Jay Barrett

Morning Edition host/news reporter

Born in Dillingham, Jay Barrett started in public radio at the age of 12, when the school district there started KDLG-AM. He has gone on to work in radio, television and print as a reporter, photographer and editor/news-director across rural Alaska. For the past dozen years, he’s been news director at KMXT Kodiak, where he’s produced The Alaska Fisheries Report for the last 10 years. He returns to KDLL 20 years from when he first came to the station.

January and February are traditionally the top months for unemployment insurance claims on the Kenai Peninsula, which is understandable, with no commercial or sports fishing, construction or as many people in support jobs during that time of year. Which makes March a very good month for the Kenai Job Fair.

It will be on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Soldotna Sports Complex, which is a change in venue from the past.

The slate of candidates is set for next month’s vote-by-mail election for three seats on the Homer Electric Association board of directors.

One incumbent, Dave Carey, is running unopposed. He represents District 2, the Soldotna area.

The District 3 seat, currently vacant with the resignation of Don Stead, only had one man throw his hat into the ring: Roy Champagne of Anchor Point. The district extends from Kachemak Bay to Soldotna.

  As politicians continue the war over who should and should not be entitled to health care in America, people continue to fall ill, many with little or inadequate insurance. Despite Obamacare, many still live without. On this week's Econ 91-9, Jay Barrett shares a profile of the Kenai Peninsula Community Health Services, which offers a wide range of services while it has grown exponentially and contributed millions of dollars to the economy over the years.

 

Western Fire Chiefs Association

  

A lot of professional trade shows, conventions and conferences are pretty nuts and bolts - attendees go to seminars and learn about the newest tools of the trade and how to use them. At the International Association of Fire Chiefs Strategic Direction and Leadership Forum, which Kenai Fire Chief Jeff Tucker is currently attending, the focus isn’t so much on the newest fire truck as it is on the department.

Exchange students have been part of Kenai Peninsula life for nearly 40 years now, with high-schoolers from all over the world sharing their culture with host families in Alaska. On this week's Kenai Conversation, we visit with a couple of this year's students, a couple host parents and organizers from the local AFS chapter. Tune in to find out about their adventures and how you could get a taste of it all.

Tickets for the AFS fundraising dinner, featuring dishes from all eight countries the year's students hail from, are available at River City Books in Soldotna.

For decades, really almost a half-century, the Kenai Elks Lodge has been a charitable powerhouse in the city of Kenai. But some of that largess is in danger because of a comedy of errors between the Elks and the State of Alaska.

Besides being a nice place for members of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks to congregate, perhaps over dinner or a libation after work, the Kenai Elks Lodge has long been dedicated to service, charity and scholarships in the city. However a paperwork snafu in Juneau left it without a valid liquor license for almost all of last year.

State of Alaska

  It's an even numbered year, so you can count on election stories to increase through the fall. Locally, on Saturday, the District 29 and 30 Democrats met - separately - to take care of some party business, and to prepare for their convention, the primary election and the general.

Michele Vasquez is the chair of District 30, which includes Kenai and Soldotna. She said one long-time local leader offered some timely resolutions that delegates will bring to the state convention in May.

 

By and large, kids have little direct impact on the economy. Oh sure, Mom and Dad spend a lot on them, but with little disposable income of their own, school kids’ spending power is limited.

This week on Econ 919, Jay Barrett tells us how the people at Junior Achievement are training today’s kids to be tomorrow’s financially responsible and productive members of society.


Kenai Performers

  Opening tonight for its second weekend at the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium is a new generation of Disney musical, presented by the Kenai Performers. Directed by Terri Zoph, “Shrek: The Musical” has most in common with the first of the animated Shrek films.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly approved with unanimous consent last week a resolution supporting the accelerated passage of the education bill in the Alaska State Legislature this year.

“What that is, we’re going to this resolution, if it passes, to the legislators saying, ‘Hey, if you can get us early funding in so we don’t have to lay teachers off, or pink slip teachers, before the budget process, it would be a great help to us,” said Assemblyman Brent Hibbert.

The tally on the dozen signs along Kenai Peninsula roads that records the number of moose killed in automobile collisions is relatively low this winter. 

Currently standing at 48, Tom Netschert of the local Safari Club International will change it again in early this month when he gets the latest update.

“In regards to the roadkill, yes. We update them each month. That’s part of our project with SCI. Conservation, public safety project with the state (to) keep people informed on what’s going on on the roads,” he said.

Friday is the deadline for those seeking to have their name appear on the Homer Electric Association board of directors ballot. There are three seats available, starting with District 1, Nikiski, Kenai and parts of Soldotna, said Bruce Shelly, the co-op’s member services director.

