Kenai boat ramp will get overhaul before dipnet season begins

Posted: Sunday, March 19, 2006

In order to beat a dipnet fishery deadline, the Kenai City Council on Wednesday rushed through an ordinance to appropriate an additional $135,000 for city boat launch ramp improvements.

In a number of hurry-up votes, the council passed the ordinance through first and second readings and approved it all in one night. Normally ordinances are introduced at one council meeting and voted on at the next meeting, two weeks later.

City code allows expeditious handling of matters that are emergent in nature or for appropriations.

The additional money was needed because all contractors bidding on the boat ramp work significantly overbid the engineer’s estimate on the job.

The lowest bid received was $451,600. The engineer’s estimate for the work was $296,100.

Council member Rick Ross asked why the measure could not wait, and City Manager Rick Koch said the time line calls for having the boat launch work completed before the salmon dipnet fishery opens in July.

“If we go to the second reading in April, we would not meet the contractor’s time line,” Koch said.

Consulting engineer Bill Nelson told the council the contractor would need to prefabricate 265 concrete planks for the ramp — work which could begin immediately — and said the entire project is on “a tight time line” partly dictated by when the Army Corps of Engineers allows work to begin in the Kenai River and when crowds of dipnet fishermen arrive.

“It is very time critical,” Nelson said.

The council voted unanimously to approve the $135,000 appropriation and approved the $451,600 contract with Peninsula Construction Inc. to do the work.

In other business, the council heard from Army Corps of Engineers representatives on the Kenai bluff stabilization project.

Project formulator Patrick Fitzgerald said the Corps only has funding to study environmental impacts and other issues involved with the project and the city needs to lobby for funding for the design and construction.

Project Manager Dave Martinson said preliminary scoping could begin in May or June with alternatives ready by the fall.

“If given the authority to build, the work could be done possibly in 2008,” he said.

Council member Joe Moore asked if a coastal trail is part of the Corps’ plan, and Martinson said, “We need the lead from you ... what you want.”

Mayor Pat Porter said when she was in Washington, D.C., last year, it was made clear to her that “the Corps does not do trails.”

“The main concern is bluff stabilization,” she said.

The council also instructed the city administration to prepare an ordinance granting a one-time $24,000 grant to the Challenger Learning Center to pay for its utility bills for six months.

Center Director Larry Porter told the council the facility now has a business plan and “will become self-supporting.”

Moore and Ross said they would like to see the business plan and the gas and electric bills, and would like to have an ordinance introduced.

The council nodded in agreement to have the city administration proceed with a contract selling and trading wetlands with the Conservation Fund.

In the deal, as previously approved by ordinance and resolution by the council, the city would receive 6 1/2 acres of land near the boat ramp from the Conservation Fund and the fund would receive 216 acres along the Kenai River.

To balance the exchange, the city also would receive $92,000.

By a nod of heads, council members also authorized City Attorney Cary Graves to formulate a plan for reworking a bid by Copper River Seafoods to operate a crane and dock station at the city docks.

Copper River had successfully bid on one of two stations put out for bid; no bids were received on the other as the minimum bid was said to be too high; and the city contemplated putting that station out for bid again.

Copper River’s Todd Eberhardt said rebidding the station after his firm’s successful bid has been accepted, puts him at a disadvantage.

The council agreed and asked Graves to come back with a workable solution in two weeks.

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