Thursday, March 31, 2011

Alaska telecoms plan upgrades
Alaska-based telecoms are planning to be ready when their national competitors roll out wireless 4G services in the state.

Business Briefs

Chambers set schedules

Central Emergency Services earns new ISO rating of 6
Central Emergency Services (CES) has received official notification from the Insurance Services Office (ISO) of an improvement in the Fire Department's Public Protection Classification (PPC) rating. According to CES Chief Chris Mokracek, effective immediately the fire department's new class rating is 6. This rating is applied to all property owners within 5 road miles CES fire stations in Soldotna, Sterling, K-Beach, Funny River, and Kasilof. "The ISO is a company in Chicago that goes across the United States and evaluates fire departments and rates them on a scale from 1 to 10, one being the best and 10 being the worst. Their ratings come out about every ten years, and in their most recent evaluation they found that we had improved our water supply, fire apparatus, and our fire station placement to the degree that they decreased our rating from a 7 in Sterling, K-Beach, Funny River, and Soldotna down to a 6 and the new Kasilof station has gone from a 10 to a 6 which will be a significant savings for residents of that community on their home owner's insurance," said Mokracek.

Shaving the way for a cure of childhood cancer
84 Shavees made a "Bald" statement at Soldotna High School last week, shaving the way to a cure for childhood cancer at the 5th Annual Kenai Peninsula St. Baldrick's event. According to event organizer this year, Soldotna Police Officer Tobin Brennan, this year's goal was to raise $20,000 and when the last clipper stopped buzzing the community had well exceeded their goal with pledges still coming in. Over the last 5 years the St. Baldrick's event has raised in excess $140,000. "This year was the best ever with great games for the kids, great food, and prizes for participants," said volunteer Marcia Jacobs, who lost her daughter, Anjuli, to brain stem cancer.

Inaugural Class passes Cold Water Survival Egress Training at KCHS pool
The first Cold Water Survival Egress Training (CSET) class was completed last week at the Kenai High School pool under the auspices of the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska (CLCA.) According to Marnie Olcott, CLCA executive officer, the nearest location for CSET training is in Connecticut. "We are extremely fortunate that Shell Oil Co. had the vision to bring the simulator unit to Alaska and then to transfer the ownership to the Challenger Learning Center to create a revenue source to support our other educational programs. The purpose of the Modular Egress Training Simulator or METS unit housed at the Kenai pool, is to train people how to egress from a helicopter crash associated with traveling over water," explained Olcott.

GCI Senior executives discuss their past and future
It was a whole different communications world thirty years ago when General Communications Inc., which would become known as GCI, first came to Alaska. Founded by two Alaska entrepreneurs by the names of Bob Walp and Ron Duncan, the company constructed facilities and carried their first long distance call on Thanksgiving Day in 1982. By the turn of the century, GCI had become publically traded and become famous for low cost dial up internet. "In fact we had a product called Free-net that became one of our signature products when I joined the company in 1999," GCI general manager Paul Landes told the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce recently. "Of course now no one is on dial up and everything is high speed internet and we have a hundred thousand customers using our high speed internet. But the biggest change in the last couple of years has been the wireless side of the business, cell phones which are changing so rapidly a Rip Van Winkle nap might be like 10 days not 10 years. I never go on more than about a one week vacation because things change so rapidly in our industry that you have to stay in front of it. We have a very large group at GCI whose primary responsibility is to look into the future of technology and keep us pointed in that direction," said Landes. "The bottom line what the future is going to boil down to is 'Fast.' So we can talk 3G or 4G or use all the terminology, but what we are really talking about is speed and that is what people are looking for with wireless. We want to be able to download what we want, have the applications we want and we want them to work quickly," he said.

Pioneer Potluck

Growing up on a farm

Scrumptious Spring Stew: Rich in color, Deep in Flavor
Spring is a super time of the year to put together a beef stew brimming with vegetables like new potatoes, carrots, green beans and peas. Even radishes, crisped to a golden brown, can be added to a spring stew, along with fresh herbs and robust gravy-making liquids, such as red wine and dark stout beer. Bread, particularly biscuits, is useful for soaking up stew's luscious gravy and perfect for savoring gravy to the last drop. And, should the biscuits outlast the stew, save the biscuits for dessert -- the perfect platform for fresh strawberries, luscious layered between clouds of sweetened whipped cream. The pleasures of spring are just starting to unfold and it only gets better from here. Events like Easter, Mother's Day, graduations and weddings are being planned and menus for these events considered. Nourishing, economical stew, typically thought of as homey, comfort food, can be worked into menus for many of these occasions, especially because stew can be made ahead of time and re-heated just before serving. A well-made stew makes it own statement and this one says, spring -- rich in color, deep in flavor -- spring.

