Assembly members to present priorities for Kenai Peninsula

Posted: Sunday, February 22, 2004

Three Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly members head to the nation's capital Saturday to lobby Congress for money to fund a host of projects, including outfitting various service areas with a long list of much-needed emergency equipment and to seek support for the borough's list of legislative priorities.

They'll carry with them the borough's 2004 Federal Priorities wish list that includes requests for funding for such projects as salmon branding, flood plain mapping, construction of an emergency operations center and continuing efforts at cleaning up the Sterling ZipMart fuel spill.

In all, the list includes requests for better than $31 million.

The wish list book also includes requests from the cities of Kenai, Soldotna, Homer, Seward and Seldovia.

Among the key priorities cited by the borough are construction of a natural gas pipeline, Cook Inlet Outer Continental Shelf Lease Sales 191 and 199, annual federal funding for Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council and improved and expanded vocational and technical training programs.

The borough also will voice its support for Alaska resource development, federal highway funding and funding for the Denali Commission, as well as its opposition to unfunded federal mandates, such as the No Child Left Behind education program.

Also included is a list of federal legislative priorities voiced by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. They include a request that Congress fully fund the No Child Left Behind program and recognize Alaska's special educational needs, that Congress assure affordable, adequate access to technology in the rural and remote communities of the school district, and that East End Road be extended to reach the Russian village schools at Razdolna, Voznesenka and Kachemak Selo.

Making the trip are assembly President Pete Sprague of Soldotna, Ron Long of Seward and Betty Glick of Kenai.

The three also will attend a conference of the National Association of Counties, which will hold its annual legislative convention Friday through March 2. Glick is the Alaska representative on the NACo board of directors and is on the board of the 15-state Western Interstate Region. She is a WIR past president.

Sprague said Friday the yearly trip would give the borough officials a chance to network with NACo counterparts from across the country and meet face to face with Alaska's congressional delegation.

"We realize that things are tighter this year than in the past few," Sprague said. "Budgets may be tighter, but the borough still has some expectations, needs and hopes, so we do need to present our priorities to the delegation."

Long said the unique positions of power on various congressional committees held by Sens. Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young may be an advantage for Alaska and Kenai Peninsula capital projects.

"We'll thank them, first, for last year's efforts, and then present this year's priorities," Long said. "It's a pared-down list that shows we are sensitive to their challenges as budgeteers."

The borough's wish list is purposefully not prioritized, Long said. Stevens, Murkowski and Young would have a better handle on exactly which projects would touch which congressional committees, he said.

"All health and safety kinds of things are certainly a priority," Long said, referring to the list of items needed by the service areas. "That particular item (listed as one category in the wish list book) is that large ($6.31 million) and presented in that way at the delegation's request."

Glick said NACo officials would look at updating the organization's priorities based on federal legislation now before Congress. Of great importance to municipalities like the borough, she said, is Payment in Lieu of Taxes, or PILT, money federal appropriations paid in lieu of paying certain local taxes.

"PILT money to the borough is about $1.5 million a year," Glick said. "That's something we keep tabs on fairly well."

Another issue under discussion by NACo relates to lost sales taxes on catalog and Internet sales, she said.

She said she would be attending numerous workshops and picking up information useful to the various departments of the borough.

Long said the assembly members plan to leave Alaska on Saturday, attend the NACo conference Sunday and Monday, meet with the congressional delegation Tuesday and fly back Wednesday.

2004 Kenai Peninsula Borough wish list

The following is a list of capital projects for which the Kenai Peninsula Borough is seeking money:

Cook Inlet salmon branding $670,375

The Emergency Operations Center $2.5 million

Flood plain mapping $2.6 million

Kenai River Center $2.47 million

Sterling ZipMart cleanup $2 million

Nikiski Community Center $885,936

Emergency response equipment $6.31 million

Boys and Girls Club of KPB $5.25 million

Community rivers planning $1 million

Anchor Point Community Center $1.5 million

Funny River Community Center $235,000

Moose Pass Community Center $80,000

Sterling Community Club $500,000

Cook Inlet Fishing community assistance $2.05 million

Housing for senior citizens $3.41 million

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