Elwood Brehmer

State energy audit shows potential savings

An energy audit of Alaska public facilities uncovered some of the most, and least, energy efficient buildings in the state. The study, conducted by Alaska Housing Finance Corp., evaluated 327 investment grade audits performed on public facilities.

The study estimates there are 5,000 public buildings in Alaska, spending more than $641 million on energy every year. If appropriate measures are taken, the study calculates a potential energy cost savings of  $125 million yearly to the State.

Born from community effort, Hilltop celebrates 30 years

Mountains and skiing go together like kids and snow. Hilltop Ski Area combines all four. Situated on the edge of Anchorage where the city meets the Chugach, Hilltop is a place for novice skiers to practice the downhill craft.

“We do a lot of after school programs — Kinder Ski, Hotdoggers, that sort of thing. We’re a beginner area,” Hilltop CEO Steve Remme said.

The Kinder Ski and Hotdoggers programs offer after school lessons for kids from ages 4 to 16 years old.

Anchorage, Fairbanks recognized as top winter destinations

Alaska has long been an iconic tourist destination in summer. Now, the state’s largest cities are garnering attention for their winter attractions.

Anchorage was ranked No. 1 on a list of “America’s Hottest Cold Cities” by Livability, an online travel magazine. According to its mission, Livability’s goal is to find “the good stuff in small to medium-sized communities all across America.”

The Fairbanks area recently received similar honors from two travel information outlets.

Port MacKenzie project back on track

Marc Van Dongen is a big man with bigger plans. As director of Port MacKenzie he oversees all operations across Knik Arm from Anchorage, including the largest project at the port since it was built in 1999: the rail extension from Houston to Port MacKenzie.

Work on the rail line had been suspended due to an Oct. 1 stay issued by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. On Nov. 28 the three-judge panel reversed the stay, allowing work to resume and denying a petition for review filed jointly by the Sierra Club and Cook Inletkeeper.

Anchorage unemployment at five-year low

Unemployment in Anchorage fell to 4.7 percent and a five-year low in October, according to a report from the Anchorage Economic Development Corp. It’s the lowest monthly unemployment figure since November 2007.

“4.7 percent is crazy-low unemployment – that compared to the rest of the country is pretty amazing,” said Bill Popp, president and CEO of the Anchorage Economic Development Corp.

Popp said Anchorage’s unemployment rate compares to that of oil-boom North Dakota and government-influenced Washington, D.C.

Biomass saves big bucks to heat and power rural schools

Rural entities across Alaska are looking for alternative sources of energy as a solution to unsustainable fuel and power bills. The Gateway School District, headquartered in Tok, appears to have found its answer to both in the woods.

In October 2010, the district installed a wood biomass-fired heating boiler system in Tok School. Before installing the boiler, district Superintendant Todd Poage said the school burned an average of 55,000 gallons of heating oil every year.

Heating oil currently goes for about $4 a gallon in Tok.

$33M upgrade expands training and adds housing

Construction of more than $33 million worth of new facilities at Kenai Peninsula College in Soldotna is moving ahead as scheduled, College Director Gary Turner said.

Kenai Peninsula College, or KPC, is adding a $17.8 million student housing building along with a $15.25 million Career and Tech Center to its Kenai River Campus. The projects are expected to be finished in August 2013, just time for fall classes.

Gas line projected to generate thousands of in-state jobs

Alaska Gasline Development Corp. CEO Dan Fauske provided figures estimating a major impact to Alaska if the proposed in-state gas pipeline is built.

“It will be the largest project in North America. It will supply 8,000 direct and 15,000 indirect jobs,” Fauske said Nov. 9 in a presentation to the Associated General Contractors of Alaska annual conference.

Partnerships working to reduce moose collisions in Alaska

The Alaska Moose Federation, or AMF, is partnering with state agencies and private industry to implement new strategies to reduce the number of vehicle versus moose collisions.

AMF Executive Director Gary Olson said heavy snowfall last winter pushed more moose into urban environments and onto plowed roadways. That led to more than 1,000 confirmed moose collisions last winter totaling more than $35 million in damage. In one 24-hour period in early February, the federation’s moose salvage program picked up 17 dead moose.

Wood biomass project to power Tok appears promising

Alaska Power & Telephone’s feasibility study for a wood biomass plant in Tok should be finalized by the end of November, Thomas Deerfield, project coordinator, said, and the initial findings for the proposal look promising.

