They might disagree on other issues, but the nine members of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assem-bly unanimously supported a resolution that Kenai assembly member Bill Popp described as "the strongest worded resolution" the assembly has written since Popp began serving in 1997.
In it, the assembly "unanimously objects to and rejects" the state Department of Natural Resources' intent to postpone or deny conveyance of more than 2,000 acres of the borough's municipal entitlement selections. The areas in question are located in Seldovia, Cooper Landing and the Kustatan Ridge near Trading Bay on the west side of Cook Inlet and were selected as part of the Kenai Area Plan adopted in January 2000.
The resolution directed borough administration to "oppose with all due diligence and all available resources, by any legal mechanisms" all of the state's conditions on approval and rejections of the selections.
The borough administration was notified of DNR's intent on Aug. 1. However, the assembly was unaware of it until Milli Martin, who represents areas of the southern peninsula, received a call from Seldovia Mayor Sue Hecks asking for the assembly's support.
"The response has been a work in progress," said Martin, of the resulting fast and cooperative effort between the assembly and the borough administration.
To be delivered to Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles, Alaska Depart-ment of Natural Resources Commissioner Pat Pourchot and members of the Alaska Legisla-ture, the resolution comes just days before the Sept. 17 deadline for written comments.
Providing some background, Popp said, "Last year (Mayor Bagley) was trying to select lands that were outside the scope of the Kenai Area Plan. The assembly disagreed with that direction and changed things to the point where we were willing to work out an agreement and a settlement with DNR over the lawsuit that the borough filed with the assembly's approval to object to the Kenai Area Plan."
"I think (DNR) felt that because the assembly disagreed with the mayor previously and worked out a settlement, that we disagreed again," he said. "I think DNR miscalculated terribly."
Popp said the spirit of the agreement was that DNR "would cease dragging their feet on our remaining 44,000 acres that we have been trying to get since the late '60s." However, he said, DNR's stipulations, conditions and rejections "flew in the face" of that agreement.
"The bottom line and the message we're trying to deliver to DNR is 'give us our land,'" Popp said.
Land was also the topic of an effort to classify some 174 acres of borough-owned land near Suneva Lake in Nikiski as residential and include it in an October auction. However, the assembly added two additional hearing dates for Sept. 18 and Oct. 9 in discuss the two parcels in greater detail.
"To sell this off in large wholesale chunks is not the right direction to go in, in this case," Popp said.
Instead, he said he favors an approach similar to Russian Gap Subdivision in Cooper Landing, which will be sold in separate parcels and which has been recommended for designation as a rural residential local option zoning district.
Also receiving the assembly's approval on Tuesday was a 75-cent surcharge on wireless telephones, which matches an existing 75-cent surcharge on wireline phones.
"The funds generated by the surcharge are earmarked for 911-related costs and services," explained Jan Henry, coordinator of the borough's office of emergency management.
Currently, operating costs for 911 are divided among the Alaska State Troopers, the Nikiski Fire Service Area, the city of Soldotna, Central Emergency Services and the borough.
"As people and technology have moved from wireline phone numbers to more of a dependence on cell phone communication, the number of calls coming in to the 911 center have increased substantially in the last couple of years," Henry said. "Now, the wireless phone calls exceed 60 percent of the total calls they get there."
The new surcharge also will help pay for equipment that pinpoints the location of 911 cell phone calls, crucial information not always obtainable due to the condition of the caller or details of the situation.
Henry said the next step will be for the borough to request the service providers -- ACS and AT&T -- to apply the surcharge. He anticipated the result would be in the neighborhood of $180,000 a month, "which will cover the cost that the borough has been picking up in the past."
Between now and the assembly's next meeting, assembly members will be reviewing road projects requested by their districts for inclusion on the state's STIP -- state transportation improvement program -- list.
One improvement being considered is the upgrade and paving of Jones Stub Road, which was brought to the assembly's attention in a resolution sponsored by Borough Mayor Dale Bagley and assembly member Pete Sprague, of Soldotna. Sprague requested that this state-maintained gravel road, which will provide access for a new 113-lot subdivision, be given an additional hearing.
"The reason for the additional hearing is that we'll be considering all the additions to the STIP list at the first meeting in October," Sprague said. Continuing the discussion at that time "would probably be a cleaner way to do this."
The next borough assembly meeting will be held in Homer on Sept. 18.
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