Busy night for Kenai

Kenai’s field of flowers, a meadow located between Lawton Drive and the Kenai Spur Highway which the city seeded with wildflowers last year, will not be getting a gazebo when it is recreated this summer.

In a presentation to the Kenai City Council during a meeting on Wednesday, beautification committee chair Lisa Gabriel requested improvements to the field including a 12-by-12-foot octagonal gazebo, a post-and-rope fence, benches, and signs. The council was considering an ordinance suggested by Mayor Pat Porter to appropriate $20,000 from the city’s general fund for the purchase of the gazebo, which Porter said was being considered separately from the other improvements so that it could be built before the field’s seeding in the spring.

Because the field of flowers is on property owned by the Kenai airport, it cannot be used “for other than airport purposes without the written consent of the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Agency,” according to the 1964 agreement between Kenai and the FAA that granted the property to the city. Therefore the proposed gazebo would have been a temporary structure in place only during the field’s wildflower season.

Council member Terry Bookey spoke against the gazebo purchase.

“We need to remember, as we’re discussing appropriating money from the fund balance, that this was a year we just raised our mill rate,” Bookey said. “I don’t know if we should appropriating money from our fund balance that hasn’t gone through the traditional budget cycle and budget presentation. For that reason I can’t support the ordinance (to purchase the gazebo).”

Council members Ryan Marquis and Bob Molloy also opposed the purchase for its departure from the city’s budgeting process, citing the city’s fiscal year 2015 raise from a 3.85 to 4.35 mill rate on property taxes.

“I’d be happy to discuss (the gazebo purchase) during the budget process for the budget that starts in July,” Marquis said, referring to the fiscal year 2016 budget which will go into effect July 1, 2016.

The gazebo ordinance was voted down by the council, with Bookey, Marquis, Molloy and council member Brian Gabriel voting against.

Speaking after the vote, Bookey elaborated on his reasons for voting against the purchase.

“We would have been pulling $20,000 from our general fund, which is in essence the city’s savings account,” said Bookey. “I think things that aren’t of an emergent nature need to go through the process of the budget discussions and the public notice that’s associated with that, even if it is something as basic as a $20,000 purchase.”

The council next passed an ordinance that had been postponed from its Feb. 4 meeting, expanding the ability of its members to participate in meetings via telephone. The previous city code allowed two members at any meeting to participate telephonically with written notice to the clerk six hours in advance of the meeting. Each council member was allowed to call in to four meetings in a 12-month period. Two additional telephonic meetings are allowed for medical necessity on the part of either a council member or their immediate family.

The code, as altered by the ordinance introduced by council member Tim Navarre, allows three members to call in at a single meeting, and for council members to participate telephonically in an unlimited number of special meetings and work sessions in addition to the four yearly regular council meetings. It also allows telephonic participation in an additional two meetings for a council member who “is traveling on approved city business,” according to the ordinance, which defines city business as travel “outside the city on behalf of the city, or attending training, as approved by council and in compliance with council travel policy.”

The ordinance was passed with council members Bookey, Marquis, and Molloy voting no.

Another postponed ordinance — the suspension of the library commission, originally introduced at the Feb. 18 meeting — was passed. The ordinance, suggested by Porter, added to the portion of city code that created and defines the library commission a paragraph stating that “the powers and duties of the library commission… are suspended until such time as council takes further action by ordinance.” The ordinance was passed with council members Bookey, Marquis, and Molloy voting no.

The council passed a fourth ordinance suggested by city attorney Scott Bloom, amending rules for city employees to forbid possession, use, and working under the influence of marijuana, which was previously included in the rules as a controlled substance but now must be included separately due to its legal status.

In addition to the four ordinances, the council passed two resolutions: one consenting to vacations of right of ways and easements and one opposing federal permission for a gill net in the Kenai River. A third resolution, supporting state Senate Bill 1, Sen. Peter Miccichie’s proposal to increase smoking regulation, was postponed.

 

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

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