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Kenai ditches $20 library card fee for outside city residents

Posted: May 8, 2014 - 9:16pm

More than 7,000 Kenai Library card holders, or just about 65 percent of the community library’s users, will continue to get their library cards free of cost.

The Kenai City Council voted to down a portion of a resolution which would have required residents who lived outside of the city to pay an annual $20 library card fee. The council then passed the resolution of fee changes adopted in the fiscal year 2015 budget process.

While renewed plans for playground equipment at Municipal Park dominated discussion at Wednesday night’s meeting, the council passed three ordinances and seven resolutions. One of the resolutions authorized the city manger to enter an agreement with the Department of the Army Corp of Engineers to complete one final feasibility study for the Kenai River bluff erosion project, a project that has been one of the city’s capital priorities for more than 20 years.

The library card fee was one of four changes that came out of the budget process including one that raises the rent at Vintage Pointe Manor, the city’s senior living facility. The city will also increase the parking fee at the Kenai Municipal airport and increase water and sewer rates.

The $20 library card fee would have generated $50,000 per year in revenue and reduce the subsidy for outside city users provided by Kenai property tax payers, according to the resolution.

Council member Terry Bookey motioned to remove the library card fee for non-residents. He said the library is an essential service that should be free and open to all. Vice mayor Ryan Marquis said he supported the amendment because he feared the fee would turn people away from using the library.

“The library is an important community asset and belongs to the community larger than those who live in the city boundaries,” Marquis said. “The people who use the library also use our stores and contribute to our economy just as much as anyone in the city. I would like to see the library used by as many people as possible regardless of whether or not they want to pay.”

Council member Brian Gabriel was the lone vote against the amendment to remove the fee. He said $20 a year was not too much too ask.

Kenai City Manager Rick Koch said the idea to have a library card fee for residents from outside the city has been a conversation within the library commission the last few years with the intention to generate more revenue without burdening city taxpayers. Council member Mike Boyle, who serves as the library commission liaison was on vacation and did not attend Wednesday’s meeting.

Marquis said the $50,000 was included in the city manager’s proposed budget and said the budget will have to be changed to make up for the lost revenue.

A motion to remove a rent increase to units at Vintage Pointe from the resolution failed 3 to 4.

In the second year of a plan to match market rates, the monthly rent for each unit at Vintage Pointe would be raised $35 per month or $420 annually.

Market rental rates would be applied to the rental agreements for any new tenants.

The increase is expected to generate $15,435 in annual revenue, according to the resolution.

Council member Bob Molloy made an amendment keep the rent static for some units at Vintage Pointe Manor and had similar feelings last year when the plan was adopted from FY2014 budget.

Gabriel said he also struggled with raising the rates on seniors and asked how many units are rented.

Kenai Senior Center director Rachael Craig said eight new apartments had been filled recently and there is a wait list of 115 people to get into the senior housing facility that overlooks the mouth of the Kenai River on the bluff.

Rent increases for units at Vintage Point Manor were divided into two categories, one for those who rented before June 30, 2013 and another for agreements signed after that date.

For an ocean-side unit with 586 square feet before June 30 2013, rent was increased from $764 to $799. For rental agreements signed after June 30, 2013, rent for the same apartment would be increased from $810.90 to $839.28.

Council member Tim Navarre said the council had already agreed on the rent increase last year to keep up with market value, which he said is fair.

To keep up with operating costs, the city water and sewer rates would increase nearly $5 for a single-family service from $74.95 to $79.06 for customers paying with anything other than a credit card.

CH2MHill performed a 2011 water and sewer rate study for the city and concluded that a four-year scheduled rate increase for the water and sewer fund was necessary.

Kenai Finance Director Terry Eubank said increasing the rates would ensure the city has “operating reserves sufficient to maintain and operate the utility for its customers and provide matching funds and upgrades to the utilities infrastructure,” according to a memo he wrote to Koch,

Car parking at Kenai Municipal Airport would increase from $5 to $7 under the proposed resolution and is expected to bring the city $96,000 revenue. General aviation parking rates would increase $1 per day and the cost of an annual parking pass would rise from $300 to $420.

The council will also approved a resolution to amend airport landing fees and terminal rates for the Airline Operating Agreement set to be in effect on June 1.

A proposed increase of 3.5 percent for landing fees and terminal area lease rates, based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index.

In a memo to administration, Airport Manager Mary Bondurant said the city and the airport entered into a new five-year amendment to the airline operating agreement last June.

Reach Dan Balmer at daniel.balmer@peninsulaclarion.com

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