Kenai manages money

Kenai managed its money this week, making several purchases and fund transfers.

At its Wednesday meeting the Kenai City Council performed some funding actions unanimously, such as the appropriation of a $909 state grant for the purchase of items for small children in the Kenai library, the transfer of $6,959 in investment earnings from the city’s land sale permanent fund to the general fund, and spending $843,572 to connect two water transmission mains.

Other purchases provoked debate.

To provide pavement for a parking lot in Daubenspeck Park, the council appropriated $13,000 from the $497,603.58 balance of a state grant originally given in 2011 for roadway improvement. The grant, which had been previously been used to reconstruct or pave several Kenai roads, was designated as a funding source for the $307,350 paving of Magic Avenue. An ordinance at the Wednesday meeting proposed to use the remainder of the grant for the estimated $71,850 paving of the Daubenspeck Park lot, which is attached to Magic Avenue. The paving had been partially funded with $53,850 from the Municipal Park Improvement Capital Project fund, but still required $13,000 for completion. The appropriation was made with council members Ryan Marquis, Bob Molloy, Terry Bookey voting against it.

A proposal to purchase a portable gazebo for the Kenai wild-flower field, which the council rejected at its last meeting on March 4, was re-introduced in a new form. Council member Brian Gabriel, who voted against the gazebo purchase at the previous meeting, introduced the new resolution with Mayor Pat Porter, after making changes to the price and funding of the gazebo. The previous resolution would have appropriated $20,000 from the city’s general fund for the gazebo. In the new resolution the gazebo was priced at $8,400, which would come from a duplicated item in the city budget.

By mistake, $8,400 was dedicated to paying stipends for Planning and Zoning commissioners in the fiscal year 2015 budgets of both the Planning and Zoning commission and the Legislative Department. Kenai finance director Terry Eubank said that this duplicated funding, which was discovered during a review in preparation for the fiscal year 2016 budget, would normally have lapsed at the end of the budget cycle, but since Porter and Gabriel sought a source of gazebo funding that would not take from the city’s general fund, that money was available.

In an interview after the meeting, Gabriel said that the gazebo was priced lower this time due to a donation of wood by council member Tim Navarre and the possibility of donated or reduced-price labor.

The gazebo was purchased with Marquis, Bookey, and Molloy voting against it.

Another city purchase, of exercise equipment for a proposed expansion of the Kenai Recreation Center, was also passed by the council against votes by Marquis, Bookey, and Molloy. The council purchased 17 pieces of exercise equipment, including dumbbells, treadmills, weight racks, and two Jacob’s Ladder exercise machines from Kenai’s New Beginnings Fitness center, which went out of business last month, for a total of $24,000. The city administration estimated that the same equipment new would cost $59,567.

The exercise equipment purchase originally came before the council as an item on the consent agenda for purchases over $15,000. The exercise equipment was removed from the consent agenda and opened to discussion through a motion by Bookey.

Bookey asked about the quality of the used equipment, particularly the electronic devices. Kenai city manager Rick Koch answered that two city employees, members of the fire and police departments assigned from the city’s Wellness Committee, had tested it and deemed it sound.

Marquis said he opposed the purchase because he thought it put the city in competition with private owners of commercial gyms.

“I worry about what that looks like,” Marquis said. “Have we, with going forward with our plans, put them out of the market, and now we’re buying out their assets at what we all agree is a greatly reduced expense over buying new equipment? I’m not sure that an elaborate fitness center is a responsibility of a city government.”

The council nominated two applicants to the borough Planning and Zoning Commission and considered a third nominee to a seat on the Kenai Planning and Zoning Commission. The city and borough vacancies were left by the February death of Philip Bryson, who had served on both commissions for approximately 30 years.

Kenai commission members are nominated by the mayor and confirmed by the council. Borough commission members are appointed by borough Mayor Mike Navarre.

Robert Springer and Shauna Thornton applied for the vacant seat on the Kenai commission, and Springer received the mayor’s nomination. For the borough commission, the mayor recommended current Kenai Planning and Zoning member James Glendening.

In discussing recommendations to the borough commission, Molloy said that because borough Mayor Navarre had requested a list of possible commission nominees rather than a single individual, he suggested recommending Thornton as well as Glendening. The council unanimously voted in agreement.

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

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