The Kenai City Council voiced its support for the concept of constructing a 36-bed residential psychiatric treatment facility for emotionally and behaviorally disturbed adolescents.
James Shill, executive director of Central Peninsula Counseling Services, gave a presentation during the council meeting Wednesday night about the proposed facility and answered questions from the council during the scheduled public comment portion of the meeting.
According to Shill, 350 kids with psychiatric and emotional problems are sent out of Alaska for residential treatment every year at a cost of $17 million to the state because Alaska doesn't have the facilities to treat them in-state.
"The Kenai Peninsula and the state need a continuum of care for adolescents to remain physically close to their families," Shill said.
The residential treatment facility Shill proposed would provide 24-hour care for adolescents ages 12 to 17. The average length of treatment would be 30 to 90 days. The majority of referrals would come from psychiatric hospitals, so most of the kids treated would probably come from other areas of the state and return to them after treatment. Treatment would focus on integrating the adolescents back into their schools, families and communities.
Shill stressed the facility would be for adolescents with mental illnesses, not conduct- or disorder-problemed teens in the juvenile justice system.
Kenai Mayor John Williams asked for clarification on the role Kenai police would play in the facility. Shill explained that the facility's staff would be able to handle most occurrences of violence with in-house restraints, but would call the police in the event of an assault. At that point, the police would handle the situation like they would any assault, Shill said.
Construction of the facility in Kenai would mean an increase in the use of the city's sewer and water service, an increase of about 14 flights a month at Kenai Municipal Airport, $3 million added to the area economy, a $2 million construction job, the creation of more than 40 jobs, and an addition of 36 students to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, Shill said.
He approached Williams about the facility six months ago and Williams suggested building it on a five-acre, unused tract of land next to the proposed juvenile detention facility on Marathon Road, recently appraised at $175,000.
Shill said the location is desirable because it is close to the airport, close to the Central Peninsula Counseling Service's administration building and is accessible to city sewer and water utilities, but that they were still considering other locations, including one in Soldotna.
The purpose of Shill's presentation to the council was not to ask it to donate or purchase the land to build on, which council member Jim Bookey said he appreciated. The facility would be funded through the Alaska State Medicaid Program, private insurance carriers and an insurance program for military dependents.
Shill said the facility will be built, whether in Kenai or Wasilla (another proposed location) or somewhere else. He just wanted to know if the council would support the facility in Kenai.
"Now we are at the point where we want to get public opinion," he said. "... The next step is investing a significant amount of money in architectural renderings and we don't want to invest that without knowing if the council will support it."
All members of the council voiced their support of the concept of the project, although not necessarily the specifics of it yet. Mayor Williams said he thought building the facility in Kenai would help the city's evolution as a service community.
"Health and social service issues in a community are good for a community," he said. "(Kenai) is growing into a major health and social service area to the (central peninsula) community."
Council members Amy Jackman and Bookey voiced strong support for the facility. Member Duane Bannock supported the facility as well, regardless of its location -- although the closer to Kenai the better, he said. Council members Joe Moore and Linda Swarner supported the concept of the facility, but Swarner wanted to see letters of support from organizations in the community before a resolution of support was passed by the council. Member Pat Porter suggested Shill not limit himself to the suggested tract of land because the city owns other property as well.
City clerk Carol Freas was asked to prepare a resolution of support of the concept of the facility.
In other news:
Members of the Kenai Peninsula Hockey Association Pee Wee C hockey team thanked the council for constructing the new hockey rink and showed off their state trophies, which one team member said weighed "about 90 million pounds."
The council unanimously passed an ordinance increasing the amount of money appropriated in the terminal enterprise fund for roof repair at the airport terminal by $12,200.
The council unanimously passed a resolution increasing the money appropriated in the Council on Aging-title III fund by $15,600 to buy food for the senior citizens program.
Kenai Chrysler Center was awarded a bid of $21,606 for a 2002 police patrol car by a unanimous council vote.
The council unanimously passed a resolution setting the interest rate that is applied in notes taken on the sale of city lands at 5 percent above annual rate charged by the federal reserve for advances to member banks.
Peninsula Roofing Inc. was awarded a bid of $57,126 for airport roof repairs by a unanimous council vote.
NC Machinery Co. was awarded a contract of $273,394 for a Caterpillar 14H motor grader by a unanimous council vote.
The council unanimously voted to cancel a lease between the Kenai Golf Course Cafe Inc. and Richard Morgan and agree to a sublease agreement between the Morgan Family Limited Partnership and Gary E. and Susan L. Schnelting.
The council unanimously approved a special-use permit to Kenai Airport Fuel Services.
The council unanimously approved signing a Kenai Watershed Forum memorandum of agreement.
The council scheduled an appeal of a planning and zoning commission denial of a variance permit for an oversized sign at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska at 7 p.m. May 1.
The council decided not to approve a request by R&J Seafoods to reduce its lease rates.
The council decided to proceed with a local improvement district project to pave two streets in the Pillars subdivision.
The council decided to spend $500 in marketing funds to participate in the Kenai Chamber of Commerce's "Hooked On Kenai" program.
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