Kenai supports facility changes

Posted: Monday, February 23, 2004

The Kenai City Council on Wednesday approved a recommendation from the city's Parks and Recreation Committee to support the construction of an enclosed lobby and heated seating area to the Kenai Multipurpose Facility.

The move is a preliminary step toward construction of the addition, which council members said they would continue to support but only if the city doesn't end up footing the bill.

"All we're doing is exploring this," said council member Rick Ross.

The resolution passed Wednesday does not bind the council to do anything more than support the Arctic Winter Games' lobbying efforts at the state and federal level for the project, which is estimated to cost roughly $1.7 million.

The council said it is only interested in the proposed addition if it is fully funded from outside sources, and in no way does it want to end up spending city funds to complete the addition.

"I don't want to see any more city of Kenai dollars or capital construction dollars going to this facility," council member Blaine Gilman said.

The recommendation passed by the commission earlier this month lists the addition as one of four plans to consider at the facility, which needs at least some upgrades before it can be used as a venue for the Arctic Winter Games in 2006.

The other three options are much less expensive, but provide substantially fewer amenities. They include a plan that would install a temporary spectator and lobby area; a permanent heated seating area; and temporary seating. Those plans range in cost from $39,500 to $104,000.

One member of the public testified on the plans Wednesday. Bob Peters of Old Town Kenai questioned the decision to make improvements to the facility that aren't included in the original design of the project, and he wondered aloud what the cost to the city would be once improvements are made.

"Who's going to pay for this?" Peters asked.

Ross said it is the council's intention to go forward with an addition only if the money is available up front and the city has assurances the lobby and seating addition which would likely cost between $1,000 and $2,000 in additional funds to operate per month will pay for itself.

"Unless we get a commitment from users to fund it ... I would have a hard time voting for the program," he said.

Ross offered an amendment to the resolution, which changed some wording to make it clear the council only supports the lobbying efforts of the Arctic Winter Games but doesn't necessarily have to build the addition.

"It gives us the option of sitting back and saying, 'Do we want this or not?'" Ross said.

With Ross' amendment, the resolution passed the council unanimously. The next step in the process will be for the Arctic Winter Games Host Society to request funding for the project through its lobbying efforts in Juneau and Washington, D.C.

If funding is located for the $1.7 million project, the city council will then have to decide whether it wants the full, permanent lobby and seating addition or something less ambitious.

In other action Wednesday, the council:

Approved the expenditure of $8,200 to expand the secure passenger holding area at Kenai Municipal Airport by approximately 392 square feet in order to create a secure area in line with federal security guidelines. The project will be paid for with $7,688 in FAA grant money and $512 in retained city earnings.

Tabled a resolution that would have emphasized to the state of Alaska the importance of funding the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in order "to continue essential management of Alaska's wild fish and game populations." Gilman said he would be uncomfortable voting for the resolution without more information on the subject and asked that the resolution be tabled until the council knows more about the department's funding situation.

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