A tax law to encourage earlier drilling
Elected officials are arguing about how much of Alaskans' future revenues to give the oil companies in hopes they will start drilling again. That seems like living on a homestead and occasionally killing a few sheep to re-bait the trap hoping it will attract the wolves. Eventually you end up with no sheep.

Thanks for making seniors feel special
Northern Lighthouse Day Center (an adult daycare facility) in Soldotna wishes to extend its heartfelt gratitude to the Apostolic Assembly of Jesus Christ for allowing our clients to participate in its 20th Senior Sweetheart Banquet. The scrumptious food, handmade corsages and boutonnieres, door prizes, hug awards and live gospel music filled every heart with joy and made every participant feel cherished and loved. Watching seniors connect with old friends from different cities all over the Kenai Peninsula was also very touching. Thanks to all of the volunteers who invested their time, energy, and funding into providing such a beautiful experience for our seniors!

Library move helped by volunteers
On behalf of the Kenai Community Library staff, I would like to thank the many volunteers who helped us move books, furniture and office supplies into the new library addition. Your generous donation of time and energy helped us meet our re-opening deadline. We are especially grateful to the volunteers from Home Depot and Lowes who gave their day off to help us on a Saturday. Our Saturday team included: Phil Smith, Tammi Dennis, Trisha Sanders, Kim Neal, Ben Smith, Debbie Goodenough, Myles Manning, Patrick Manning, Ellen Kempf, Don Evans, Kimber Glidden, Anthony Cole, Clif Caffall, Cat Patrick, Barbara Patrick, Bobbi G., Scott G., Amber Webber, Caitlin Isham and Jessica M.

Thomas, Bookey vie for HEA District 1 seat
Beginning April 1, members of Homer Electric Association can vote for a candidate from their district to serve a three-year term on the association's Board of Directors. One seat in each district is up for election this spring. In the next three years -- the term each director serves -- the board will be asked to move forward with the utility's Independent Light project, solidify a tidal power partnership with Ocean Energy Renewable Power and work with other utilities on potential energy projects like the state's proposed large hydro.

Capitol talk turns to special sessions
With several issues hanging fire with the 2011 Alaska Legislature entering its last few weeks, some legislators are beginning to talk special session.

Around the Peninsula

Central Peninsula gardeners get ready for growing season

Photo: A little off the top

Lawmakers question education commissioner's appointment
The Legislature has hoped to depoliticize the state's Commissioner of Education and Early Development job by handing responsibility for filling the job over to the state Board of Education, but may have made it more political, say some lawmakers.

Photo: Looking toward the future

Race for mayor grows: Former assembly, school board member to vie for seat
Another candidate has put in a bid for Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor.

Fred J. Wiedman Jr.
Soldotna resident Fred J. Wiedman Jr. died Wednesday, March 23, 2011, at Providence Medical Center in Anchorage. He was 73.

Michael J. Henry
Kenai resident Michael J. Henry died Saturday, March 26, 2011, at Central Peninsula Hospital, in Soldotna. He was 61.

Tourism worth the investment
Question: Why should the Kenai Peninsula Borough invest $300,000 in tourism marketing?

Around the Peninsula

Learn about macrobiotics

Art Briefs

Upcoming student art opening

What's Happening

Best Bets

Reeling It In: Light reading, light movie
"The Lincoln Lawyer"

'We Were Stardust' sparkles on stage: SoHi's latest play a peek into the past
Hippies, feminists and burgeoning politicians will take the stage this weekend as characters in Soldotna High School's latest production "We Were Stardust."

Poet's Corner

The Shibboleths of Elysium

Sports Brief: Skyview track and field starts season strong
Jasen Suonvieri, Cody Williams, Kyle Shedd and Sydney Roumagoux earned second-place finishes in their respective events, highlighting a strong performance for the Skyview track and field team at the Tuesday Night at the Races competition at the Dome in Anchorage on Tuesday. Lumen Christi, Anchorage Christian Schools, Wasilla, Palmer, Houston, Grace Christian and West Anchorage also competed. Team champions were not reported.

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