2 Kenai areas may get problem bear tag

Posted: Friday, June 06, 2008

Two Kenai subdivisions are being considered for the dubious distinction of being the first declared problem bear areas under a recently enacted public safety ordinance.

City Manager Rick Koch told the Kenai City Council on Wednesday, following reports of bear encounters in the 3W and Valhalla subdivisions, the neighborhoods may receive the designation, meaning residents will be mandated to use bear-resistant garbage containers.

Under provisions of the ordinance that took effect May 2, the city manager is to provide 15 days notice before the area designation takes effect.

Koch said he plans to personally inspect the neighborhoods to see whether residents are leaving bear attractants outside their homes. Typical attractants include garbage in trash cans that are not bear-resistant, pet food left on decks and porches, bird feeders left out in summer and unsecured freezers in people's yards.

Earlier this week, police were called to the 3W Subdivision when one resident said an aggressive brown bear was trying to push its way into her home, frightening her and her small children. Police reportedly ran the bear off with rubber bullets.

Also this week, in an isolated incident, a brown bear was shot and killed on Windward Drive in Kenai's VIP Subdivision. At this time, that area is not being considered for the problem bear area designation.

During the council meeting, the city manager also informed council members that the city is finding it difficult to line up hosts for city parks this year.

Koch said one couple that had planned to come up from Florida to serve as hosts for Kenai Municipal Park, said the estimated $13,000 for gasoline for their round trip has forced them to decline the opportunity.

The manager also reported that the state court system received a budget OK to lease airport property next to the Kenai Courthouse for use as a parking lot for court visitors. As an airport project, the city would build the parking lot and revenues from the lease would go to the airport fund.

During his manager's report, Koch said he was considering alternatives to the orange plastic fencing material placed around the north beach dunes to keep people from trespassing through the ecologically sensitive area.

He said Mayor Pat Porter suggested possibly building elevated walkways over the dunes, including some viewing platforms, and posting signs directing pedestrian traffic away from the sensitive dune areas. Koch said he has located a potential $600,000 grant funding source, though he said the walkways probably would not cost nearly that much.

Earlier in the meeting, the council unanimously passed Ordinance 2317-2008, which prohibits trespassing in the dune areas. Violations would be punishable with a fine.

City Attorney Cary Graves said the fine range is zero to $500, but if the city stipulates a standard amount, the courts would be somewhat limited in what amount could be imposed. The council agreed to have the standard fine be $500.

With no input from Kenai residents, the council approved its $18,299,837 budget for fiscal year 2009, which begins July 1.

Councilman Mike Boyle did ask that a $5,000 donation to the Central Area Rural Transit System be specified in the budget. Because the donation was already included under miscellaneous items in the legislative portion of the budget, Boyle's request failed on a 3-4 vote.

Councilman Bob Molloy's move to set aside $1,000 to assess having council meeting proceedings broadcast on radio received unanimous support.

The council also fixed the property tax levy for fiscal year 2009 at 4.5 mills, unchanged from a year ago.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.

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