Kenai congressional office to close

Posted: Friday, December 19, 2008

Kenai Mayor Pat Porter expressed her disappointment Wednesday evening at news of the closure of the congressional delegation office in Kenai.

In a letter dated Dec. 8, included in the Kenai City Council meeting packet, Porter told Sen. Lisa Murkowski the city is greatly concerned over the intention to move the office from Kenai.

Through Dec. 29, the delegation office is in the Trading Bay office park across from the Kenai Courthouse. The office, which is normally not open on Fridays, will be closed for Christmas next week, however, and is slated to reopen Dec. 29 only to close permanently at that time.

Michelle Blackwell, who has served as the office administrator, has accepted a position in Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dave Carey's administration.

In a press release issued Thursday, Murkowski spokesman Mike Brumas said the senator "is committed to maintaining a strong presence on the peninsula to support the needs of constituents."

The decision to close the Kenai office was made following U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens' re-election loss, according to the press release. Each member of the U.S. Senate is given a finite number of square feet for office space throughout their respective states and Alaska exceeded that amount following Stevens' loss.┐┐┐┐

"I had to make a decision by year's end as a result of the budget and square footage allocation," Murkowski said in the printed statement. "I don't intend for this closure to be permanent.┐┐However, I want to stress that my commitment to the peninsula remains strong, and my state director, Kevin Sweeney, will be handling all issues that arise on the Kenai," she said.

Brumas said the senator has not found new office space yet. He did not say whether a new office would be in Kenai, Soldotna or elsewhere.

Until a new office opens, Brumas said constituents should contact Murkowski's office by calling toll-free, 1-877-829-6030.

According to Porter, Senator-elect Mark Begich has indicated he has an office in Anchorage and is uncertain at this time if he will have an office on the Kenai Peninsula.

Porter said the congressional delegation office has been in Kenai for 28 years, and she said the city believes "it essential for the office to remain in Kenai to provide the most consistent, convenient and beneficial location for (Murkowski's) constituents."

One advantage to maintaining the office in Kenai mentioned by Porter is the proximity to the Kenai Municipal Airport.

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



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