Bear Creek to decide on new facility

Posted: Thursday, July 26, 2007

Residents in the Bear Creek Fire Service Area could decide this fall whether to approve spending $3.5 million to build a new fire and emergency services facility.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly introduced Ordinance 2007-24 at its July 10 meeting, which if approved, would put the question on the service area's Oct. 2 ballot.

The estimated $3.5 million project that includes planning, designing, acquiring property for, building and outfitting a new facility would require voter approval of up to $1.4 million in general obligation bonds. Retiring those bonds will require a 1-mill tax levy within the service area - or $100 per year on each $100,000 worth of property value.

Ordinance 2007-24 is set for a public hearing on Aug. 7 in Soldotna.

At least 60 percent of service area voters must approve the measure should it make it to the ballot. That's because borough law requires the supermajority whenever capital projects are to spend more than $1 million from funds other than those derived from bonds.

In this case, that amounts to approximately $2.1 million that would have to be raised through grants. According to borough Finance Director Craig Chapman, the bonds would only be issued if the grants funds were received.

Borough Grants Director Bonnie Golden said the Bear Creek Fire Service Area now operates its fire and emergency services out of three separate buildings, which adds unnecessarily to total annual costs. Putting all its eggs in one basket, so to speak, would take advantage of economies of scale. While the structure would primarily be for housing equipment, it would be more than a fire station, Golden said.

"They are hoping to include a trooper station with offices and interview rooms, and a meeting room that could accommodate public meetings," she said. "It would be similar to that built for Kachemak Emergency Services."

Borough Clerk Sherry Biggs said Bear Creek Fire Service Area generally covers everything outside Seward city limits in the direction of Moose Pass, including such places as Old Exit Glacier Road, portions of Nash Road, and Bear Lake Road. Lowell Point is not included.

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