Cooper Landing responders to form single agency

Posted: Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Separate firefighting and ambulance units in Cooper Landing have tentatively agreed to become one corporation to be called Cooper Landing Emergency Services Inc., and enter a new lease for borough property each has used for more than 20 years.

In 1984, the Kenai Peninsula Borough leased land to the Cooper Landing Community Club after the club sought and received state funding for an emergency equipment garage.

Since then, the Cooper Landing Volunteer Fire Department and Cooper Landing Volunteer Ambulance Inc. have used the property as their base of operations, but as distinct organizations.

In 2003, the borough awarded a $100,000 grant to the fire department for purchase of either wildland fire equipment or to build or renovate facilities to protect equipment. The department acquired a building and moved it to the leased property.

Two years later, the community club, no longer in need of the property, assigned its lease to the volunteer ambulance corporation.

That lease is due to expire March 31.

An ordinance introduced at the Feb. 2 assembly meeting proposes to lease the land for use by the emergency responders, but to a new entity combining the firefighting and medical groups into the Cooper Landing Emergency Services Inc., or “CLES.” The two groups currently are working out the details of combining into one nonprofit organization.

A public hearing on the ordinance, which would rent the borough land to CLES at the rate of $1 per year for 20 years, is scheduled for the March 13 assembly meeting.

Assembly President Ron Long and Mayor John Williams coordinated several meetings with representatives of the two groups and the general public in an attempt to resolve issues. Those meetings resulted in an agreement to amend the volunteer ambulance corporation’s purposes to include firefighting and to reorganize into a single corporation.

Williams said Thursday that resolutions from both organizations committing to become one group are expected by the borough administration in plenty of time to accommodate a signing date. The ordinance gives the CLES 120 days from the date of a lease offer to accept.

Williams said combining the two organizations amounted to “a bit of an evolution.” Cooper Landing is a small community that had organized the firefighting and ambulance services largely on its own without much government help.

“The community is growing,” Williams said, adding that community meetings considering the new arrangement were well-attended, often drawing 50 to 60 people.

“This is really not a borough issue. There’s not even a service area,” the mayor said. “One group had the land, the other the building. Some way had to be found to bring the two together.”

As one entity, CLES likely will find things like securing grants an easier proposition, Williams suggested.

Williams said that while the borough administration has supported the effort, “tremendous credit” goes to Assembly President Ron Long, who attended every meeting and chaired some.

“Ron has been the guiding force,” he said.

Long said much more credit was due Cooper Landing volunteers.

“They stuck with it and sat through meeting after meeting. Kudos to them,” Long said.

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