Assembly to consider advance loans before bond issuance

Two public projects may get advances from the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s general fund before revenue bonds are issued to pay for them.

Voters approved two bond issuances on the October 2016 municipal regular election ballot. The first, which authorizes bond sales of up to $10.6 million, will cover the costs to design and build a new cell at the Central Peninsula Landfill near Soldotna, which serves the majority of the Kenai Peninsula’s population. The second, authorizing bond sales of up to $4.8 million, will go to replace the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at South Peninsula Hospital in Homer and the expansion of the hospital-owned Homer Medical Center.

However, the bond sales will not be held until the spring. Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre’s administration is asking the borough assembly to approve interim intergovernmental loans from the borough’s general fund to get the projects going in the meantime.

The assembly approved an ordinance in August 2016 approving an intergovernmental loan of $2.8 million to the South Kenai Peninsula Hospital Service Area so the hospital could begin construction this fall on the Homer Medical Center. The the bonds had not yet been approved by the voters, but if the proposition had failed, the hospital would have paid back the loan in annual debt service to the borough, according to a July 28, 2016 memo from the borough finance department to the assembly.

The loan allowed the medical center project to move ahead, according to a Dec. 22 assembly from Borough Finance Director Craig Chapman to the assembly.

“The remaining portion of the (South Peninsula Hospital) improvement project is for replacement of the 40-year-old heating, ventilating and air conditioning system at the hospital,” he wrote in the memo.

South Peninsula Hospital, which recently celebrated its 60th anniversary, has not replaced the HVAC system in four decades. The South Kenai Peninsula Hospital Service Area Board will discuss the ordinance at its Jan. 12 meeting, according to a draft supporting resolution submitted to the assembly.

The situation is similar for the landfill. Voters approved the $10.6 million in bonds, but the first sale — which will be approximately $6 million in bonds — won’t take place until the spring, according to another memo from Chapman to the assembly, also dated Dec. 22. Most of the planning and design work is already done on the new cell, according to the memo.

The assembly introduced both ordinances at its Jan. 3 meeting and is scheduled to hearing them at its Jan. 17 meeting.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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