Heidi Zemach for SCN
The Seward Site-Based Council, an advisory group to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Board of Education, is concerned about the planned entrance and exit for the Seward Electric Department warehouse. It leads out onto Sea Lion Avenue, directly across the street from the entrance to Seward Elementary School. They fear that large industrial trucks and delivery vehicles will increase traffic in an area where parents also deliver and pick up their children, and where schoolchildren walk or bicycle. It’s a recipe for disaster, several said after hearing about the plans at the first site-council meeting of the new school year at Seward Middle School September 5th. In the winter, when snow berms are piled high, making it particularly difficult to see around corners, and sidewalks are snow-covered, the situation would be even worse, they said.
Many on the site council, including area KPBSB representative Lynn Hohl, teacher Leigh Ray, and parent Mica VanBuskirk, had gone repeatedly before the Seward City Council, and contacted the Planning and Zoning department during the new warehouse planning phase, and had asked to be included in that process in order to assure the safety of the schoolchildren in the area. They also made a series of other requests, including a well-lit bike and walking path in the area, and that there be off-road landscaping.
But Thursday night, after VanBuskirk had talked with Electric Department head John Foutz, an invitation to the council to make requests for landscaping seemed almost insulting. They felt their main concerns had not been heard.
Parent and meeting facilitator Mica VanBuskirk showed the site council the latest plans for the warehouse, and recounted her conversation with Foutz who said the trucks would have to enter and exit that way, rather than out back onto Seward Highway, because the official address of the building is there on Sea Lion Avenue, she said.
Site council members agreed to ask Ron Long, the assistant city manager/community development director to visit with them and explain the latest plans, and answer questions. They also plan to attend an upcoming city council meeting to air their concerns.
Foutz has told the city council that the warehouse will have few employees working there, while overseeing the backup generator facility. For the most part it will be a storehouse for electric department work vehicles and emergency electrical equipment, keeping the vehicles in better condition than they currently are, stored outside in the winter elements, and providing quicker, easier access to materials that the linemen will need to access in a winter emergency. It also will have a warm-up room for line workers and their gear, which they had not had.
The council has raised a number of concerns about change orders and unexpected warehouse costs as its construction progresses. They recently nixed the idea of in floor-heating, and also raised questions about a certain type of space-heater.
The electric department will move from the old Railroad Depot building on Railway Avenue to the first floor of the old library building, and share the space with the planning and zoning department. That move might have been accomplished sooner, but after discovering asbestos embedded in the old library building’s insulation, the plans will have to be modified so as not to disturb it.
The City Council meets Monday night September 9th at 7:00 p.m. at City Hall. Citizens are welcome to comment about items not on the agenda.