An improvement in the quality of life or an expansion of government?
That's one way to characterize several propositions that will be before Kenai Peninsula Borough voters on Tuesday.
Propositions 3 and 4, to be voted on by residents in the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area, seek to limit the powers of that service area.
The propositions stem from opposition to an effort by the NPRSA board to turn the now-vacant Nikiski Elementary School into a community center. Opponents to the plan launched an initiative drive to get Propositions 3 and 4 on the ballot. Proposition 3 seeks to narrowly define and limit the service area's powers by prohibiting it from providing services not directly related to recreation. It "specifically prohibits the service area from using or committing taxpayer funds to provide for a community meeting hall, prepared food facilities or the conversion of municipal buildings that would then be sublet to nonprofit organizations, police or other organizations in order to support any larger project underwritten by the taxpayers of the service area."
Proposition 4 reduces the amount the service area can spend on capital improvement projects without voter approval from $1.5 million to $500,000. Minimum upgrades to the old school that are necessary in order for the building to be reopened for community activities will cost about $850,000.
While those who favor the propositions -- limiting the recreation service area's powers -- see them as being fiscally responsible, a better argument can be made that "yes" votes limits improvements on the community's quality of life.
The NPRSA board wasn't working in a vacuum when it proposed converting the school into a community center. It comes after years of hearing that such a place was needed -- for a variety of purposes, including recreation and a teen center.
The board isn't seeking to build some extravagant white elephant; it wants to put an otherwise empty building to good use for the whole community. It's a fiscally responsible approach to what the board has identified as a community need -- after hearing from the community.
Those worried about the economy and higher taxes would do well to consider the quality-of-life factor in attracting both residents and businesses to a community. What would be more inviting: an empty school building or a vibrant community center that offers services that make Nikiski a more viable place to live?
The board's proposal for a community center isn't an abuse of powers that call for limitations.
Residents should vote "no" on both propositions.
Elsewhere in the borough, voters will get to choose whether they want to be included in an expanded Central Emergency Services Area.
Funny River area residents will be asked the question in Proposition 5. Residents of Kasilof, Cohoe and Clam Gulch will be asked the question in Proposition 6. Voters who live in the existing service area also will vote on the propositions.
Whatever the outcome of the vote, it will provide borough officials with a valuable gauge of community feelings about the issue.
For safety's sake, however, we hope residents vote "yes."
CES Chief Jeff Tucker summed up the issue best when he acknowledged that it would be possible for someone's house to burn down right across from a fire station. In other words, there are no guarantees.
However, if the two propositions are approved, Tucker told a reporter "I could save your house. I could save your life. Right now, I can't."
Why would someone want to risk the lives of their family members and the investment in their home when they could add a level of protection that doesn't currently exist?
Approval of the proposition will result in a 1.35 mill tax increase for all property within the expansion areas.
That seems like a small price to pay for fire protection and emergency medical services.
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