Kenai discusses rescue boat, virtual city council

The Feb. 4 meeting of the Kenai City Council began with renditions of the national anthem and “America the Beautiful” by the Kenai Central High School brass quintet and proceeded to discussions of a rescue boat and telephonic participation in council meetings.

The council voted unanimously to appropriate $13,500 from the city’s general fund to the Public Safety Improvements Capital Project fund for the purchase of a boat for the fire department. That money, added to a $90,000 state grant, paid the $103,500 cost of the boat to be purchased from Dennis Bevegni of Juneau. According to a memo from Kenai fire chief Jay Tucker to city manager Rick Koch, the 25-foot aluminum-hull boat will replace Kenai’s current 1985 inflatable-hull rescue boat.

The council then debated an ordinance introduced by member Tim Navarre to allow up to three members of the city council to participate in meetings via telephone.

Currently the city code allows two members to participate via telephone at any given meeting, and for members to participate telephonically at up to four meetings each year. The proposed change would allow three council members to participate telephonically at a single meeting and for any individual council member to telephonically participate in an unlimited number of meetings.

“My intent in this ordinance is to allow more participation and that we have a full council at meetings whenever possible,” Navarre said.

Navarre listed reasons a council member might be unable to attend a meeting, including sickness, a death in the family, and travel for city business. As an example of the later, Navarre mentioned his own position as Kenai’s representative on the borough school board, which he said constituted city business, despite not being directly related to the city council.

Other council members, including Rob Molloy, opposed the change, citing its possibility for abuse by circumventing council attendance policies.

“I see it as a major step in the creation of a virtual city council,” Molloy said.

Discussion of telephonic participation ended with a vote to postpone the ordinance until the council’s March 4 meeting, which passed four to three.

Other decisions made by the council included the appropriation of a federal grant for library employee training, the award of a $49,000 contract to Mcswain Associates for appraisal of city land, and an agreement to sell the airport’s collapsed shaker plant as scrap.

Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

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