By Kelley Lane for Seward City News –
Monday night’s City Council meeting was preceded by a 6:30 pm special session to pass a resolution declaring a State of Disaster Emergency due to extreme weather and heavy snow in the City of Seward. The resolution was discussed among Council members, the City Manager and Assistant City Manager. According to Jim Hunt, “the crews are weary” from working long hours and he predicts that Seward’s “streets will be glass” after the anticipated rain and freezing temperatures. Assistant City Manager Ron Long explained that the State of Emergency proclamation would allow the City of Seward to request additional financial, machinery and labor from the Kenai Peninsula Borough. The State of Emergency would last for seven days, but could be extended if needed. Long encouraged citizens to “act in your own interest” by clearing their roofs, boats and recreational vehicles. The resolution passed unanimously.
The 7 pm third Monday of the month City Council meeting began with a Call to Order and the Pledge of Allegiance by a full house of Sewardites and presenters. Citizen Comments followed with Phyllis Shoemaker of the Seward International Friendship Organization announcing the need for more volunteers, including local people to fill leadership roles in the group. Additionally, Jack Bennett spoke briefly about industrial hemp manufacturing as a potential solution to affordable housing in Alaska. He said that hemp insulation provides 70 percent greater efficiency. Brandii Holmdahl spoke about Icicle Seafood’s sale to Cooke Aquaculture, a seafood company based out of New Brunswick, Canada. Holmdahl spoke positively about the change in ownership, stating that Cooke Aquaculture plans to transition to only value added products and hopes to “nearly double the company’s footprint on its current holdings.”
The Council meeting continued with the section dedicated to Proclamations and Awards. A proclamations was given by Major Bardarson in support of the Polar Bear Jump-Off Festival, which will be happening this coming weekend in various locations around Seward. The main event will be the plunge into the ice cold waters of Seward Small Boat Harbor at 12:30 pm on Saturday afternoon. Thus far, the event has raised more than $50,000 for The American Cancer Society.
Historic Preservation Award recipients, Marc Swanson and Heather McClain were both in attendance to receive Proclamations honoring their efforts towards historic preservation in Seward. McClain had traveled back to Seward from her current home of Juneau, Alaska, in order to receive the Proclamation. The Council Chambers were full of her supporters. Both recipients were cheered loudly upon receiving the Proclamations honoring their efforts.
Cindy Clock opened the Chamber of Commerce Report by recounting a phone call that the Chamber had received asking if any lodging facilities in Seward were “going green.” She said that this version of green was allowing lodgers to consume marijuana products on site. In response to recent tourism marketing cutbacks at the State level, Clock reported that the Chamber will be embarking on a new endeavor. A group of Sewardites will be traveling to Denver to represent Seward at the Denver Adventure Travel Show in March. Clock said that Seward is leading the Peninsula in terms of tourism dollars, and attributed this to Seward’s “customer service mentality” and our beautiful location.
The City Manager’s Report was given jointly by City Manager Jim Hunt and Assistant City Manager Ron Long. Hunt reported on the status of the City Hall elevator, which is non operational, causing the City of Seward to be out of compliance with the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). The cost for replacing the elevator is estimated at $90,000. Ron Long responded to a question by Mayor Bardarson about the vacant lots on first avenue. The vacant lots are currently owned by the City of Seward. Long said that currently they are continuing to call in receipts for the costs associated with clearing the lots in order to get an accurate accounting of all the costs that need to be recouped when the lots go on the market. The plan is for these four city lots of 30 x 100 feet to be listed individually in a process that has not yet been determined.
Ron Long reported that the Army Corps of Engineers is continuing research and planning for how to address the Lowell Canyon Tunnel. He was recently in a meeting with a team of people assigned to the task, who stated that the tunnel is the largest thing that they have to manage in all of Alaska.
Resolution 2016-009 was reopened for debate and public comment, the resolution which would allow for minimum lot size platting of 3,000 square feet. Council Member Squires requested clarification about parking requirements on these lots. It was clarified that if the lots were developed as residential lots, they would be subject to providing parking on the lot. Local real estate broker, Nicole Lawrence, of Seward Properties, spoke in favor of the Resolution, stating that it would be “good to have new buildings within the city limits.” She said that 20 percent of Seward’s residents are between the ages of 20-29 and that this demographic seeks first time home purchases under $200,000. Citizen Carol Griswold encouraged the Council to “please oppose” the Resolution, explaining that she was concerned about having too much density in the downtown area of Seward, which might cause the loss of trees and shrubbery, should the lots be developed. The Resolution was passed, with Council Member Squires voting no, all others in attendance voted yes.
Closing comments by Council, and then citizens, followed with many voicing their appreciation of the Public Works department for their efforts in clearing snow around Seward. Council Member McClure said that a grant in the amount of $14,000 will be used to replace the historical signs along the bike path. Council Member Keil expressed appreciation for the Senior Center’s efforts at finding local citizens to help our senior population with clearing snow from their properties. Council Members Keil and Altermatt expressed support for the women who “braved the snow” this past Saturday in order to attend Seward’s Women’s March. Mayor Bardarson closed the meeting by encouraging all Seward residents to support the Polar Bear Jump-Off this weekend. The next City Council meeting will be held on Monday, February 13th at 7 pm in the Seward Council Chambers at City Hall.