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

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

Citizens brace City Council with complaints

 

Wolfgang Kurtz | The Seward Phoenix LOG

Local activist and Resurrection Bay Conservation Alliance President Russ Maddox goes on the record at this week's city council meeting. He raised concerns over a recent disposal by fire of treated wood at the Seward Alaska Railroad yards, alleging regulatory violations.

Sue Lang started off Monday's Seward City Council meeting by relating a recent encounter she had with some squatters at a Lowell Point campground she manages. The trespassers commented that they'd spend more time and enjoy themselves more but for the smell from the city's Lowell Point sewage and wastewaster lagoon. Lang used this tale to preface her insistence that the city take action before her paying customers start showing up May 2. She warned that the city would be billed for every reservation cancellation attributable to stinks emitted by the facility.

Administration, in turn, asked for permission from the council to earmark $500,000 of reserve funds to dedicate to long overdue dredging for the facility. City Manager Jim Hunt wanted the allocation made a priority so that it could be used as leverage to shake loose matching funds from the state legislature in upcoming lobbying trips to Juneau. Hunt also mentioned that an independent report on the treatment facility containing a second opinion and findings had just been received and would be made available right away.

City administration, council and Public Works staff have been facing a rising tide of complaints concerning the sewage lagoon since last summer when the smell reportedly achieved crisis proportions. Residents have also reached out to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation which, after months of investigation, issued a notice of violation to the city on Jan. 20, citing non-compliance involving reporting and technical issues. The city has 60 days to respond.

The city has made progress replacing aeration pumps at the site and is upgrading the facility through the purchase of a $28,000 "muffin monster." This new equipment will assist in breaking clumps of more or less solid waste that accumulate as sewage is dumped into the pools.

Hunt also said that there was movement at the Alaska Department of Transportation in getting a list of local paving projects confirmed. Assistant City Manager Ron Long offered that the project list, approved by council at their Jan. 13 meeting, would go out to bid in the near future.

The council voted on establishing the city's federal legislative priorities with an additional $7.9 million for Phase I of the Seward Marine Industrial Center breakwater project heading up the list of three. Councilor Ristine Casagranda moved to advance the two lower priority items above the breakwater project as she felt that the city should be taking care of existing facilities and infrastructure ahead of creating additional responsibilities. Councilor Christy Terry agreed in principle but said that the city might lose momentum at the legislative appropriations level if the breakwater project wasn't front and center.

The second and third federal legislative priorities are flood risk mitigation for Lowell Creek including the diversion tunnel and Lowell Point Road reinforcements. The council ended by approving Resolution 2014-012 without amendment.

Another environmental controversy was highlighted by a second public speaker, Russ Maddox, who opined that he felt history repeating itself in the form of another offensive and possibly illegal burning of waste in the community. He said that a similar alignment of public and business figures contributed to offenses against the community in 2001 when burning vehicles and other waste in his Nash Road neighborhood provoked complaints and a campaign for redress on his part.

Maddox said that a recent fire in the Alaska Railroad's Seward railyard was enabled by public officials and others who contributed to the preparation and submission of an Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation application for a burn permit that contained material omissions.

In closing comments, councilor Christy Terry stated that Maddox lied regarding his assignments of blame for false statements or omissions on the ADEC permit application. Maddox took the opportunity to speak in the final citizens comment window and said he stood by his statements, that they were in writing with supporting documentation. City Manager Hunt also took a dim view of Maddox' allegations but said that he had initiated an investigation and that administration would get to the bottom of it.

Seward Chamber of Commerce executive director Cindy Clock reported that the chamber is focussed on economic development and that UAA's Christy Bell is visiting with local working groups on enhancing the local plan to attract new businesses and develop existing ones. Work on net pens for Silver Salmon fishery enhancements continues in concert with the local Alaska Department of Fish and Game Advisory Committeee and the city's Public Works Department as those smolt need to have a place to go soon.

 

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