by Kelley Lane for Seward City News-
Monday night’s Council meeting was well attended by citizens, but barely achieved the necessary quorum of Council Members to proceed, with Council Members Towsley, Slater and Horn, and Mayor Squires in attendance. Assistant City Manager Ron Long & City Clerk Brenda Ballou represented the City Administration. The meeting commenced in a timely fashion with Squires leveling the gavel and Police Chief Tom Clemons leading the Pledge of Allegiance.
Following a few agenda adjustments, citizen comments commenced, with a large list of people signed up to speak for a three minutes or less. Citizen Carol Griswold spoke of the importance of our City employees, saying “employees are the City’s most valuable asset.” Following Griswold, four citizens, including a mother and teenager spoke of their appreciation for the Teen and Youth Center and Teen Rec Room, and of their concerns over recent management decisions. Linda Paquette of Lowell Point spoke of her concerns for Lowell Point Road being repaired. She said that when she first moved to the area, there were few residents. Since then the demographics have changed and the population has increased, with year round recreational traffic. Local businessman Cliff Krug announced the start of “Second Saturdays,” a new program that aims to promote business within Seward, happening January through April.
Brad Snowden spoke of his appreciation for the Seward airport and expressed a desire to build a new cruise ship dock along Seward’s waterfront. He stated that he had two funders, and requested one year of “exclusive rights to develop, finance and build a cruise ship dock.”
Seward Community Foundation announced that they will be hosting a process learning session on January 25th from 11:30-30 at the Breeze Inn. They invited members of the community to attend the luncheon. In the last year they received $80,000 in donations and have invested $560,000 in the communities of Seward and Moose Pass since 2009.
Following citizen comments, Mayor Squires requested that the parliamentary rules be suspended. He invited Linda Paquette to step forward. Squires issued a public apology for having gaveled down Ms. Paquette at a previous meeting. “Please accept my apology,” he said. The rules were reinstated and the meeting proceeded, with approval of the consent agenda.
Kenn Carpenter gave the Borough Assembly report. Carpenter explained that funding requests for $2.3 million for Lowell Point Road repair have been forwarded on to the State of Alaska. Plans of cutting the road deeper into the mountainside in order to increase longevity are not part of this request. That project would cause substantial additional costs, which would require further funding.
The City Manager report was given by Assistant City Manager Ron Long. Long shared that $30,000 had been spent on purchasing a replacement large-service printer. The printer is used by the City electric department as well as the planning department. Long informed the Council that he would be acting City Manager through January 20th, while City Manager Jim Hunt is away for medical leave.
Mayor Squires inquired about Brad Snowden’s comments, particularly regarding funding issues. Long responded that “no federal monies are to be spent in earthquake fault zones.” It was determined that private monies can be spent in such zones, as long as the private investors are willing to take the risk.
In response to citizen comments, Council Member Slater requested that Administration review the Teen Rec Room guidelines.
Resolution 2019-001 divides 2.438 acres of land in the Forest Acres subdivision into four buildable lots. The land is owned by Harmon Construction. Mayor Squires asked about the current code requirements of hooking up to city utilities if they are located within 200 feet. These lots are not currently within that distance of city sewer lines, and thus are permitted to use septic systems. The owner has worked with the City to extend water and power to these lots. This resolution was unanimously approved, which sends it along to the Kenai Peninsula Planning Commission for their review on January 22nd. According to City Planner Jackie Wilde, “we need housing,” and this replatting creates four lots that can be sold or built upon.
Resolution 2018-002 is a replatting of land on Dairy Hill, behind and above the Seward Lagoon. The land includes steep hillsides, with only a few flat and buildable spots. The replat is the result of negotiations and line redrawing between the current owners of the lands, Steve Leirer and Harold Faust. According to City Planner Jackie Wilde, the replatting of eight lots into three allows for the creation of one additional buildable lot out of the entirety. Citizen Harold Faust was in attendance to answer questions. “None of it is easy topography. There’s one good spot,” he said. The resolution passed unanimously.
Resolution 2017-087 is Seward’s contract for State lobbying services with Kent Dawson Company. The amount of the contract had been miscalculated in the original resolution. “We added the $12,000 from the SeaLife Center twice,” said Long. “Mr. Long, thank you for cleaning that up,” said Squires. “I apologize for the error,” said Long.
Resolution 2018-003 authorized the purchase of a 2017 Ford F250 4×4 truck to replace a 15 year old truck. The 2002 has suffered “exactly the problems you’d expect when you put a plow on the front end, so we’re going to do it again,” said Long. All four in attendance approved the purchase.
Council Member Towsley introduced new business item #4: travel authorization & reports by the City Manager’s office. Towsley requested a review of the current policy & requested greater transparency by the Administration. Following a discussion around budgeting & the rationale for wanting travel information, Mayor Squires stated that “I can agree a post-trip would be reasonable.” Squires requested responses from the other two Council Members. “I’d like to have more information,” said Slater. Council Member Horn agreed, stating “just because it’s budgeted doesn’t mean it needs to be spent.” Mayor Squires decided that he would like to discuss the matter in more detail when the full council is back in attendance, on January 19th.
Council closing comments included appreciation for the citizen comments. “Thanks to everyone who showed up to speak,” said Slater. Council Member Towsley concurred, “especially Daniel,” a youth who had spoken early in the meeting. “The more feedback we can get, the better,” said Council Member Horn. In summary and response, Mayor Squires said “it may look like I’m disagreeing, but I’m not. I’m trying to stay on an even keel.”
Citizen Carol Griswold spoke during closing comments of her concerns about the Teen Rec Room guidelines, which she had found online. “Our City can do much better than this for our youth and their families.” Linda Paquette again spoke of her concerns over the condition of Lowell Point Road. She reminded listeners that the sewer line for Seward is built into the road. “If that line is compromised, it’s honey bucket time in town.” Paquette further expressed concerns over the capacity of the lagoon, especially during the summer season, when Seward’s population increases substantially. Mayor Squires requested an update from the water & sewer departments on the condition & carrying capacity of the sewage lagoon. The meeting adjourned at 8:44pm.
The next City Council meeting will be held on January 22nd at 7pm at City Hall. The meeting will be preceded by a work Session on the City of Seward’s grievance process. Past City Council meetings can be listened to through the City’s website at: https://www.cityofseward.us/index.aspx?NID=912.