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

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

Coal smoke confronts council


Wolfgang Kurtz | The Seward Phoenix LOG

At the last City of Seward Council meeting Lynda Pacquette expresses concerns over the city’s sewage treatment lagoon at Lowell Point.

The second of two stinks recently raised in the Seward area was a subject of public comment at the Sept. 9 City of Seward council meeting. The scent in question was that of burning coal, a practice that several members of the public suggested should be regulated or restricted. In response Councilor Vanta Shafer suggested that changing coal burning requirements may alleviate or eliminate the smell. However, Assistant City Manager Ron Long said that federal health standards typically apply to particulate emissions and that the nuisance value of the smell may have no bearing on the health effects.

Ben Pazdernik, a local marine operator, was of the opinion that coal burning was a problem that should be “nipped in the bud.” He proposed considering an ordinance to control coal smoke and address the subject before more people start using coal, especially in view of rising oil and electricity costs.

Jim Doepken, pastor of Seward’s Methodist Church, said that coal smoke had real life impacts on the health of his mother, who visited this summer from Indiana. He said that she has asthma and coal smoke caused her serious discomfort during her stay. Notwithstanding community complacency over the issue, he said that if enough people were concerned perhaps something could be done in the way of an ordinance to control residential coal emissions.

Councilor Christy Terry pursued the coal burning issue further when the agenda item for adoption of residential building codes was considered at the Sept. 9 meeting. Terry wanted to know if boilers and furnaces are reviewed upon installation. Seward Building Inspector Stefan Nilsson says he hasn’t seen coal burning furnaces in new construction. Terry also wanted to know if coal burning apparatus is addressed in the mechanical code, Nilsson replied that there was nothing specific therein.

Resolution 2013-007, adopting an updated residential code, was amended to strike provisions for sprinkler requirements in existing residences that are altered to exceed 3,600 square feet in size. Councilor Shafer said that the balance of cost of sprinklers versus returns in safety beggared the requirement. Marianna Keil said that in broader terms, she supports an amendment along the lines of that suggested by Mayor David Seaward to offer rebate on basis of installation of sprinklers. No such amendment was forthcoming.

Council met again this Monday for a work session to delve into the 2013-2015 City of Seward operating budget. A discussion took place when the subject of funding for paving projects from the capital acquisition fund came up. City Manager Jim Hunt clarified that there is $2.8 million available for street work in Seward, but the previous administration had transferred the funds to DOT for management. Because of prior miscommunication, some irritation had developed and administration along with Public Works was working through the issues and establishing project priorities with the state agency.

With the combination of an asphalt batch plant now operational in the vicinity as well as major highway projects and other sundry paving operations throughout the area, Public Works Director W.C. Casey had pushed to get some street paving done this season. But, because of the historic problems with the handling of the funds, didn’t make much headway. Councilor Shafer wanted to know what the chances were of getting at least one street fixed, such as Dora Way.

Shafer said it looked like the city was sitting on its hands while parking lots were getting paved and streets weren’t. Hunt maintained that the current schedule pointed to next fall.

The city previewed financial modelling of a “look-alike” Community Health Center as part of its budget preparation process. Seward’s application was passed over in the past two weeks as the first round of federal funding for new CHC’s went to five other applicants.

There are two documents available at for download including the preliminary operating budget itself as well as the budget presentation consisting of PowerPoint slides.


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