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Despite state belt-tightening, area does well in capital budget

Posted: April 20, 2013 - 7:57pm  |  Updated: April 20, 2013 - 8:58pm

Despite not meeting all the wants or needs of the area, the Kenai Peninsula area will fare well in next fiscal year’s much reduced state capital budget, Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, said.

“But, we took care of enough of them,” said the House Speaker on Thursday of all the requests lawmakers from the area received.

In all, the Peninsula’s three house districts — 28, 29 and 30 — were penciled in for just short of $60 million of the Alaska Legislature’s $2.2 billion capital projects budget. The capital budget was reduced by about $600 million from the current $2.8 billion budget. Gov. Sean Parnell, in his proposed $1.8 billion budget, allocated a mere $33.6 million for the Peninsula.

While the Legislature has approved the capital projects budget, Parnell will have the final say with his line item veto authority. However, Chenault said he does not expect drastic cuts from the governor.

“We basically worked with the governor on the dollar amount that’s in the capital budget and we tried to stick with a number he was comfortable with,” he said.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said he felt the area did well despite having to compete with other large state projects.

“Maybe next year we’ll be able to do better, but we did well,” he said. “We did pretty well given the belt tightening that’s going on down there.”

The largest area capital project the Legislature funded was $10 million for beginning construction of the Seward Marine Industrial Center and Homeport project.

Chenault said part of that money will go toward expanding the eastern Peninsula city’s port to lure community development quota Alaskan fishing vessels back from Seattle to spend the winter locally. Another part of it will be to hopefully port some of ConocoPhillips’ and Shell’s arctic drilling ships during the winter, he said.

“That would bring in untold amount of jobs as far as new machine shops, possibly new welding shops, just every craft that would be associated, electronics and so on with the upkeep of these ships and what it will take to keep them homeported here,” he said.

The $10 million — which was originally a $17.9 million request — will fund beginning construction of a breakwall in front of yet-to-be-funded port construction, Chenault said.

Navarre said he was pleased to the see the Seward project funded.

“They are going to need more, but keeping that project going is really, really critical and having those vessels homeport there is a real big boost to the economy of Seward,” he said.

The second largest allocation in the budget is $6 million for AVTEC’s work on a heavy equipment, diesel and pipe welding shop in Seward.

“I don’t know if it is being relocated or more upgrading, but we will have the potential here in the next couple of years to be starting to train a lot of Alaskans for oil field construction jobs, such as a pipeline,” Chenault said.

Road repairs were among the most expensive projects funded by the legislature.

Homer was allocated $5 million for a rehabilitation of Lake Street. Soldotna will get $4 million for pavement work on Kalifornsky Beach Road from milepost 16 to 22.2 and $2 million from a reappropriation for Redoubt Avenue and other streets. The Sterling Highway will see $4 million for erosion response from milepost 150 to 157. The Kenai Peninsula Borough will get $2 million for general road improvements.

“Over the last six or seven years I have probably put $30 million into borough roads ... to bring their standards up and that is always going to be a continuing effort to use, if there is money available, some of that for infrastructure upgrades,” Chenault said. “Any dollar that we get from the state government is a dollar that the borough tax payers may not have to spend on the roads in our district.”

Navarre said the borough is fortunate to have had that funding from the state and “any money we get is important” when it goes to roads.

“We’ve still got some money from previous capital budgets that we will be rolling over the next couple of years,” he said. “The amount that we got this year was less than we had hoped for, but hopefully we’ll see some more funds for roads next year so we can keep our ongoing road improvement projects going.”

Homer will also get $4.2 million for its harbor and $2 million from a reappropriation for the port and harbor building and the Skyline Fire Station. The Kenai Peninsula Borough will receive $3.4 million for a leachate thermal evaporation unit at the Central Peninsula Landfill, which Navarre said was a must-have.

Kenai will receive $2.5 million for construction of a water storage reservoir; and Soldotna will also receive $2.5 million for water reservoir reconstruction.

The Funny River area is set to receive $1.3 million for natural gas pipeline work and Spring Creek Correctional Center will see $1.5 million for deferred maintenance. The Department of Natural Resources will receive $1.4 million for phase one of a public access and facility improvement project at the mouth of the Kasilof River and $2 million for a river bank stabilization and improvement at Bing’s Landing on the Kenai River.

 

Other noteworthy items included in the capital budget included:

■ $1.5 million for an artificial turf field at Soldotna High School.

■ $1 million for flood mitigation efforts in the Seward Bear Creek Flood Service area.

■ $850,000 for rehabilitation of East End Road milepost 3.7 to 12.2.

■ $500,000 for the Ninilchik village bridge replacement project.

■ $400,000 for the Seward Highway Avalanche detection program.

■ $230,000 for preservation of the Holy Assumption Russian Orthodox Church in Kenai.

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