Million at stake in CES issue

Decision to back out of building has assembly scratching heads

Posted: Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A longtime member of the Central Emergency Services board said a review of meeting minutes from late 2004 should demonstrate the board’s reluctance to participate in a deal to build the new emergency services building on Wilson Lane.

“The board was pretty firm with the previous administration that we did not want to move into that building and wanted to maintain administration with staff there at CES (Station 1) to maintain better control of operations and daily routines,” Jim Chambers, vice president of the CES Board of Directors, told the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on April 4.

“We strongly received an indication from the previous administration that it was his (Mayor Bagley’s) desire that we participate. So, the board did sign the resolution,” Chambers said.

That resolution, adopted Nov. 18, 2004, approved use of $1 million of CES funds. Adding that money to federal and borough funds, the borough launched the project that is now nearing completion.

“I don’t remember if there was any reluctance expressed at those meetings,” former Mayor Dale Bagley said Monday. “If there was, I never knew of any. It was Chief (Jeff) Tucker, the fire chief at the time, who was extremely excited about it. We didn’t go down there and coerce them into doing it.”

Chambers said the CES board is, and was, merely advisory and that the decision to move forward on the new E-911 building project using CES funds was made by the previous administration and the assembly.

In January of this year, the board voted to ask for its $1 million back, saying that administering the emergency service area would be handled better by remodeling the existing facilities at Station 1.

Mayor John Williams has proposed Ordinance 2005-19-47 to make that happen. However, though it was on the April 4 assembly agenda, the assembly ran out of time, delaying official introduction until May 2.

Assembly member Gary Superman, of Nikiski, said he wanted to look deeper into how the CES money came to underpin the project.

“I am requesting that every one of the (relevant) board meeting minutes be brought to us,” he said.

Chambers said he would make the board’s minutes available to the assembly in time for the April 18 meeting, the next opportunity the assembly has to introduce the mayor’s proposed ordinance to transfer the $1 million back to CES’s budget.

“It’s going to be mighty hard to put back $1 million from the general fund,” said Assembly President Ron Long, of Seward.

In an interview Monday, Long said he, too, wants to see the minutes, but he also said he was keenly interested in what officials with the other two players in the project — the Alaska State Troopers and the Office of Emergency Management — might have to say about their reliance on the CES funds. He also noted that while Chief Tucker may have expressed enthusiasm, fire chiefs don’t always mirror the views of CES board members.

“It was a big surprise to me,” assembly member Grace Merkes, of Sterling, said of CES’ announcement that the board wanted out of the deal. “All the information I ever got was that CES wanted more space. That was the reason we approved it (the project).”

She said officials with CES, Emergency Management and the troopers all had expressed approval when they appeared at an assembly work session prior to the assembly approving the project.

Soldotna resident Earl Miller testified against giving CES its money back.

“The board of directors should have given more thought to their decision when they decided to put their money into this building,” he told the assembly. “I really think that if CES had said, ‘We’re not going to put our money in there,’ I don’t think they (the borough) would have spent the rest of it on that building.”

According to CES Fire Chief Chris Mokracek, Station 1 is scheduled for remodeling in fiscal year 2008, and that the board believed administration offices and training spaces could be included in that project.

If CES doesn’t move to the new building, which it was expected to share with E-911 Dispatch and the Office of Emergency Management, the Spruce Bark Beetle Mitigation Project would occupy the vacant spaces, Mayor Williams has said. The beetle project currently rents space at $3,600 per month. That rent would be paid instead to the borough, Williams said.

In other business April 4, the assembly:

n Postponed action on a materials-site permitting measure until April 18 when a hearing will be held, and added another hearing date on May 16.

n Adopting the National Incident Management System.

n Authorized the lease of an outdoor shooting range facility at the Seward Solid Waste Facility to the city of Seward.

n Postponed action on a resolution that would authorize award of a contract to construct arsenic removal systems at three borough schools until April 18. The assembly also authorized transfer of nearly $210,000 from a completed roof replacement project to the arsenic treatment system project.

n Approved the issuance and sale of up to $2.5 million worth of general obligation bonds to provide money to build a fire station in Kasilof and renovate another in Funny River.



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