New Gov. Mike Dunleavy supports university getting its lands
New Gov. Mike Dunleavy told the Fairbanks News-Miner’ editorial board that he favors getting more state land available to the University of Alaska to generate revenue. The UA is a land-grant college that was supposed to get a substantial land endowment, which did not happen. Efforts to get more land to the university have been fought by environmental groups who worry that the UA will move to develop them.
Credit Union 1 opens facility to handle marijuana sales transactions
Alaskan marijuana businesses, dealing only in cash until now, will finally be able to open checking and savings accounts when Anchorage-based Credit Union 1 starts a pilot program to provide those services. Marijuana was legalized in Alaska in 2014, and marijuana-related businesses have sprouted across the state. Credit Union 1’s officials noted that offering banking services will also increase their reporting burden but that the lack of financial services had created a “cash crisis and a safety issue in our community.” Not only do marijuana businesses deal only in cash, so does the state’s revenue department which said that 77 percent of the $20 million collected in excise taxes so far has been in cash.
Retail marijuana doing well; outlets expand
Retail marijuana seems to be doing well. The state collected $1.8 million in marijuana tax revenue in October and $6 million in for the first four months of Fiscal Year 2019. Great Northern Cannabis has opened its second outlet in Anchorage, a 2,200-square-foot outlet on Dimond Blvd. The company’s first store is in downtown Anchorage. Great Northern is the first Anchorage retailer to operate two stores under the same name, a branding strategy.
Jury awards former Alaska Dispatch editor $852,000 in settlement of dispute
An Anchorage jury awarded $852,000 to Tony Hopfinger, the former Alaska Dispatch News editor in the locally-famous “cocktail napkin” lawsuit filed in 2016 against Alice Rogoff, former owner of the newspaper. The suit claimed Rogoff failed to pay all of the promised $1 million written out on a cocktail napkin in 2014. Hopfinger received one $100,000 payment in 2015. Although Hopfinger’s lawsuit claimed the Rogoff’s words and signature on the napkin amounted to a contract with him, the jury, however, decided it was not technically a contract, but rather an enforceable promise. The award was minus a $77,000 claim for severance that was part of the lawsuit.
$8 million approved for renovation of legislative offices in Anchorage
The Legislature will spend $8 million to renovate its Anchorage Legislative Information Office in the city’s midtown. The interim Legislative Council, which handles matters in the interim between sessions, approved the expenditure unanimously, 11-0. The plan is to make the building more functional in terms of constituent access to legislators and public hearings. The building was previously owned by Wells Fargo Bank.
Pre-bid solicitations published for state ferry vessel replacement
The Alaska Marine Highway System published a pre-solicitation notice for a new state ferry to replace the aging Tustumena, which serves Southcentral and Aleutians communities. State officials said the replacement vessel, to be 330 feet by 71 feet, must be able to accommodate 250 passengers overnight and hold 54 cars. Two hundred and forty four million dollars have been set aside for the project, with $222 million of this from the Federal Highway Administration. A location for the construction will be determined later. The Ketchikan Shipyard, operated by Vigor Alaska, recently built two state ferries.
Anchorage assembly approves sale of municipal utility to Chugach Electric
Anchorage’s municipal assembly formally approved the sale of the city-owned Municipal Light & Power to Chugach Electric Association, the region electric utility. The Regulatory Commission of Alaska must still approve the transaction, a process that is expected take several months. The sale is expected to close late next year or in early 2020. Under terms of the sale Chugach will make a payment of $768 million to the city with continued payments over several decades that have a net present value of between $215 million and $242 million. The municipality will use the proceeds to pay down its debt and capitalize a trust fund.
As slope work picks up, potential bottlenecks in skilled labor supply
Outgoing state labor commissioner Heidi Drygas expressed concern over potential bottlenecks in the high-skill petroleum and construction industries as new North Slope projects ramp up and the large Donlin Gold mine project moves through its final stages of regulatory approvals. Since oil prices collapsed in 2015 the state has lost about 10,000 jobs with 6,500 of these in petroleum and oil and gas, Drygas said. Since these skills are in high demand in the Lower 48, where the economy is booming, many of these workers are likely to have left the state. As the slope projects move along there could be several thousand workers needed and an Alaska skilled labor pool that has been drained, Drygas said. If Alaska skilled workers are not available the companies’ only recourse will be recruiting out-of-state, which will cause labor costs to rise because of the premium needed to get workers to come to Alaska.
Federal land exchange facilitates private commercial dock in Kodiak
The U.S. Senate approved a land exchange near Kodiak. Privately-held land on Ayakulik Island would be placed in a conservation reserve in a swap for acreage in Women’s Bay south of the city of Kodiak which could be expanded into a commercial dock. Jim Jansen, chairman of Lynden, Inc., owns the Ayakulik Island acreage being traded for the tidelands in Womens Bay. Kodiak city officials expressed concern about a new Lynden dock in Womens Bay competing with Kodiak’s present city-owned docks.
Alaska Aerospace plans new support facilities at Kodiak launch complex
State-owned Alaska Aerospace Corp. is soliciting bids for materials and delivery for a 4,000-square-foot support building at AAC’s launch complex on Kodiak Island. The building will provide shelter for launch customers for rocket and payload assembly. AEC is working with six potential customers and expects three to six launches next year for commercial customers as well as additional launches for government agencies. AAC is targeting a fast-developing niche of customers launching small rockets and satellite payloads.
Coastal Villages CDQ group builds prototype small house for rural home model
Coastal Villages Region Fund, a Community Enterprise Development Quota nonprofit, is developing a model small” house project in Eek, a southwest Alaska village, as an affordable housing alternative. The unit was constructed by local labor with energy-efficient polyurethane foam core structural panels. Units will be big enough for a single person or a couple and would be built for modular expansion to house a family. The plan is for grant funding to cover 60 percent of the home cost with 40 percent the homeowner’s responsibility. The price to the buyer would be $75,000 financed at a low interest rate so that monthly payments could be as low as $200. The Native Village of Eek, City of Eek and AVCP, the regional nonprofit, participated in the project.
Military procurement conference in Fairbanks draws contractors, suppliers
Military procurement officials are holding workshops for contractors on construction planned at Interior military installations, particularly at Eielson Air Force Base where two new interceptor squadrons will be based. An environmental remediation project is planned at Fort Wainwright; new missile interceptors will be installed at the missile defense facility at Fort Greely, and work on new long-range radar is continuing at Clear Air Force Station.
New test of methane hydrates on the North Slope
BP is to begin drilling another methane hydrates test well in the Prudhoe Bay field on the North Slope in December on a project, funded by the U.S. Dept. of Energy and Japanese research agencies, that would test methane production from a hydrate over a period of several months. The drilling is to begin in December and be completed in January.