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Borough looks to combine Anchor Point, Ninilchik EMS

May 21, 2020

Earlier this year, the board of directors for the nonprofit organization that runs Ninilchik Emergency Services decided to restructure, resulting in confusion as the chief and assistant chief were fired and local service lapsed. After a community meeting, the borough established a task force to decide what to do for the future so Ninilchik’s residents don’t go without fire and emergency medical services. 

The task force determined Ninilchik should join Anchor Point’s fire and emergency service area, which will spread out costs across residents of the two communities.

“These service areas would be larger than the existing Ninilchik area. It would go all the way out on the east side until it abutted central peninsula emergency medical service area,” said Kenai Peninsula Borough Assemblyman Brent Johnson, reporting on the task force in Tuesday’s assembly meeting. “So there would be no no-man's land. Whether you have an accident here or there — you’re out in the Caribou Hills in that area, and, of course, Tustumena Lake — you’re going to be in somebody’s service area.”

While the borough budget usually draws lively debate, this year puts the assembly in a particular pickle. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the borough is expecting a significant drop in revenues, which leaves a shortfall that the administration and assembly will have to find some way to cover.

Most of the time, that would be taxes. But there is one other possibility this year: federal relief funds. Since March, the federal government has been working on distributing money to businesses, individuals, and states to help with the impact of the pandemic. Alaska so far has received about $1.5 billion.

But there are particular ways those funds can be used. For example, until the Secretary of the Treasury made an exception, they couldn’t be used to pay police and firefighters. Cities and boroughs, including the Kenai, have lost revenue through declines in sales taxes and property taxes as fewer people shop and eat out and properties—particularly oil and gas—have lost value.

Carpenter comments net national blowback

May 19, 2020
State of Alaska

This week, the Legislature returned to Juneau from a recess to work on distributing COVID-19 relief funds in the state. Because they were coming from all over the state to gather in a single building before going back home to their communities, legislators were required to wear masks and be temperature checked as they headed into the building. Once they were checked, they would receive a sticker noting that they were clear of symptoms.

The stickers turned out to be a source of controversy. In an email posted to social media, Rep. Ben Carpenter of Nikiski compared the stickers to the badges with a yellow Star of David on them, which Jews in Nazi Germany were forced to wear as identification prior to being segregated and later shipped to concentration camps.

Chaos quickly followed. Comments were polarized on both sides, with critics saying it was offensive to compare a health screening to genocide, and supporters saying his comments were misunderstood and taken out of context.

Carpenter apologized for the analogy and said he was trying to make a point about loss of liberties and government overreach amid the pandemic response. He also noted concerns about the Legislature requiring the general public to wear similar stickers in the future, noting their medical status.

The city of Soldotna is working toward a more ecologically prepared future. The council passed two measures at its May 13 meeting meant to help plan for and mitigate impacts due to climate change.

The first is agreeing to participate in a climate action planning cohort with the University of Alaska and other partners. Dr. Micah Hahn, with the University of Alaska Anchorage, explained the program.

The plans involve looking at historic climate data and future climate models, identifying potential impacts of climate change and doing an inventory of a city’s greenhouse gas emissions. Then using that baseline data to develop and prioritize resilience strategies, looking for opportunities to become more energy efficient, coming up with a framework to monitor progress and updating the plan to make sure it stays relevant.

She’s been working to develop a plan with Anchorage for the last couple of years and realized the process could be shared with other cities.

Outer Coast Adventures

The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council approved a proposal in a special meeting May 15 that would make going on a halibut charter more attractive to Alaskans this year, as a way to help mitigate the impacts COVID-19 is having on the industry. 

Councilmember Andy Mezirow, who owns a charter business in Seward, motioned to enact a proposal that will relax restrictions on charter operators in area 3A, Southcentral, and 2C, Southeast.

“Clearly no amount of regulatory change is going to make this a profitable year but this action, in conjunction with federal assistance, will contribute to a coordinated effort to help Alaska charter operators make it through this pandemic,” Mezirow said.

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