The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Heidi Zemach
For The LOG 

Special session priorities aim high


Seward City Council held a special council meeting Nov. 8, to pass three lists of legislative priorities for 2013. The three separate, often overlapping lists of city, state, and federal priorities passed easily this year, with only a few amendments and little discussion. City officials, representatives, and their contracted lobbyists in Juneau and Washington D.C. will use the lists to make requests for funding capital improvements, and laws to benefit Seward.

Much of what is found on the priority lists for 2013 is the same as last year, minus the items already fully funded last year. But they do give an idea of the aspirations of the city administration, city departments and the various agencies whose projects it supports, such as the Alaska Railroad Corporation and Alaska SeaLife Center. Since so many big projects don’t happen without significant state or federal support, the list also gives an idea of the project possibilities in the upcoming year.

The big ticket item on all three lists is a request for $17.9 million to extend the Seward Marine Industrial Center basin breakwater in order to improve and increase ship moorage and loading capacity for the Coastal Villages Regional Fund (CVRF) fishing fleet as well as fleets used for Beaufort and Chukchi sea exploration and development. The city is currently due to receive a $10 million appropriation from this year’s State of Alaska transportation general obligation bond package, which voters approved in the Nov. 6 election. It will go to the final design, engineering and initial construction of the new breakwater.

The breakwater is needed to offer protected harbor for ships at SMIC, which is currently buffeted by high wind and wave action and storm surges. Five CVRF commercial fishing vessels from Seattle are overwintering at the new security float in the Small Boat Harbor as they await improvements to SMIC.

Next on the state and city priority lists is a $4 million request for doubling the railway capacity of the ship lift (Syncrolift) at SMIC and for associated upland improvements and repair work in order to meet existing and increasing future customer demands. A smaller budget item is stormwater discharge infrastructure at SMIC that includes a security fence around the city vessel storage area.

Other small boat harbor priorities include $200,000 for the design and engineering work needed to start replacing floats A, B, C, G, K, L and S as well as $500,000 to pave the apron near the 50-ton travel-lift and add a wash down pad. The city also hopes to receive $150,000 to purchase a card-lock public crane for harbor users similar to the cranes offered to customers in Homer and Cordova.

Several other big ticket items relate to flooding issues inside the city. A major city priority is a $2 million appropriation to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for mitigation for flood risk reduction at Lowell Creek. Another $3 million is requested for storm surge mitigation on Lowell Point Road, plus bank stabilization and erosion control projects. Another $1 million is asked for erosion control projects for SMIC and the Alaska Railroad dock, plus $220,000 more for the same erosion control around the cruise ship dock.

Topping the city’s public facilities and infrastructure priorities is a request for $575,000 to refurbish the Lowell Canyon 400,000 gallon water tank. Also listed is $2.7 million for constructing a metal building to replace the city public works shop, $2 million for expanding the Providence Seward Hospital Medical & Care Center and moving the CT scanner into the facility, and increasing its backup generator capacity.

The Electric Department’s foremost request is for $4 million in state funding to complete the third and final phase of modernizing the emergency diesel back up generation facility by relocating generators, adding switching and synchronization gear, integrating the grid and adding warehouse space. New in that category is a $17 million request to upgrade the transmission line to a higher voltage (115KV) in Seward in order to reduce line loss and improve efficiency of power distribution, a $5 million request to design and rebuild the electric transmission line from the Seward Highway to SMIC and $2 million to rebuild obsolete and aging infrastructure at Camelot Subdivision to accommodate growth there.

The city added in $1.8 million to upgrade aging waterlines along Port Avenue to service the cruise ships. It is also asking for another $200,000 to continue summer bus service between the cruise ship dock and downtown.

The only point of contention at the meeting came when Mayor David Seaward challenged council member Christy Terry’s assertion that for her to vote on the Alaska Railroad-related items would not be a conflict of interest, as she did not stand to have monetary gain from the approval of those projects. She is ARRC’s assistant dock manager. All remaining council members voted to overrule the mayor’s ruling, however, determining that there would not be a conflict of interest.

Unlike last year there was no debate over including the Jesse Lee Home renovation on any of the priority lists.

Seaward also asked the city administration to work with Kenai Peninsula Borough Assemblymember Sue McClure to identify the city’s top few priorities. McClure had proposed this to the mayor as the lists they pass are complex and confusing and hard to understand, she said. She pointed to a booklet containing the priority lists passed by other Kenai Peninsula communities that were far more straightforward.

The rest of the meeting included one resolution, which passed unanimously, adopting an alternative allocation method for the FY 2013 shared fisheries business tax program and another resolution authorizing the city manager to contract with G&P Enterprises for $67,000 to repair the Parks and Recreation Department warehouse. The temporary fix should allow city personnel to work there for another two years and for certain electric department equipment to be stored inside of it safely.


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