By Rick Smeriglio for SCN —
Politicos from the Kenai Peninsula flatlands attended Monday’s City Council meeting to recognize Seward achievers and to float some interesting ideas. Before and after the ceremony and recognition, Council attended to the nuts and bolts of managing a small city on a large bay.
When not busy with Alaska state business, Speaker of the House Mike Chenault of Nikiski travels to meet constituents on their home turf and to officially recognize outstanding Alaskans like Dorothy Urbach. On January 11, Speaker Chenault presented Dorothy Urbach with a framed citation from the Twenty-ninth Alaska Legislature for her long-term commitment to serving Seward’s people. Her service to community goes well beyond running Urbach’s bedrock downtown store, which just celebrated its hundredth anniversary as a pioneer clothier. It also extends to numerous volunteer boards, associations, and task forces as well as to sponsoring basketball leagues and organizing the salmon derby. Alaska starts here, say local sourdoughs.
Upon receiving her citation, Mrs. Urbach said, “Thank you so much, it‘s an honor. I just want to thank all our loyal customers who made this possible. I do want to compliment the city again for the beautiful lights in downtown Seward … thank you.”
Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre addressed Council on the topic of building a better system for delivering health care to all residents of the borough. Mayor Navarre expressed a personal interest in high healthcare costs in KPB, which he roughly estimated at some $800 million annually. He noted that if a large, taxable property such as a liquefied-natural-gas plant ever came to the peninsula, the borough’s tax revenue from it would go into the general fund. The central peninsula’s hospital-service-area, which does not include Seward, would gain revenue from the hypothetical plant, but KPB general funds could not transfer to the Seward area for hospital funding. Mayor Navarre suggested that the Borough could remedy this by adopting borough-wide healthcare powers.
Mayor Navarre recommended that residents learn about the KPB Healthcare Task Force. A sub-committee of that task force will meet in Seward on February 3. Pat Linton of Seward Community Health Clinic and Joe Fong of Providence Seward serve on the task force.
Edited for length, Mayor Navarre said, “…The Borough owns two hospitals [with defined service areas] …That’s where we [KPB] get our powers for health care … through service areas … Wow, there are a lot of gaps around the borough … I think it would be more efficient if we did it [funded hospitals] through a borough-wide entity that could oversee our healthcare powers if we were to adopt them … I recall from running for office … Seward residents say ‘don’t forget about us over on the east side; we’re part of the borough also‘.”
KPB Assembly Vice President Brent Johnson of Clam Gulch addressed Council in his capacity as Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association president. Johnson suggested that Resurrection Bay never, in historic times, had very great natural runs of salmon compared to other areas on the peninsula. Therefore, he concluded, the substantial sport fishing and related tourism of today, relied on releases of CIAA smolts and fry into Resurrection Bay. CIAA pursues a cost-recovery fishery in Resurrection Bay. Johnson also said that since CIAA now had newly operating hatcheries in Tutka Bay and Port Graham, it could shift more of its cost recovery fishery to those locations, thereby reducing pressure on Resurrection Bay stocks. Local fisherman and CIAA board member Tim McDonald made a pitch that Resurrection Bay had great natural salmon runs during his youth and could have them again if citizens cooperated in restoring degraded habitat for salmon spawning and rearing. McDonald said that ultimately, he wanted to eliminate cost recovery fisheries from Resurrection Bay. Johnson and McDonald seemed to agree that CIAA stood with Seward as a partner in the local fishing economy and ecology.
In addition to his regular job as 911-dispatch supervisor, Sean Corrigan works for no pay as Seward’s assistant fire chief. After having served his community for 23 years, Corrigan finally got some recognition. The Acting State Fire Marshall, Lloyd Nakano, presented Corrigan with the 2015 State of Alaska Firefighter of the Year Award for his extraordinary commitment and leadership. With his fire brothers and sisters in dress uniforms there to back him up, Corrigan received his plaque to a round of comradely applause.
A city of nearly 3,000 with almost that many more living just over the city line, has more than ceremony and congratulations on its plate. Three, city-department heads asked Council for three pieces of equipment to beef up the motor pool. All city departments can use motor-pool equipment when needed. For 2014/2015, Council has authorized spending $350,000 to refurbish 31-year-old Engine 3.
Instead of refurbishing Engine 3, Fire Chief Eddie Athey asked for a ladder truck (used, but refurbished) to replace Engine 3, currently housed across the bay at Seward Marine Industrial Center. The City of Seward does not have a ladder truck. Rather than hydraulically extend a ladder from the safety of a truck, the fire department leans ladders against walls or has firefighters drag hoses up the stairs of tall, flaming buildings. According to Chief Athey, Seward has 27 structures, three stories or taller. Public Works Director W. C. Casey asked for a small, trailerable excavator, the better to dig with on a tight budget. Electrical department head John Foutz asked for a new and smaller lineman’s truck and said that it would work better in close quarters around town. The upside utility of the vehicles seemed obvious. The downside amounted to over $385,000 cost to the city from the motor pool replacement fund.
Mayor Jean Bardarson gaveled out the meeting on time.