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Mayor asks for disaster funds

Posted: Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Mayor John Williams has asked the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly to replenish an empty disaster relief fund with a $200,000 appropriation, thus making money available to repair damages caused by the February ice jams on the Kenai River.

If approved, Ordinance 2006-19-51, set for introduction at Tuesday’s assembly meeting, would replenish the disaster fund tapped last fall when Williams declared a disaster Oct. 9 in response to high winds and flood damage in Seward and the lower Kenai Peninsula.

To meet that crisis, the assembly added $250,000 to the disaster fund, supplementing $50,000 set aside for the fund when the fiscal year 2007 budget was approved in June. Only $162,212 was needed from the fund, but because state statutes limit emergency appropriations to 60 days, the $137,788 balance remaining in the disaster account lapsed, leaving the disaster funds empty.

In a memo to the assembly, Williams said the empty account means there are no funds specifically available to address the current river flood event, or for any events that might occur during the rest of the fiscal year.

The $200,000 sought by the mayor would replenish the original $50,000 budget appropriation and make the additional $150,000 available to respond to damage caused by ice flows that ripped up docks, stairs, boardwalks and other facilities along several miles of riverbanks. Many of those facilities provide public access to the river and their repair is considered critical to the summer tourist economy.

“This appropriation will enable the borough to work in conjunction with the city of Soldotna, repairing damages associated with the disaster,” Williams said.

The text of the ordinance indicates that funds could be used to purchase services and equipment needed to assess damages, and for assisting with planning, recovery and repair to protect river habitat and restore damaged borough property. Purchase of a boat might be necessary to assist in damage assessment, permitting and other response efforts, the ordinance said.

The borough intends to seek reimbursements from the state or federal government for and disaster funds expended, the ordinance said.

A public hearing on the proposed appropriation is set for April 3.

Hal Spence can be reached at harold.spence@peninsulaclarion.com.



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