Kenai won't dream of big state funds

Posted: Friday, December 17, 2004

Prospects for major state capital funding projects for the city of Kenai aren't good, according to the area's legislative delegation.

"There's not going to be a big pot of money," senator Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai, told the Kenai City Council in a work session Wednesday evening.

Wagoner said the state's budget surplus as a result of high oil prices will leave the state in good financial shape, but that likely won't mean a whole lot of money trickling down to the city.

Wagoner's remarks came during a work session that also included House District 33 (Nikiski-Sterling) representative Mike Chenault and District 34 (Kenai-Soldotna) representative Kurt Olson. The legislators discussed what level of funding might be expected, as well as their thoughts on the upcoming legislative session.

Wagoner said he believes that while there likely won't be a lot of capital money available for Kenai, some smaller projects could get funding, and asked the to city submit a "wish list" that contains itemized priorities.

"The smaller increments you can break it into, the better," he said.

Chenault said the only major project included in Gov. Frank Murkowski's recently released draft 2005 budget is $11 million for improvements to Kalifornsky Beach Road. Beyond that, Chenault said it's hard at this point to say what money will be allocated to the area, because the capital budget is usually the last thing the Legislature pushes through at the end of the session.

"It happens pretty quick," he said.

Following the meeting with legislators, the council finalized its list of capital projects it hopes to get funding for this year.

The list decided upon by the council includes (in order of priority) $1.6 million for water treatment improvements to bring the city's well houses into compliance with tougher federal water quality guidelines that go into effect in 2006; $4.5 million for city road, drainage and parking lot improvements; $25,000 for fire protection in the VIP subdivision; $50,000 for street lights; $4.1 million for the Kenai Coastal Trail project; and $740,000 to make improvements to the state's Kenai River dip-net fishery, including dock access upgrades and restroom improvements.

Also Wednesday, the council set a date for a board of adjustment hearing to consider an appeal to a Kenai Planning and Zoning commission ruling against giving a conditional use permit to developers wanting to build a RV park near the VIP subdivision. The council decided to hold the hearing Jan. 4 at the Kenai Senior Citizens Center, beginning at 7 p.m.

The council chose to move the hearing to the center because the previous hearing attracted more than the 75 people allowed in the council chambers under the city's fire code. Council member Rick Ross, who attended the committee hearing, told the council members of the public were standing in the hallway during the hearing.

"It was packed out pretty early," he said.

Kenai Fire Chief Scott Walden said if that many people show up to the board of adjustment hearing, it can't be held at Kenai City Hall.

"If that capacity of crowd were to come, you would need a larger room," he said.

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