Planned assisted-living facility finds home on city-owned land

Posted: Friday, July 08, 2005

Kenai's senior citizen community showed up in force Wednesday to support a city resolution expressing the intent to donate up to 30 acres of land for the future site of an assisted-living facility.

Seniors packed Kenai City Hall for the council's regular meeting and several spoke up to express their belief that such a facility is greatly needed in town.

"Assisted living is badly needed in the Kenai area," said Bill Osborn.

Osborn also pointed out that there is a need for the facility throughout the peninsula.

"It's not just Kenai," he said.

Longtime Kenai resident Buck Steiner said an assisted-living facility is not something anyone ever wants to live in. However, he said it's important to recognize that some members of the community will need long-term care as they get older. Speaking to council member Cliff Massie, Steiner said he just wants the city to do what's best for its senior population.

"I want it to be good enough for both of us, but I hope neither of us has to use it," Steiner said.

James McConnell is working with the Kenai Senior Connection group to get the project — which is expected to use grant funding to build a facility — moving forward. He told the council that a resolution stating the city's intent to donate the land is a great step toward completing the project within his three-year goal.

"We're definitely going to shoot for it," he said.

The council voted unanimously to support the resolution, which contains provisions that make it clear that the land will only be donated if a project is going forward. McConnell said he believes that since the land issue has been cleared up, grant funding and eventual project construction will be easier.

"It's moving along pretty good," he said.

McConnell said the actual housing complex design work is still in the planning phase, but said he's close to picking a design firm.

The land the project will be built on is on a tract of 77 acres of city-owned land along Redoubt Avenue. It was acquired by the city because of unpaid property taxes and water and sewer bills.

Kenai's former mayor John Williams attended Wednesday's meeting and suggested that the council consider granting tax relief to Senior Connection on some of the back taxes owed on the property. He said the area's seniors have already paid plenty in city taxes over the years.

"I'd like to have that issue explored," Williams said.

Council members said they would be willing to look into the idea.

The council's history of supporting the assisted-living facility date back to 2002, when the city agreed to support Senior Connection as it applied for preliminary grants for the project.

Following the council's action, a smiling McConnell thanked the council for the resolution on behalf of the area's seniors, including the two dozen who attended Wednesday's meeting.

"We were going to do a wave, but we've got some sore backs out here," McConnell said.

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