Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center benefit, not burden, to community
In regards to the debate over city of Kenai taxes and in defense of the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center, let me say that if it were not for the center and the mission of the Kenai Convention and Visitors Bureau, taxes would almost certainly be higher in the city of Kenai.
Over 60,000 people come through the doors of the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center every year. Most of those are visitors to our area who buy gasoline in our town, stay at our fine hotels, dine at our fine restaurants or shop in our wonderful gift stores. And every time they spend a dime in our city, they pay sales tax -- sales taxes that keep our firefighters and police ready for emergencies, our parks beautiful, our water clean and property taxes lower.
In time many of these same visitors end up being our neighbors. Having been captivated by the beauty of our town through their initial visit, they buy property and move here, be it to open up a new business or to settle into retirement.
That's where the Kenai Convention and Visitors Bureau comes in. By promoting Kenai as a visitor destination, we bring far more money into the community than the city of Kenai spends on keeping the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center open. The city is not "in the hole" on the visitors and cultural center, and this building is far from a "perk," as Manuel Prentice referred to it in the June 5 Peninsula Clarion, ("Kenai residents speak out on budget").
In many respects, the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center is at the center of our town, both literally and figuratively. In the decade this building has stood here, it has served as a gathering place for over a half-a-million visitors and residents alike. It is one of the pistons in the city's economic engine.
The Kenai Convention and Visitors Bureau operates the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center under contract with the city of Kenai. It is a long-time association we are extremely proud of. Our mayor and city council exercised great foresight in authorizing construction of this building 10 years ago, and the current council continues that tradition each year when it contracts out with the bureau to operate the facility at a significant savings to the city.
Before the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center was built in 1992, the city of Kenai contracted with the Kenai Convention and Visitors Bureau at a level of $120,000 a year just to promote the city as a tourism destination. Today, the city spends less money -- $115,000 a year -- to both promote the city as a tourism destination and to run the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center ($45,000 for the building's utilities and maintenance and $70,000 in its management contract with the bureau to operate the facility and promote Kenai as a visitor destination).
If you spend out over the last 10 years the city's initial capital investment of $800,000 in 1992 for construction, the city's average investment during that time has been $200,000 per year to operate one of the premier public facilities for residents and visitors on the Kenai Peninsula and to promote Kenai as a visitor destination.
Meanwhile, the Kenai Convention and Visitors Bureau, with an annual budget of $365,000, currently raises and spends about $250,000 a year on its own to promote the city and our member businesses and to fully staff the center. That's money which does not come from your taxes, and it is currently about equivalent to the amount of money the city receives from the state of Alaska in municipal revenue sharing. In this the 10th anniversary of the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center, the bureau has contributed more than $2 million to its operations.
We are very proud of the commitment the city of Kenai has made in building and maintaining this centerpiece of our city. We invite everyone, fans and critics alike, to come by and take a tour or attend one of our scores of events throughout the year -- your feedback, both commendations and recommendations for improvement, are always welcome and appreciated.
Ricky Gease, executive director
Kenai Convention and Visitors Bureau
Long-range financial plan already developed; state should use it
First of all, I want to say thank you to reporters Jenni Dillon and Shana Loshbaugh for taking the time to actually speak with local school district employees and listening to their side of the story in last Friday's newspaper articles. You told both sides of the story -- management and the employees' views. Thank you for that.
School district custodians have a story to tell also -- same ol', same ol' story for over a decade now: fewer and fewer employees to perform the ever-increasing work load of the school district custodians.
"The Survivors" employees that are actually still employed after all the cuts face a continuous increasing work load with each and every school year.
Of course all of this goes back to the "legislative majority" and education funding or lack of funding from Juneau. If you or I were hired to solve a problem, and 16 years later that same problem still existed, we would be fired! History!
This year's legislative session has proven that to be a fact! These are paid professionals who are supposed to research, discuss, examine and find solutions to the problems!
Our school district is one of the most efficient throughout the entire state of Alaska. Administration is only 4 percent of the entire budget. No one does it better!
But the lack of funding has placed our school district in crisis again and again for over a decade now. The Alaska State Senate can take the blame for this current crisis. The inability to reach a solution and provide education funding rest solely in the senators' laps.
A long-range financial plan was developed years ago by Gov. Tony Knowles, Gov. Jay Hammond and an entire committee of intelligent, experienced, longtime residents of Alaska. This long-range financial plan was presented to our legislators and the people of Alaska. It was logical, and it would actually work but the legislative majority chose to ignore that plan.
Now the majority is screaming about no long-range financial plan to guide the state of Alaska. Nonsense! They have had a good plan for years and years but chose to ignore that plan!
Again, I want to say thank you to the Clarion and the reporters for presenting both sides of the issue.
Do cemetery vandals realize hurt they cause to living loved ones?
I thought a grave was sacred ground, the final resting place of our loved ones. To some it is, and, to others, obviously it isn't.
Last year I went to my son's grave at Kasilof, and a small rabbit we had put there was gone. So, this year we replaced it with another one. I wonder how long that will stay on the grave.
Recently we again went out to the cemetery and found a small spruce tree we had planted on the grave was torn out of the ground and thrown on the ground.
This small tree had been there about four years and was about eight inches tall. Obviously, it was done on purpose. We replanted it, but if it dies, we will get another one and try again.
To whomever does this type of thing: Would you like someone to do this to your loved one's final resting spot? Maybe you have never lost someone close to you, so you do this without thinking what it does to the people who have loved ones in the cemetery.
I hope this stops and people think before acting this way.
Alaska losing its true legislative leaders because of lack of vision
What a sad day for the state of Alaska when good people choose not to refile for their legislative seats because of the lack of leadership, the myopic partisanship and the need to not seek solutions because their constituents don't get the big picture and may not re-elect them.
The actual leaders last session -- people like Andrew Halcro, Bill Hudson and Ken Lancaster (to name a few) -- who actually sought solutions -- are so frustrated they are not running.
I hope they are just taking a break and will run again when statesmanship once again returns and our elected officials put the needs of the state before their loyalty to those few people who fund their campaigns.
Thank you, Andrew, Bill and Ken, for your efforts during your tenure in the Legislature. We here at home shared your frustrations and trust your constituents will replace you with people of equal character and stature.
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