Transportation powers should be up to voters, Glick maintains

Posted: Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Almost three years ago, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted to adopt areawide transportation powers and authorized funding for public transportation systems within the borough.

Today, only Central Area Rural Transit System Inc., or CARTS, gets transportation funding through the borough. The fiscal year 2004 budget, which went into effect July 1, appropriated $50,000 toward CARTS operations. CARTS provides transportation services in the central peninsula area.

Although state law allowed the borough to adopt transportation powers by ordinance, assembly member Betty Glick of Kenai wants a public referendum showing support before the borough commits any more funds for a wider transit system.

In a memo to the assembly, Glick said transportation powers could have "a significant adverse financial effect upon the borough as public transportation systems tend not to be self-supporting and can require significant government subsidies."

At the assembly meeting tonight, Glick will introduce Ordinance 2003-31 calling for an advisory proposition to be placed on the fall municipal ballot. It would ask voters whether they wish to affirm the assembly's action of September 2000 in which Chapter 13.10, the transportation chapter of the borough code, was enacted.

"As this is such a potentially expensive power, I believe the voters should be provided with the opportunity to express their opinion on this matter," she said.

Though listed as an advisory proposition, the effect of a negative vote would be to repeal the transportation chapter. That repeal would have no effect on money appropriated to transportation prior to the vote, according to the ordinance document.

It is advisory only in that voter affirmation of the code would not bind any future assembly to actually fund transportation systems.

Glick said she has problems with the transportation powers beyond the possibility of ever-rising costs. She said the borough has an areawide power, but provisions in the law allow cities to pursue their own transportation systems if they so choose. Glick said that might someday mean city dwellers paying transportation taxes twice.

"This is not fair," she said. "People need to be aware that we have areawide powers, but are exercising them on a nonareawide basis."

Also on tonight's assembly agenda is a resolution to amend the radio broadcasting agreement with Peninsula Communications Inc., deleting the requirement for broadcasting in the Seward area. A May 9 order from the Federal Communications Commission ended PCI's ability to feed its Seward translators via satellite. The resolution would modify the broadcast agreement with a one-third reduction in the amount paid to PCI from $412.14 to $276.13 per meeting.

Dave Becker, owner of PCI, has not agreed to the reduction. He also has filed an appeal with the FCC, which if successful, would restore service in Seward.

If the assembly adopts the reduction-in-service resolution with its accompanying reduction in compensation, Becker could either agree or terminate the contract by giving notice at least two assembly meetings prior to termination.

The assembly could delete or modify the proposed change in compensation. Alternatively, the assembly could terminate the contract for PCI's failure to supply a radio feed to Seward.

In other business, the assembly is expected to:

n Consider approving Ordin-ance 2002-19-42, which would appropriate a little over $7 million in general obligation bond proceeds to the Central Peninsula Landfill expansion project.

n Consider Ordinance 2002-19-43, appropriating a $993,000 Denali Commission grant for a fire station for the Kachemak Emergency Service Area.

n Consider Ordinance 2003-24, which would approve the proposed budget for the Kenai Peninsula Arctic Winter Games Host Society.

n Consider Ordinance 2003-27, which would put before service area voters a fall ballot measure to authorize nearly $50 million in general obligation bonds to fund expansion of Central Penin-sula General Hospital.

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