Central peninsula should begin working to move capitol here

Posted: Thursday, March 03, 2005

Considering the economic difficulties ahead for the central Kenai Peninsula, are our local leaders going to act or just continue to dither? The Arctic Winter Games is not economic development. Is this the best all the high-paid people in the borough building and the Economic Development District can do?

Rep. Norm Rokeberg is trying to open the door. He has introduced legislation to open the bidding to build a new legislative hall to any community in the state with the leadership to act.

Two weeks ago I sent a POM to all the legislators saying that if Juneau wants the exclusive for a new legislative hall, let them build it — provided they lease it to the state for a dollar a year, plus maintenance costs. Otherwise, throw the bidding open to all communities.

Can the central peninsula get into the act? Could we make it happen? Not if our local officials continue to wait until opportunities are gone then wonder what happened. Agrium, anyone?

In case anyone missed it, we are losing Bailey's Furniture and Builders Bargains. Are these the first in a long line of closing businesses due to the impact of Agrium's closing?

Here is the plan: The city of Kenai provides the land. The borough provides the bonding to build it. The city of Soldotna kicks in needed seed money to get rolling. The borough enacts a bed tax to pay off the bonds. We can do it, provided the three act together — and now!

We have an FAA-controlled airport that can handle jets. We don't have Juneau's fogs or dangerous flying conditions. We have flat land for easier building. We are on the road system. We don't have Anchorage's or the Mat-Su's already snarled traffic problems. The climate beats Fairbanks. We can make a good case for doing it here.

The Legislature meets from January to May — all dead time for our local hotels, motels, etc. When the Legislature is not in session, the hall could be a tourist attraction the rest of the year. The entire central peninsula area will benefit. The borough and the cites will take in more sales taxes from all the additional business. If your business benefits, you need to push this idea.

You say not to worry because we're going to get a big new gold mine across the inlet. Political hype does not always end up as economic reality. Anyone remember the module building project in Nikiski? The people across the inlet don't want it. The environmental lawsuits will delay it for years. It depends upon gold staying high in price. The rumored new plant in Nikiski is pie-in-the-sky.

We don't have to build one of Juneau's proposed eyesores. We have local architects who can start the ball rolling and partner with other major firms. We could put out general specs and open the major design and construction to any firm wishing to do it and let them come up with final

proposals.

This is an opportunity our area can help make happen. Ask your borough assembly and-or Soldotna or Kenai city council member to pass resolutions in support of Rokeberg's bill. Ask them to start the plan rolling. All have high-paid people on the payroll responsible for economic development.

Opportunity is knocking. Will we act or wake up again wondering what happened?

William J. Phillips, Kenai



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