Matt Tunseth

Covered in bandages like a mummy, Kolton Hala just couldn’t help himself when a server at Garcia’s Mexican restaurant in Eagle River delivered the customary hot-plate warning before serving him and his friends last year.

“I said, ‘It’s okay, I’ve been burned before,’” recalled the Chugiak teen, who suffered third-degree burns to his upper body and face in the fall of 2016.

Hala lost a lot that October night — he spent a month in ICU, left school and missed out on starting a new job — but his sense of humor has remained fully intact.

There’s been a bit of a changing of the guard on the Eagle River Community Council, which has seen the departure of two long-time members in recent months and the election of a new president in January.

At its Jan. 10 meeting, the council held elections for one two expiring and one vacant seat on the seven-member board of directors. Michael Foster decided to run for re-election, but Michael Melielo decided he would step aside after two members of the audience expressed interest in running.

A lifelong area resident has been hired to fill out the staff at the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber announced last week that Britney Olsen will serve as associate director, the second new hire in a month at the chamber, which in December named Debbie Rinckey its new executive director.

“With the support of the Chamber Members, the new Directors will bring a new energy and innovation while still ensuring that we hold true with a strong sense of tradition,” the chamber said in a press release.

Eagle River residents will likely vote on whether to annex the Eagle River Valley into the existing Anchorage Fire Service Area.

Anchorage Assemblywoman Amy Demboski introduced an ordinance to call for the vote at the assembly’s Jan. 9 meeting. The ordinance will get a public hearing Jan. 23 and, if approved, would add the item to the April 3 municipal election ballot.

With a full slate of preseason tournaments now complete, local prep basketball teams are settling in for the regular season. Cook Inlet Conference play began the week after teams returned from holiday break, with each team set to play 14 conference games (two against each of the CIC’s other seven teams) between now and the end of February.

Here’s a rundown of each of the four Class 4A varsity teams from Chugiak-Eagle River

GIRLS

Chugiak looks to reload with new talent

Prosecutors still plan felony charges against a woman accused of stealing nearly two hundred thousand dollars from a local hockey association, despite a recent dismissal of the most serious charges against her.

Anchorage District Attorney Rick Allen said felony theft charges against Jennifer Suchan, 33, were dismissed Dec. 4 due to Alaska criminal procedure “Rule 5,” which governs how quickly defendants must be brought to trial. Since Suchan hadn’t yet been indicted, Allen said he dropped the charges before seeking an indictment.

Eagle River 4, Bartlett 3

Eagle River avenged a previous loss to Bartlett with a 4-3 Cook Inlet Conference hockey win over the Golden Bears on Senior Night at the McDonald Center in Eagle River.

Tucker Lien had a hat trick for the Wolves, who lost to Bartlett by the same score last month.

The Wolves had to twice battle back from deficits to improve to 5-7 in the CIC.

Chugiak’s Miles Dennis and Max Beiergrohslein went 1-2 Saturday to lead the Mustang boys to victory at the Chugiak Stampede Nordic ski races at the Bartlett High trails.

Dennis finished the 10-kilometer classic style course in 27 minutes, 2.7 seconds to beat his teammate by nearly eight seconds. Service’s Alexander Maurer was third. Michael Earnhart was seventh, Brian Wing finished ninth and Michael Connelly was 12th for the Mustangs, who beat second-place Dimond by more than two minutes.

Eagle River’s Nick Carl finished 18th to lead the Wolves.

Though she’s a gifted multisport athlete, Bekah Smith’s biggest strength might be what’s between her ears.

“She is very deliberate in her attention to detail,” said Smith’s club volleyball coach Rachel Vandermartin during a National Letter of Intent signing ceremony Jan. 11 in the Chugiak High library.

A year ago, the family of Linda Anne-Martz Bower thought it might finally be nearing closure in the case of the 19-year-old woman’s 2014 murder.

But the wheels of justice grind painfully slowly — a process that’s tearing up those who want to see justice for the man who has admitted killing his former girlfriend.

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