Grant will add to road upgrade

Keystone project gets federal boost

Posted: Friday, February 18, 2005

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted Tuesday to accept a $909,700 state grant that will go toward improvements to Keystone Drive Road, a collector road along the Kenai River serving local residents, tourist businesses, federally managed and private park facilities and a public boat launch.

The money was accepted and appropriated to the project in Ordinance 2004-19-34, which also appropriated a $90,300 local match, bringing the total to $1 million.

The Keystone Drive Road project has been listed among the borough's top road priorities since 2002 and already has won promise of $3 million in federal funds, thanks to community efforts.

Public facilities along the road attract more traffic than the narrow, unpaved section of borough road can stand, according to road residents. Maintenance of the roadway, which runs along the north side of the Kenai River, is split, with the state and the city of Soldotna managing a paved portion, and the borough the unpaved portion.

The Road Service Area has agreed to manage the project to ensure the road is designed and built to borough standards.

The assembly also passed Ordinance 2005-03, amending the borough code to require a filing fee for appeals to the Board of Equalization, a panel of the assembly that rules on disagreements over property valuations.

Over the past five years, the borough Board of Equalization has heard about 145 appeals out of 2,280 actually filed.

According to the borough assessor's office, the average cost of an appeal is about $1,000, a figure that includes staff time, inspections, informal adjustment meetings, printing and packet deliveries, and final presentation before the BOE. That cost is borne by borough taxpayers in general with no cost to the appellant.

Administration officials believe charging a fee would discourage frivolous appeals and help offset costs incurred for such appeals. Reducing appeals would improve appraisers' productivity in the field.

The new fee structure will require a $30 filling fee for property valued at less than $100,000, a $100 fee for properties valued between $100,000 and $500,000, a $200 fee for properties valued between $500,000 and $2 million, and properties valued in excess of $2 million are now required to pay a $1,000 fee.

Where taxpayers' appeals actually result in a reduction of assessed value, or where appeals are withdrawn, filing fees would be returned.

Similar ordinances passed in Anchorage and Ketchikan resulted in significant reductions in the numbers of appeals and considerable savings in time and money.

The assembly also passed Ordinance 2005-02, incorporating the goals of the Soldotna Action Plan into the 1995 Soldotna Comprehensive Plan. That plan includes the following goals:

Enhancing landscaping, beautification and environmental protection awareness of the Commercial and Limited districts;

Promoting the use of Limited Commercial Districts for new business and to expand existing business;

Educating local residents and tourists about the history of Soldotna and its surrounding areas;

Educating the public about the Soldotna Municipal Code; and

Creating a template plan for storefront beautification.

A resolution urging the Alaska Board of Game to oppose portions of two proposals to open bear hunting in the Kamishak Special Use Area and asking the board to support another proposal to protect McNeil River and Katmai Coast Bears won the majority of votes but failed to garner the necessary five votes to pass. Assembly members Betty Glick of Kenai and Gary Superman of Nikiski had excused absences from Tuesday's meeting.

Four members voted for the measure and three opposed it. Grace Merkes of Sterling said the issue was a matter the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, not the assembly.

"I just think it is inappropriate to state an issue and an opinion at this time," she said.

Merkes was joined by Paul Fischer of Kasilof and Ron Long of Seward in opposition to the measure.

In other business, the assembly:

Passed Resolution 2005-016, authorizing occupancy of portions of the former Nikiski Elementary School Building by the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area. The service area will have access to the gym, the library and a kindergarten room and will assume some of the costs of maintenance.

Passed Resolution 2005-008, forming the West Brook Estates Road Improvement Assessment District.

Passed Resolution 2005-017, establishing federal legislative and funding priorities for fiscal year 2006, which begins July 1.

Introduced Ordinance 2004-19-39, awarding the Henry Creek Bridge project to Covey Enterprises. A hearing is scheduled for March 15.

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