Kenai certifies elections, faces natural gas issues

Capital projects, natural gas and dipnetting dominated the discussion during Wednesday’s Kenai City Council meeting.

The evening began with the certification of the results from the Oct. 1 election during which 25% of the city’s 5,011 registered voters turned out to re-elect Pat Porter to a fourth term as mayor and keep current council members Terry Bookey and Brian Gabriel in their seats.

The three were administered their oaths of office and elected council member Ryan Marquis as vice-mayor.

Several council members said they were happy to see a larger voter turnout, but hoped the number would increase in coming elections.

“It’s sad that we’re pleased with 25 percent, but I guess that’s a move in the right direction,” Bookey said.

The council unanimously approved the city’s capital improvement funding priorities list.

Topping the list is a $2.5 million request for a 20,000 square foot equipment storage building to replace the city’s two smaller storage facilities; $1 million for paving and improvements to about 20 miles of gravel roads, $1.8 million for upgrades to the city’s wastewater treatment plant and $500,000 for a new fire engine.

The priorities list will be submitted to the governor’s office for consideration in the next year’s fiscal planning.

City Manager Rick Koch said projects had a better chance of being funded if they were put in the governor’s capital projects budget submission to the legislature.

“It’s always good if you can get it in the governor’s budget,” Koch said.

The governor’s capital budget is due out in mid-December, Koch said, though funding may not be as generous as it was for the 2013 fiscal year.

The council also drafted a resolution supporting the recent revelation that Nikiski is the lead site for a plant and terminal that would receive natural gas, liquify it and store it to be shipped as part of the Alaska LNG Project.

Early in October ExxonMobil, BP, ConocoPhillps and TransCanada announced Nikiski as the top choice; council members approved a resolution stating that the pipeline would provide substantial economic opportunities for Alaskans.

A 30-year lease of airport land to Buccaneer Alaska Operations, LLC was approved and will go into effect Nov. 1.

Council member Bob Molloy asked several questions about the contract which replaced the yearly special use permit the city had been operating under.

“When I was looking at the lease and reading the terms on when it turns over after 30 years — and I recognize that we’re using a format that’s drive by code — but concern that was, you know, that it didn’t seem to address specifically any terms for abandonment of the well or closing of the well,” Molloy said.

Koch said he and the city’s administration were confident that the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission permit issued to Marathon adequately covered closure of the facility.

Molloy also asked if the terms of the lease provided an opening for Buccaneer to sublease the area to another company.

Koch said he wasn’t “100 percent” certain but that it was his understanding that Buccaneer would be the only operator of the facility.

More than $4,000 in drug seizure money was appropriated for the Kenai Police Department.

According to a memo from Kenai Police Chief Gus Sandahl, the funds will be used to purchase un-budgeted training and investigative equipment.

Mayor Pat Porter, Koch and other council members mentioned river bank degradation below the Warren Ames Bridge due to the dipnet fishery.

Porter said the trampled areas were unsightly.

Koch said after the meeting that the city owned the tidal flats where the mud begins to the river bed while the state’s Department of Natural Resource division of parks owns the near-shore land.

“They just ought to go down there and keep people from tearing up the banks of the river,” Koch said.

Koch told the council a final report on the dipnet fishery could be done by the end of October.

Reach Rashah McChesney at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com

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