Kenai could have new counsel: Council to consider Anchorage attorney

Posted: Wednesday, July 01, 2009

With the approval of the city council tonight, Kenai will be getting a new city attorney to replace retiring Cary Graves.

Kenai City Council members are expected to approve a three-year employment agreement with Krista Stearns, an assistant attorney general from Anchorage.

Stearns would replace Graves, who has been the city's top legal adviser since 1991. He plans to retire Aug. 28.

The city had initially advertised to fill Graves' position, looked at six finalists and pared the list to two, but the council decided against interviewing either of the two.

Graves said Tuesday the two finalists did not have government civil practice experience and he began asking who might be a good candidate. Stearns came highly recommended, Graves said, having 14 years experience in the necessary legal field.

Prior to joining the Attorney General's office in May 2007, Stearns was an attorney with the Boyd, Chandler and Falconer law firm in Anchorage, a firm that "does a lot of municipal law," according to Graves.

"I think she's an extremely well-qualified attorney," Graves said.

If agreed, she would be paid a base salary of $112,000 in her first year with the city, with 2 1/2 percent and 3 percent increases built into the second and third years of her contract respectively.

Stearns is a 1989 graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University with a bachelor's degree in the history and ethics of public policy, and graduated with honors in 1992 from the University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis. She has been a member of the Anchorage Bar Association since 1994.

The council also is scheduled to consider a resolution asking the state to expand and broaden its regulation of smoking in the workplace.

Alaska statutes already regulate smoking in public facilities including state and local government public places of employment, and in private places of employment such as health care facilities, public transportation, grocery stores and food service establishments serving more than 50 people.

Mayor Pat Porter and Councilman Barry Eldridge suggest the state should protect "private employees from the proven dangers of secondhand smoke ... on a statewide basis."

A public hearing is slated on Ordinance 2347-2008 regarding the preparation, distribution and publication of the agenda for upcoming city council meetings. Two substitute ordinances are scheduled: substitute A proposed by Councilman Bob Molloy and substitute B recommended by City Manager Rick Koch.

Koch said the main difference between the two versions is the time line for action to be taken between council meetings, which are scheduled for the first and third Wednesdays of every month.

Koch wants the time line to remain unchanged, publishing the agenda in the newspaper on the Monday preceding the council meeting. Molloy would like publication to take place on the preceding Friday.

On Tuesday, Koch said he fears the compressed time line will not allow the city to respond to council requests by the first meeting following a council request. The city administration would not have enough time to prepare until two meetings after the request is made.

Also scheduled for a public hearing is an ordinance amending the land use table as it applies to the Limited Commercial zone. Action on the ordinance was postponed during the June 3 council meeting.

The council is slated to consider awarding a $21,330 contract to Peninsula Pumping Inc., to provide portable rest-room services on the city's north and south beaches during the upcoming personal-use salmon dipnet fishery. In addition to providing about 15 portable rest rooms, the firm would pump them out, sometimes as often as six times a day, according to Koch.

Additionally, the council has scheduled a discussion of the proposed Central Peninsula Multi-use Facility, formerly called the "sports dome."

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly has proposed creating a special service area to pay for the construction and operation of the multi-million-dollar enclosed sports facility by way of increased property taxes and facility rent. Base construction is estimated to cost $25,457,000 and operational cost would be approximately $864,300.

Renting out the playing field is expected to bring in $462,000 a year, roughly half of which would come from Kenai Peninsula Borough School District use.

The council meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at

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