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.”
Service areas carry their own tax rates, whereas NES had been funded by grants and donations. If Ninilchik decided to form its own service area, that would cost residents about $5.75 for every $1,000 in property value. That wasn’t appealing, Johnson said. If the two service areas combine, the rate would be $2.95 per $1,000 in property value. There also are oil and gas properties, which would contribute about a third of the taxes.
Combining will allow more full-time staff between the two stations — about 10 full-time, total. Both areas provide on-call services 24-7, but the stations aren’t staffed full time and still wouldn’t be, Johnson said.
Voters in both areas have to approve the plan. The assembly will introduce an ordinance at its June 2 meeting to place a question on the October ballot and hold public hearings in Anchor Point and Ninilchik before July 6, when the assembly would vote on the ordinance. Then it would be up to voters in the fall.
“They're going to work with the staffing in the borough to have some information,” Johnson said. “This information is going to be neutral, just like when Kachemak-Selo was on the ballot for building the school out there, the borough put together some information for the public so that they would have it, but again, it’s going to be neutral information.”
If it’s approved, Johnson said the new service area board could start meeting by December.