Assembly OKs hospital MRI

Posted: Thursday, August 05, 2010

South Peninsula Hospital received the go-ahead to build its MRI building Tuesday night.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly passed a substitute resolution that authorized the hospital to change orders to the existing construction plan. Another resolution on the table appropriated additional funds for the building project through a sole source bid to Jay-Brant General Contractors. The contractors have been working with the hospital on a remodeling project and are on-site.

The hospital board said that any further delays would push the project over the Alaska Health, Planning and Systems Development's Certificate of Need construction limits and into a lengthy permitting process.

"It's time to get 'er done," said Assembly Vice President Hal Smalley.

The assembly also agreed to let voters decide if the borough should adopt a city manager style of government on the next ballot. Under the proposed form, a governing body appoints or elects a city manager to make decisions on its behalf. The relationship has been compared to that of a company's board of directors and a CEO.

Assembly member Gary Knopp, who introduced the ordinance, felt that it was a decision that the voters should make. Gary Superman, of Nikiski, said that he'd vote against the measure on the ballot, but believed a decisive "no" from the public would put the issue to rest.

Preston Williams, a former member of the Nikiski Fire Service Area Board, said that the assembly should reform itself without switching styles of government.

"At times it can be frustrating, but it provides the best system of checks and balances," Williams said, citing previous interactions with the assembly.

Assembly member Mako Haggerty, of South Peninsula, said that borough employees would gain too much power under the proposed system. Government employees have no term limits, unlike assembly members at present.

"I'm concerned the borough will be run by bureaucrats," Haggerty said. "We have to be vigilant about who we hire as a manager."

Assemblywoman Sue McClure, Seward, provided the only vote against the ordinance. She said that none of her constituents supported the change of government. McClure said she wanted to save the voters time and money instead of adding the measure to the ballot.

The assembly considered switching to a mayor system last August as well. The potential ballot initiative narrowly failed with a 5-4 vote.

The next ballot will also ask voters if the borough should issue nearly $17 million in bonds to fund replace school roofs.

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Steve Atwater said that maintenance is required because some of the roofs are more than 40 years old. The project comes after a survey that indicated 10 schools and a district-wide warehouse require roof work.

The ordinance said that no bonds will be issued unless the plan qualifies for the 70-percent debt reimbursement program from the state.

Ruby Denison, of Ninilchik, "chided" the school board for undertaking the project during an economic downturn. She didn't think bonds were a viable way to fund the construction project.

An ordinance appropriating $2.5 million in funds for an expansion of Central Peninsula Hospital was stalled until the September assembly meeting. Attendees accused the hospital of rushing the purchase in the midst of change of governance discussions.

Tony Cella can be reached at

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