Story last updated at 2:15 p.m. Thursday, August 22, 2002

Road standards plan tabled
Morris News Service-Alaska
The borough's new subdivision road standards adopted just two weeks ago are back before the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. After eight months of hearings and revisions, the assembly approved the new construction standards on Aug. 6, thus requiring developers to provide subdivision roads that meet or exceed borough maintenance criteria before getting final approval of their subdivision plat.

The vote on Ordinance 2001-47, first introduced in December of last year, had been close, just 5-4, and assembly member Grace Merkes, of Sterling, had immediately called for reconsideration at the Aug. 20 meeting.

During the Lands Committee meeting Tuesday afternoon, a question arose regarding the actual meaning of the adopted language and whether it met the intent of the ordinance. The confusion had to do with the intent of a requirement that subdivisions within 330 feet or less of a borough- or state-maintained road have internal roads constructed to standard roads. The language in the adopted ordinance left aspects of that issue vague. Assistant Borough Attorney Holly Montague, who drafted the ordinance, said the language should have been clearer.

"Being a lawyer, I like things to be clear as possible, and I'm willing to admit the lack of clarity in my own drafting," Montague said. "My recommendation would be that there be an amendment at some point to clarify this."

She also said, however, that staff understood what the assembly intended and would apply that understanding to future subdivisions even if a clarifying amendment were not approved. To avoid any confusion, the assembly voted unanimously for reconsideration, putting the entire measure back before the assembly, where it could be subject to far more amending than that required to fix the 330-foot rule, and, in fact, now faces the risk of defeat.

Support for the new standards has not been unanimous among borough agencies that deal with roads and subdivisions. The Kenai Peninsula Borough Planning Commission opposed the new rules, while the Kenai Peninsula Borough Roads Service Area Board had supported them.

Once the ordinance was back before them, assembly members quickly voted to postpone any action on amendments until the Sept. 3 meeting, when all members of the assembly are expected to be on hand. Assembly members Milli Martin, of Homer, and Paul Fischer, of Tustumena, had excused absences Tuesday.

"I don't know that time, at this point in the year, is of the essence," assembly member Betty Glick said, referring to the construction season winding down. "But it is important to have a good ordinance that people can really understand. Based on the discussion this afternoon, it was quite evident that there were, just among us, varying degrees of interpretation."

She said a proposed amendment drafted by the legal staff Tuesday afternoon would address the confusion.

Assembly President Tim Navarre, who had asked the assembly to postpone action on any amendments until the next meeting, said he had his own questions regarding another provision in the ordinance.

The two-week period, he said, would give everyone on the assembly one more thorough look at the road-standards law and that all amendments could be addressed at the next meeting.

"We've discussed it for eight months, we might as well discuss it for 8.5 (months)," said assembly member Ron Long, of Seward.

The assembly also approved unanimously Ordinance 2002-35 that will put a $14.7 million bond measure (Proposition 3) before borough voters at the Oct. 1 municipal election. If voters approve, the money will build a new middle school in Seward, replacing an aging structure that could cost an estimated $10 million just to refurbish.

A $10 million rebuild would provide a school building for perhaps 10 years, according to a borough analysis, while for about half again as much, Seward would have a school to serve the community for 30 to 50 years.

In other business, the assembly introduced Ordinance 2002-19-06, which would accept a grant of $45,000 from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development for covering certain costs associated with bidding on the 2006 Arctic Winter Games. The games could bring as many as 1,600 athletes, coaches and officials to the peninsula, generating several million dollars in revenue to local businesses, according to the borough.

Another ordinance introduced Tuesday, Ordinance 2002-36, would clarify that the Alaska Open Meetings Act does not apply to meetings of the Risk Management Committee.

Currently, the committee is treated as if it is exempt from the act anyway.

According to the borough, if the Open Meetings Act did apply, virtually all discussions would qualify for executive sessions. The committee reviews and makes decisions concerning claims against the borough and school district.

"Public discussion of such matters would seriously impair the committee's ability to effectively negotiate any settlements or handle litigation," said borough attorney Colette Thompson in a memo to the assembly.

n Ordinance 2002-19-07: $325,000 in state funds for

Edgington Road repairs.

n Ordinance 2002-19-08: $125,000 for a rescue/pumper

truck for the Bear Creek Fire Service Area.

n Ordinance 2002-19-09: $493,902 for the Nikiski

Emergency Access Route.

n Ordinance 2002-19-10: $112,000 from the Alaska

Manufacturers' Association for the Cook Inlet Sockeye Salmon Quality Management Program.

n Ordinance 2001-19-11: $497,495 in state funds

representing the borough's allocation under the fiscal year 2003 capital matching grant program.