When voters go to the polls on Tuesday, November 2nd, they will not only be charting the future by who they elect for Alaska's next U.S. senator and congressman, governor and other state positions, they will also be determining a future transition for Kenai Peninsula College (KPC) in Soldotna.
On the election ballot, voters will choose whether to support what is titled Proposition B, which if approved by voters, would provide $397,200,000 for educational facilities across the state. By casting a "Yes" vote, the result will see KPC's Kenai River Campus receiving $30.5 million to build a career and technical center and student housing.
There is strong local support. "If you want to keep the students at home, then you need to train them at home. Prop B is a great way to ensure all that happens," said John Torgerson, Kenai Peninsula Economic Development director. It is believed that building both facilities will accomplish both of these things.
"One of the key elements of Prop B is that it will not cost the taxpayer. The money to finance these projects won't come out of property taxes, or any state or local taxes", said Pete Sprague, former Kenai Borough Assembly president.
Evy Gebhardt, president of the Greater Soldotna Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, referenced the importance of postsecondary education in context to the economic stability and health of an area. "The Soldotna Chamber publishes a relocation guide that is certainly a starting point for businesses looking to expand their footprint." Citing the transformation of the Greater Tacoma area that was influenced by the growth in the university system and benefits of a larger student population in the area as a model, Gebhardt added "Growth at the KPC Campus provides tremendous opportunity for our community, and it aligns remarkably well with the Envision 2030 plans for the City of Soldotna."
In addition to considering the long term economic benefits of an expanded college, there are hard numbers to support the expansion as it relates to increased interest in the Kenai Peninsula College's Kenai River Campus. "The industry and student demand for these and other KPC programs is borne out by the fact that in the last five years, the number of students attending KPC has increased 35% and the number of credits taken by 41%," said KPC director Gary J. Turner. "The time is right for these projects and the need is very clear."
In an interesting look back at the history books, it will be almost 40 years ago to the day, that Alaska voters approved a bond to build KPC's first building. Many are hoping today's voters share the same vision that earlier generation of voters once embraced, and that Proposition B will pass on November 2nd.
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