Let the polar ice caps melt, for there will be solid ice in the city of Kenai for many winters to come.
At Wednesday night's meeting, the city council approved spending $1.2 million to bring refrigerated ice to the city's ice rink, formally known as the Multipurpose Facility. It will never again be plagued by a winter like the last one, too warm to support ice skating.
The council also authorized a $400,000 buyout of Phase 1 LLC, the group of private investors who loaned the city money to build the facility two years ago. The same measure also put aside $35,000 to build a skateboard park.
Kenai attorney Rick Baldwin, who spearheaded the Phase 1 effort, thanked the city for the refrigeration and for buying out his group, which had been plagued with losses due to the warm winter.
"There have been a lot of people key to making this work, and (City Manager) Rick Ross is the first," he said. "It was his ingenuity to fund the facility. He was the creative force."
Ross combined proceeds from Five Iron Subdivision land sales with $300,000 from Phase 1 to get the rink off the ground.
"We are going to have a first-rate facility," Baldwin said.
The refrigeration system will allow the rink to have ice any time the ambient temperature is below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, which bodes well for having solid ice in as early as September and as late as April.
Even though the system, which will bury coolant-circulating tubes in a cement floor, can produce enough chill to have ice in for nearly the entire year, over-using it carries a risk.
There is the possibility that the cold from the floor, if left there too long, could create permafrost beneath the building, causing problems for the foundation.
"We're spending a lot of money on this," said council member Joe Moore. "I don't want that floor to buckle. We're committing not to have year-round ice."
Architect Peter Klauder said the water table beneath the rink is rather high, and a pocket of permafrost called an "ice lens" will form underneath when the floor is being refrigerated.
"We want to put therma-string in the ground to monitor the temperature," he said. "If you want to run ice more than six or seven months, we'll have to put in heat or more insulation."
The council did not want to heat the ground under the rink, and the extra insulation and temperature sensor options will be addressed at the next meeting.
In other council news:
n New reporting requirements were put in place for bed and breakfasts and other operations in the city that require a conditional-use permit. The ordinances require that before a permit can be issued, applicants must prove they are current with all city taxes and utilities and provide a report on the activities.
"This is Big Brother looking at little brother too much," council member Jim Bookey said. "I won't support this."
Harborside Cottages owner Diane Lofstedt told the council she agrees with the intent of the measure, but said the yearly reporting requirements created too much paper work for operators and the city.
The two ordinances, one specifically for bed and breakfasts and a nearly identical one for other conditional uses, were passed 5-2, with Moore and Bookey dissenting.
n A contract in the amount of $162,952 was awarded to Peninsula Construction for street upgrades in Old Town Kenai. Peninsula's bid was $10,000 less than the engineer's estimate, and $14,000 less than the next nearest bidder.
n Contracts were approved with Kenai Petro Express, Doyle's Fuel Services and Alaska Oil Sales to supply the city with gasoline and diesel fuel.
The Petro Express contract is for supplying the city fleet with gasoline at $1.36 a gallon, self-serve, at the pump. The Doyle's contract is for delivery of gasoline to the city dock at $1.31 a gallon. The city's prices for gas are lower than to the general public, as it is tax-exempt.
The contract with Alaska Oil Sales is for diesel fuel, No. 1 diesel for the city shop and generators at $1.26 per gallon, and No. 2 for the city dock and shop for $1.19 per gallon.
n The administration got the go-ahead to put out to bid the designing of extending water mains along Bridge Access and Frontage roads to support development there. The project is expected to cost $183,000.
n Two members of the Harbor Commission have turned in their resignations, leaving the body three members short. Bookey said Ray Price is resigning because he is moving out of city limits, and KT Peters, who graduated from Kenai Central High School last month, is going away to college.
The city is accepting applications for the three Harbor Commission seats and a vacancy on the Beautification Committee. Applications can be picked up at city hall or on the city's World Wide Web site (www.ci.kenai.ak.us). They should be returned to City Clerk Carol Freas.
n Seven more lots have been OK'd for sale in the Inlet Woods Subdivision, north of Redoubt Avenue. Earlier this year, the city opened up more than 50 other lots for sale.
The next council meeting will be on July 5, a day later than normal, since the first Wednesday of next month falls on Independence Day.
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