Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 2:33 PM on Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Assembly delays decision on culvert repair funds

Morris News Service - Alaska

On Tuesday, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly mulled funding for repair of borough culverts near anadromous stream crossings outside of city limits.

The borough postponed Ordinance 2011-19-24, which sought to appropriate $100,000 from the borough's general fund to the Kenai Watershed Forum for culvert repair projects.

Assembly member Mako Haggerty said assembly members discussed where the money might come from other than the general fund during a committee meeting.

According to the ordinance, the borough receives revenues from the state averaging $729,162 per year depending on the success of the commercial fishing industry. It also draws connections between improving fishery habitat in the borough, increasing the fish tax revenue for the borough and later mentions the borough's authority to provide for economic development.

It also details one of the objectives in the Kenai Peninsula Borough Comprehensive Plan to "minimize adverse impacts to critical habitat and population of sensitive threatened and endangered fish plant and wildlife species."

Kasilof resident Debbie Brown testified against the ordinance. She said the borough should be "very careful" about the funding and said it is "very questionable at best" to think about history of the Kenai Watershed Forum and borough funding.

George Pierce of Kasilof said he wanted the borough to "throw (the ordinance) in the trash." He said voters already "spoke on giving money to non-profits and these organizations like this."

"It is not even two months old and here you are trying to give money away to non-profits," he said. "Some of you are going to say this is like apples and oranges. Well whatever it is, it is still fruit. We don't want you to give this money continually to these non-profits."

Robert Ruffner, executive director of the Watershed Forum, said the ordinance follows up on several years of work to support culvert restoration critical to fish migration. He said all of the money would be spent on borough roads.

"What we are proposing to do is to use the funding we have requested to leverage that at least 2-to-1, if not greater ... to go out and fix borough roads," he said.

The assembly will host a final hearing on the matter at its Jan. 3 meeting. The borough assembly also introduced Tuesday Ordinance 2011-19-59, which seeks to appropriate $100,000 to the assessing department to obtain assistance in the 2012 appraisal of the Tesoro refinery.

Borough assessor Tom Anderson said Tuesday afternoon that the borough and Tesoro had a 5-year settlement agreement in place that went through 2010.

However, after going through the appraisal process, the borough valued the refinery in 2011 at $303 million, which Tesoro "strongly disagreed with," Anderson said.

Tesoro filed an appeal and, through their own appraisal, determined the value at $128 million.

However, the Board of Equalization decided to set the 2011 value at $143 million, although the borough is still waiting for a final written decision on the matter.

A value of $303 million would have landed the borough a little more than $3 million in revenue, Anderson said. But a value of $143 million, as determined by the Board of Equalization, equates to $1.4 million in tax revenue.

The borough hasn't yet decided if they will appeal that decision. If it does, it would go to Superior Court, Anderson said.

The money from the ordinance, which will be up for public testimony at the assembly's meeting on Jan. 3, would help fund the 2012 assessment, Anderson said.

In other business, the assembly:

• Postponed Resolution 2011-108, which seeks to approve a new senior clerk typist classified position in the Donald E. Gilman River Center for management of the anadromous streams ordinance.

• Introduced Ordinance 2011-19-57, which seeks to appropriate $44,883 in supplemental funding for a new position and other associated costs at the River Center for managing anadromous streams ordinance. It will be up for hearing on Jan. 3.

• Approved Resolution 2011-106 Authorizing Community Revenue Sharing Program expenditures to 24 unincorporated communities across the borough.

• Reviewed the Borough Mayor's Report that included details about former borough mayor David Carey's award of the contract for the first phase of the Homer Transfer Facility Site Development. Carey signed a memo on Nov. 3 awarding the project to North Star Paving and Construction of Soldotna, which submitted the low bid of $1.89 million. Eight bids were submitted for the project that consists of seven acres of clearing and grubbing, 10,800 cubic yards of unclassified excavation, 5,200 yards of solid waste exaction, and other items.

• Postponed Ordinance 2011-19-25, which seeks to accept and appropriate cruse ship passenger tax proceeds received from the state totaling $797,217.50. Allocating $761,705 to the city of Seward and $35,512.50 to the city of Homer. The ordinance was postponed until the Jan. 17 meeting to give the new administration enough time to discuss it.

Brian Smith is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.