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Kenai Council pitches capital projects

Posted: December 23, 2012 - 10:54am

Kenai City Manager Rick Koch and the city council met with area legislators in an initial bid for state funding for Kenai’s fiscal year 2014 capital project priorities in a work session Wednesday afternoon. Another work session followed to discuss the city’s approval for a $2.3 million loan to improve seven city buildings’ energy efficiency.

Koch said the city’s six most important capital projects are: paving and improving city streets; upgrading the wastewater treatment plant; building a backup water storage reservoir; constructing a city shop; completing phase two of construction to the industrial park; and, working to resolve the annual issues with the personal-use fishery.

Rep. Kurt Olson was at the legislative work session, and Sen. Cathy Giessel called in over speakerphone. Koch said he has already updated outgoing Sen. Tom Wagoner and House Speaker Mike Chenault, and will sit down with Senator-elect Peter Micciche next week.

Although it is not marked the top priority, Koch said he will push hardest in Juneau for $2.5 million to construct a backup 1million-gallon water storage reservoir.

The new reservoir would have two purposes, Koch said.

The city’s only 3 million-gallon reservoir was built more than 30 years ago and the coating on the inside of the tank is beginning to fail, which will begin to contaminate the water supply and corrode the metal body of tank, Koch said.

“It’s time to recoat that tank,” he said, “but it’s not like going to the store and buying a couple of cans of Krylon.”

To recoat the inside of the reservoir, the city will have to shut the only water supply down for four to six months over the summer. The proposed 1 million-gallon reservoir will supply the city with water during the recoating.

The city also consumes more water than it did in 1978 when the 3 million-gallon reservoir was built, and, with the current reservoir, the city does not have the emergency storage window that Koch would like.

“Seventy-two hours is the least amount of time I’d like to have in the bank to fight fires with,” he said.

The additional reservoir would increase the city’s storage capacity to 4 million gallons, a more suitable volume if the city is unable to resupply with water in emergency situation, Koch said.

To improve the city’s personal-use fishery, priority number six, Koch is requesting $150,000.

Initially he planned to build fish cleaning stations to reduce the amount of waste that accumulates on the beaches.

To cover the cost of the fish cleaning stations and disposal of the 40,000 pounds of waste that would accumulate in cleaning stations in a single day, he proposed raising fishery user fees — though he said that idea was canned after meeting heavy opposition.

To cover the $233,836 fish cleaning stations, the $400,000 to $600,000 cost to remove the waste from the stations and other associated expenditures, the city would have to raise some user fees to $60, he said, four times more than the existing fees.

“This is where I think my vote will drop,” Koch said: “We’re going to post on the beach that fish waste in the beach or water is prohibited.”

But he said enforcing that rule will be difficult because there are not enough personnel to monitor the trash the roughly 1,500 people who use the fishery on busy days leave.

The $150,000 he is requesting is the remaining sum needed to build the fish cleaning stations — though he said he has nearly given up on that idea.

To upgrade the city’s wastewater treatment plant, priority number two, Koch requested $1,670,790, and the recently released governor’s budget covers 70 percent — $1.2 million — of that cost.

Under the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Municipal Matching Program, the city is required to pay the remaining sum, roughly $400,000.

Upgrades to the out of date facility also come at a good time, Koch said, because the city was recently approved for a $2.3 million state loan — Retrofit Energy Assessment for Loans — to improve the energy efficiency of seven city buildings.

While the wastewater treatment plant undergoes phase one of its upgrades, new energy efficient equipment can also be installed to reduce the $260,000 a year the city spends in electricity on the plant.

Amber McDonough, with Siemens Industry, Inc. — the company that would design and carry out of the upgrades — said electricity is the greatest expense for wastewater treatment plants and the upgrades would greatly reduce that cost.

She said upgrading utilities like lights, boilers and heating units the six other buildings — city hall, the public safety building, the recreation center, the senior center, the airport terminal and Vintage Pointe Manor — would reduce the buildings’ energy use by more than 26 percent. That would save the city $627,000 annually in natural gas and electric costs, she said.

And, after about 12 1/2 years, the city’s savings would pay off the entire loan, McDonough said.

Koch said he has already approved the project; now the council needs to approve the contract in a Jan. 16 council meeting.

For the other three priorities, Koch requested $1 million for regular street improvements, $2 million for a roughly 17,000-square-foot city maintenance shop to house and repair city equipment and $500,000 to conduct phase two of construction to the city’s industrial park.

Phase two will install this summer road ways and utilities — water, sewer, electrical, natural gas and telecommunications — to the southern half of the park, opening about 12 lots.

The Legislature will meet Jan. 15 to April 14 to further hash out Kenai, and the rest of the states’, funding priorities.

The Council met briefly following the two work sessions.

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

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