SOLDOTNA (AP) -- The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly stopped short of giving away the land for a proposed volcano learning center Tuesday. Instead, it offered 80 acres near the mouth of Stariski Creek for $315,000, with token payments from North Pacific Volcano Learning Center Inc. the first five years of a 25-year loan. The corporation will accrue interest from the date of sale at prime plus 2 percent -- 11.5 percent interest if the deal closed today.
The deal meets the original intent of the corporation's board when it asked the assembly two years ago to buy land for the center, said spokesman Emmitt Trimble.
The borough financed the purchase of the land, securing it for the center and giving the corporation time to raise money, he said. Now, the corporation will repay the borough the $315,000 it spent two years ago on the property.
The volcano center will be a huge boost to the economy when it opens, Trimble said. Backers see it as one of a string of tourism pearls reaching from the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward to the planned Alaska Maritime Wildlife Refuge visitor center in Homer.
Last month, assembly members Tim Navarre of Kenai and Drew Scalzi of Homer proposed giving the volcano center the land for $1. Some saw that as a contribution to economic development, but others questioned whether the borough should subsidize nonprofit corporations.
On Tuesday, Scalzi and Nikiski assembly member Jack Brown proposed selling the land.
Kasilof assembly member Paul Fischer questioned giving the corporation special breaks.
The sale would tie up $315,000 in borough assets, he said, and the corporation would not pay property taxes. In five years, he said, the accrued interest could bring the total debt to nearly $500,000.
The ordinance authorizing the sale passed 7-1 with Fischer dissenting and Seward assembly member Patrick O'Brien absent.
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