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State budget looks good for Kenai

Posted: December 20, 2012 - 9:41am

The City of Kenai would receive enough money in Gov. Sean Parnell’s proposed Fiscal Year 2014 state budget to begin phase one of upgrades to its wastewater treatment plant, City Manager Rick Koch said.

“It’s an important project,” Koch said. “It’s one that we continued to submit on, and it’s something that’s needed to make a very fine wastewater treatment plant continue to be a fine wastewater treatment plant.”

The city wastewater treatment plant processes all municipal sewage, Koch said: residential, light commercial and processing plant waste.

Phase one of the four-step operation to upgrade the sewage plant will cost $1.67 million, he said. Under the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Municipal Matching Program, the city is required to pay 30 percent of the project, while the state matches the remaining 70 percent — $1.2 million.

If the budget is approved by the Legislature, Kenai will receive the project money when the state’s fiscal year begins July 1, Koch said.

The city’s plant, Koch said, has been operating without any violations, which, according to DEC’s Municipal Matching Grant application, scores the plant low on DEC’s priority list. A plant that violates regulations is a DEC priority and is likely to receive more funding, Koch said.

“But we have needs, because we have 30-some-year-old equipment,” Koch said. “Technology has passed us by.”

The first phase of upgrades will install new equipment to back up essential facility functions. Phase one will also lower the levels of ammonia in the plant’s sewage in anticipation for greater ammonia restrictions, according to a document prepared by Koch.

The city has also applied for a $2.3 million state loan — Retrofit Energy Assessment for Loans — which will fund investigations to retrofit city buildings to boost their energy efficiency.

“This dovetails very nicely with the energy upgrades project because much of the energy upgrades project, probably half of it, is in the wastewater treatment plant,” Koch said. “We’re going to see some really substantial improvements to that operating system.”

Governor Parnell cut $1 billion for the FY 2014 state capital budget, Koch said, and he is surprised the state is backing the plant’s upgrades.

Koch said the state did not directly fund any other municipalities on the Kenai Peninsula.

“We got 100 percent of what we asked for,” he said. “We’re very grateful for that.”

There were five other requests for capital project funding on the city’s state funding request list, and the next step, Koch said, is to lobby legislators.

The state funding request list includes the following: paving and improvements to about 20 miles of gravel and surfaced roadways, constructing a one million gallon water storage reservoir while the current one is refurbished, building a new city shop to house city equipment, phase two of industrial park construction, and personal-use fishery upgrades.

Koch said he would he happy to receive funding for two of the five projects.

“There is fiscal belt tightening in Juneau this year,” he said. “It’s not going to be a big year for capital projects.”

Dan Schwartz can be reached at daniel.schwartz@peninsulaclarion.com.

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