Voters in the South Peninsula Hospital Service Area will vote May 8 whether to approve a $14.7 million bond issue, the proceeds of which would pay to complete expansion of the hospital.
Tuesday in Soldotna, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted 8-1 in favor of Ordinance 2006-40 (Substitute) that set the general obligation bond amount and established the spring special election date. Assembly member Gary Knopp, of Kenai, voted no.
The original Ordinance 2006-40 had envisioned a $16 million bond. However, recently revised cost estimates allowed the borough to reduce the figure to $14.7 million, and to lower an expected property tax mill rate increase from 1.07 mills to .98 mills.
If approved by voters, service area property taxpayers would shell out $98 more in taxes for every $100,000 in property value.
There was some discussion about whether to postpone the election until October and hold it as part of the scheduled municipal election. The assembly was swayed from that idea when told that even a few months delay could add significantly to the cost of completing the expansion because of the continuing rise in the cost of building materials.
The assembly also discussed a proposed amendment offered by assembly member Grace Merkes, of Sterling, to have the hospital service area budget pay $30,000 toward the cost of the election. She withdrew that amendment, however, agreeing with other members that having service areas pay for service area elections had not been past practice. They’ve always been paid for with money from the borough’s general fund.
Assembly member Milli Martin, of Diamond Ridge, opposed billing the service area for the election costs.
“It is my view that to charge the service area for this election is wrong,” she said, adding that if the intention was to charge the service area, it should be done through the ordinance process, be discussed, be set in code to provide “a level playing field for everyone.”
Assembly member Deb Germano, of Homer, argued that having service areas pay was a policy question the assembly should address, and one with which she might conceivably agree. It would be unfair, however, to begin that policy practice with the upcoming hospital service area election without having that policy discussion first.
If voters approve the bond measure and when the hospital is completed, the additions will include a new nursing and patient care wing offering 18 single-occupancy rooms, now considered the industry safety standard. A laboratory and pharmacy would be relocated upstairs closer to the patient care area, surgery would be enhanced, a safe room added and the parking lot expanded. A landing pad for helicopters may also be built on the building’s roof.
The assembly also considered reconsideration of Ordinance 2006-41, the measure passed Jan. 2 setting an April 1 launch date for implementing the per-person, per-day sales tax regime on recreational sales packages.
Borough Mayor John William’s administration had sought a year’s delay, which would have implemented the tax program on Jan. 1, 2008. However, the assembly said at its last meeting that three months was enough time to prepare for imposing the new tax schedule.
Germano asked for reconsideration at the end of the Jan. 2 meeting. Tuesday, however, she could only garner one other vote, that of Martin, to bring the ordinance back to the table. Thus, the reconsideration vote failed. That means the new tax regime will go into effect April 1.
In other business, the assembly:
n Passed resolution 2007-003 authorizing award of a contract for filing suit against the state of Alaska over inequitable funding of borough schools, and for lobbying services in the state capital. Assembly members Paul Fischer, of Kasilof, and Merkes voted no. The contract was awarded to a joint venture of two law firms, Jermain, Dunnagan & Owens, who will work on the litigation, and Robertson, Monagle & Eastaugh, who will handle the lobbying effort. The assembly approved expenditure of an initial $90,000 already appropriated in the 2006 borough budget. Fischer has called for reconsideration.
n Passed Resolution 2007-004 redirecting $345,510 in Central Kenai Peninsula Service Area capital project fund monies.
n Passed Resolution 2007-005 accepting a $56,250 grant from the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs for emergency management operations.
n Passed Resolution 2007-006 authorizing acceptance of a late-filed senior citizen exemption application.
n Introduced Ordinance 2006-19-39 accepting and appropriating a grant from the Denali Commission of $40,000 for recycling equipment.
Hal Spence can be reached at email@example.com.
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