Bluff, library top wish list

Kenai council approves improvement priorities

Posted: Sunday, November 11, 2007

While many at this time of year are thinking about what they want for Christmas, civic leaders in Kenai busied themselves with wish lists of their own Wednesday night.

Resolutions 2007-67 and 2007-68 were adopted unanimously by the Kenai City Council, formally setting capital improvement priorities for federal and state funding requests.

Atop both lists are the Kenai River bluff erosion stabilization project and the Kenai Community Library expansion project, both approved by Kenai voters during the recent election for the issuance of $2 million in municipal bonds. The city is looking for an additional $14 million for the bluff and $4 million for the library.

During Wednesday's council meeting, Kathy Heus, of Friends of the Kenai Community Library Inc., protested the $4 million figure saying it is not enough.

Heus said the Library Commission had come to the conclusion that a price figure not be included in any request for state or federal funding. The fear was if the price were set at $6 million and more than that was raised, the expansion plan could not be amended to go beyond what had originally been set, she said.

If, on the other hand, the request for funding covered the current needs and allowed for anticipated future growth, and funding fell short, the plan could be scaled back.

City Manager Rick Koch said, "We've got to have a number in there, not a range," adding it was his recollection from a work session that the city council was agreeable to the $6 million plan.

Councilman Rick Ross suggested inserting the language: "... the project presently estimated to be $6 million."

Koch was agreeable to the new wording and the council concurred.

Also on the capital improvement priority lists are various street upgrades and the construction of pedestrian pathways alongside Kalifornsky Beach Road from Cannery Loop to Bridge Access and along Bridge Access from the Kenai Spur Highway to Kalifornsky Beach Road.

Pedestrians and bicyclists frequently use both stretches of roadway as do sightseers along Bridge Access, Koch said in descriptions of the projects, adding that a separate pathway is preferable to using an improved road shoulder, which would put users too close to vehicle traffic going by at 55 mph.

The Bridge Access path would complete the 24-mile Unity Trail connecting Kenai and Soldotna.

In other business, the council heard requests from two groups, one seeking land and the other money.

Central Peninsula Habitat for Humanity, which has been building homes in the area for 14 years, asked the city for more land on which to build them.

"We just finished Habitat Acres with five homes on land from the city," said Bill Radtke, president.

"We're here to try to secure more land from the city for Habitat for Humanity," he said. "For 2008, we have no more land."

Mayor Pat Porter suggested Radtke get together with Koch to try to find suitable land for the program.

Councilman Barry Eldridge pointed out that although the 2 1/2 acres on which Habitat Acres was built is inside city limits, the land was owned and donated by the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

The Kenai Chamber of Commerce asked the city to consider helping defray costs of fireworks displayed during the annual Christmas Comes to Kenai festivities.

Chamber President Jason Carroll said the ever-rising cost of the pyrotechnics is now at $6,500. He asked the city to split the cost with the chamber.

Porter said city administration would discuss the expenditure and bring it before the council at its next meeting.

Reporting on ongoing projects in the city, Koch said initial results of drilling for water in the Eagle Rock vicinity look promising.

The water is clear, without brown color, and samples have been sent to a lab to be tested for the presence of arsenic and other elements.

Koch said preliminary work is proceeding on the new Wal-Mart superstore project. Wal-Mart's food service managers have been meeting with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and discussions are continuing regarding the consistency of the soil under where the new store is to be built.

"They plan to bid the project on the first of February," Koch said, adding Wal-Mart is scheduled to close on the land purchase in March.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.



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