The Kenai City Council has joined municipal bodies elsewhere on the peninsula and called on the Alaska Department of Transportation to keep the Silvertip road maintenance station open and staffed during the winter.
The station, on the Hope Turnoff, provides service to the Seward Highway.
Part of Gov. Mike Dunleavey’s austerity budget plan included sweeping cuts to all departments, including the DOT.
How the cuts are affecting those elsewhere was on the mind of Councilman Tim Navarre when he discussed the resolution.
“I'm kind of twisted on this because I don't have a hard time supporting it in our area, but I have a hard time supporting it when in Southeast Alaska, there's marine highways that there's not even it's not open at all, not just closed for a few hours,” Navarre said.
Councilwoman Glenese Petty said she felt for ferry riders elsewhere, but said this resolution shouldn’t be thought of as attacking them
“This resolution was in no way to a discount our disregard our our fellow citizens of the state down at the ferry system. This was just bringing to acute attention to our legislators and our governor and our commissioner of our highways, the importance and the safety necessary for transportation for our community members here in Kenai and in the area of the whole area on the peninsula,” she said. “And that was just to bring focus to that, to let them now that this is a great concern for us.”
Councilman Henry Knackstedt said a downturn in state oil revenue shouldn’t cause so much disruption, since the highway was cleared before the trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline started filling state coffers.
“I think that they should provide some maintenance up there during conditions that warrant it, and they're not. And they're laying off people and whatnot,” he said. “But again, you know we had maintenance before oil money and that's when oil money started rolling it was going other places. It happens I think, that we that for our best interest, for the whole peninsula, that needs to have some maintenance. You need to be able to get through.”
In other city matters, the council heard some good news on progress of regaining ownership and control of the 4th Ave. Park.
The small neighborhood park, tucked near the end of the dead end street, has seen its ownership up in the air ever since the U.S. Bureau of Land Management “reasserted” its dominion over the land after a tax dispute with the borough. The city of Kenai has maintained the property as a park since the early 1970s.
Councilman Jim Glendenning had fond memories of the playground.
“I feel a kinship to this park. When we used to live out in Clam Gulch and things were far more primitive around here. When we'd come to town we would often stop at that park. This was in the 70s and it was just a delightful place to go other than the wild bramble and brush we lived in out in the homestead in Kasilof,” he said. “So thank thank you city administration for lending their attention to this and, of course, I support this wholeheartedly.”
Instead of suing the federal government in an attempt to regain ownership, the city’s legal department instead worked out a land selection deal where the Kenai Peninsula Borough would ask for the land from the feds, and then convey it to the city at no cost.
“I've been working with borough planning department and this is the first step to the borough enacting legislation to enable Marcus Mueller who's the land manager for the borough to make the actual selection,” said City Attorney Scott Bloom. “And both the borough and state and the city have all been coordinating to try and get this to happen.”
The Kenai City Council will meet again on Jan. 15 for a work session on marketing Kenai, followed at 6 by the regular council meeting.