Council talks money, parks

The Kenai City Council met Wednesday to discuss issues about janitorial contracts, two local parks and an October exit of the city attorney.

The first five resolutions the city council addressed were janitorial contracts totalling more than $136,000. 

While all of the resolutions passed unanimously, council member Terry Bookey said he wasn't sure if the city should be spending that much money.

"We're getting to the point where we might need to investigate the cost-benefit ratio of contracting these to handling these duties in house," said

The largest contract for $63,800 to clean the Kenai Municipal Airport only had one bidder and Koch said finding a company to bid had not been easy.

"A year ago we went through this process and we had a very difficult time getting even a single bidder," Koch said. "There's just not a lot of companies that are interested in performing this work. It would be a good business for somebody that had the desire to start a company; I think janitorial would be a good place to do it."

The council also discussed rejecting all bids for the Kenai 2012 Municipal Parks Playground Improvements Project. 

According to a memo from city manager Rick Koch the lowest bid received for the project was 17.3 percent higher than the engineer's estimate of $283,000.

Council member Bookey said he didn't want to delay the project any longer. 

"I appreciate that the bids came in higher than expected but I also appreciate that there's no certainty that subsequent bids would be any less expensive," Bookey said.

Other council members agreed including Ryan Marquis who said he didn't want to spend more money. But, Marquis said he thought the public might have some misconceptions about the scope of the project and wasn't sure he'd move forward if the project was delayed further.

"I think a lot of them would be surprised with what we're actually doing," he said. "I think instead of calling this playground improvements it is mostly a parking lot."

Koch said he believed the process of developing the playground improvements project had become politicized. 

"There are some folks that simply don't want to see it happen. It has gotten jumbled up in that process," he said. "I think that there has been a significant amount of information shared from the administration to the public and back."

Ultimately the council decided to have the administration draft a resolution approving a contract with the lowest bidder which will be voted on at the group's July 10 meeting. 

The council discussed a petition 39 residents of Thompson Park signed asking for the city's help in making improvements to Beaver Creek Park.

"The residents who live there are very reluctant to even let their children play in the playground because they don't feel as if they are safe," Mayor Pat Porter said. "Consequently ... it's an area that doesn't get used very much. If we can in some way assist parks and recreation to make it visible ... and make it a safe environment I think that's what we should be doing."

Koch said he went out and looked at the park and wasn't sure if clearing it for further visibility was the best route.

"The topography of this area is such that, even if you cleared every tree on there, you still couldn't see the playground," he said. "... It would be a fairly significant undertaking to change its natural state to one that is limbed up."

He didn't think there was currently any plan in place to improve or change the park. 

"Each year we check our equipment to see if replacement or repairs need to be made," Koch said. "There are certainly, as time goes on, there will be improvements made in that park."

Bookey agreed with other council members that the issue should be evaluated by the Parks and Recreation department, but expressed his dismay at the lack of a plan for park upgrades.

"Quite frankly I think they should have a master plan developed on future park upgrades and things like that," Bookey said. "I don’t know that I like hearing that it’s a year-by-year type deal. I think there should be a little more forethought put into updates and things like that to the parks."

An executive session to discuss the city's contract with its attorney, Krista Stearns, ended with the city announcing Stearns would be getting a 2-percent merit increase starting July 1 and her employment would be extended through October as she helped hire another attorney. 

"I'm actually moving out of state, so I wanted to work closely with the council to help provide a transition," Stearns said. 

Rashah McChesney can be reached at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com.

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