Borough seeks Christmas wishes from communities

Posted: Sunday, December 07, 2003

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly is asking each unincorporated community in the borough to pick two projects to be included on the 2004 Capital Project Priorities List. The annual "wish list" is the only chance unincorporated areas throughout the borough get to lobby the Alaska Legislature for funds through the borough assembly.

Given the time of year, it's hard not to imagine the assembly as mom and dad, the unincorporated communities as their kids and the Legislature as Santa Claus.

Last Monday night, in the spirit of the season, the North Peninsula Community Council approved the proposed Nikiski Community Center and 18-unit senior housing complex as the council's two wishes to be added to the list.

However, the choices were made with something of a sigh of resignation. With state spending exceeding revenues, the Legislature is in no position to play Santa. Last year, virtually none of the borough's capital projects received funding, and chances of funding this year's list don't look much better.

Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, attended Monday's meeting and advised the council not to get its hopes up.

"Don't expect a whole bunch for capital projects," he warned. However, because it's an election year, "there may be some small money, but nothing big, nothing in the millions," he said.

The projected cost of the proposed 18-unit senior housing complex is $3 million, while the price tag for the community center is $6 million. The proposed site for the community center is the soon-to-be vacated Nikiski Elementary School, which will be consolidated with North Star Elementary School, but it's going to cost $800,000 just for phase one to bring the building up to code so it can be legally occupied. Requirements in-clude adding an emergency sprinkler system and exit lighting, as well as making the building wheelchair accessible.

Phases two and three will add an additional $5.2 million in improvements, including furnishing what will be an empty building.

North Peninsula Community Council President Fred Miller is frustrated by the shortage of state funding.

"I joined the council to improve the community, but improvements cost money," he said.

Although the prospects for capital funding next year are slim, Chenault reminded Nikiski residents that there's always hope because it's impossible to predict what the Legislature will do.

In hope that there might yet be a Santa Claus in Juneau, Kasilof and Ninilchik have added their wishes to the list.

Kasilof hopes to renovate the McLane building at Mile 1 of Kalifornsky Beach Road to in-clude a museum and meeting space for nonprofit groups. Its second request is for funds to acquire state property next to the existing cemetery in order to expand it.

Ninilchik would like to replace a fire tanker lost last year, as well as pave pedestrian paths.

The borough assembly still is putting together next year's list. Community meetings are scheduled as follows: 6 p.m. Monday at the Sterling Senior Center; 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Funny River Community Hall; and 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Anchor Point Senior Center. Community members are encouraged to attend.

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