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Fairbanks' Ice Alaska eyes 2011 lease

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Posted: Friday, April 16, 2010 2:06 pm | Updated: 1:33 pm, Wed Dec 26, 2012.

JUNEAU — A deal in the works would extend a nonprofit ice sculpting championship’s shaky rental arrangement through 2011. The option, however, would mean shifting the event’s lease from the nonprofit Ice Alaska to the Fairbanks North Star Borough government.

The one-year deal, between the state’s railroad corporation — landlord to Ice Alaska — and the borough, would buy time as both sides weigh long-term options for the ice sculpting championships, borough Mayor Luke Hopkins told a state legislative panel Friday.

Chief among the variables influencing those long-term talks is the question of how much Ice Alaska would owe for a prepaid, 35-year lease at its current home, a rented chunk of acreage just north of the Chena River near Pioneer Park, said Jim Kubitz, the railroad’s real estate manager.

Hopkins said the agreement, if it advances, would anchor Ice Alaska in place through winter 2011.

“This is very, very pleasing to both myself, the (Borough) Assembly and, of course, Ice Alaska and to the railroad that we can allow this event to continue,” Hopkins told the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee.

Ice Alaska uses its 20-odd-acre site, prime commercial property, for less than two months but stays there year-round.

The borough and railroad have said they hope either to find Ice Alaska a new home elsewhere — possibly Pioneer Park — or to strike a long-term lease at market rates.

‘Firearms freedom’

The Legislature has voted to curb federal regulation of guns built and sold solely within Alaska.

Federal commerce laws regulate firearm producers and dealers, limiting the activity to license-holders. The Senate on Friday passed the Alaska Firearms Freedom Act, pitched by Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Fairbanks, that calls for precluding federal regulation of guns, ammunition, magazines or other accessories made and sold within the state’s boundaries.

Kelly has said federal rules can apply to firearms sold across state borders, where the federal government has clear constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce but said he believes the Bill of Rights protects state and individual firearms rights.

The bill easily passed the state House of Representatives last year and passed the Senate 18-1, with Anchorage Democratic Sen. Hollis French voting no.

The state attorney general’s office would need to defend businesses prosecuted by the federal government for failure to hold a license under the bill, which heads to Gov. Sean Parnell for review. The bill is House Bill 186.

Trauma aid bill

The Senate Finance Committee on Friday advanced plans to create a public account to aid trauma care and, supporters hope, steer major emergency rooms toward better funding for trauma services.

The bill calls for $5 million to establish the fund and recommends managers for the proposed account look to state alcohol taxes for further funding. The bill’s sponsors hope it will encourage hospitals in Fairbanks, Anchorage and elsewhere to move more money toward trauma care. Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole and the plan’s lead sponsor, said current insurance reimbursement rules leave much emergency room care going uncompensated.

Coghill has said the proposed public fund would serve as an incentive for major hospitals to invest more in emergency care. He originally proposed seeking money for the fund from tobacco-related state legal settlements, but a House committee later recommended alcohol taxes after hearing from doctors and health care specialists that alcohol and drug use is involved with most emergency room visits.

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