Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly

Shaylon Cochran/KDLL

Appointments to the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Planning Commission are usually straightforward. Lately, however, the process for filling seats on the 11-member commission has stalled over questions about representation and who gets to choose its members.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

In an emergency, paramedics in Nikiski might have 30 minutes with a patient before dropping them at the hospital. They likely won’t meet again until that patient has another emergency. 

The Nikiski Fire Department is working to change the nature of that relationship. It’s using a grant from the state to build up its capacity to address people’s medical needs at home and reach them before — and long after — they’re in crisis.

It’s been almost one year since the Resilience and Security Advisory Commission first started meeting. The commission works within the borough’s planning department and is brainstorming ways to make the Kenai Peninsula Borough more sustainable in the face of a changing climate — from how the borough manages solid waste to the efficiency of its buildings. 

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

The central Kenai Peninsula could soon have a functional cold-weather shelter — a long-awaited step in a years-long effort to secure emergency housing for the area’s homeless population.

“A lot of pieces are falling together. And I believe we can have an open shelter on the Kenai Peninsula by the first week in December," said Tim Navarre, who's part of the Kenai Peninsula Homelessness Coalition.

Photo Courtesy of Renewable IPP

An Alaska energy company wants to build its biggest solar panel farm yet on the Kenai Peninsula. First, it’s asking the Kenai Peninsula Borough for a tax exemption, which it says will help it produce energy for less.


Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is awarding the Kenai Peninsula Borough with a competitive grant to create a community-wide composting project, making it possible for more individuals and businesses on the central peninsula to send their organic waste to farms instead of landfills.

“Oh man, I’m so excited about this project," said Kaitlin Vadla, regional director for Cook Inletkeeper. "It’s a huge win for the borough and for our area. It’s hard to get these big national grants. And so the fact that we got it is really exciting.”

Sabine Poux/KDLL

The last of the absentee ballots are in and all votes have now been tabulated for this year’s Kenai Peninsula elections.

From space, the Kenai Peninsula looks like it has a lot of water. After all, it’s surrounded by water on three sides, and pockmarked with lakes and two major rivers as well as dozens of smaller ones. So it may come as a surprise to hear the Kenai Peninsula has limited freshwater for consumption.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s municipal election falls on next Tuesday, with candidates running for school board and the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, among other local offices.

Elections in the Kenai Peninsula Borough are around the corner. This week, we're talking to candidates for the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. 

Brent Hibbert is running unopposed for the District 1 seat, representing Kalifornsky. Kenn Carpenter is running to keep his District 6 seat for the eastern peninsula. Cindy Ecklund is challenging him for that seat.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

A Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting turned into a debate about the coronavirus last night, when a resolution condemning vaccine mandates generated hours of conversation about unproven COVID-19 treatments and took the meeting right up to its 11:30 p.m. automatic end time.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

The Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor and several members of the assembly want to publicly denounce what they call “vaccine segregation” from the government.

Resolution 2021-067, set to be introduced at next week’s assembly meeting, says the borough encourages people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. But, the resolution says, the assembly and borough administration “Do not support government-mandated restrictions imposing mandated COVID-19 vaccine segregation in our community.”

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce said the current process for appointing city representatives to the borough’s planning commission needs an update. He drafted an ordinance that outlines several suggestions to revamp the code last month.

But representatives from borough cities worry those changes would take what’s historically been a city decision and place it in the hands of the borough. 

Sabine Poux/KDLL

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly has approved a final budget for the fiscal year beginning this summer, clocking in at $87,787,866 in the general fund.

But there are still several pieces of the budget that are anything but final.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Should Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly members who work in the school district get to vote on the district’s budget?

It’s a question that stumped the assembly on Tuesday night, and came up within the context of setting a budget floor for the school district. The floor is the minimum amount the borough can put toward education for the next fiscal year. 

Ultimately, the two assembly members in question did vote. But it took a while to get there.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

The Kenai Peninsula Borough will go through with purchasing and leasing several ADA-compliant voting machines, six years after a complaint from a vision-impaired Homer man triggered a reassessment of voting accessibility on the peninsula.

The plan to buy several Dominion Voting Systems machines and lease over two dozen others was primarily a response to that complaint. But it became controversial when former President Donald Trump and his followers made Dominion a target late last year, claiming the 2020 election was rigged.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

The Summit Lake area of the Seward Highway is a cell desert. Like much of Turnagain Pass, it’s also an area that’s prone to accidents, particularly in the winter.

“And so right now what happens is people might get in a horrible car accident, and then they have to rely on people who drive by to see the accident and then get to a location where there is cell service and call 911," said Michelle Weston, fire chief at Girdwood Fire and Rescue.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Since the November 2020 election, lawmakers in states across the country have ramped up efforts to change election laws, making it more difficult for people to vote. This week, the Georgia House passed an election bill that would limit early voting. An Alaska state senator has proposed a bill to limit by-mail voting throughout the state.

