Rep Gary Davis, R-Soldotna, will not be out of a job when he leaves the Legislature this winter. He started work Monday as roads director for the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
"I was looking for a job that could keep me in Soldotna," said Davis, who opted not to run for re-election. "I've been familiar with the (roads director) position since it was created, and I've known all the directors. The more I got involved in politics and administrative functions, coupled with my experience in construction, it seemed like a pretty good marriage. So, when it became available, I got excited and applied."
Davis will oversee a staff of four and work with the Road Service Area board to oversee maintenance and improvements to more than 600 miles of borough-maintained roads.
According to the borough personnel office, he will earn $60,000 per year, including benefits.
It should be an exciting time, Davis said. The assembly just cut the borough's general property tax by .5 mills and raised the Road Service Area tax by .5 mills, equivalent to $50 for each $100,000 in assessed value. That gives the service area, which has been depleting savings to survive, an additional $1.2 million per year.
However, the budget picture is far from clear. Voters statewide will decide this fall whether to cap municipal property taxes at 10 mills. If the cap passes, it may require cuts to borough services in areas such as Nikiski, where the general borough tax plus taxes for borough fire, road, recreation and other service areas add to more than 12 mills.
In addition, it remains to be seen whether the Legislature will make further cuts to municipal assistance for road maintenance. Davis said he thinks it is nearing the end of what can be cut.
"But I'd venture to say they'll continue to look at local government taking a larger share in local government responsibilities," he said.
Meanwhile, the city of Homer has proposed annexing many outlying areas. If it does, Davis said, the borough may lose the responsibility to maintain roads in the areas annexed. For the Road Service Area, that could be a budget bonus.
On top of that, Road Service Area voters will decide this fall whether the service area should have the power to build roads as well as maintain them. A "yes" vote could make it easier for the borough to use $5.3 million in federal grants to extend the Kenai Spur Highway to subdivisions at Gray Cliff and Moose Point.
Davis said he has not yet discussed long-term strategy with Mayor Dale Bagley.
"You could have ideas, but the outcome of the elections could make you backtrack or jump ahead from what you had been planning," Davis said. "We're in more of a wait-and-see mode."
He said that, in general, his goals are "to address the public's desires for where the road maintenance money should be spent and to improve the quality of the roads, because if you improve the quality, you reduce maintenance needs."
In years past, he said, the Road Service Area accepted maintenance responsibility for many roads not built to present borough standards. It no longer accepts substandard roads, he said, but some already in the system are difficult to maintain.
"So there are capital dollars needed for the roads," he said.
He said his staff is making a priority list, and his department must recommend to the service area board where scarce capital dollars should be spent.
"I'll talk to the people that have been doing the job for a while, get recommendations from them, travel the roadways, get a bird's-eye view of the problem areas," he said.
He brings plenty of experience to the job.
Davis said most of his family works in construction, so he has worked in the industry since high school. He ran his own excavation business from 1981 to 1995, installing water and sewer service, utilities and roads. He also has worked for Davis Block and Concrete, owned by his cousins Scott and Russell Davis.
He graduated from Kenai Central High School in 1963, served in the U.S. Navy from 1964 to 1968, and earned a bachelor's degree in secondary education in 1972 from Alaska Methodist University, now Alaska Pacific University. From 1972 until 1980, he worked in counseling and administration for Kenai Natives Association Inc. Then, he worked as a consultant and as administrative coordinator for the Kenai Advisory Harbor Commission.
"I did paperwork, grants writing and contract administration," he said. "I coordinated between the harbor commission, the city council and city departments."
There are many similarities between that job and his new position, he said.
From 1990 to 1992, he was mayor of Soldotna. He was elected to the Legislature in 1992 and has represented the area from Soldotna to Seward and Hope since January 1993.
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.