In Brief

AVTEC gets $5M donation

Alaska’s primary vocational school is upgrading its Maritime Training Center, for free.

AVTEC’s Seward campus will soon receive new equipment and state-of-the-art simulators valued at more than $5 million as part of a donation from Superior Energy Services Inc., a Houston-based global oilfield services company, according to the state Labor Department.

“This generous donation comes at a critical time when state dollars for workforce training are dwindling,” AVTEC Director Ben Eveland said in a formal statement. “On behalf of the students and staff at AVTEC, we are so grateful to Superior Energy Services for donating these valuable training resources.”

AVTEC’s maritime training programs attract mariners from around the world to Seward to use the school’s vessel simulators. The simulators are a key element to its ice navigation course — the only such certified course in the country and one of a handful worldwide.

They have also been used by the Alaska LNG Project to model its prospective marine and jetty facilities planned for Cook Inlet near Nikiski; and the City of Seward engineered its new marine industrial park breakwater by imputing and testing various designs in the vessel simulators.

Along with new maritime, crane and vehicle simulators, Superior Energy Services is also donating computers, HVAC units and office equipment.

“Alaska’s workforce will benefit from this generosity, and Alaska’s budget will benefit from the money saved,” Labor Commissioner Heidi Drygas said.

AVTEC has nearly 900 students and boasts a 77 percent “on-time” graduation rate, according to the state Labor Department.

— Morris News Service – Alaska

‘American Idol’ license plate contest proposed by legislator

JUNEAU — A bill attempting to mimic the success of a popular reality television show by establishing a statewide contest for license plate design has begun winding its way through the House after advancing from the House State Affairs Committee Tuesday. Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, and the bill’s sponsor, described the bill as an “American Idol” competition for Alaska license plates.

Under his bill, a competition would be held every four years, administered and juried by the Alaska State Council on the Arts and then voted on by Alaskans. Proceeds from sales of the winning plates would go toward the council and the artist whose design is selected.

During a Tuesday hearing on the bill, Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, interrupted Kreiss-Tomkins to ask about the premise of the bill. “Would you please, what’s this ‘American Idol?’ For the geriatric members of the committee,” asked the 82-year-old Lynn.

After the laughter in the room died down, Kreiss-Tomkins said the phenomenon of the “American Idol” show pitted singers against one another and allowed the nation to vote each week on which ones to keep.

Kreiss-Tomkins said after the meeting that he was trying to find intersections between state government and the daily life of Alaskans when he came up with the idea. “How can we make license plates as mind-blowingly awesome as possible?” he said. “This is an attempt at an answer.”

Kreiss-Tomkins said he was also trying to find ways to help nonprofits find new ways of making money as the state struggles with its budget. The bill mandates that each license plate would cost $50.

While the particulars of how Alaskans would cast their votes for newly designed license plates have not yet been determined, Alaska State Council on the Arts Executive Director Shannon Daut said the council welcomed the responsibility of managing the program in her written comments on the bill.

— The Associated Press