Council authorizes additional dredging funds, accepts library grant
Monday’s regular meeting of the Seward City Council began with Mayor David Seaward presiding over proclamations and awards for the Mount Marathon rescue effort, Fire Prevention Week, Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Archives Month.
Michael LeMaitre, who was not recovered after disappearing during the Mount Marathon Race on July 4, was the subject of extensive and intensive search efforts by the Seward Fire Department, Bear Creek Volunteer Fire Department, Alaska State Troopers, Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, Alaska State Defense Group and many other dedicated community volunteers.
Library Director Patty Linville addressed the council commenting on Archives Month and highlighting the resources of the Alaska Digital Archives (ADA) available at the Seward Community Library. According to Linville, the library participated in the development of the ADA and has privileged access to this “wealth of historical photographs, albums, oral histories, moving images, maps, documents.“
Sue McClure, newly re-elected borough assembly member, mentioned Homer’s South Peninsula Hospital renovations and expansion in her report. The two borough hospitals in Homer and Soldotna are performing well financially and have been progressively adding new equipment, facilities and services. According to McClure the Bear Creek Community Center funding earmarked for new property acquisition has been pulled and the BCCC is now targeted for construction at the present Bear Creek Fire Department site.
McClure also referred to the $772,200 in State of Alaska community revenue sharing funds that will be divided among 27 communities, including Lowell Point, Primrose, Crown Point, Moose Pass and Cooper Landing, all within McClure’s district. McClure’s district has been expanded westward to also include a portion of of Sterling. After Council, McClure mentioned the upcoming re-appointment of Ed Holsten as the Borough East Region Road Service Area Board Member, who represents the Seward area on that body.
Seward City Finance Director Kristin Erchinger began the administration report by mentioning that the city manager and assistant manager are away on city business. They are attending training, and along with Harbormaster Mack Funk and other community luminaries, the Sikuliaq launch ceremony and will return next week. Erchinger announced the commencement of harbor dredging project last week. Dredging, in collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will continue through the end of November with resulting material to be deposited at the Seward Marine Industrial Center (SMIC).
Resolution 2012-078 was introduced during the session to authorize a budget for additional dredging funds. The city’s cost of $161,602 for the dredging was a reduced figure made possible through partnering with the Corps. A following amendment to the resolution by Councilor Christy Terry emphasized that the source of funds for the city’s portion was State of Alaska cruise ship head tax monies.
In discussion and through her amendment, Terry stressed the city’s statutory application of the funds. Councilor Jean Bardarson referred to the reputation that Seward has in Juneau for responsible use of cruise passenger taxes and mentioned some examples where other communities have deviated from the purpose of that funding. Councilor Bob Valdetta expressed consternation at the need for repeated dredging. Harbormaster Funk pointed out that many other ports including Anchorage and Homer dredge every year so Seward shouldn’t consider it a burden to dredge every few. Resolution 2012-078 was passed and approved.
According to Erchinger, the city’s insurance carrier is investigating a damage claim at the Syncro-Lift at SMIC. In response to a subsequent query from Councilor Ristine Casssagranda, Erchinger pointed out that the ship lift is city property and that insurance available to the city through the Alaska Municipal League is much cheaper than could be acquired by Seward Ship’s, the lessee. Harbormaster Funk explained that Seward Ship’s reimburses the city for the reduced cost insurance.
Summer camping season has ended and restroom, water and waste disposal facilities are closed and prepped for winter. Parks ended up at 98 percent of revenue budget with preliminary totals for camping fees at $473,000 raised against a $481,000 operating budget. Minor flood and weather damage to parks including Two Lakes has been remediated.
Portions of Camelot Subdivision have been surveyed by Cline & Associates and work has commenced on installing new electrical mains for the area. The existing electrical feed is near failure. A work session for Resolution 2012-010 on utility interconnection was scheduled for 5 p.m. Oct. 24. Valdatta put the subject of rising fuel prices on the table and stated a need for alternative fuel sources and suppliers to the market.
Councilor Vanta Shafer questioned administration on the status of the city accounting system. Erchinger said that the existing equipment was failing but, for the moment, somewhat stable. The new computer equipment and software would be running in parallel with the old system during December. Jan. 1 is the target date for going live with the new accounting system.
Through the passage and approval of Resolution 2012-076, the council accepted funds totalling $6,750 from the Rasmusson Foundation earmarked for the Seward Community Library. These funds will be applied to the collection of adult non-fiction books for an estimated 450 volumes worth of updating and replacing.
The council certified the Oct. 2 Municipal Election and the seating of incumbent Councilors Casagranda, Bardarson and Keil. Kenneth Blatchford and Tim McDonald were roundly acknowledged and commended for their candidacies. The incumbents expressed their thanks to the voters and appreciation of their colleagues.
Casagranda expressed her concern that upcoming budget priority setting and lobbying would inadvertently set a course for water fluoridation in the absence of a formal compromise on the issue and despite tabled resolution 2012-009 and the associated work session. She was advised that her concerns were premature and that the immediate legislative priority setting targets the governor’s budget. Terry requested that administration consult council if budget strategy or putative funding impinges on the topic of water treatment.
In closing comments, Shafer recommended that the city pick up the tab for further public official training for Mayor Seaward at the upcoming AML conference. Terry welcomed U.S. Coast Guard vessels Sycamore (Cordova) and Maple (Sitka) which will be visiting Seward this week. Valdatta expressed a need for traffic control and public address at the cruise ship terminal.