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

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

Legislature funds local projects


City of Seward lobbying efforts appear to have paid off with the Alaska Legislature passing a capital budget that included funds to finish local projects and move forward on solving a developing crisis with the community’s wastewater disposal system. The Bear Creek Volunteer Fire Department was also granted some breathing room, turning a cliff-like drop in funding into something less precipitous.

The biggest bang for the buck comes from a $5.9 million appropriation toward the Seward Marine Industrial Center breakwater project. Down a couple of million from the original projected cost, the new figure allowed shifting $1.3 million of the savings into funding for dredging the Lowell Point wastewater lagoon. Another $400,000 in deferred maintenance monies for the Spring Creek Correctional Center may largely go toward dredging costs for the SCCC/SMIC sewage lagoon.

Upon the signature of the Gov. Sean Parnell, SMIC breakwater construction along some Phase II engineering and basic infrastructure for the soon to be enclosed basin will be fully funded.

Funding for AVTEC’s next phase of construction for a heavy equipment shop at the Applied Technologies complex made the cut at $6 million. Another AVTEC appropriation for deferred maintenance and equipment clocked in at $1 million. AVTEC is due to break ground on the first phase of construction for a new diesel shop this summer. With the pending funding, the heavy equipment shop is due for completion next year.

The legislature dropped an unexpected $500,000 worth of flood mitigation funding into Seward Bear Creek Flood Service Area’s column. Coming on the heels of a Kenai Peninsula Borough denial of a tax hike request, the state funding will make further progress on actual projects possible. The SBCFSA has identified tens of millions in local flood projects with several smaller scale priorities slated for attention this year.

The largest flood related project in the area with funding in the passed budget is the Seward Airport with a $7 million allocation earmarked to repair, relocate or remove the main runway. The removal option has raised concerns locally, as local officials and business leaders point to the obvious solution as being the rerouting of the encroaching Resurrection River.

Through various agencies and entities, the State of Alaska has control of much of the wide swath of land between the airport and developments far across the river. With the course of the river historically wandering between those two points, in the not too distant past it was often been the dozers of Metco shifting the balance away from either extreme. City administrators are advocating that voters let state agencies and legislators know that they don’t support letting nature run wild.

Long in the planning stages at Alaska Department of Transportation, funding for replacement of bridges along the Seward Highway between Girdwood and Portage was passed to the tune of $29 million. The funding is to rehabilitate pavement and rehabilitate or replace bridges at, notably, Glacier Creek, 20-Mile River and Placer River. Using other funds, bridges over Snow River are also due to be rehabbed along with a bridge replacement at Victor Creek.

Although Bear Creek requested $400,000 in funding for a $550,000 combination fire-pumper and emergency response vehicle to replace an obsolete 1980 unit, the legislature passed that over. However, a $29,700 request for search and rescue response equipment, the department’s second priority, was approved. That will pay for the acquisition of two new snow machines and a new trailer which will serve double duty as an ATV hauler in the summer.

With revenue losses to the Bear Creek Fire Service Area from rising property tax exemptions along with cutbacks in funding from the Kenai Peninsula Borough, another line item worth $100,000 in fire station completion and startup financing will make the move from the old fire station building to the new possible in the near future. The Moose Pass Volunteer Fire Company fared better with their request for a new tanker truck, making the final cut with $380,000 toward that purchase.

For new projects and purposes, the legislative session ended pretty lean for the East Kenai Peninsula. But for partially funded and partially completed projects the money came through where it was needed, according to area officials.


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