Business

Deedie McKenzie to head Morris Alaska newspapers

AUGUSTA, GA — Deedie McKenzie, vice president of operations for Morris Publishing Group, or MPG, has been named publisher of the Peninsula Clarion in Kenai and group publisher of Alaska Media Partners, overseeing the MPG properties in Anchorage and Juneau.

 The announcement was made Tuesday by William S. Morris IV, president and CEO of Morris Communications Co.

First National Bank warns of scam

JUNEAU — MasterCard customers across the state Tuesday reported receiving text messages in a fraudulent attempt to gain private banking information, according to a press release by First National Bank Alaska.

Valerie Bale, First National’s vice president of electronic banking, said there hasn’t been a breach in customer security yet, but officials want to get the word out to prevent a breach from occurring.

“We do not use text message alerts to notify cardholders of possible fraud,” Bale said.

Borough eliminates funding for CARTS program

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly cut its support for the Central Area Rural Transit System out of its Fiscal Year 2017 budget.

The borough has given funding to the nonprofit since 2001 in support of its operations. The organization, abbreviated to CARTS, provides door-to-door public transportation for a fee to riders who have registered accounts with it. Riders have to notify CARTS 24 hours ahead of time and be ready to go within 15 minutes on either side of the scheduled pickup time.

Assembly shoots down gun range in Seldovia

The power of public comment took down an effort to set up a gun club in a valley near Seldovia.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly considered a resolution May 17 to reclassify a parcel of land near the remote community of Seldovia on the southern Kenai Peninsula as recreational. The Seldovia Sportsmen’s Club, a recreational club, requested the borough reclassify the land so the club could apply to lease it for the purpose of setting up a shooting range.

Walker introduces bills for two of 11 special session agenda items

This Legislature’s fourth special session began midday Monday when legislators were given bills to address two of Gov. Bill Walker’s 10 original agenda items.

Those bills were an omnibus tax bill and a seemingly noncontroversial bill providing health insurance to families of emergency responders killed in the line of duty.

It took two special sessions in 2015 to pass the budget, and a third special session was held last fall to buy out TransCanada’s share in the Alaska LNG Project.

S&P notices lack of budget fix

Credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s released a statement on May 19 warning the Legislature once again that a failure to address the $4 billion budget gap may further lower Alaska’s credit rating.

The Legislature adjourned on May 18 at the end of an extended, 121-day session without passing a budget for the upcoming fiscal year, or any of several fiscal changes concerning the Permanent Fund or oil and gas tax credits.

Special session probable

JUNEAU — The prospect of a special session looms as Alaska lawmakers hit their fourth month in regular session without agreement on a plan for pulling the state out of a massive budget deficit.

Lawmakers worked past the voter-approved 90-day session limit in April after failing to come to terms on changes to Alaska’s oil and gas tax credit system. The state constitution allows for 121-day regular sessions, a mark lawmakers reached Wednesday.

Division of Parks to sell merchandise to help pay costs, become self-sufficient

Add promotional hats, water bottles, visors and other promotional items to the list of ways Alaska hopes to balance its budget without hiking taxes too high.

The Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation got a green light from the Legislature to sell parks-themed merchandise for a profit.

As long as Gov. Bill Walker signs the bill, SB 101, the division can begin ordering merchandise and pricing it to offset the division’s cost of operating.

Lack of cannabis testing facilities presents bottleneck to sales

The Alaska marijuana industry first business licenses will be issued in June, and the most crucial kind have the lowest number of applications.

Testing facilities — one of the four commercial cannabis licenses created under legalization — present a possible industry bottleneck. All cannabis products sold in Alaska must undergo tests in state-licensed labs.

U.S. rig count drops 9 to 406, an all-time low

HOUSTON  — The number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. dropped by nine this week to 406, another all-time low amid depressed energy prices.

A year ago, 888 rigs were active.

Alaska’s rig count was unchanged this week, but rigs are down to five compared to 10 in the same week a year ago.

Houston oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. said Friday 328 rigs sought oil and 86 explored for natural gas. One was listed as miscellaneous.

Support industries feel pinch

The round tables were fringed with people chatting leisurely and exchanging bits of news, like they were on lunch break. A few feet away, two young men ignored the conversation and clicked away on desktop computers. Yet another group stood on the edges of the room, pacing and waiting, their heads snapping up when the fronts doors opened.

All heads turned as soon as Rachel O’Brien called for session participants, and all rose, shuffling slowly toward the back room of the Peninsula Job Center in unison. As soon as the door closed, the room fell silent.

Seaton instrumental in bill that reduces oil tax credits

JUNEAU — After a month of debate, the Alaska House of Representatives has approved legislation that cuts the annual state subsidy for the oil and gas industry.

In a 25-12 vote, the House approved a modified version of House Bill 247, proposed by a pair of Republicans: Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, and Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer. With an amendment, the pair tossed out a version proposed by the House Rules Committee and substituted their own.

State looks to sell meat plant

PALMER — The state is seeking out a new owner for the only federally approved slaughterhouse in southcentral Alaska, as funding for the facility could run out this year due to legislative budget cuts.

The state Board of Agriculture and Conservation has issued a request for proposals to lease and operate the state-funded Mt. McKinley Meat and Sausage Plant in Palmer. The proposed lease arrangement also includes an option to purchase the facility, The Alaska Public Radio Network reports.

Ordinance would merge two borough departments

Facing decreased revenue from the state, the Kenai Peninsula Borough has proposed merging the Capital Projects Department with its Purchasing and Contracting Department.

The Capital Projects Department handles capital improvement projects in the borough, such as roofing a school or repairing a water-damaged baseball field. Seven permanent staff and some temporary positions for individual projects make up the department.

Grace Ridge Brewing makes Shorebird debut

Don Stead will realize his dream of owning a brewery with his wife Sherry when Grace Ridge Brewing opens up for business for the first time this Friday. Local artist Jen Depesa’s artwork will be displayed in the brewery, with a second-Friday show on May 13 at 6 p.m.

Over the Shorebird weekend — today through Sunday — the brewery will open from noon to 8 p.m. 

HEA briefs members on hot topics

Issues discussed in Homer Electric Association’s annual members meeting, held May 4 at Kenai Central High School, include what the electric cooperative is doing to reduce the electric bills of its members, a proposal to withdraw from regulation by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska — a state utilities oversight agency — and a possible settlement of HEA’s dispute with six other utilities over the cost of transmitting electricity over HEA’s powerlines.

 Power costs and gas supply

Business in brief

No bids for Cook Inlet

oil and gas leases

No bids were opened for state oil and gas leases in Cook Inlet as previously scheduled Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday, the state Department of Natural Resources announced it received no bids for any acreage and cited limited leases available and current depressed prices as the reason.

State seeks more info on Prudhoe work plan

The state Division of Oil and Gas wants significantly more information from Prudhoe Bay field operator BP and its fellow working owners on how a scaled-back work plan for this year could impact prospects for a gasline down the road.

Oil and Gas Director Corri Feige wrote a letter to senior BP Alaska officials April 11 asking more than a dozen technical questions related to a major gas sales project including drilling plans, management of carbon dioxide pulled from Prudhoe natural gas, gas balancing agreements and efforts to market the gas.

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