in Alaska last year, despite the state Department of Fish and Game recording an increase in revenue from license sales.

Division of Sportfish Director Tom Brookover said Tuesday that the department was expecting the decline in sales because fees rose.

Brookover said resident license sales fell by a much higher percentage than nonresident license sales. Resident anglers bought 162,500 licenses in 2017, about 20 percent fewer than about 203,000 licenses in 2016, Brookover said.

The Legislature approved an increase in license fees in 2016, which went into effect in 2017, the Peninsula Clarion reported.

Yearlong residential sport-fishing licenses increased to $29 and nonresident license fees increased to $25 for a one-day license and to $70 for a week license.

The goal was to raise revenue on both hunting and fishing licenses that Fish and Game could apply as a local match to obtain more funding from the federal Pittsman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act and the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act.

The money from license sales goes into the Fish and Game fund, which helps pay for various research and management activities. For the Division of Sportfish, those funds in combination with the federal Dingell-Johnson funds comprise a majority of the budget, Brookover said.

Mumps alert

(AP) Doctors confirmed the presence of mumps in Juneau for the first time in more than two decades.

There has been one confirmed case of the disease in Juneau as of Thursday, and three other possible cases, Juneau Public Health Center nurse manager Alison Gaines said.

The first case was diagnosed in January, with the most recent suspected case appearing this past week, Gaines said.

This is the first confirmed case of mumps in Juneau since 1997, Alaska Division of Public Health Epidemiologist Amanda Tiffany said.

Mumps is a contagious disease that causes swelling in a person's salivary glands. Other symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue and loss of appetite. The disease is almost never fatal, the Juneau Empire reported.

Tony Gorman photo

Blue skies and cool temperatures blessed participants in this year's Ice Climbing Festival – which also featured nightly indoor events friendly to all ability levels. The event was organized by Valdez Adventure Alliance.

"I think the perception is that mumps is not such a big deal, like, `Well, you have it and then it goes away,' but if you speak with anyone who had it, they were miserable," Tiffany said.

A mumps outbreak began in Anchorage in the summer of 2017. There have been 247 cases statewide (214 confirmed and 33 probable) since May of 2017, Tiffany said, with 96 percent of them being in Anchorage.

The lone confirmed case in Juneau was in a person who had recently traveled to Anchorage, Gaines said.

The Department of Public Health sent a notice Monday to the Juneau School District and to licensed daycares alerting them to the recent outbreak. Early symptoms are similar to that of a regular cold, but those who believe they have mumps should call their doctor and set up an appointment, Tiffany said. Physicians will likely advise people to isolate themselves for the five days after facial swelling starts.


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