Kenai clock may run out of time

Posted: Friday, February 18, 2005

Unless the public steps forward with significant funding, it doesn't look like Kenai will be getting a town clock any time soon.

The Kenai City Council last year approved $5,000 to spend on preliminary work aimed at bringing a clock to town. At the time, then-mayor John Williams said a clock would be a good way to help build a town center for Kenai.

However, a recent decision by the city's Planning and Zoning Commission to oppose spending city funds on a town clock — as well as apparent council opposition to the idea — means the current clock proposal appears to be running out of time.

Kenai Mayor Pat Porter is one of the few people in city government who appears to still be behind the idea. She told the council at Wednesday's regular meeting that the addition of a clock could serve to bring the community together.

"I think it's important to have a town clock," she told the council.

Porter argued that Kenai has an identity crisis that leaves people wondering where the center of town is.

"We don't have a town center," she said.

She said by putting a clock in the center of town, that could change.

"I think we can easily accomplish that goal by placing a clock in Leif Hanson Memorial Park."

However, Porter's plan to begin looking into private partnerships to help fund the clock was rebuffed by fellow council members, with only Joe Moore supporting such action.

Other council members said the city should save its money, especially during a time when Kenai is facing an uncertain economic future.

"I don't think we should spend the money on it," council member Blaine Gilman said.

Council member Rick Ross said he also opposes the idea, and he stated he'd like to see much more concrete plans for any such project put forward before the city even thinks about getting involved.

"Maybe this is something we should discuss at budget time when we have something more definitive," Ross said.

With the council and the Planning and Zoning Commission apparently set against spending large sums of money — a large clock tower could cost anywhere from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars — it appears as if the only way the issue can now go forward is if public members decide to start a movement to raise private funds.

In other action Wednesday, the council:

Introduced two ordinances — 2081-2005 and 2082-2005 — that will come up for public hearing in two weeks. Ordinance 2081-2005 would create a new "limited commercial" zone in the city. The ordinance is needed to begin the process of opening up land known as "Lawton Acres," which is on the Kenai Spur Highway directly east of Walker Lane, to business development. Ordinance 2082-2005 would amend city code to require that notices of board of adjustment hearings be sent by certified mail to appellants and permit applicants.

Heard public testimony from James Hudson, who owns a local massage business. Hudson asked the council to consider a city licensing program for massage therapy. Council members indicated they plan on looking into the issue.

Received a report from Brenda Pilgrim-Ahlberg on the Boys and Girls Club's "Project Protect," which uses kids to clean the Kenai beach during the summer. Pilgrim-Ahlberg thanked the city for helping with the program and said she hopes the club can continue to work with the city in the future.

Listened to testimony from Richard Hahn and Gerald Brookman on a proposal before the state Board of Game that would allow brown bear hunting in the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary. Hahn and Brookman asked the council to pass a resolution opposing the proposal. However, the council declined, saying there had not been enough time to gather public testimony.

Passed ordinance 2080-2205, which authorizes the creation of a new employee certification for employees hired under the Mature Alaskans Seeking Skills Training Program. The new classification will enable the city to hire older workers who will be paid through a federal program administered by the state. If funding runs out for the program, the workers will no longer be employed by the city. In addition, the city is not responsible for any employee retirement or benefit costs under the program.

Heard an update from city Parks and Recreation Department Director Bob Frates on the status of the city's planned recreational field development at the city's "site 36" location, near the city transfer site. Frates told the council the city's project has scored high on a list of potential projects to be funded by state grant money, and that things are "looking good" for the city to get $ 251,548 in grant funding from the state Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation.

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