Two city trails will undergo extensive modifications under a plan approved by the Kenai City Council last Wednesday evening.
An upgrade to the East End Trail System by employees of Phillips Petroleum Company was presented to the council by Parks and Recreation Director Bob Frates. He said the company was interested in a volunteer project in the city of Kenai, so he directed them toward the East End Trail near the golf course.
"They would possibly create a trailhead and eight-to-10 vehicle parking spaces and do some fence work," Frates said. "If the trail is upgraded, it would get a lot more use."
Frates also suggested moving the exercise equipment from the Bernie Huss Memorial Fitness Trail in downtown to the East End Trail.
"What will happen to the Bernie Huss Trail?" asked Mayor John Williams.
"It would certainly change the flavor of the trail," Frates responded. "There's a lot of vandalism, but if we move it, we'll see a lot less vandalism."
"Will we retain the trails at Bernie Huss?" the mayor asked.
"Yes, certainly," Frates said.
Frates said the exercise equipment does not get much use now, because of its location in the center of town where people can watch those exercising. He added there was "no heartburn" on the family's part over moving the equipment from the Bernie Huss Trail.
Council member Pat Porter suggested building a trailhead to the East End Trail at the end of Tinker Lane and installing a foot-bridge across the shallow ravine there to access the area.
"We looked at that, but I don't know if (Phillips) has that kind of commitment," Frates said.
Work is expected to start after June 1.
In other council news:
n A new five-year lease was granted to the Kenai Chamber of Commerce for use of the land where the chamber's office is located.
n A transfer of $75,000 from the general fund to the boating facility fund was approved on a 7-0 vote. The transfer is needed because the boating facility fund is expected to be that much short at the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
"The fact is, it's not making enough money to cover the IOUs at the end of the year," said city finance director Larry Semmens.
At the council meeting on April 5, the council voted to reclassify the harbor from an enterprise fund to a general fund item.
"Is the administration absolutely sure this is the way to go?" asked council member Jim Bookey.
"Your auditor stood before you last year and said it's carrying too many IOUs," said city manager Rick Ross.
"In my opinion, it's the best way to go," added Semmens.
n The council also appropriated, on a 6-1 vote, $90,000 for an environmental site assessment of the Daubenspeck property along the bluff near the senior center.
"I hope everyone here knows this is the tip of the iceberg," said Bookey, who cast the lone dissenting vote. "I hope you're ready to follow through."
The assessment is needed to discover what is under the ground at the site, which used to be the headquarters of the Federal Aviation Administration. The $90,000 also will go toward removing the one known underground storage tank and the few remaining Quonset huts on the property.
Council member Joe Moore said now is the time to start the examination of the property.
"If we wait until something is on the burner and then dove into this, it might kill the project," he said. "I'm anxious to see what's there."
Council member Bill Frazer agreed.
"I think we should do it ASAP," Frazer said. "It seems to me, for $90,000, it doesn't seem like a lot for what what we're going to do."
Williams said he has long wanted to have a hotel and convention center built on the site, which has a dramatic view of the mouth of the Kenai River.
The council later voted 6-1-1 to grant a contract of $79,984 to American Environmental to conduct the survey and remove the underground storage tanks. Bookey voted no on the resolution and council member Linda Swarner was out of the room when the vote was called.
The assessment work will require a grid to be cut through the trees and brush so a device to detect underground objects can be used. Then, 10-foot square test holes will be dug with a backhoe on sites where something is detected.
Williams said the city once found a half-full railroad tank car buried in the same area.
n The council voted 5-2 to include the offense of negligent driving to the city's traffic code. Williams and council member Duane Bannock voted against it. The ordinance will create more work for city attorney Carey Graves. Police Chief Dan Morris said his officers currently write about five negligent driving tickets a year, but he expects that to double under the new ordinance.
The reason the city administration wanted negligent driving to be a city offense is because the state district attorney's office does not provide a prosecutor for such cases, Graves said.
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