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Peninsula projects slashed

$19.8 million included in Gov. Palin's capital budget vetoes

Posted: Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Funds for various projects across the Kenai Peninsula fell victim to Gov. Sarah Palin's veto pen when she cut $231 million from the state capital budget she signed into law last week.

All told, Palin slashed $19.8 million in funding for peninsula projects — 60 percent of the $33.6 million allocated to the peninsula in the capital budget sent to Palin by the Legislature.

"Vetoes included within the decision-making process are not a reflection on the project itself, but upon the state's responsibility to pay for the proposed project. We recognize that we have got to change the system. We have already begun working with legislators to change the process and this is a good start," Palin said in a press release regarding the cuts.

The largest of the cuts to the peninsula is $12.5 million from the Railbelt Energy Fund that was to have been used by Homer Electric Association to augment and upgrade transmission facilities on the northern Kenai Peninsula, where the utility company provides power to several industrial plants.

HEA general manager Brad Janorschke said in a press release that HEA had worked closely with the Legislature on the appropriation.

"Unfortunately, the administration did not provide direction or feedback on the use of the Railbelt Energy Fund during the session. We hope to meet with the governor and her staff in the near future to discuss their concerns and work out a solution that is in the best interests of the members of Homer Electric," Janorschke said.

Palin vetoed a total of $75 million in Railbelt Energy Fund appropriations, affecting Matanuska Electric Association, Copper Valley Electric Association, Chugach Electric Association and Anchorage Municipal Light and Power. Also vetoed was $12,5 million for the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority to restart the Healy coal plant.

According to information from the governor's office, funding for the HEA project will be considered in a future budget.

The same project was vetoed in last year's budget by former Gov. Frank Murkowski.

Another major project to lose funding is the effort to purchase and build a boat launch on the lower Kasilof River. The project is being spearheaded by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and the $3.5 million appropriated to acquire property and build facilities — $2.75 million from the state and $750,000 from the federal government — will be considered in a future budget.

Paul Cyr, the recreational boating access program coordinator with Fish and Game's sport fish division, said project planning is in the beginning stages. The department will wait and see what happens next before moving forward with any plans.

Jack Sinclair, the State Parks area superintendent, said his division is supportive of the project. Parks oversees boat launches on the upper portion of the Kasilof River, but boat launches on the lower portion of the river are privately-owned. While the state doesn't want to compete with private enterprise, it also wants to guarantee public access to the river.

"We realize there is a need to provide a public boat launch for public egress on the river," Sinclair said.

Also getting cut is $775,000 for the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area — $475,000 for modifications to the Nikiski Recreation Center, and $300,000 to replace aging sand filters and a surge tank at the Nikiski pool.

NPRSA Director Rachel Parra said the money for the recreation center would have been used to upgrade systems and remodel classrooms to make the space more usable.

"Financially, we have to rethink our plan on how to make some of these upgrades to this old building," Parra said.

Parra said age has run its course on the 15-year-old pool sand filters and surge tank. She said some money had been budgeted to start the replacement project.

"We're hoping the money budgeted will be enough to complete the project," Parra said.

Palin said Constitutionally-mandated services of education, public safety and health, and infrastructure were given priority in her review of the capital budget.

"This was a very deliberative process, meant to provide consistency and a level of fairness in a process that can be anything but fair," Palin said.

Will Morrow can be reached at will.morrow@peninsulaclarion.com.

State capital budget vetoes affecting the Kenai Peninsula:

Project, Amount, Reason for veto

· Alaska Berry Growers, Alaska berry economic development $100,000 Other funding options available

· Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association, Cook Inlet salmon study (partial veto) $150,000 Fund at reduced level

· Friendship Mission, roof renovation $70,000 Not a state responsibility

· Ionia Inc., Ionia facilities completion $90,000 Other funding options available

· Kachemak Bay Equestrian Association, Cottonwood Horse Park improvements $30,000 Not a state responsibility

· Kachemak Ski Club, Ohlson Mountain ski hill improvements $89,000 Not a state responsibility

· Kasilof Historical Association, columbarium for Spruce Grove Memorial Park $70,000 Not a state responsibility

· Kasilof Historical Association, McLane Center and museum renovation $50,000 Not a state responsibility

· Kenai Kennel Club, emergency center construction $25,000 Not a state responsibility

· Kenai Peninsula Fair Association, Ninilchik fairground improvements $100,000 Lower priority category of funding

· Nikiski Community Council,Nikiski sign $75,000 Not a state responsibility

· Pratt Museum, fuel tank replacement $25,000 Not a state responsibility

· Sterling Area Senior Center improvements (partial veto) $75,000 Fund at reduced level

· Sterling Community Club, community center $300,000 Not a state responsibility

· Voznesenka Village Corporation, playground improvements $25,000 Not a state responsibility

· Kenai boat launch paving $70,000 Will consider in future budget

· Kenai Peninsula Borough, diagnostic hospital equipment $26,500 Not a state responsibility

· Nikiski Rec. Center modifications $475,000 Not a state responsibility

· Nikiski Fire Department signage $55,000 Lower priority category of funding

· Nikiski pool sand filter and surge tank replacement $300,000 Lower priority category of funding

· Ninilchik Native Descendants cabin restoration $50,000 Not a state responsibility

· Seldovia boat haul-out trailer $45,500 Not a state responsibility

· Seldovia Slough smolt stocking $25,000 Not a state responsibility

· Seward, waterfront pavilion $195,000 Not a state responsibility

· Soldotna, bear-resistant trash containers $10,000 Lower priority category of funding

· Funny River, covered multi-use facility $135,000 Not a state responsibility

· Ninilchik water system development $100,000 Other funding options available

· Lower Kasilof River boat launch purchase $3.5 million general funds Will consider in future budget

· AVTEC development of precorrections officer orientation and preparation $50,000 Inadequate funding provided

· Homer Electric Association, augmentation and upgrade of transmission facilities $12.5 million Will consider in future budget

· Seward electrical infrastructure $1 million Will consider in future budget



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