Priorities top assembly agenda

Posted: Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Opening day of the first session of the 23rd Alaska Legislature is just two weeks away, and tonight the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly is expected to adopt a resolution outlining its top priorities and listing capital projects it hopes will win state funding in fiscal year 2004.

Accompanying the resolution is a book detailing the borough's wish list of capital improvements, as well as those of its service areas, unincorporated communities and cities. Copies have been sent to the three representatives and two senators representing various parts of the borough and also to Gov. Frank Murkowski.

Solid waste is the borough's top priority, according to assembly President Pete Sprague.

The borough is asking for $8 million to upgrade the Central Peninsula Baling Facility near Soldotna. Voters approved a bond package for more than $12 million back in October to cover a two-phased improvement over 10 years. The state money would help reduce the future bond debt or reduce the need to sell bonds, Sprague has said.

The wish list also includes a request for up to $28 million for a variety of maintenance projects at borough schools. Some $15 million would pay to replace an aging Seward Middle School. The rest would be spent to improve water quality, eliminate asbestos, bring schools into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, upgrade sprinkler systems and complete other projects.

The borough also asks the Legislature to appropriate sufficient funds to pay for improvements to state-maintained roads within the borough.

Development of a natural gas pipeline to bring North Slope natural gas to the peninsula was listed as a key priority. So was regulatory reform of the natural resources permitting process. Further, the borough supports tax and royalty incentives to promote exploration of otherwise uneconomical oil and gas fields. While encouraging further expansion of the oil and gas industry in the Cook Inlet region, however, the borough also has asked the state to continue funding for environmental protection programs.

The borough wants the state to help it build and improve docks and roads on the west side of Cook Inlet to help open that area to further development.

Other borough priorities include expediting the borough land selection process. To make that happen, the borough has asked that the Alaska Department of Natural Resources be sufficiently funded to speed up the patent process so it could be accomplished in less than two years.

Finally, the borough is asking the state to amend a section of Title 29 that provides exemptions from property taxes on the first $10,000 of property value on a primary residence. The borough wants that exemption increased to $50,000.

Among the projects listed for various borough service areas are a $170,000 ambulance for the village of Nikolaevsk requested by the Anchor Point Fire and Emergency Service Area, $400,000 requested by the Bear Creek Fire Service Area for construction of access roads to the Camelot and Questa Woods subdivisions that would dramatically reduce the time it takes emergency vehicles to reach them, and $238,000 for wild land fire apparatus requested by Central Emer-gency Services.

The Central Kenai Peninsula Hospital Service Area Board has requested more than $3.5 million for various projects, including $1.49 million for a picture archival and communications system and $740,903 for a digital radiographic system and room remodel.

Kachemak Emergency Service Area wants $450,000 in state assistance to build a fire station at McNeil Canyon, another $190,000 for a fast-attack fire engine, and $150,000 for an ambulance.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Road Service Area has asked for funds for a host of borough road maintenance projects.

Nikiski Fire Service Area Board wants $150,000 for an ambulance, the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area needs $475,000 to build the Nikiski Community Center, and South Peninsula Hospital Service Area has requested $275,000 for an emergency water system and another $225,000 for an emergency helicopter landing area.

The borough list also includes nearly 60 pages of projects for which funding is sought by various unincorporated communities and organizations.

Legislative priorities won't be the only thing on tonight's agenda.

The assembly also will hold a public hearing on Ordinance 2002-19-24, accepting and appropriating $80,000 in federal funds for a coastline mapping project, and another public hearing on Ordinance 2002-19-26, authorizing the acquisition of land from the University of Alaska for a new solid waste disposal facility for Seldovia and appropriating $632,000 for the purpose.

The assembly also is expected to accept and appropriate $1.25 million in federal funds to do preliminary engineering for the proposed Kenai Spur Road extension. A public hearing on Ordinance 2002-19-27 is scheduled.

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