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Kenai council approves hike in fees, rents, rates

Posted: May 16, 2013 - 7:45pm

With the adoption of its fiscal year 2014 annual budget on Wednesday, Kenai City Council will raise the city’s dipnet fishery fees, Vintage Pointe Manor rent, its water and sewer rates, and make changes to its employee health insurance.

The city’s operating FY 2014 budget, effective from July 1 to June 30, 2014, is $24,058,316.

Resolution 2013-27 proposed raising dipnet fishery camping and parking fees, Vintage Pointe monthly rent and water and sewer service rates.

Vice Mayor Ryan Marquis said he has opposed dipnet fee hikes the past three years but, now, it is time — the non-Kenai Peninsula resident users need to treat the city’s fishery “the way they would their own community.”

The increased user fees are projected to yield about $113,871 in the first year. That extra money will fund additional fish waste raking and garbage management on the north and south beaches.

Kenai residents have testified numerous times that users trash the dipnet fishery during its July 10 to July 31 opening. One resident said seagulls drop fish heads in his yard; another said she has found human waste on the beach.

“It’s not fair for our citizens to pay for this out of their tax dollars when we could shift that to some of the people creating the mess,” Marquis said.

Fishery parking and camping fees will rise from $15 to $20 during 24-hour parking periods, overnight camping from $20 to $25, dock-side daily parking from $10 to $15 and boat launch parking from $20 to $25.

Of the total 2012 fishery users, 3 percent were Kenai residents and an additional 4 percent were borough residents, according to a city survey. Kenai residents are expected to pay $3,416 and borough residents $4,555 of the total money expected to be raised, according to a memo prepared by the city’s Finance Director Terry Eubank.

“Raise the rates,” Kenai resident Joe Harris said.

Council adopted resolution 2013-27 over the objection of council members Bob Molloy and Mike Boyle.

Molloy and Boyle did not object to the dipnet user fee hike; they opposed in the coupled resolution raising Vintage Pointe’s rent by $50 per month.

Molloy proposed amending the resolution to raise monthly rent by $25 instead.

Boyle seconded his motion to amend.

Halving the rent hike would generate a $11,700 greater loss in the center’s budget, according to Molloy’s amendment. He said the city should fund about 80 percent of the center and seek grants and other sources of revenue to fund the remaining 20 percent of the center’s overhead.

But, without raising rents, the center will eventually become subsidized housing, Councilmember Brian Gabriel Sr. said.

“I don’t relish the thought of raising rents on the seniors, but we need to stick to the policy on why this (resolution) was created,” Gabriel said.

He said if council does not incrementally adjust the center’s rent, then it will have to make “big jumps down the road.”

When Marquis was running for re-election, he said, he spoke to no one when knocking on doors who said they supported subsidizing the center.

The $10,410 generated from the first year’s rent increase will finance the center’s long-term maintenance projects. The center has spent $111,000 replacing windows and $54,000 on a sprinkler system in the past. The city’s recently adopted operating budget includes $125,000 to replace the center’s old boiler.

Also in the approved resolution, combined water and sewer service rates will rise $4.08 per month per residential customer. The 12 percent water rate and 3 percent sewer rate increase are required to fund the city’s current operating costs and facility maintenance, according to a 2011 CH2MHill study.

The city now will also require its employees to pay a portion of their medical and hospital insurance plan costs. Employees without medical insurance dependent coverage will pay 8.5 percent of their health care costs.

Eubank said 102 city employees carry insurance.

The switch will generate $26,946 across all city funds, according one of Eubank’s memos to the council. Previously, city residents had paid that in taxes, Kenai Mayor Pat Porter said.

Molloy and Boyle opposed the change.

Boyle said the city has traditionally provided health care for its employees at no cost and, though it may be becoming a trend for municipalities to shift the payment to its employees, the city should continue its tradition.

“In fact, I have some concerns that we’re artificially raising the costs to families and, in a sense, it could be considered a penalization to families and those who are married,” Boyle said.

Council will meet next on June 5 in City Hall, 210 Fidalgo Avenue.

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

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