Alyse Galvin for Congress

  Every two years for four-plus decades, an Alaskan or two have attempted to unseat Representative Don Young from his post as Congressman for All Alaska. And though the longest-serving man in congress has weathered every challenge, new opponents emerge every year. 

So far this election year, three have filed, two democrats, Gregory Fitch of Juneau and Dimitri Shein of Anchorage. Also of Anchorage is undeclared candidate Alyse Galvin, who is running in the open Democratic primary election.

Kenai Performers

Terri Zopf, the director of the Kenai Performers' production of Shrek: The Musical that opens Friday, along with tap dance choreographer Sally Cassano and three actors, Dagmar Meyer, Bill Taylor and Mike Gallagher, join host Jay Barrett to discuss what it takes to put on such a large and daunting production.

Despite being under pressure from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, to look at other possible terminals, the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation opened a satellite office in Nikiski on Feb. 12. It is staffed by Debra Holle Brown, a former Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member.

In a statement Brown said that Alaska LNG is “going to be a long-term economic boom for Nikiski and the entire Kenai Peninsula.”

The out-sized home near the southern mouth of the Kenai River is finally out of the city of Kenai’s hair. Known as the Dragseth Mansion, the sale was finalized earlier this month, according to City Manager Paul Ostrander.

“We did receive on February 5th the remainder of the funds for the Dragseth Mansion, so that’s been completed now,” he said. “It actually was received on time, so we are no longer the owner of that.”

The Kenai City Council recently gave the OK to participation in a program that will keep young travelers occupied while enriching their brains. It’s the “Read on the Fly” program, created by “A-K on the GO” in 2016. It installs and stocks bookshelves for young readers at several Alaska airports. It received unanimous support at the Kenai Airport Commission last month, said Councilman Jim Glendening.

For years Alaska has been fertile ground for reality TV shows - not the kind where you get voted off the island or some bachelor gives you a rose - the kind where camera crews follow around real Alaskans, doing real things. Think "Life Below Zero" more than "Alaska Bush People."

Now, a production company wants to add the men and women of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge to the mix.

You see the strangest things sometimes while scrolling through official documents, such as the School Revenue Projects, Fund 400, that was in Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce’s report to the assembly last week.

It’s a list of account balances for projects of things in borough schools that need replacing, fixing or removing. And tucked among sidewalk repair and locker replacement, there’s “Bat Removal.”

“Well, we had, we had some bat infestation at a couple facilities,” said Scott Griebel, the director of the Kenai Peninsula Borough maintenance department.

Here's a question for you: do you feel as if you're living in any of the top 10 most dangerous cities in Alaska? Some days it feels like the answer is yes, other days it's hard to imagine. But using raw data from the FBI, a travel website has determined just that. Soldotna is the sixth most dangerous city in the state, up one spot from seventh last year, while Kenai, meanwhile is ranked 10th, but it has fallen six spots from number four last year, that's according to "Road Snacks."

Last month’s 7.9 magnitude earthquake off Kodiak Island meant different things to different people on the Kenai Peninsula, and it all depended on where they lived. In areas closer to the open ocean of the Gulf of Alaska, it meant evacuation to high ground, while in the Central Peninsula, it was a midnight diversion, something to post about on Facebook for a few days.

For the people of the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Office of Emergency Management, it was the time to swing into high gear to warn residents in vulnerable areas of possible tsunami danger.

Photo ConocoPhillips

  The mothballed natural gas liquefaction plant in Nikiski has a new owner, changing hands officially a week ago. ConocoPhillips sold its Kenai LNG plant to its industrial park neighbor, Andeavor, which operates the crude oil refinery across the street. 

The price of the sale was not disclosed. Nor were Andeavor’s plans for the nearly 50-year-old facility. A quote from Andeavor spokesman Scott LaBelle in an announcement caught the eye of former Kenai Peninsula Borough mayoral chief of staff, Larry Persily, an expert on natural gas issues.

Outdoor enthusiasts with more gasoline than ski wax running in their veins finally got the word they were waiting for: effective immediately, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is open to snowmachine use. Refuge Manager Andy Loranger announced the opening today (Tuesday), saying it applies to all areas of traditional snowmachine use.

  The last series of lakes in the central peninsula to be treated for invasive northern pike is the subject of a public meeting Thursday night. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game will have on hand the project biologist, the area sport fishery manager, and the area research supervisor will be in attendance to answer questions. 

The public meeting will be from 5:30 to 7:30 Thursday evening at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.

Libraries used to be quiet as mausoleums, with people shuffling quietly from the card catalog, to the stacks, to a straight-backed wooden chair at a table to read under harsh fluorescent lights. Stern librarians would peer over their glasses and give a “shush” at any sound.

Not so much any more.

“Libraries are not quiet any more. And there are some people who are kinda upset about that sometimes,” says Kenai Library Director Mary Jo Joiner. 

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