Council mulls water additives, tables utility interconnect
Monday’s Seward City Council proceedings were dominated by an F word: Fluoride.
Seward voters approved an advisory initiative in October 2009 to pursue fluoridation in the public water system. The city council passed Resolution 2010-015 on Feb. 22, 2010 to study such a program.
An ordinance, 2012-009, proposed by Councilwoman Ristine Casagranda, is currently under consideration. This ordinance purports to establish criteria for substances added to public drinking water for purposes unrelated to potability.
A work session on the proposed water additives ordinance kicked off at 5:30 p.m. Monday with a presentation by the sponsor. Casagranda stressed her position that there is an absence of publicly available details as to the composition and quality of water system additives.
She also asserted that these chemicals, although in widespread use, are not directly regulated by any public agency. Finally Casagranda raised the question of accountability in the case where adverse health effects attributable to water system additives were suffered by residents.
Councilwoman Vanta Shafer stated that, regardless of the pros and cons of fluoridation, she was not inclined to pursue funding and implementation of such a program until other press-ing existing infrastructure issues were resolved.
There was some discussion of the term “potability” and Seward’s existing water treatment. W.C. Casey, the city’s public works director, gave some background on Seward’s deep wells, which historically have tested very pure. Apparently Seward has unusual isolation from contaminants that depth, geology and natural filtration afford, making water chlorination here more preventative than prescriptive.
The proposed ordinance was likely more than the city could swallow according to Councilwoman Vanta Shafer. She suggested that the ordinance language was overly broad and had unknown budgetary implications.
Jim Hunt, city manager, agreed that the dimensions of additional workload and cost were unknown. Ron Long, assistant city manager, offered that no comparable ordinances could be found in use in other communities across the country, so there was no example or track record for reference.
In preference to blanket medication of Seward residents, Councilwoman Marianna Keil suggested working toward a compromise where fluoride could be provided to residents as re-quested. This approach was also supported by Bardarson and Shafer.
Maya Moriarity of Seward Wellness for All addressed the council during public comments, objecting to the proposed ordinance overall and, categorically, as detailed in a written hand-out addressed to the council, mayor and staff.
Pending further research and preparation of a report by the city manager and staff, the introduction of the ordinance was postponed until the council meeting of Jan. 7.
Introduction of the utility interconnect ordinance, 2012-010, was postponed until Oct. 22. Recognizing the continuing toll of the emergency response to the flooding on administration, the council also canceled the upcoming work session.
Becky Dunn, lone public commentator on the ordinance, suggested the dearth of community attendance may be due to the confusing nature of the public notice for this particular agenda item.
Otherwise, citizen participation was also light and the balance of commentators were from beyond city limits. Matt Gray of Questa Woods encouraged support of the new waste removal rate structure and asked that voters approve the program. He stressed the success so far of bear-proof trash containers.
The city manager reported little movement on the Coastal Villages relocation program and related development of Seward Marine Industrial Center (SMIC). The Coastal Villages Region Fund (CVRF) relocation initiative proposes to make Seward home port to 18 ships. The budget for starting initial work is dependent on the bond package before state voters on Nov. 6.
Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) is taking lead in setting the table for private-public partnerships to accommodate the CVRF relocation project. The city is encouraging interested businesses with applicable services to contact CVRF directly.
In Other Business
A full release was granted the City by the State of Alaska over the formerly contaminated soil at SMIC paving the way for occupation by succeeding lessee Alaska Logistics.
Senator Lisa Murkowski will be here on Thursday with Alaska Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services Director John Madden surveying local and state response to the winds and flooding.
The mayor addressed the police department over concerns at the senior center of lunchtime speeders on Third Avenue. He asked if additional patrolling could be effected.
The Seward Chamber of Commerce put a positive spin on decreased visitors to their offices, stating that information was increasingly finding its way to travelers via mobile devices and the internet. On the other hand, chamber membership was increased over last year.
A work session for city legislative priorities was set for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 22.
During council comments Robert Valdatta posed a general question about an evacuation plan for SMIC and Spring Creek Correctional Center, in case of natural or other disaster, specifi-cally for cases where road travel was not possible.
Administration offered that the development and execution of evacuation where Spring Creek was concerned was under the purview of that facility’s administration. There was no de-finitive answer to the question in regard to SMIC.
The council offered their commendations to administration, staff and city employees for their diligence and continued hard work in restoring and maintaining city services during the previous week’s flooding. Ron Long also lauded the volunteers who have worked tirelessly helping their families, friends and neighbors.
Following adjournment, a special meeting of the council convened to declare a State of Disaster Emergency and passed the resolution without substantive comment. The resolution ex-tends the disaster emergency declaration made by the city manager and requests financial aid as city emergency funds have been exhausted. It also requests that the State of Alaska de-clare a disaster emergency and provide assistance to the Kenai Peninsula Borough and City of Seward.