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Assembly prepares to defend state capital requests

Posted: January 14, 2012 - 5:32pm

As the Alaska Legislature prepares for its opening Tuesday, so prepares the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly to lobby for several capital projects it hopes to have in the state’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget.

This year, Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor Mike Navarre and administration took a different angle on the items included in its funding priorities request — instead of ranking the six items, they are divided into two priority tiers.

Navarre thinks the new system will allow the borough to be more flexible with its requests as the Legislature’s focus might, and often does, shift during the session.

“Each legislative session the dynamic surrounding the capital budget process is different,” he said. “What we are going to do is we have identified some areas that we would like to see funding for and we are certainly going to monitor the situation.

“If there are other things that come up over the course of the legislative session or opportunities to access additional capital monies for different needs — service area needs or community needs — we are going to try and help as much as we can with those. We are going to be paying attention and accomplish as much as we can.”

Assembly vice president Charlie Pierce said he had no objections with the new system of ranking projects.

“I think our legislators need to know what the priorities are in the communities,” he said. “We could have listed them in some kind of priority order and I don’t know that it would have made any difference.”

Pierce said the assembly would travel to Juneau in February for the Alaska Municipal League conference and have one-on-one meetings with legislators to make sure they are aware of those area needs.

“Having a face-to-face with our representatives will make a difference and we can establish those priorities at that time,” he said.

In total, the borough has requested funding for six projects totaling $25.7 million. The first tier includes four projects totaling $19.7 million, including:

• Gas pipeline extension from Anchor Point to Homer, $10 million

Funding would provide for a low-pressure pipeline large enough to serve properties between Anchor Point, Homer and Kachemak City. So far, work completed includes a pressure reduction and odorization station in Anchor Point and an extension reaching Chapman School. According to borough information, public facilities would benefit by heating costs reductions of more than 50 percent with some buildings heated by electricity seeing a 75-percent decrease. 

The gas line was included in the 2012 capital budget, but later vetoed by Gov. Sean Parnell.

The project, Navarre said, “would provide some real public benefit.”

“There is a direct public benefit from that, not to mention all of the positive impact in terms of economic impact to the Homer community by having a cheaper cost of energy,” he said.

• School athletic facilities upgrades, $5.1 million

Funding would address the poor conditions at athletic facilities in Kenai, Soldotna and Homer High Schools. The Homer track was recently closed for safety reasons and the Kenai and Soldotna tracks can’t host competitive track and field meets, according to borough information. The request includes money for artificial turf, which would allow for greater year-round use and would likely reduce future maintenance costs.

Navarre said such items don’t often need replacing and are tough to fit into a regular budget when most of the funding goes toward instruction and operational costs.

“One of the things that we have seen in the past across the state is that other athletic facilities have been funded in the state budget,” he said. “They have built facilities in the Mat-Su Valley and in Anchorage and put artificial turf on and replaced tracks and things like that.”

• Hazardous tree removal, $2 million

Funding would help remove hazardous trees outside and adjacent to utility easements and rights of way corridors. Recent winter wind storms blew trees into power lines across the borough breaking poles and wire and affecting more than 13,000 homes and leaving many more individuals without power, according to the borough. The money would allow the borough to continue working with local electric utility companies, contract for tree removal and administer contracts for mitigation efforts similar to the borough’s Spruce Bark Beetle program.

Navarre said the project, along with the gas line, would have serious upside for the future, if funded.

“It has the potential for mitigating power outages and associated costs for power outages that have a direct impact and we certainly saw that impact with the windstorms we had last year,” he said. “We will get by without it, but it is something that will certainly provide a benefit and could be implemented quickly.”

• District-wide security camera system, $2.6 million

Funding would provide camera monitoring at key access points for all borough-owned buildings — Kenai Peninsula Borough School District included — as a mechanism to deter vandalism and provide for more successful legal prosecution. The borough reports it would seek implementation on “an aggressive time line.”

The borough has also included two projects in its second tier, including:

• HVAC system replacement, $4.5 million

Funding would replace the current heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in the George A. Navarre Borough building and School District administration buildings, which were deemed to have insufficient capacity to provide required heat and air.

• Landfill maintenance building, $1.5 million

Funding would be used to build an equipment maintenance building at the Central Peninsula Landfill. Adequate indoor space is no longer available to maintain costly equipment needed to support the current lined landfill operation, which was a required transition supported by a $12 million bond approved by voters in 2003.

The borough has also endorsed several state legislative issues, including:

•  Establishing a legislatively funded road maintenance program for continued maintenance of existing roads statewide.

•  Supporting a North Slope in-state gas pipeline project.

•  Supporting a North Slope gas spur line to Cook Inlet.

•  Supporting promotion, exploration and development of Cook Inlet oil and natural gas reserves.

•  Supporting funding for Kenai Peninsula College’s continuing expansion.

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