7 January 2014 Borough Assembly Meeting Report
By Sue McClure
Our day began with the taking of the annual group picture, which will hang on the wall of the assembly chambers along with those from previous years. Committee meetings followed this, which is the time when we ask questions of administration about the upcoming ordinances and resolutions. We had a visit from Seward Assistant City Manager Ron Long (my predecessor) among other notables!!
At the regular 6 PM meeting, there were commending resolutions for Soldotna and Nikiski football teams, and a presentation by Ken Green of Cooper Landing regarding trapping and bear baiting in residential and public lands. This was informational and he and his group are seeking help in somehow regulating the conflict between trappers and residents with dogs who use the trails.
In his report, Mayor Navarre stated that he has appointed a new fire chief at the Anchor Point Fire Service Area. Also, the borough has been awarded a distinguished budget award once again.
In public comments, Tim O’Brien reported on the status of the Grey Cliff/Moose Point area. They are now hoping to develop a trail with 4-month access and several beach access points. They are preparing to install the remaining 2 railroad cars as bridges, those having been obtained several years ago. There is money in a federal earmarked fund, and they are hoping to free that money for use on the trail.
We held public hearings on three ordinances. The first two were unanimously approved: one appropriating approximately $1.3 million for Central Peninsula Hospital from its plant replacement and expansion fund for new computer systems, and the other authorizing a long-term lease of 4.7 acres in north Kenai to Cook Inlet Energy, LLC for a horizontal oil pipeline.
The third ordinance, Ordinance 2013-36, took up most of the meeting. This ordinance, sponsored by Mr. Smith, Mr. Johnson, and the Mayor, would have capped the total property tax exemptions for senior citizens at $300,000. The history is that in 2007 the voters approved this level of cap, but the borough has been adding on the residential exemption of $20,000 (which by vote in 2013 is now $50,000). Eleven citizens testified, there were several emails, and much discussion, and in the end the ordinance was defeated by a 5-4 vote. The “no” votes were myself, Mr. Ogle, Mr. Pierce, Mr. Bagley and Mr. Wolf. The mayor is going to begin discussions of closing the tax gap created by the exemptions, probably after the next budget.
In other business, we removed from table and voted down Ordinance 2013-19-19, dealing with the transition of public safety officers from the State to borough employment, in order to introduce its replacement, Ordinance 2013-19-25, which will have its public hearing on 1/21. We also moved for public hearing on 1/21 Ordinance 2014-03, adopting the 2013 Seward-Bear Creek Service Area Hazard Mitigation Plan. Ordinance 2014-01 was moved for public hearing on 2/11, which authorizes the release of deed restrictions for the Spring Creek land in Seward. There will be some revisions before the public hearing on this one.
We passed eight resolutions on the consent agenda. One establishes our priorities for capital projects, which we will take to Juneau in February. This also includes the priority lists from the cities and communities in the borough. Once again the borough is presenting two tiers with several non-prioritized requests in each. Among those in the first tier is funding for elodea eradication, and repairs to the Tall Tree Bridge.
Lastly, we confirmed several appointments and reappointments. Jessica Gal was appointed to seat C on the Seward Bear Creek Flood Service Area Board. We also approved name changes for two schools, due to consolidation: Soldotna Middle School will now be Soldotna Prep School, and Skyview High School will be Skyview Middle School. These changes were a result of much public input to the School District.
Our next meeting will be January 21 at 6 PM. As always you can reach me for more information at 224-6784 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Seward Annex office in SeaView Plaza is a great source of information, as is the borough’s website www.borough.kenai.ak.us.