The Alaska Legislature’s $2.94 billion capital budget passed just hours before the close of the regular session last week includes a grab bag stuffed with project funding for the Kenai Peninsula.
The projects included in the budget that will affect the borough, excluding certain bonds, total just under $121 million, but that’s pending any line item vetoes from Gov. Sean Parnell’s pen, said Kenai Peninsula Borough Chief of Staff Paul Ostrander.
“It’s a huge benefit to the borough and we are excited about it,” he said.
Last year the borough requested $147.6 million in capital projects, which Parnell trimmed by $39 million for a total of $108.6 million for fiscal year 2012.
The $8.9 million for the Homer Solid Waste Transfer Facility topped the borough’s funding list under former mayor Dave Carey. The borough’s second highest priority was a natural gas line to Homer with a $10 million price tag, but the governor cut that project at the last minute.
The project, which would extend gas from Anchor Point through Homer and into Kachemak City, is in position for $8.1 million in funding. It was one of the borough’s higher priorities and Ostrander said the project would have significant benefits for the borough in addition to those benefits to residents.
“That has huge implications not only for the city of Homer, but also for the borough,” he said. “Just the borough facilities, the hospital and schools — hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in savings.”
Parnell hasn’t threatened significant vetoes from the budget considering the Legislature mostly stayed within his guidelines, perhaps better increasing the gas line’s chances, Ostrander said.
Before the session began, the borough requested funding for six projects totaling $25.7 million using a new two-tiered priority system.
All of the projects in the first tier were proposed to be funded to, or just slightly below requested levels.
Those projects, aside from the pipeline, included $4.2 million for area school athletic facility upgrades, $1 million for hazardous tree removal and $1.6 million for a borough and school district security camera system.
Second tier items, such as $4.5 million for a HVAC system replacement at the borough and school district administration buildings and $1.5 million for a landfill maintenance building, didn’t make the budget.
The borough is also in line for $8 million in road funding — a $3 million increase from Parnell’s proposed budget. Ostrander said some of that money will be used for ongoing efforts to bring all borough roads up to borough standards.
The school athletic facility items include $1.1 million for the Homer High School track, as well as track work at Soldotna High School and Kenai Central High School and a turf facility at one of those two locations.
Ostrander said the borough’s spruce bark beetle program, whose funding runs out at the end of the fiscal year, will handle the hazardous tree removal work. The borough will use the money to clear hazardous trees from the utility right of ways onto private property with landowner permission.
Several members of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly praised Borough Mayor Mike Navarre for his work in Juneau during the last four days of the session during their Tuesday meeting. Ostrander echoed that sentiment.
“He was instrumental in many of these projects being funded,” Ostrander said of Navarre. “Our delegation also did a great job for us — (Rep. Mike) Chenault, (Rep. Kurt) Olson, (Sen. Tom) Wagoner — all those guys deserve a big thanks for what they’ve done for the borough.”