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Fire safety update slated

Posted: Wednesday, July 02, 2008

In hopes of reviving memories about why dead spruce trees and brush are being cleared out of Kenai, the city manager and a state forestry representative are slated to give the city council an update tonight on the Fire Safe Program.

"It's based on the Firewise Program that's been ongoing in Kenai for a number of years," said City Manager Rick Koch about a presentation he will make along with Division of Forestry Firewise team member Judy Reece.

The Kenai program is part of a larger Kenai Peninsula Borough Community Wildfire Protection Plan aimed at wildfire risk assessment and mitigation. The plan was developed in response to the 2003 Healthy Forests Restoration Act.

The infestation of spruce bark beetles in Alaska has impacted more than 1 million acres in the borough resulting in dead trees creating an extreme wildfire hazard, according to forestry officials.

The city was criticized recently for removing low growth, particularly in areas around Kenai Central High School and the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska, saying the vegetation served as moose browse.

On Tuesday, Koch said he hopes tonight's forestry presentation will remind people of the benefits of the Firewise Program that is continuing in the city.

Also on tonight's agenda is consideration of appropriating a $1 million state grant, part of which is to be applied toward the Kenai Community Library expansion and part toward street and sewer capital projects.

The library would receive $250,000 of the state grant. The remainder would go to streets and sewers.

Initially $250,000 of the money was to be appropriated for the city's bluff erosion project, but Koch said "it's not time yet" to assign funds to that project.

In a memo to the council, he said bluff erosion project funding should wait until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completes the pre-engineering, preliminary environmental report and the report is presented to the city administration and the council.

The council also is scheduled to consider contributing $5,000 to the Central Area Rural Transit System (CARTS).

The city had budgeted that amount in its General Fund legislative department, but it was not specifically earmarked for CARTS. Councilman Mike Boyle, at an earlier council meeting in June, asked that the donation be designated for the transit group.

When CARTS first approached the city asking for the contribution, Mayor Pat Porter asked if CARTS would provide one or two ride punch cards to be used by Kenai senior citizens. CARTS' executive director said, "No."

Two ordinances set for introduction tonight seek to rezone portions of airport land from conservation to light industrial. One area is toward the north end of North Willow Street and the other lots are on Coral Street at Cohoe Avenue.

An ordinance to fund engineering for a new parking lot next to the Kenai Courthouse also is slated for introduction tonight.

The state court is seeking to lease the airport land next to the courthouse for a much-needed parking lot. The city would improve the lot and lease revenue would be returned to the Airport Fund.

Koch said the state is seeking a 55-year lease. The cost of developing the parking lot would be paid back in 7 1/2 years, he said.

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

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



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