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Bluffs, streets likely candidates for Kenai capital projects

Posted: September 5, 2013 - 8:57pm

Kenai City Council will hash out at a Sept. 18 meeting which capital projects the city will request for fiscal year 2015 state and federal funding.

Kenai’s bluff erosion project will remain — as it has in past years — the city’s top capital project, and the city will request federal funding for it, City Manager Rick Koch said. Federal funding for water and sewer upgrades will be another item on the list, he said.

The city may ask for state funds for the following projects: building an equipment storage facility next to the city shop now under construction, replacing a 31-year-old Kenai Fire Department tanker, conducting phase two of construction for the city’s industrial park, and carrying out the Kenai Spur Highway improvement project.

“We may come up with something else,” Koch said. His list is only preliminary; city council will likely amend it.

Koch will also include a collection of smaller capital projects that range from $10,000 to $100,000. The Alaska State Legislature sometimes funds smaller projects in the “waning days” they’re in session, Koch said.

The city included 13 smaller projects last year — $90,000 for a new fire and rescue boat, $70,000 for Memorial Park improvements, $35,000 for Kenai Multi-Purpose Facility permanent locker rooms, for example — and it will likely include many of the projects in its list this year, Koch said.

Last fiscal year, the city also requested state funding for the following six major capital projects: waste water treatment plant upgrades, a 1 million-gallon backup storage reservoir, city shop construction, phase two of city industrial park construction, personal-use dipnet fishery upgrades, and annual improvements to city streets and roads.

Still pending state funding, however, are upgrades to the waste water treatment plant, phase two of industrial park construction and improvements to streets and roads, Koch said.

Koch already resubmitted the city’s request for funding of the waste water treatment plan’s upgrades through the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s Municipal Matching Grants Program.

Last fiscal year, $1.2 million was initially included in Alaska Governor Sean Parnell’s proposed budget, but the legislator pulled it out. “That was very disappointing,” Koch said.

Koch will know in mid-December when Parnell releases his budget if the waste water treatment plant improvement project received funding.

Funding for phase two of the city’s industrial park would have installed the parks’ utilities, but, pending funds, the project is now dormant, Koch said.

City council will decide if it wants to include the project in the FY2015 capital project priority list.

Street and road improvements are an annual chore for most Alaska cities, and the Legislature grants Kenai the project funds about half the time they are requested, Koch said.

Koch will likely ask that $1 million for roadway improvements is included in the city’s FY2015 capital project priority list, he said.

Like last fiscal year, when the legislature removed $1 billion from the state budget, FY2015 is likely to be a year of scarce capital project funding, Koch said. Capital projects during budget cuts are often the low hanging fruit, he said.

“My guess is,” he said, “they’re going to maintain an adequate capital project budget — it’s not going to be big.”

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

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