Bond package might land on ballot

Posted: Monday, July 08, 2002

This fall, Kenai Peninsula Borough voters could be asked to approve up to $12 million in general obligation bonds to cover the costs of planning, designing, building and equipping new solid waste disposal facilities at the Central Peninsula Baling Facility near Soldotna.

An ordinance to be introduced at Tuesday's Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting would place the bond package on the Oct. 1 municipal ballot. A public hearing is tentatively scheduled for the meeting of Aug. 6.

If approved by voters, the $12 million in bonds would be sold in two separate sales, one in 2003 and another in 2008. Each sale would provide funds to build a solid waste landfill cell with an expected usable life of five years.

Each cell would be lined with an impermeable liner and include systems for collecting and treating gas and leachate -- water passing through the waste.

Jeff Sinz, borough finance director, said the bond package would provide enough to build a cell every five years for 10 years, after which the borough anticipates going back to voters for additional bond authority every 10 years.

The baling facility was first established as a landfill by the city of Soldotna in 1969. The borough assumed control in 1974. In 1990, Sinz said, the assembly recommended making the facility a regional landfill. The borough then acquired land adjacent to the landfill sufficient to accommodate garbage collection for at least the next 30 years.

The Kenai and Seward landfills were closed and waste from those areas is taken to the regional landfill. Transfer stations were upgraded.

Homer's landfill remains active and likely will for several more years, but eventually it, too, will be converted to a transfer facility and waste will be shipped north to the regional landfill, Sinz said.

By 1992, a baling facility and major improvements to the regional site were completed, Sinz said.

A second phase of improvements, that were to include a lined cell and a leachate system, "were successfully postponed for over 10 years due to efficient waste management and continued vertical filling of waste over the existing landfill," he said.

According to Sinz, about 75 percent of the borough population disposes of waste managed at the site. When Homer's facility closes in an estimated five to 12 years, that figure will jump to 98 percent. The remaining 2 percent is handled by remote landfills on the west side of Cook Inlet and the south side of Kachemak Bay.

Issuing $12 million in bonds may affect the borough's property tax levy by about .4 mills, or about $40 per $100,000 of assessed taxable property. However, Sinz said no actual increase in taxes currently is anticipated.

"That's a theoretical worse case. We don't expect to see an increase in the mill rate," Sinz said.

The .4 mills represents the tax implications of issuing all $12 million in bonds at once, Sinz said. The plan, however, is to issue perhaps $5 million in 2003 and $7 million in 2008. The payoff periods for each bond issuance would be 10 years.

Mayor Dale Bagley confirmed there are no plans to raise property taxes. He said the revenue stream generated by current taxes is more than sufficient.

In other business, the assembly is expected to introduce an ordinance that would accept and appropriate $490,000 in federal funds for planning, design and site development for senior housing at Cooper Landing, Nikiski and Sterling, all of which have no such facilities currently.

The assembly also will consider a pair of ordinances that would provide for an appointed Board of Adjustment and Board of Equalization.

Currently, the Board of Adjustment is comprised of the nine members of the assembly. The board fulfills a state law requirement that the borough provide an avenue for property owners' appeals of administrative land-use regulation decisions, such as those made by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission.

Ordinance 2002-28, to be introduced by assembly member Pete Sprague of Soldotna would replace the full assembly with an appointed five-member board of borough residents that would include at least two with planning or platting experience.

In a memo to the assembly, Sprague said the borough code that now places the assembly in the quasi-judicial role of judge in appeals of planning commission decisions prohibits ex parte communication, that is, communications with one side of an issue, but not the other.

"It may be difficult for an elected representative to perform his or her duties and responsibilities to constituents while at the same time necessarily refraining from being able to help them resolve issues due to ex parte restraints," Sprague said.

The Board of Equalization, meanwhile, also is comprised of the nine assembly members. The board hears appeals from property owners who believe their properties have been improperly assessed.

Ordinance 2002-29, also introduced by Sprague, would replace the full assembly with an appointed seven-member board. Members would have appraisal and real estate experience.

The assembly is expected to consider a resolution authorizing Bagley to enter into an agreement with the city of Homer to provide fire and emergency services to the Kachemak Emergency Service Area.

The agreement is expected to cost the service area around $98,500 for six months of services beginning retroactively to July 1. That is essentially equivalent to the current agreement except that the cost has been reduced somewhat to account for territory recently annexed to the city of Homer.

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