By Kelly Lane for Seward City News –
When I walked into City Hall on Monday evening, the entryway and hallway were packed full of Seward High School students. In talking with a few young men, I learned that the government class was in attendance as part of an assignment to learn about the functioning of local government. The atmosphere was energetic as we all stood for the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Police Chief Tom Clemons. In both November and December of this year, City Council compressed their usual 2nd & 4th Monday meetings into one meeting per month, making for another full agenda on this cold December evening.
The evening started with raising our new Seward City Flag. Katelyn Correa, of Moose Pass, was in attendance to receive recognition for her flag design. The beautiful green, blue and white flag was delivered and hung in the Council Chambers by Seward Boy Scout Troop 568 in an official flag ceremony. As previously reported via Seward City News, flags for homes and businesses will be available for purchase in the coming months. Mayor Jean Bardarson extended the flag out for all in attendance to see its design. The next recognition was given to Dano Michaud for his assistance in repairing the city’s Christmas Tree on Bear Mountain. According to Assistant City Manager, Ron Long, the tree had suffered vandalism, which caused the delay in getting the tree lit. Thanks to Dano and a few of his friends, the tree now proudly lights the night from above our town.
Cindy Clock, in her Chamber of Commerce report, was enthusiastic about the recent Social Media Class for local businesses that was held at the Seward Community Library, and she reminded the public that the Community Awards dinner will be held on February 3rd at the Seward Resort. Our City Manager’s report by Jim Hunt included a reminder that tomorrow evening is the final open public forum for the City’s Comprehensive Plan. He encouraged citizens to attend and make their voice heard. This sentiment was enthusiastically echoed by Council Member Ristine Casagranda, who especially invited the high school government class to attend. The forum will be held at 6pm tomorrow evening, in the City Annex Building. Assistant City Manager Ron Long continued Hunt’s report by responding to an earlier citizen comment from Luther Freeman about AVTEC hours of operation stating that “we need to have a programmatic approach.” This discussion about AVTEC public hours would resume later in the meeting.
On a lighter note, Council Member Sue McClure inquired about the lighting of the Christmas tree near William’s Park. The City electric utility manager John Foutz responded by stating that he “will get right on that,” as he hadn’t been aware of its oversight.
Local Sewardite Doug Capra gave a presentation on the upcoming centennials of artist Rockwell Kent’s time spent in Resurrection Bay. Capra hopes to garner City Council Resolutions and local support in the coming year in order to begin planning city wide celebrations. Rockwell Kent was a painter and woodblock artist who spent ten months on Fox Island, and later published “Wilderness” a diary-like book that talks of the beauty of our area. Capra is enthusiastic about the potential for holding celebrations here in Seward in the years 2018-2020, stating “eventually Hollywood’s going to discover Rockwell Kent and when they do, we want to be well positioned.”
The Seward Resort’s lease will be coming up for renewal in 2017. Ron Long requested a 200 day extension to the lease in order to work on getting all the details corrected. This request came in the form of Resolution 2016-083, which would move back the date of renewal to July of 2017. The resolution passed unanimously, after a citizen comment and Council discussion. This discussion sought to clarify that the lease being renewed is with the Army, currently known as the Seward Resort, and does not concern the Air Force property, which will continue to be dismantled over the coming months.
Ordinance 2016-009 was on the schedule to be discussed and voted on at this December meeting. Instead, the matter was delayed until next month’s Council meeting, to be held on January 9th, when it will be introduced and available for a public hearing. The Ordinance concerns minimum property sizing within the City Limits, south of Van Buren Street, to allow for platting of 3,000 square foot lots, which was the size of the Original Seward Townsite lots. This would allow for the potential in-fill development of an estimated five city lots. The matter was postponed partly due to the City’s need for more research on whether utility separation can be obtained for these properties. The goal is to have utilities separated in physical distance, so that water and power can be worked on in the future with physical distance between them.
A lively debate about the roles of City Council, the Mayor and the City Administration captured the Council’s attention. During this time, the high school students began to trickle out, as the meeting was moving into its third hour. The high school students had shown excellent stamina in listening attentively to how our local government operates. There followed more discussion on the AVTEC gym, including questions about its future. In the last month, the City has been gathering data on usage, as a result, they will be adjusting the hours away from the morning hours, in order to shift these hours towards the evening, when usage is greater. The month of December will be a time for more data gathering on usage, which will allow for more updates in the hours. Council Member Squires stated that “we need to have a baseline for how to operate.” The current AVTEC hours will be adjusted to open at 9:30am, according to Ron Long.
The meeting rounded up with congratulations to the Seward High School students who had stuck it out through the duration of the three hour meeting. Council Member McClure congratulated the students and further encouraged them to becoming involved in local government “If you want to have a real thrill, go to Soldotna for the Borough meetings, they start at 6pm and sometimes go until midnight.”
The next City Council meeting is schedule for Monday, January 9th, to be held in the City Council Chambers. For current and upcoming AVTEC hours, Ron Long can be contacted at email@example.com.