Story last updated at 12:32 p.m. Thursday, May 2, 2002

It may be now or never to aid KBC campus
The 22nd Alaska Legislature is closing in on its deadline and starting to wrap up its work, and while everyone knows that money is tight, the Kachemak Bay community could consider this a successful year if one project were funded: $3 million for improvements at the Kachemak Bay Campus of Kenai Peninsula College.

The Legislature has doled out millions of dollars over the last several years to communities such as Ketchikan, Kotzebue and Kodiak for upgrading the far-flung campuses of the University of Alaska, and there's no good reason why Kachemak Bay Campus shouldn't get similar treatment.

But it may not unless Homer speaks <> indeed, screams <> its support.

Legislators are looking everywhere for projects to cut, so only those with strong local support will survive. The community must speak out loudly and clearly now, as chances of getting funded in the future are increasingly dim.

The campus has been part of Homer for years, but with the expansion it has a chance to play an even more vital role in the community. As the college grows, so does Homer's identity as a college town and all the vitality that higher education brings.

With a bigger college comes more class offerings, more programs, and for parents, more opportunities to provide their children an inexpensive foundation for their college career.

Many Homer High School graduates have gotten a head start on their university studies in Homer, and that can only increase as the campus grows.

Kachemak Bay will benefit as an expanded campus offers more for students from Seldovia, Port Graham and Nanwalek. University officials are poised to bring new programs to Homer to complement the work being done by Kachemak Bay Research Reserve, the Kasitsna Bay laboratory and the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

As the education industry grows, so does Homer. The bigger campus means more employees and the demand for more services.

A bigger payroll helps diversify the local economy, helping make up for declines in commercial fishing and government spending.

Other communities around Alaska have had their turn. It's now or perhaps never for the Kachemak Bay Campus.

Rep. Drew Scalzi has put the $3 million project as his top capital priority, and Sen. John Torgerson has listed it among his.

Do your part by sending public opinion messages, or POMs, to members of the House and Senate Finance Committees (www.legis.state.ak.us/poms/ or by calling the Homer Legislative Information Office at 235-7878) and another to Gov. Tony Knowles to put the $3 million for the Kachemak Bay Campus upgrades into this year's capital budget.

It will take you five minutes, but it's an investment that could pay off over the next 50 years.

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