Trash needs cash

Landfill running out of room; bonds would fund expansion

Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2002

It's time to take out the cash.

Kenai Peninsula Borough voters will decide in October whether to approve the issuance of $12 million worth of general obligation bonds to pay for the expansion of the borough's regional solid waste facility.

If Proposition 2 passes, it will mean borough property taxes will rise by about $36.75 on $100,000 of assessed property value.

On Wednesday, Cathy Mayer, solid waste director for the borough, spoke at the weekly luncheon meeting of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce. There, she gave the chamber several reasons why the bonds are needed.

She said that as the borough has grown, serious plans have been made to expand the borough's waste disposal program. She said in the early 1990s, the borough came up with a long-term plan for expansion at the existing facility, located just outside the city of Soldotna.

"We realized we needed to take a hard look at our entire program," she said.

She said a plan was formulated to add two, approximately 7-acre containment cells to the current landfill by 2004-05 when the landfill reaches its capacity.

Now, Mayer explained, the borough is ready to begin expanding the landfill. All that's needed is the money.

"We're ready to move on to the next phase," she said.

Mayer said the existing facility is simply running out of room.

"We've been able to postpone expansion at the existing site for some time," she said. "We're just ready for the next phase."

The current borough landfill services solid waste from roughly 75 percent of borough residents. Once the Homer landfill reaches its capacity in the near future, that figure is expected to rise to 98 percent of borough residents.

If voters approve the bond package, Mayer said property taxes will rise by $36.75 on each $100,000 of assessed property value.

Although taxes will rise, Mayer said that the bonds will likely be issued in two phases in order to accommodate the 10-year expansion plans.

Additionally, she said the borough plans to apply for grants from a variety of sources, including the federal government, to attempt to offset the cost of expanding the facility.

Issuing the bonds over time, as well as grant money, could help to offset the cost to taxpayers.

"The tax impact up front will not be that high," she said.

However, she added that although borough voters do have the option of deciding how to pay for the expansion, they don't really have the option of not paying at all.

"We still have to do the work," if voters don't approve the bonds, Mayer said. "We just have to find a different mechanism of funding."

She mentioned user fees as one way the borough could potentially raise the needed money. Currently, residential users of borough solid waste facilities are not charged a fee for dumping trash at borough sites.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough municipal election will be held Oct. 1.

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