Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 4:38 PM on Wednesday, February 8, 2012

New Seldovia service area to fund community center

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

It's official. Board members for the newly formed Seldovia Recreational Service Area have been sworn in. Well, almost.

"I couldn't make it over there so I delegated and authorized the (Seldovia) City Clerk Mary Klinger to do it on my behalf," said Johni Blankenship, Kenai Peninsula Borough clerk, of delays caused by the Kenai Peninsula's recent winter storms.

Klinger was able to swear in four of the board members — Mark Janes, Sandra Murray, Vivian Rojas and Janice Wyland. Sheryl Hingley was stuck in Port Graham, but will be sworn in after she is able to make it back to Seldovia.

Voters within the boundaries of the service area approved its formation with a 79-to-32 vote in the October municipal election as a way to provide recreational activities for the area based out of a facility constructed in 2000 to house the now-closed Seldovia Boys & Girls Club. Other facilities as authorized by the borough assembly may be used in addition to what is now named the "Seldovia Community Center." Activities offered through the service area are not to duplicate any already provided by the city of Seldovia, but may include senior citizen and youth programs, musical instruction and practice, accommodations for visiting schools, Seldovia field trips, facility rental, adult education, karate instruction, arts and crafts instruction, nature education and outdoor activities.

Tim Dillon, Seldovia city manager, said the vote reflected widespread support for forming the service area.

"You don't see too many votes like that. People realized what a huge asset this is for the entire community," said Dillon.

The service area's boundaries encompass the city and as far out of town as the Jakolof Bay float. Dillon said that includes "a good cross-section of people that want to donate their time to be on the service area board."

The 1,085 parcels within the service area have a total assessed value of $134.9 million and a taxable value of $67.2 million. A rate of one mill would raise $67,194 per year, according to information provided by the borough, which means a cost to taxpayers of $100 on every $100,000 of assessed property. However, the goal is to operate the service area with less than a one-mill rate.

"A lot of people supported it as a possibility that it could grow into something else and provide other opportunities, but right now we're only focusing on operating the building as cheaply and efficiently as possible and keeping the mill rate as low as possible. Our goal is a half to three-quarter mill," said board member Mark Janes.

Start-up funding for the service area comes through an intergovernmental loan of $26,500 approved at the borough assembly's Jan. 3 meeting. It will be paid back by the service area by Nov. 30, with an annual interest rate of 5.25 percent.

The idea for a Seldovia-based service area modeled after the North Peninsula Recreational Service Area was raised at a town meeting held by former borough mayor Dave Carey. Formed in 1974, the service area operates the Nikiski Community Recreation Center, which houses a pool, gym, banquet and multipurpose rooms, a teen center, full-swing golf simulator and classrooms. The youth and adult programs offered through the center include sports, activities for toddlers, an open gym for home-schooled students, summer day camps and rentals for private, corporate and fundraising events.

"We decided to try to go after that and did a petition to get the signatures to put it on the ballot," said Janes, who, like Dillon, was impressed with the margin by which the proposition passed. "I thought this would get a lot more resistance than it did."

Rojas, who raised her family in Seldovia and is a member of the Seldovia City Council, said she became involved in the effort because she felt a community center "was something every community needs."

"A community center is a place anybody can go. I believe having a community center is a place Seldovia can draw different entities to revive us again," said Rojas.

Wyland, the wife of former Seldovia mayor Dick Wyland, said support for the service area was obvious last year when she was involved in fundraising activities to keep the center operating.

"I found when I was doing a rummage sale that people were so generous with donations," said Wyland. "We were selling things at rock-bottom prices and people that didn't have a lot of money were still donating something. That speaks to the community effort here."

With the board of directors sworn in, the next step is hiring "someone part-time that can actually start managing the building and promoting it," said Rojas. "It's kind of exciting."

Janes agreed.

"We're taking the reins in our own hands," he said. "I think it's going to be a positive development for the whole area. ... I think it's positive that everyone in the area can have a piece of owning it."

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com