Story last updated at 2:33 p.m. Thursday, May 30, 2002

College, other local projects in state package
by Joel Gay
Staff Writer

Voters all over Alaska this fall will decide the fate of a massive bond package that includes $3 million for the Kachemak Bay Campus of Kenai Peninsula College.

The Alaska Legislature included the Homer project in a $236 million general obligation bond package in the waning minutes of the session, Rep. Drew Scalzi said Tuesday.

"It went back and forth in the last few minutes," he said.

But to the surprise of many, including Scalzi, "There was a lot more money than I thought," and the lower Kenai Peninsula got a good share of it, he said.

Scalzi wanted to put the college money directly into the capital budget, bypassing the bond vote. At one point, he said, Sen. John Torgerson slipped $4 million into the budget for the project, which then was cut to $1.5 million. But when the dust settled, the Kachemak Bay Campus renovation money was in the capital bond package.

"I think it's highly likely it's going to pass," Scalzi said, because the bill contains projects all over the state that are likely to draw support.

Campus director Carol Swartz said she's "more than thrilled" to see the money in the bond package, even if it still must be voted on. "I'm optimistic it will pass."

If so, the $3 million would allow construction of a 9,000-square-foot, two-story addition to the East Campus. It would contain classrooms and laboratories, allowing Swartz to close the West Campus at the other end of Pioneer Avenue.

It would also eliminate a number of parking spaces, however. One possible source of new parking is City Hall, Swartz said. The city is contemplating a move, and the campus has eyes for that building and its parking, she said. Acquiring it might be accomplished by trading 4.5 acres of University of Alaska land adjacent to the city's 3.5 acres in the Town Square area, and cash might be left over from the renovation project, Swartz said.

Other possible parking options include buying land east or south of the campus, she said.

In the meantime, efforts will focus on passing the bond package. Because university projects comprise some 25 percent of the bond package, university vice-president Joseph Beedle told the Peninsula Clarion that UAA will team with rural school officials and Native corporations to lobby for the measure.

Other capital money flowing to the lower Kenai Peninsula included $160,000 for a new fire truck for Kachemak Emergency Service Area, $130,000 for the Anchor Point Volunteer Fire Department for a rescue vehicle and other equipment, and $120,000 for a new facility for Anchor Point's Helping Hands.

The city of Homer got $1.6 million for a new water storage tank, plus a $50,000 boom truck and $150,000 for fire packs. The Homer Library received $102,000, while the Homer Hockey Association got $25,000 and $200,000 was set aside for an End of the Road Wayside on the Homer Spit that could be the home of a new Sedge memorial.

Seldovia received $35,000 for a new police vehicle and $50,000 for an emergency generator, plus $93,000 for a water/sewer feasibility study. Nanwalek and Nikolaevsk got $100,000 each for water and sewer projects.