Roads, bluff erosion, heart surgery on residents’ minds

Kenai does opinion poll to gauge support for projects

Posted: Sunday, June 10, 2007

The response: “I don’t know. I just had heart surgery,” was not exactly what Kenai pollsters expected to hear when they asked what people consider to be the most important issue facing the city of Kenai today.

That was one response they received, however.

More typically, people said Kenai needs more places to shop, more jobs, economic growth and a solution to bluff erosion.

Dittman Research and Communications Corporation recently telephoned 300 Kenai residents to help city leaders determine what’s on the minds of the people.

Specifically, the Kenai City Council wanted to know if the library should be expanded, if people support a bluff erosion project and if gravel city streets should be paved. Those questions were followed up with queries about whether bond issues to fund the projects should be placed on the October ballot.

While most responders favored the projects, support dropped off somewhat when the funding questions were asked.

Eighty-one percent of those polled said they were in support of a project to stop bluff erosion, but only 65 percent expressed support of a $2 million general obligation bond to help pay for it.

Similarly, 67 percent supported doubling the size of the Kenai Community Library, but support dropped by 9 percent when people were told a $2 million general obligation bond could increase property taxes by $34 per $100,000 of assessed value.

Kenai residents polled are slightly more opposed — 51 percent — to issuing a general obligation bond for street paving.

“When you ask if the city should pave the roads, the first question (people have) is, ‘Which roads?’” said Kenai City Manager Rick Koch on Thursday.

“‘Yeah, I’m all for paving my road,’” he said is the common reply.

For now, Koch said the city will continue to seek state financial assistance to help support Limited Improvement District (LID) paving projects.

He said the $890,000 Kenai received from the Legislature at the close of the current year session is sufficient for paving projects for “a couple of years.”

“We’re doing $600,000 (in paving) now and between $200,000 and $300,000 planned for next year,” Koch said. “The $890,000 is on top of that.”

On the city’s list of LIDs being completed now, he said Angler Drive has been paved already and Aliak Drive, McCollum Road and Japonski Avenue are being done this month.

Koch said being able to show, by way of an approved ballot measure, that the residents of Kenai favor a project such as the library expansion, assists the city greatly in applying for grants.

“Even saying the city will spend $2 million (on a project), is not as good as showing citywide approval of a bond proposition,” he said.

Although funding city improvement projects by issuing general obligation bonds generally adds 5 percent to the cost of the project — the current estimated interest rate based on a 20-year payback — the city would not necessarily fund the project by that means if it is not the most favorable.

“We would fund in accordance with the best interest of the city,” Koch said.

He said the poll is the first step in gauging the city’s support of the projects.

With the concurrence of the city council, the manager will now formulate bond proposals to be placed on the October ballot for the bluff erosion abatement project and for the library expansion.

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



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