With only six weeks until the Oct. 2 municipal election, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly focused on getting things in order on Tuesday.
Five individuals -- Lisa Jackson, Linda Cusack, John Tongen, Barbara Winkler and Shannon West -- were confirmed as election judges to work on the Canvass Board. In that role, they are responsible for preparing a final tally of the votes, certifying the results and presenting the results to the borough assembly.
"These are good folks," said Bill Popp, of Kenai.
He praised the board's attention to detail, adding, "They've done the job before. This is the 'A' team. They've proven time and time again that they're one of the best in the state."
Also confirmed were 103 election judges who will work the borough's 24 precinct polling places.
The October ballot will include three propositions:
n Proposition No. 1 asks voters to decide if the borough will enter into a contract with the state of Alaska and one or more private for-profit firms for the construction and operation of a prison or correctional institution no bigger than 1,000 beds;
n Proposition No. 2 offers voters two options for reapportioning the borough, either nine single-member districts or 13-single member districts; and
n Proposition No. 3, if approved, will authorize the sale of $5 million of general obligation bonds to fund all or part of the design and construction of additional borough office space and renovation of the existing space, with additional costs up to $2.5 million to come from the borough's general fund balance.
As required by borough code, the assembly must approve the proposition summaries that will be published in the voter pamphlet.
"I'm satisfied with the language for the ballot proposition fact sheets," said Pete Sprague, of Soldotna. "There were some concerns raised in discussion, but I believe that the language is factual and adequate."
Both Sprague and Ron Long, of Seward, asked for clarification on the wording of the summary for Proposition No. 1 during the afternoon committee meetings. Drawing directly from Alaska State Statutes regarding revenue bonds, borough attorney Colette Thompson revised the summary to clarify that per diem funds paid by the state for the care of prisoners would repay the revenue bonds issued by the borough to finance the design and construction of the facility, with no pledge of the full faith and credit of the borough.
The assembly approved the revision.
"I hope the public realizes that this does not put the borough at risk," said Milli Martin, who represents areas of the southern peninsula.
Taking exception, however, was James Price, of Nikiski. Price chairs the Peninsula Citizens Against Private Prisons, a group opposing the project. Price testified that the summary was misleading, making it appear as though there would be no financial risk to the borough.
With regard to the feasibility study that must be conducted prior to the borough proceeding with construction of the prison, Borough Mayor Dale Bagley announced that the study is being postponed until after the election.
"If you have concerns, talk to me," Bagley said. "But that's the battle plan right now."
The assembly also reviewed the status of projects on the State Transportation Improvement Project list that are scheduled for federal fiscal years 2001, 2002 and 2003. The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities measures these projects against specific criteria to determine placement on the list.
"What the (state) is doing is looking at moving projects up into that three-year period that were scheduled farther out, for 2004, 2005 and 2006," Popp said. "This wasn't an opportunity to add new projects. New projects or projects that we've been trying to move higher on the STIP list for years will be discussed at upcoming meetings."
One Popp would like to see included is the resurfacing of Kalifornsky Beach Road from Mile 0 to Mile 16.
"That road is deteriorating rapidly," he said. "We need to be looking at it for resurfacing in the very near future."
Martin said she was relieved to see widening, realignment, drainage improvements and resurfacing on the list for East End Road from McNeil Canyon School to the turnaround at Voznesenka, an eight-mile stretch. She was not so happy, however, to hear that 13-mile rehabilitation of Skyline Drive and Diamond Ridge Road is slated for 2006.
Roads were also the focus of an ordinance authorizing summer and winter maintenance contracts in the central region of the road service area. The assembly gave Mayor Bagley the green light to award contracts to Slikok Gravel and Construction to maintain four areas totaling 122.5 miles for an amount not to exceed $224,000. Captain Cook Construction was authorized for a 27.5-mile area. The contract amount is not to exceed $40,000.
A work session focusing on the borough's spruce bark beetle mitigation program was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Sept. 4 after assembly members questioned the program's progress.
Lands Committee Chair Chris Moss, of Homer, said the work session would focus on the current status of the program, how it's progressing and what direction it's going.
"My concerns were basically specific to my district and that nothing has happened over here," Long said. "That's particularly relevant in light of the Kenai Lake fire."
Long recognized the need to lay groundwork and coordinate efforts, but, "We could coordinate and coordinate and coordinate until we finally get all the pieces in place and by then we could have two or three more fires. We need to put our heads together and find a way to make this thing move forward. That's the idea behind the work session."
Martin also expressed concern for areas that she represents.
"My question is if we are going to get the right of way cleared before next fire season," said Martin, specifically referencing borough land on East End Road. "There are four or five homes in that area that border borough land, and they have already cleared their own areas. They're concerned about their defensible space."
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