Mayor wants money back

Williams hopes assembly will return projects cut from budget

Posted: Monday, June 04, 2007

Mayor John Williams is looking to convince Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly members Tuesday that they should reinstate three projects cut from the proposed fiscal year 2008 borough budget.

The projects are:

· a $250,000 contribution to a six-agency, $1.9 million effort to create a digital elevation model of the entire peninsula — useful, the administration said, in such things as determining where future flooding could occur and how future subdivisions in those areas might be designed;

· design and construction of a realigned Woods Drive for $150,000; and

· design, engineering and development of Hope Subdivision for $150,000.

Proposed appropriations for those three projects were eliminated at the May 15 meeting by close votes.

Assembly member Pete Sprague, of Soldotna, offered the amendments urging removal of the “big-dollar” projects, saying he would rather see them come back as separate ordinances for consideration. Other members noted they were unfamiliar with the proposals.

On the digital elevation project, which would be a joint federal, state and local effort, the assembly split 5-4 in support of removal, thus cutting the borough’s proposed $250,000 appropriation.

The Woods Drive and Hope Subdivision projects earned a similar division of yeas and nays, cutting another $300,000 from the budget.

Assembly members who supported their removal said that while the projects had merit, they wanted to have them debated in the contexts of their own ordinances.

A compromise offered by the administration that the assembly require a resolution prior to actually spending the money was not considered by the assembly.

Assembly members Ron Long, Margaret Gilman, Milli Martin and Gary Superman opposed removing the projects from the budget, while members Paul Fischer, Deb Germano, Grace Merkes, Sprague and Gary Knopp supported the removal amendments.

In a May 23 letter to the assembly, Williams expressed several concerns he had with the assembly action.

He said he believed the budget to be the appropriate vehicle for placing proposed projects before the assembly.

Williams also noted that on April 17, Finance Director Craig Chapman had addressed all three projects during a budget presentation, so they shouldn’t have been entirely unfamiliar to the assembly.

He said more information was available, and indeed in Tuesday’s meeting packet the mayor provided several pages of project descriptions.

“Some of the information is new to the assembly, which I have asked the departments to provide from their files or prepare,” he told the assembly. “In addition, my staff and I are available to answer any questions regarding the projects.”

If members simply do not like the projects, they need not support them, he said, but discussion at the May 15 meeting had led him to believe what members really wanted was more information.

The mayor said he hoped the new information provided would be sufficient to convince members to reinstate the projects in the budget so as to avoid the weeks of delay necessary to draft and submit separate ordinances.

“These proposals are good quality projects that solve problems, address the requests of constituents, stakeholders, and/or community members who serve on or attended local community meetings,” Williams said in his letter to the assembly.

In a May 24 letter to the borough, Beth Kaser, secretary of the Hope/Sunrise Advisory Planning Commission, urged the assembly to reinstate the $150,000 for the Hope Subdivision design project. She said learning the project had been cut was “extremely distressing,” after working for the past year to open two parcels of land in the Hope area where there is need for future home sights.

“Without this $150,000, we are unable to progress with land development and sales,” she said.

Assembly President Ron Long, of Seward, who opposed removing the projects, said he agreed with the mayor that the projects should be included in the budget.

“If the assembly thinks they are good projects, they need to be budgeted for,” he said. “Anything with three numbers left of the comma, we need to budget for it.”

He said he did “not have a clue” how other members might decide come Tuesday.

Sprague said he would be willing to revisit the mapping project and possibly put it back in the budget Tuesday, but not the subdivision project.

“I think that needs a lot more scrutiny than a line item in the budget,” he said.

Hal Spence can be reached at hspence@ptialaska.net.



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