Council makes road less bumpy for Kenai woman

Posted: Sunday, January 25, 2004

It pays to fight city hall.

After the city of Kenai went forward with street improvements in a neighborhood off Beaver Loop last summer, one property owner found she wasn't getting the same paving for her buck as other neighborhood residents.

Margaret Dolchok has lived on Dolchok Lane off of Basin View Road for more than 30 years. When the city decided last summer to create a special assessment district for the purpose of paving some of the streets in the area, she didn't object but she didn't sign a petition calling for the district, either.

According to Dolchok's son-in-law, Rusty Huf, Dolchok had always got along fine living at the end of her one-lane gravel road, which essentially serves as a driveway. Huf, who spoke on Dolchok's behalf Wednesday before the council, said she didn't want the road paved, but didn't want to stand in the way of others in the neighborhood who wanted their streets paved.

"She wasn't opposed, if that's what the neighbors wanted," Huf told the council.

However, when the city went ahead with the project, Dolchok got quite a bit less than she bargained for. Instead of a standard-width city street complete with proper drainage and roadbed, Huf said contractors for the city simply paved over the old gravel driveway and called it a day. He said instead of a new street, what Dolchok got was simply a substandard driveway with drainage problems.

"The problem is it's a substandard job on that portion of the project," Huf told the council.

City contractor Bill Nelson told the council the street was paved in the manner it was because it would have been much more costly to remove existing fill and install a new roadbed because of overhead power lines.

During the public process, Nelson said it was decided to simply pave over the driveway and leave it at that.

"The way it was built was the way it was planned from day one," Nelson said.

However, despite the fact that Dolchok's "driveway" which is actually a city street wasn't done in the same manner as the other neighborhood roads, she still was given the same $2,371 assessment as the other 39 property owners in the subdivision.

Huf told the council he thought it was unfair Dolchok was being asked to pay for a substandard job she never wanted in the first place.

"I personally don't think she ought to pay the city of Kenai anything, and they should come down and fix the drainage problem," he said.

After listening to Huf's testimony, an annoyed city council took up the issue. It wasn't Huf or Dolchok they appeared frustrated with, however, but city employees who allowed the project to proceed in the manner it did.

Council member Jim Bookey said he couldn't believe the city would go ahead with the driveway paving project when it would never allow a private property owner to perform similar paving on a city street.

"I'm disappointed the city of Kenai is doing things on the right of way they wouldn't let the general public do," Bookey said.

He said the city should have stopped paving when it got to Dolchok's road instead of going through with a road that's not up to city standards.

"If we couldn't do the road completely, we should have stopped," he said.

After briefly debating the issue, the council decided the best thing to do would be to adjust Dolchok's assessment. They unanimously passed a motion to reduce her bill by two-thirds, dropping her cost to $790 upping the total cost to the city for paving by $1,580. The council also said the city should go back and fix whatever drainage issues Dolchok has on the street.

In the end, the city increased its paving cost for the project by less than half a percent not much, Huf said, when it comes to looking out for the interests of a longtime Kenai resident.

"I think that's fair," he said.

In other action Wednesday, the council:

Approved an increase to the general fund in the amount of $51,491 for the purpose of passing through a grant from the state to the Boys and Girls Club of the Kenai Peninsula.

Transferred $5,400 from the city's general fund into its street light repair and maintenance account because of the need for the city to do its own repairs on metal light poles which are city-owned in town. In the past, Homer Electric Association had a contract to repair lights on metal poles, but that contract recently was terminated, leaving the city to fix its own lights.

Increased revenues and appropriations by $45,000 and transferred $5,000 from the general fund for a grant from the U.S. Fire Administration to purchase mobile repeaters for city emergency vehicles.

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