Kenai officials: It could be worse

Posted: Friday, March 07, 2003

Due to Big Kmart closing down, low interest rates and other factors, funds are already tight for the city of Kenai. The budget proposal Gov. Frank Murkowski unveiled Wednesday would make funds tighter still.

Murkowski proposed to reduce the amount of state funds distributed to municipalities by 25 percent. For the city of Kenai, this means a reduction of about $75,000, according to Larry Semmens, finance director for the city of Kenai.

The city receives state funds for the state revenue sharing program and the safe communities program. The funding for both of those would be reduced if the governor's proposal is approved by the Legis-lature.

Though the city will have to make more cuts to its budget to compensate for that loss in revenue, should it occur, the governor's proposal was not as bad as some had speculated it would be.

"We all breathed a sigh of relief," said City Manager Linda Snow. "We had heard it would be worse."

Semmens said it was rumored that the governor could have proposed to stop all revenue sharing. If that had been the case, Kenai would have stood to lose $300,000. The governor also could have proposed to stop state funding of a municipal matching grant program through which Kenai funds its road paving and other local improvement district projects. That would have cost Kenai another $140,000, Semmens said.

As it was, the governor did not propose a reduction of funding for the municipal matching grant program.

That is good news to Kenai residents who want their roads paved. Several such residents attended Wednesday's council meeting to testify on the proposed paving of McCollum and Aliak drives.

Many of the residents who testified before the council said they were in favor of the paving, but had differing opinions on how the cost of the project to the property owners should be assessed. The council can choose to assess the cost on a linear foot basis, or a square foot basis.

For some property owners, that choice could mean thousands of dollars.

Teresa Warner-Quade told the council she was not in favor of the paving, but said if it is approved she would rather the council choose the square footage assessment method. The Quades own two pieces of property that would be affected by the paving. If the square foot method is used, they will owe $4,188. If the linear foot method is used, their bill jumps to $6,989.

On the other end of the spectrum was Roy Espy, who advocated the linear foot method. He would owe $3,085 in that method and $4,507 with the square foot method of assessment.

Barbara Waters spoke to the council on behalf of Grace Brethren Church, which faces a substantial charge for the paving no matter which assessment method is used.

"My church would prefer not to pave at this time, and if you look at the numbers, you'll see why," she said.

The church would owe $13,998 with the square foot method and $11,086 with the linear foot method. Waters said if the neighborhood wants the paving done the church would support it, but preferred the linear foot assessment method.

John Preston, a representative for the Kenai Lion's Club, had a similar message. The club owns a small parcel of land along the Kenai Spur Highway, which it uses to display its welcome to Kenai sign. With the square foot assessment, the club would owe $439. With the linear foot assessment it would owe $3,085.

Preston said the club wants to be a good neighbor, so it would support the project if other residents wanted it, but asked for an exemption waiver from the assessment or the opportunity to donate some of the land in exchange for a waiver or a reduced rate.

"We would be taking money from the community, and that's our concern," Preston said. "We'll be out soliciting donations (to pay) for this."

No decisions were made on the paving project at the meeting, since only four council members were in attendance. Four is enough to constitute a quorum so the members could have voted on the issue, but they preferred to wait until all the council members could be involved in the decision. Mayor John Williams and council member Linda Swarner are in Washington, D.C. Council member Duane Bannock resigned at the last meeting and his seat is still vacant.

In other action Wednesday, the council:

n Voted unanimously to accept a $1,782 state grate in the library fund for interlibrary book loans.

n Voted unanimously to amend the city code's land use table to change parks and recreation areas from a secondary use to a conditional use in rural residential, suburban residential and urban residential zones and from a secondary use to a principal permitted use in light industrial and heavy industrial zones.

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