Better roads ahead

Borough ups matches for improvements

Posted: Monday, May 24, 2004

Borough coffers will start kicking in larger matches for certain road improvement projects because of an ordinance passed unanimously at last Tuesday's Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting.

Assembly members voted unanimously to amend the borough code relating to road improvement assessment districts, sometimes called "RIADs," which are improvement efforts initiated by landowners by petition. Ordinance 2004-11 increases the maximum borough match from the current 25 percent to as high as 50 percent for most RIAD projects, but to as high as 70 percent for paved collector road projects.

The 25-percent matching level resulted in only one pavement road improvement district since the program's inception in 1997, according to the borough. The move to up the match provided by the borough is seen as a way to encourage more RIADs. Paving subdivision and collector roads resolves drainage problems, reduces maintenance costs and provides greater convenience for residents, the borough said.

The Road Service Area has taken in more tax revenue since 2003 when the mill rate was increased to the current 1.5 mills, or $150 per year for a $100,000 home. That means more funding is available for increasing borough matches to RIADS.

Residents welcomed the move.

Porter Pollard of Soldotna encouraged passage of the measure, saying Community College Drive met all the requirements as a collector road.

"There is a lot of community support to get this done. This is a huge step in the right direction," he said.

Jim Hart, a resident of College Heights Subdivision, said he believed the ordinance would result in more RIADs, significantly increased air quality, less-costly road maintenance and increased property values.

Stan "Sam" McLane, vice chair of the Road Service Area board, said collector roads can be costly to pave. He wanted the public to be clear that the 70 percent level was a maximum, and that funding might not reach that high on every collector improvement project.

"It will depend on funding," he said.

Assembly member Chris Moss of Homer asked if the increased funding only applied to paving improvements, noting that many roads needing improvement on the lower peninsula would be just fine if brought up to gravel standards.

Assistant Borough Attorney Holly Montague said the intent of the 70 percent level was only for collector roads, but it seems Homer gravel roads could be included in the 50-percent portion of the ordinance.

The assembly also passed Ordinance 2003-19-47, appropriating $585,000 from the fund balance of South Peninsula Hospital Service Area to cover operating losses at the hospital. The shortfall resulted when fewer patients utilized the hospital's surgery services than had been anticipated in the budget.

The hospital is in the process of seeking a third surgeon.

In other business, the assembly:

Adopted Ordinance 2003-19-46, appropriating $175,000 to the school district for purchase of a new point-of-sale school meal tracking system.

Adopted Ordinance 2003-19-48, appropriating $121,453 toward the purchase of decontamination equipment for use in Homer, Seward and the central peninsula.

Adopted Ordinance 2004-09, adopting a revised comprehensive plan for the city of Kenai.

Postponed final action on Ordinance 2003-13, a measure to increase the maximum amount of a sale to which the borough sale tax is applied from $500 to $1,000. The move has drawn some fire from small business owners.

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