Next month, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly will hear an ordinance that would make it easier for borough residents to vote. The borough is planning to buy seven ADA-compliant voting machines and lease 26 others, geared to help voters who are visually impaired.

KPB

When conditions are right, residents of Caribou Island, in the middle of Skilak Lake, can get to their properties through an easement on the island’s south side.

It’s one of several ways to access the island’s 223 lots and it borders property belonging to Michael and Peggy Clements, of Sterling.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough and school district are starting budget negotiations with a $10 million difference between their proposals.

The borough won’t finalize the budget for the 2022 fiscal year until this summer. But at a work session Tuesday between the borough assembly and school board, the district presented an initial request for $53 million in local contributions.

The borough set a floor of $43 million. That’s how much the borough assembly approved for the district in 2013 and is $7 million less than the district is getting in 2021.

Renee Gross/KBBI

Bonds are back on the table. 

The Kenai Peninsula Borough is again considering a $29,940,000 bond to fund 19 maintenance projects in the school district, ranging from building a new school in Kachemak Selo to updating decades-old building automation systems.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and borough planned on putting that proposal to a vote this fall, but things were delayed because of COVID-19. 

Redoubt Reporter

Upper Cook Inlet fishermen should expect another below-average sockeye salmon run this year.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game forecasts a return of 4,370,000 sockeye to Upper Cook Inlet in 2021, according to a report released Friday

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Resilience and Security Advisory Commission is newly organized and ready to advise the administration and assembly on sustainability solutions to promote the economic security, safety, self-reliance and wellbeing of its inhabitants.

Kenai Peninsula Borough

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted to oppose any government mandate that would require members of the public to take a COVID-19 vaccine.

There is no plan in the works for such a mandate in Alaska. Gov. Mike Dunleavy said at a press conference last week he does not plan on requiring the vaccine when it is ready for distribution, which likely won’t be for a while.

Some assembly members and public commenters brought that up. But the resolution passed anyway because of an amendment introduced at the meeting, changing the rhetoric from that of outright opposition to support for residents to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, “on prioritized and optional basis.” 

KPB Alerts

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted to cover the $250,000 used by the borough to mitigate floods in Seward earlier this month.

Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce issued an emergency disaster declaration Oct. 2 when heavy rainfall from the day before caused flooding on the eastern peninsula, creating a large load of sediment that damaged borough-maintained roads. Among the damaged areas were Dieckgraeff Road, a gravel road that is the only pathway to the borough’s solid waste transport facility in the Seward-Bear Creek area, as well as two subdivisions.

AHFC

Residents of Kenai, Soldotna and Kachemak have been eligible for housing relief funding for a month or more. Soon, residents from the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s unincorporated areas will be able to apply for rent and mortgage relief, as well.

The relief comes from a partnership with the Alaska Housing Financing Corporation. Much like the programs in the cities, this one will subsidize up to $1,200 per month for eligible households, paid directly to recipients’ landlords. 

Courtesy of Soldotna City Council

At their respective meetings earlier this month, local council and assembly members had very different conversations about the same joint resolution for preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Without any real muscle, the resolution encouraged — not mandated — that residents follow CDC guidelines, like mask wearing and social distancing. The mayors of Kenai, Soldotna and the borough sponsored the resolution to show a united commitment to coronavirus caution. Homer was later added to the group.

Ultimately, all three bodies passed the resolution. But the conversations were very different. 

 


Kenai Peninsula Borough

This fall, voters in the Anchor Point and Ninilchik areas will consider whether to join forces on their emergency services.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough assembly approved an ordinance last Tuesday that will ask voters on the Oct. 6 ballot whether they want to become a single service area for fire and emergency medical services. The move has had several public meetings and has been in the works since earlier this spring.

The assembly approved an ordinance Tuesday night that reaffirms its support for Americans’ right to bear arms.

The ordinance repeats some of the language from the Second Amendment to the federal Constitution, which protects Americans’ rights to keep and bear arms. Sponsored by borough mayor Charlie Pierce and assembly members Jesse Bjorkman, Norm Blakeley and Kenn Carpenter, the main change in the ordinance is to declare the Kenai Peninsula Borough a “Second Amendment Sanctuary.” That term comes from a national political movement by gun advocates pushing local governments to pass laws saying they won’t enforce state or federal gun laws, which gained significant attention in Virginia earlier this year.

Wiki Commons

The borough’s addition of a vote-by-mail option, set to go into effect next year, will stand for now, after the assembly overturned borough mayor Charlie Pierce’s veto.

The ordinance allows voters to choose to vote by mail, but polling places and absentee ballots will still be available. It also extends the amount of time between an election and a run-off, and removes proposition statements from the voter information packet. The ordinance came from a stakeholder working group on election reform, following a lawsuit about equal access to voting within the borough.

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