Kenai council moves on trees, visitors center

Kenai’s city council addressed two ongoing issues at its Wednesday meeting — trees near the airport and management of the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center.

The KVCC will now be operated by the newly formed Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center, which was created by the merger of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and the Kenai Convention and Visitors Bureau. The KCVB formerly operated the KVCC for the city, with the city paying the KCVB and taking care of most building maintenance issues. 

The transfer was requested by the organization and recommended by Rick Koch, Kenai’s city manager.

The council also opted to pursue tree removal by approving just more than $23,140 funding for preparation of the final plan and bid documents.

The tree removal project will include reforestation efforts, Koch said. The city will likely be reimbursed for 97.5 percent of its costs, with 95 percent coming from the Federal Aviation Administration and 2.5 percent from the state of Alaska. The trees were designated a hazard by the FAA.

Like the tree project, the KVCC agreement is still in the works. Koch said he will review the agreement with the new entity over the next month or two. The revisions will spell out activities of the center in the past that weren’t in writing, Koch said, like the Triviapalooza held a few times each year in partnership with Triumvirate Theatre.

Councilman Brian Gabriel said he thought the boards had worked hard, and wanted to continue working with them. The first step in doing so was to approve the transfer, he said.

“We need to deal in good faith,” he said.

Councilman Bob Molloy said he supported the agreement, and raised a few issues he wanted considered in the revised agreement. Molloy said he’d like to see regular reports from the new organization.

Councilman Tim Navarre said he would also support significantly revising the agreement before it expires in December 2013. 

Mayor Pat Porter said she supported the merger and the transfer. It represented a positive step for the city, she said.

“I think it will just be the best thing that happened in a long time,” he said.

The council also heard public testimony about the transfer from people involved with the new organization. Each was supportive of the change.

David Wartinbee, who is working on the annual art show, said this year’s show is wildlife-themed and drawing international attention.

“The buzz is there’s a huge show going on in Alaska,” Wartinbee said.

But for such a show to happen, the new organization needs to know it will be running the KVCC, he said.

Kenai’s councilman also passed a four-page resolution urging congress to pass legislation to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas exploration, development and production.

Gabriel, who co-sponsored the resolution with Navarre, said the issue needed to be addressed sooner rather than later, as delaying the matter only hurts the state and nation.

“The whereases pretty much sum up my thinking,” Gabriel said.

Those clauses address the state and nation’s dependence on oil and gas, the need for increased flow in the trans-Alaska pipeline system, and the city’s potential to benefit

Councilman Mike Boyle said he had heard some concerns from the community about the move. Boyle said he was also unsure that the timing was right.

Although the council unanimously approved the resolution, no one else spoke on that matter.

 

Molly Dischner can be reached at molly.dischner@peninsulaclarion.com.

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