Business, Chamber of Commerce, City of Seward, Council, Economics, Featured

City Looks to July 4th, New Ideas for Mountain Haven, and The Attack of The Swimmers

Photo: Dan Hershman

The Seward City Council held a regular meeting at 7pm on June 26th in the Council Chambers. Council members Sue McClure, David Squires and Ristine Casagranda as well as Mayor Jean Bardarson and Vice Mayor Marianna Keil were present. Council members Deborah Altermatt and Erik Slater were not present.

During the public comment period Dianne Dubuc from Alaska Saltwater Charters and Karin Sturdy from the Seward Department of Parks and Recreation submitted comments.

Dubuc described her surprise encounter with a swimmer while she was fishing off of Lowell Point. Upon learning about an upcoming event with an anticipated 300 swimmers, she wanted to ensure lanes were marked off to alert boaters and prevent accidents.

Sturdy gave a description of areas provided to campers when the main city campgrounds are full, their rules, and the signage available to the public.

In brief business, the City Council passed a “nonobjection” to the transfer of the Chinooks liquor license to the new ownership, recommended appointing Cindy Ecklund to the Kenai Peninsula Borough planning commission, and approved the Historic Preservation Commission priorities.

Without any official awards or proclamations scheduled, it was time for reports.

In the Chamber of Commerce Report, Cindy Clock praised her staff and also sent a thank you for the city’s flower boxes. She announced that with 7 new businesses and one renewal, the Chamber of Commerce now has 399 members. Clock also gave an update on the halibut derby, which has since ended. Ermagene Aalund of Fullerton, CA, was the winner with a 232.2 lb fish caught on Aurora Charters’ Orion.

On a more sober note, Ms. Clock told the Council that in light of “uncharacteristic” recent bear activity, the Mount Marathon race committee will schedule one more safety meeting. Clock also shared that despite returning celebrity runners, it is the “friends, coworkers, neighbors, and youngsters” finding it within themselves to run up and down that trail that makes it “a Seward race.”

After disclosing various purchase orders, Seward City Manager Jim Hunt related that fishing is not permitted in current construction zones. He asked the public to “bear with us this year,” and return to fishing the spots currently occupied by heavy equipment next year. During the holiday weekend, construction activity will move out of downtown.

Hunt also confirmed the Air Force will offer the city $27,000 to terminate their lease. The money will be used to clear the site and make it available for future use.

The City Attorney Will Earnhart reported on moving forward with contracts and told attendees that the city’s insurance has hired a separate attorney to represent the city in a pending personal injury case.

Both Hunt and Earnhart expressed trepidation about future upgrades at the Bradley Lake hydroelectric plant. In Hunt’s words, “Our 1% of a proposed 62 million dollar upgrade is still a heck of a lot of money.” Earnhart expressed he felt a lot of the parties involved were “posturing” and the overall situation was a “mess.” “All we can do is sit and watch and make sure we don’t get cut out of anything.”

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Before the reports went on, Mayor Bardarson announced that the City Clerk and the Deputy City Clerk Johanna Kinney and Brenda Ballou had achieved their MMC- Master Municipal Clerk Certification.

Lia Patton from the private company BDO reported on the city’s 2016 financial audit. Lia explained the audit’s objective was to ensure that the city’s financial statements were accurate. A complete report will be released later this month. Patton said she expects Seward will receive the highest possible ratings on the accuracy of its financial statements and compliance requirements for federal and state programs. She also expressed that the city’s cooperation with her firm was excellent, and the city will receive high marks for transparency.

Joe Fong delivered a report to the city detailing what Providence Seward, and specifically Mountain Haven, are doing to improve their revenues. He stated the medical center has been doing well, financially. However, Mountain Haven is still experiencing low occupancy.

Fong said Mountain Haven is increasing referrals with an increase in staff and outreach. This effort has resulted in more elders being admitted, but quite a few have also transferred out of the facility. He explained that some elders have only stayed for a short time because they transferred to facilities closer to home when space became available. He cited the new facility in Bethel as a desirable destination for elders who would like to be near family. Other elders were able to return to their own homes after receiving care at Mountain Haven for a short time.

Looking towards the future, Fong would like to discuss making changes to the Mountain Haven license to provide a wider variety of services. These could potentially include assisted living and short stay rehabilitation. There will be a work session later in the month regarding these ideas.

The meeting finished with closing comments.

Council Member Casagranda reminded Sewardites they can purchase Seward flags at the library museum, and that they can purchase compatible flagpoles at True Value.

Council Member McClure revisited the issue of swimmers in areas popular with boaters. She stated she had seen a swimmer with no buoy or marker, and that this was quite dangerous. She believes there needs to be some discussion on swimming safety. McClure also wanted to mention the success of the Solstice cemetery tour, and especially to thank all the people who have kept the Seward cemeteries tidy.

Council member Squires requested additional signage for out of town campers, especially with regards to dump station locations and emergency procedures. He also encouraged all comers to sign up for public office in August. Squires shared that a recent trip Outside showed “Seward is not bad at all,” and described working on buildings in the lower 48. He described multiple contracts with multiple wait times and permit fees, and driving in traffic to multiple buildings to obtain permits.

Vice Mayor Keil described the health resource and service administration “mock review” that Community Health Services underwent. She is confident they will pass the upcoming full review with flying colors. She also congratulated Johanna Kinney and Brenda Ballou on completing their MMC.

Mayor Bardarson wanted to thank the finance department for their excellent work, not only on the BDO audit. The city saved 9 million dollars by refinancing bonds thanks to the finance department.

Assistant City Manager Ron Long’s closing comment was a thought about how Seward’s recent housing sessions have focused on unmet demand, while Anchorage has had its highest vacancy rates in years. He felt it was an “interesting juxtaposition of the economic factors at play in both our towns.”

With no comments from the public, the meeting adjourned at 8pm.

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