Kenai council ups property owners' responsibilities

Posted: Sunday, January 05, 2003

Many things could be said about the Kenai City Council, but being lax in their meeting schedule is not one of them.

The council's first slated Wednesday meeting of the month fell on a holiday, so they rescheduled to Thursday and gathered for an hour and a half to discuss several items that weren't particularly glamourous, but that nevertheless play a role in city government.

One measure voted on by the council will have a direct effect on the pocketbooks of Kenai residents wanting to have a road paved or some other improvement done to their neighborhood.

The council members present unanimously passed a resolution amending the city's general policy on the way costs are assessed to property owners in special assessment districts.

In developed areas that include several property owners, all of whom would benefit more or less equally from the improvement they want to have done -- which in most cases is road paving -- those owners would be responsible for 50 percent of all the project costs, rather than the prior rate of 25 percent.

According to the resolution document, reduced state funding for public improvement projects is the cause for this rate hike. During the discussions about the past few special assessment districts for road paving that have come before the council, council members have noted how the city's fund for special assessment districts has been depleted.

"If we don't do something of this nature, we're never going to have the money to go anywhere," said council member Jim Bookey. "It may upset some people, but it will be more equitable across the board."

The council also passed a resolution levying the costs of demolishing a derelict mobile home at 9245 Kenai Spur Highway, which came to $3,650, as a lien against the property.

The other two motions discussed by the council were tabled. One was an ordnance that would allow the city's administration to solicit and award construction contracts by competitive sealed proposal. Currently the city code requires that all construction contracts more than $10,000 must be solicited and awarded through a competitive sealed bid process.

According to the ordinance document, with some construction projects, it would be more advantageous for the city to solicit and award contracts by competitive sealed proposals rather than bids, especially where such projects can be done as "design-build" projects.

A design-build contract is a single agreement with one company to design and build a project, according to information provided by the state Department of Community and Economic Development. The process can mean more control over a project and a quicker completion time for the city, but it also runs the risk of inaccurate cost estimates and the city being financially taken advantage of if a less-than-honest or less-than-competent contractor is awarded the contract.

The council and administration discussed both sides of the issue. Council members Bookey, Joe Moore and Linda Swarner voiced their concerns over the chance the city would be swindled in a design-build arrangement and their satisfaction with the current competitive sealed bid process.

City Manager Linda Snow and City Attorney Carey Graves said the design-build process would only be used in certain circumstances and could be advantageous if the city was prepared to avoid the pitfalls of the process. Ultimately, the issue was tabled.

"I don't see where this would benefit us or hinder us at this time," said Kenai Mayor John Williams.

A vote on whether the city would continue to require that notifications of public hearings be sent by certified mail also was tabled. The Planning and Zoning Commission has supported the change in past discussions on the matter.

Council member Pat Porter said sending notification by certified mail is expensive and unnecessary. Bookey and Moore disagreed, saying they thought the added cost of certified mail was warranted for the assurance that citizens were receiving their notifications.

"I don't want a constituent coming back to me and saying 'I didn't know,'" Bookey said. "... For the amount of money we're talking about here, I think we should spend it."

Swarner moved to amend the motion to require the post office's delivery confirmation service be utilized instead of certified mail. The matter was tabled until more information could be gathered about the specifics and costs of delivery conformation.

Council member Duane Bannock was absent.

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