City manager fishing, just not for fish

Kenai looks at FAA land, library expansion, PRISM management

Posted: Monday, July 10, 2006

Fishing is on the minds of many this time of year, but the kind of fishing the Kenai city manager is up to has little to do with hooks or nets.

Rick Koch is seeking congressional or foundation help to expand the city library; he’s in talks with the state fire marshal over management of the city’s PRISM fire training center; and he plans to ask the Federal Aviation Administration to release more airport reserve land for private development.

During his report to the Kenai City Council last week, Koch said he plans to meet with the Airport Commission, the Kenai Economic Development Strategy (KEDS) action team, the Kenai Municipal Airport manager and the Planning and Zoning Commission at 7:30 p.m. Thursday to discuss changing the boundaries of the airport reserve.

Koch said some would like to see all the current airport reserve land remain in reserve for future airport growth and others would like to see it freed up for development. He hopes the meeting will result in an agreement as to where the boundaries should be.

“You don’t want to inhibit the growth of the airport or reduce development opportunities,” he said.

“In order for both (sides) to be successful, there will be conflict between the two,” he said.

The city would need to seek the removal of use restrictions placed on the land when it was deeded to the city by the FAA in the 1960s, according to Koch.

The area in question consists of about 100 acres from Marathon Road east, he said.

Koch is continuing to meet with the state fire marshal about management of the Pacific Rim Institute of Safety and Management training center.

AAI Services Inc. told the city it does not intend to renew its contract at the end of this year for continued management of the PRISM center, and the city is seeking someone to run it.

Jodie Hettrick, fire training administrator for the Division of Fire Prevention, said, “We are interested. It would be a great opportunity for us.”

She said the state fire marshal’s office, which already conducts Firefighter 1, Firefighter 2 and specialty training, is in the process of developing a business plan to determine if it would be financially possible to operate the PRISM center.

She said the fire marshal is looking at what Kenai wants, the cost of operating the center, what needs could be met, student numbers from the past and how many people would come for training in the future.

“Our next step is to meet with the city manager and AAI’s controller to look at what the business has done in the past,” Hettrick said.

Koch said Thursday that he wants representatives from the oil, mining and marine industries on a steering committee along with people from city administration “to provide advisory direction to the city” on the future of the center.

“The state fire marshal would either be the manager or have a presence on the management committee,” Koch said.

He also met with members of the Library Commission and a consultant looking into expansion of the city’s library.

The existing library is 10,000 square feet, but should be twice that size, and it would need to be 27,000 square feet to meet projected needs 20 years from now.

Though the meeting was described by Koch as being conceptual, with no structural engineers in attendance, the group looked at adding to the existing library either outward or upward, and also considered expanding at alternate sites.

“The Library Commission and the consultant like how the state office building looks,” said Koch, referring to the old Kenai courthouse, but he said that is not something in the state’s plans at this time.

He said he plans to look at other existing buildings in the city that might accommodate a library, and at other vacant city property on which a larger library could be built.

He also said there may be someone in the community who would consider donating a piece of property that would be conducive for a library.

“Libraries are not cheap to build,” Koch said, estimating that a new, 27,000 square-foot library would cost between $10 million and $12 million.

Because Kenai Peninsula Borough residents outside the city also use the Kenai Community Library, Koch said he may be able to get the borough to help with funding, or get help from the state.

“We will also look to the congressional delegation, the Rasmuson Foundation and the Murdoch Foundation,” Koch said.



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