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Place for a voice: Young, Murkowski plan office opening

Posted: Tuesday, May 19, 2009

State directors for U.S. Rep. Don Young and Sen. Lisa Murkowski hope they'll soon have offices on the Kenai Peninsula again.

Chad Padgett, state director for Young, and Kevin Sweeney, state director for Murkowski, were in the Kenai City Council Chambers on Tuesday to hold office hours and listen to constituents.

The two said they hope to have staff on the peninsula by late June or July, though that time frame remains uncertain.

"It's critical for us to have full time representation down here," Sweeney said.

Up until late December 2008, the Alaska delegation, which at that time still included former Sen. Ted Stevens, had an office in Kenai, staffed by one person.

Following the election of Sen. Mark Begich, the decision was made to discontinue having a delegation office.

Murkowski inherited Stevens' space, however, senators are only allowed a certain amount of square footage in their state.

"We were over the limit so we had to reduce space immediately or else we were breaking the law," Sweeney said.

Sweeney and Padgett said they would hope to set up shop in the same location, however, they'll each need their own space and their own staff.

In the interim Padgett and Sweeney have made visits to the peninsula to meet with constituents.

They said they've heard a number of questions on stimulus funding in their previous visits.

Neither was certain as to how much the state would benefit from the funding.

"Right now it's too hard to gauge because a lot of agencies haven't figured out how they're going to deliver," Padgett said.

Sweeney said while some of the stimulus funding supports existing programs, much of it is brand new.

"You've got agencies scrambling to figure out what are the rules and regulations to move this forward?" Sweeney said.

He added that while the point of the stimulus bill was to add a quick influx of money into the economy, no one wanted to see it spent without oversight.

"One of the reasons I think that both of our bosses had concerns with the bill was dumping a lot of money into systems that don't even exist," Sweeney said.

Another frequently discussed topic on the peninsula is energy.

"Here in Cook Inlet, the day is out there when we're not going to have access to natural gas," Sweeney said.

The issue is timely as well.

"In the senate right now, Sen. Murkowski is the ranking member of the energy committee and they're, as we speak, marking up an energy bill," he said.

The bill is tentatively expected by the end of the week.

Dante Petri can be reached at dante.petri@peninsulaclarion.com



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