It’s time again for the 27 qualifying unincorporated communities within the Kenai Peninsula Borough to apply for a portion of the $545,000 in Community Revenue Sharing grant funds available this year.
In the past, the state grant funds have been used for everything from scholarships, firefighting equipment, trail maintenance and library supplies to support for food banks and building upkeep.
“It’s all community things,” said vice president of the North Peninsula Community Council Dave Phegley, of Nikiski. “It’s just these little things that come up, like the Nikiski Neighbors or maybe a little bit of something to the public food pantry. It’s not a lot of money, it’s not enough to do a lot with, but it’s enough to do something with.”
Phegley said the Nikiski-based community council has funded scholarships and bought equipment for schools and other small projects that need money.
“They’re just these little things that come up, little pieces of things or people that fall through the cracks of other, larger funding programs,” Phegley said.
The unincorporated communities in the borough have until Oct. 6 to get their applications in to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Community and Fiscal Projects Manager Brenda Ahlberg and she’ll have a report for the borough assembly to review during its Oct. 28 meeting.
Each qualifying community is allocated $20,200 unless the Legislature appropriates more funds to the program. The Kenai Peninsula Borough takes a 2 percent administrative fee — meaning the communities will get $19,804 to spend during the upcoming fiscal year. The borough will collect $10,900 in administrative fees.
Ahlberg said the administrative fee is used to pay for things like grant management, finance management when entities receive the funds and the legislative process required for the program to go through the assembly for approval.
Funds for the community revenue sharing program may be cut in coming years as the Community Revenue Sharing Fund is in decline, according to the state Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, which administers the grant program.
According to a letter from Local Government Specialist Danielle Lindoff, payments to communities will decline by 33 percent during the 2016 fiscal year, 55 percent in 2016 and no funding will be available in 2018.
For some communities, the state funding can provide services that would not otherwise be available.
Crystal Collier, president and chief executive officer of the Seldovia Village Tribe said that for the last few years the tribe’s share of the grant money has gone toward funding the Barabara Heights Volunteer Fire Department.
“We have purchased all of the equipment we need for our fire department, hoses and air compressors and we have three fire units as well as foam units,” Collier said.
During the tribe’s community meeting this year, residents again decided to use the money to support the fire department.
“We will be erecting a building so that it can house all the fire equipment and fire trucks,” she said.
Collier said the Barabara Heights volunteer fire department works in tandem with Seldovia’s fire department to respond to calls in both the village and the community of Seldovia.
“I think it’s an asset to the whole community,” Collier said. “We’re just grateful for (the money), really grateful.”
In Cooper Landing, a community that Ahlberg said was a good example of how the funds can be used for a variety of smaller projects, the money is used for the needs of about 12 non-profits including the senior center, a group that maintains cross-country ski trails and the Cooper Landing Community Club.
Cheryle James, secretary and treasurer of the Cooper Landing Community Club said a lot of the community’s yearly appropriation goes toward basic needs like repairing equipment or paying for utilities, and insurance.
“I just think it’s a very worthwhile project, especially for unincorporated areas. We are small communities, we do like to have a few places that are nice — not just for residents — but for the tourists like the library and museum. It’s nice to have that little extra bit so you’re not worrying if you can keep the lights on and the building heated and pay the insurance.”
James said the state grant funds also can fill in the gaps when community donors have given all they can to support a project.
“We try to fund raise as much as we can but, a lot of times, it seems like it comes out of the same pockets all the time. This just gives a little bit of extra boost, so the money isn’t coming out of the same people’s pockets all of the time,” she said.
Rashah McChesney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.