By Mike Bissonette for SCN –
On May 9th, Seward City Council moved forward on a broad range of issues for the spring. Despite fiscal uncertainties from the State, Seward’s recent projects have been coming in under budget and revenues have been trending in a positive direction for the past two quarters. With this in mind, City Council member Dale Butts attempted to get the issue of reinstating pay step increases or cost of living adjustments for City employees. Vice Mayor Marianna Keil thought the best way would be to handling this as part of a work session after the previous year’s budget had been audited. This could push any pay increases for city employees until at least September, though they could be made retroactive. Council Member David Squires was concerned that a commitment was made to city employees when the budget was tight and their pay was effectively frozen. He felt that the council should act in good faith and try to restore employee pay incentives, now that the crisis is past. It was in this spirit that the council accepted his proposal of a June 27 work session to address the issue. Council Member Ristine Casagranda expressed concern that the recent increase in insurance rates be taken into account in dealing with City employee’s pay. While the current city employees pay is in discussion, the search to fill the positions of curator for the Seward Museum, library assistants and others continue.
Mayor Jean Bardarson seemed positive in her overall assessment at the City’s improving fiscal situation and the outlook for upcoming season, along with including in her admonition based on recent experiences that the specific performance measures in city contracts pay off over the long term.
The city council also unanimously approved City Ordinance 2016-001 allowing 1.7 acres of land in the Fort Raymond Subdivision on Dimond Boulevard to be re-zoned from residential to multi-family, for the purpose of building a senior housing facility. This facility is to be constructed by the Kenai Peninsula Housing Initiatives incorporated.
The City Council recognized the upcoming Law Enforcement Torch run to raise money for the Special Olympics. The run will be conducted on the 21st of May by representatives of Seward and 30 other Alaska Communities. Representing local law enforcement was Seward Police Chief Tom Clemons, who has been a supporter of the Special Olympics since the very beginning. In 1978, as an Alaska State Trooper, Chief Clemons ran to raise money for the Alaska to team to travel to the Games. The Chief also received the official recognition of the National Correctional Officer Week and he spoke highly of the work of the Officers of the Seward City Jail.
The City Council also took the time to recognize National Historic Preservation Month and Building Safety month before addressing the Harbor Opening and Blessing of the Fleet Proclamation.
In keeping with Seward’s nautical traditions, Seward Harbor Opening Weekend is set for the third weekend in May. Festivities are set to begin at 8:30 with a Sailor’s Breakfast located at Sailing Inc. That will be followed at 10:00 by the sailor’s swap meet, also at Sailing Inc. The swap meet is being sponsored by the Kenai Fjords Yacht Club, with all proceeds going to Seward Mariner’s Memorial. At 11:00 the Chamber of Commerce, the Seward Military Resort and American Legion Post 5 will be sponsoring the Military Appreciation Barbecue at the Harbor Plaza. There will be a ribbon cutting at 2:00 on the port’s expansion and the B-Float and fish cleaning station for the new floats. There will be a Seward Mariner’s Memorial plaque installation on the Mariner’s Memorial at 3:30. There will be the traditional blessing of the fleet 4:00. Followed half an hour later by the parade of boats going from the harbor to the sea life center.
City Manager Jim Hunt reported on the plan for the mitigation or erosion at the Snow River Transmission Line crossing site. The mitigation was listed a sole source contract, not open for bid, due in part to the time constraint imposed by the administrative process and the spring melt. To structure the proposal for open bidding would have added a 6 to 8-week delay before work could begin. The vendors selected were the same vendors already approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT) in the hopes that Seward’s costs will be shared by DOT contributing to the follow on portion of the projects. Both related resolutions were passed unanimously.
City Attorney Will Earnhart briefed the Council on the status of ongoing labor negotiations in support of Seward’s electrical utilities. Resolution of these negotiations may be some time off, however Mr. Earnhart indicated he believes that they are on track.