Called into special session last month by Gov. Sean Parnell, the 27th Alaska State Legislature finally came to a close late Saturday night. Legislators, including Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, and Rep. Paul Stevens, R-Homer, returned to their homes over the weekend after passing a $3.2 billion capital budget.
"The capital budget you have shepherded through the Legislature is the single most powerful job incentive the people of the Kenai Peninsula Borough has realized in the 45 years of being a borough," KPB Mayor Dave Carey wrote in a letter to Speaker of the House Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski. "All areas of the borough will have infrastructure development that will benefit current and future generations. The $150 million dollars in projects and reappropriations will provide work for the next three construction seasons. Let's hope and pray that (Gov. Sean Parnell's) veto will not reduce these job-providing projects."
Looking specifically to the southern Kenai Peninsula, Homer City Manager Walt Wrede also was pleased.
"It's looking good," said Wrede. "We got almost $32 million for the greater Homer area."
The top item on the Kenai Peninsula Borough's list of capital projects made the list: $9 million for the Homer solid waste transfer facility.
"That really is our bottom line. Mayor Carey, borough staff and I looked at ways we could cut the cost of construction to come up with $9 million and this will really work well for us," said Bill Smith, who represents the city of Homer on the KPB assembly.
Smith took advantage of a trip to Juneau earlier this month to make sure legislators understood the borough's need for the transfer site funding. Opened in 1979, the Homer Landfill and Baling Facility loses its Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation permit in August 2013. Plans call for converting the landfill to a transfer site, with waste from the southern peninsula trucked to the central peninsula. Smith said wasn't the only one to carry the message to Juneau.
"We had a delegation go down earlier and talked to everybody about solid waste," said Smith. "I think its all had an effect."
Seaton, however, said he received no letters or e-mails from southern peninsula residents in support of funding the transfer site.
"So, I was really happy Mike Chenault went to bat for that," said Seaton of efforts on the part of Speaker of the House Chenault of Nikiski. "A lot of the credit is his."
The top priority on the city of Homer's list of capital projects is included in the budget: $10.1 million to go to the Alaska Energy Authority for construction of a natural gas pipeline from Anchor Point to Homer and Kachemak City.
"We've updated our web site to let people know that the Legislature's approved this and now it's up to the governor," said Wrede. "If you support the project or don't, write to the governor."
Wrede will be sending a letter to Parnell later this week explaining the importance of the project and extending an invitation to the governor to visit Homer.
The pipeline, as planned, will be constructed along the Old Sterling Highway, continue south along the Sterling Highway to West Hill, follow the Fairview Avenue right of way through town to Homer High School, then connect with East End Road and continue to Kachemak City.
"It's a huge project and Enstar plans to get to work on it this year. The money would become available July 1," said Wrede. "Then it's just a matter of how long it takes for the agency to gear up and get the grant agreement together."
Passenger facility improvements for Homer's cruise ship dock received $6 million in the capital budget. It will be used to install a new fendering system; make the dock less attractive to nest-building seagulls; construct a landing and staging area where passengers can disembark and get on buses, a guard shack and restroom; develop a harbor trail system complete with benches and information kiosks; and construct two public restrooms and bus stops on Pioneer Avenue.
Other capital budget items of local interest include $3.2 million for pavement repairs of the Homer Airport terminal taxiway and $3.5 million for East End Road.
"We've had $6 million in there for quite awhile to extend from where Kachemak Drive comes in (to East End Road) to Waterman, but expense of the project has grown," said Seaton. "This will provide the funds that will allow the project to go forward and be completed. Now, we have enough to actually do the project."
In a last-minute addition to the capital budget, Seaton included $350,000 for construction of a Diamond Ridge Road facility for the Kachemak Emergency Service Area.
"They were able to change their request from a several million dollar facility to a functional warehouse," said Seaton. "They figured $400,000 total and now that they've got dirt work in there, hopefully they'll be able to do it."
Another southern peninsula project in the budget is $15 to the Alaska Energy Authority to construct a tunnel to divert Battle Creek at Bradley Lake.
"That's what limits the power output from Bradley Lake, the amount of water," said Seaton of an effort to boost the hydroelectric dam's output.
Now, the wait begins to see what the governor will do with his veto pen. Legislators have 14 days to provide additional backup materials for budget items before the budget, Senate Bill 46, is transmitted to Parnell. He then has 20 days to decide what stays and what goes.
"We're classic Alaskans," said Wrede. "On one hand we're saying to cut the budget, but we love our capital projects."
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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