Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 8:33 PM on Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Homer projects stay in budget

Governor to decide if southern peninsula gas line, solid waste project are a go

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

After adjourning in April and then being called into a special session by Gov. Sean Parnell, the 27th Alaska State Legislature finally came to a close late Saturday night. Legislators, including Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, and Rep. Paul Stevens, R-Homer, returned to their homes over the weekend after passing a $3.2 billion capital budget.

"The capital budget you have shepherded through the Legislature is the single most powerful job incentive the people of the Kenai Peninsula Borough have realized in the 45 years of being a borough," Borough Mayor Dave Carey wrote in a letter to Speaker of the House Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski.

"All areas of the borough will have infrastructure development that will benefit current and future generations. The $150 million dollars in projects and reappropriations will provide work for the next three construction seasons. Let's hope and pray that (Gov. Sean Parnell's) veto will not reduce these job-providing projects."

Looking specifically to the southern Kenai Peninsula, Homer City Manager Walt Wrede also was pleased.

"It's looking good," said Wrede. "We got almost $32 million for the greater Homer area."

The top item on the Kenai Peninsula Borough's list of capital projects made the list: $9 million for the Homer solid waste transfer facility.

"That really is our bottom line. Mayor Carey, borough staff and I looked at ways we could cut the cost of construction to come up with $9 million and this will really work well for us," said Bill Smith, who represents the city of Homer on the borough assembly.

Smith took advantage of a trip to Juneau earlier this month to make sure legislators understood the borough's need for the transfer site funding. Opened in 1979, the Homer Landfill and Baling Facility loses its Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation permit in August 2013. Plans call for converting the landfill to a transfer site, with waste from the southern peninsula trucked to the central peninsula. Smith said he wasn't the only one to carry the message to Juneau.

"We had a delegation go down earlier and talked to everybody about solid waste," said Smith. "I think it's all had an effect."

Southern Kenai Peninsula projects included in capital budget bill that passed House and Senate:

Southern Kenai Peninsula projects included in capital budget bill that passed House and Senate:

• Alaska Energy Authority, Battle Creek Diversion (Bradley Lake), $15 million;

• Homer area natural gas pipeline, $10.1 million;

• Homer solid waste transfer facility, $9 million;

• City of Homer cruise ship dock and passenger facility improvements, $6 million;

• East End Road rehab, $3.5 million;

• Homer Terminal apron taxiway pavement rehab, $3.2 million;

• Ninilchik Village bridge replacement, $2.2 million;

• Nanwalek and Port Graham airport master plan, $1 million;

• Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association, Tutka Bay hatchery maintenance and upgrade, $591,000;

• Diamond Ridge fire station and equipment building, $350,000;

• Kenai Peninsula Fair Association, Ninilchik fairground improvements, $328,384;

• North Fork-Nikolaevsk, pressure regulation station and pipeline, $197,000;

• City of Seldovia city business center environmental study, $125,000.

• Port Graham Village Council biomass waste heat demonstration project, $75,000;

TOTAL: $51,666,384

Seaton, however, said he received no letters or e-mails from southern peninsula residents in support of funding the transfer site.

"So, I was really happy Mike Chenault went to bat for that," said Seaton of efforts on the part of Speaker of the House Chenault of Nikiski. "A lot of the credit is his."

The top priority on the city of Homer's list of capital projects is included in the budget: $10.1 million to go to the Alaska Energy Authority for construction of a natural gas pipeline from Anchor Point to Homer and Kachemak City.

"We've updated our website to let people know that the Legislature's approved this and now it's up to the governor," said Wrede. "If you support the project or don't, write to the governor."

Wrede will be sending a letter to Parnell later this week explaining the importance of the project and extending an invitation to the governor to visit Homer.

The pipeline, as planned, will be constructed along the Old Sterling Highway, continue south along the Sterling Highway to West Hill, follow the Fairview Avenue right of way through town to Homer High School, then connect with East End Road and continue to Kachemak City.

"It's a huge project and Enstar plans to get to work on it this year. The money would become available July 1," said Wrede. "Then it's just a matter of how long it takes for the agency to gear up and get the grant agreement together."

Passenger facility improvements for Homer's cruise ship dock received $6 million in the capital budget. It will be used to install a new fendering system; make the dock less attractive to nest-building seagulls; construct a landing and staging area where passengers can disembark and get on buses, a guard shack and restroom; develop a harbor trail system complete with benches and information kiosks; and construct two public restrooms and bus stops on Pioneer Avenue.

Other capital budget items of local interest include $3.2 million for pavement repairs of the Homer Airport terminal taxiway and $3.5 million for East End Road.

"We've had $6 million in there for quite awhile to extend from where Kachemak Drive comes in (to East End Road) to Waterman, but expense of the project has grown," said Seaton. "This will provide the funds that will allow the project to go forward and be completed. ... Now, we have enough to actually do the project."

In a last-minute addition to the capital budget, Seaton included $350,000 for construction of a Diamond Ridge Road facility for the Kachemak Emergency Service Area. That's a step down from KESA's original request of more than $3 million, but a decrease requested by KES Chief Bob Cicciarella.

"When I was down in Juneau at the fire chiefs' legislative conference in February, I approached Rep. Seaton to see if, in these times when budgets are tough all around, we could amend our project for a full station up there from $3.7 million to an equipment building where we could house apparatus temporarily and use as a station until we could get funding," said Cicciarella. "We have a new pumper-tanker we're getting ready to award a bid on and need a place to put it, so this will work out great."

Lara McGinnis, manager of the Kenai Peninsula State Fair, was pleased with the $328,384 in the budget to make improvements to the Ninilchik fairgrounds.

"The community of Ninilchik voted in a community forum to make fairground improvements the community's priority," said McGinnis. "Most people on the peninsula know we're here for the fair, but for the community of Ninilchik we're here for everything. Those monies will be used to make improvements and make our facility more marketable so other people will recognize us for other events, too."

Another southern peninsula project in the budget is $15 to the Alaska Energy Authority to construct a tunnel to divert Battle Creek at Bradley Lake.

"That's what limits the power output from Bradley Lake, the amount of water," said Seaton of an effort to boost the hydroelectric dam's output.

Now, the wait begins to see what the governor will do with his veto pen. Legislators have 14 days to provide additional backup materials for budget items before the budget, Senate Bill 46, is transmitted to Parnell. He then has 20 days to decide what stays and what goes.

"We're classic Alaskans," said Wrede. "On one hand we're saying to cut the budget, but we love our capital projects."

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

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