Deerfield owns Dalson Energy, an Anchorage-based energy consulting firm that specializes in the use of wood biomass energy systems.

Wood biomass systems traditionally burn wood harvested as a renewable fuel to power a boiler system, which transfers heat through steam to warm individual buildings, Deerfield explained.

Roads to Resources effort emerging from planning stages

The Roads to Resources proposal set forth by Gov. Sean Parnell as a funding mechanism to jump start work on four surface transportation projects in Alaska is slowly gaining steam, according to officials close to the work.

In late 2011, the governor announced a $28.5 million budget proposal aimed at increasing access to resources currently outside the state’s road system.

TSA plans for expedited security in Anchorage

The Transportation Safety Administration recently announced an expansion of its PreCheck screening system to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport for eligible travelers.

Lorie Dankers, TSA public affairs manager said the program should be implemented in Anchorage by early December.

Interior Dept. says it will release emergency funds to pay pilots

Sen. Lisa Murkowski announced in a Nov. 1 press release that Alaska pilots waiting on payment for work done with the U.S. Department of Interior can expect to see cash arriving soon.

AEDC forecast sees strong growth for Anchorage, state

The Anchorage economy showing promise can be used as an indicator for the rest of Alaska, Bill Popp, president and CEO of the Anchorage Economic Development Corp., told the Society for Marketing Professional Services at an Oct. 23 luncheon.

Job growth, or lack thereof, is one of the first indicators he looks at when determining the health of an economy, Popp said. Figures were flat in 2009 and 2010 because employers were wary of faltering economies elsewhere. Companies refrained from hiring, he said, to see whether “the global catastrophe was going to come washing over us.”

Nome and Kotzebue projects await bond vote

Proposed port development and improvement projects in northwest Alaska are moving forward with environmental and planning surveys, officials in Kotzebue and Nome said.

A $10 million grant for the city of Kotzebue to fund study and initial construction work on the proposed Cape Blossom access road, which would link the future port site to Kotzebue, is a part of the $453.5 million in transportation projects on the proposed state bond package up for a vote Nov. 6.

Pier 1 Imports opens store in Fairbanks

Pier 1 Imports opened its northernmost store in Fairbanks on Oct. 29, with a new look for one of the home furnishings retailer’s newest outlets, said Executive Vice President Sharon Leite.

“Pier 1 Imports offers merchandise that fits all decorating styles, as well as a broad array of affordable holiday décor, furniture and gifts and we look forward to sharing Pier 1 Imports shopping experience with the residents of this one-of-a-kind community,” said Leite, who was in attendance for the event.

Alaska Air Group reports record profits in 3Q

Alaska Air Group, Inc. announced record profits when its third quarter earnings were released Oct. 25.

The airline company reported $150.3 million in net earnings for the quarter, compared with $131.1 million in the third quarter of 2011. Total revenue for the quarter was $1.3 billion.

“This is the highest quarterly profit in our history and it’s the 14th consecutive quarterly profit that we’ve reported,” Brad Tilden, president and CEO, said.

Alaska Air Group manages Alaska Airlines and the smaller Horizon Air.

Steady growth forecast for major Alaska airports

The Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities recently released its forecast summaries for both Ted Stevens Anchorage International and Fairbanks International airports.

The reports were prepared to provide the Alaska International Airport System, or AIAS, with data regarding trends in both passenger and cargo traffic through both airports, which will be used to aid in long-term planning strategies for both airports, according to an internal AIAS letter available on its website.

Annual Day of Caring draws 800 volunteers

United Way of Anchorage gathered more than 800 volunteers for its 19th annual Day of Caring in September, a day devoted to giving Anchorage corporations an avenue to give back to their community, Christine Gire, communications manager for the non-profit, said.

“Day of Caring is the single largest day of corporate volunteerism in Anchorage,” Gire said. “It’s a day when UWA celebrates the commitment of local business volunteers for rolling up their sleeves and taking on much needed community projects.”

Late payments frustrate pilots working for DOI

Troy Cambier is a pilot for hire. He is owner and operator of Chena River Aviation, based in Fairbanks. Cambier flies his four-seat Robinson R-44 helicopter throughout Alaska filling a transportation void wherever it’s found.

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