Contender for the Kenai seat on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Blaine Gilman is running on a conservative platform. He believes in limited government, and maintaining a borough that is focused on its most basic responsibilities.
If elected it will not be Gilman’s first time in public service. He served on the Kenai City Council from 2003-2005, which he recalls as a contentious term. When he entered the race that year, he knew he would be dealing with the hole left in sales tax revenue when Kmart went bankrupt and closed its Kenai location.
“It was not a fun time for the city council,” Gilman said.
Kmart was a big box store that, when it moved into the region, put many local stores out of business that couldn’t compete, Gilman said. When it left not only was the revenue from the chain gone, but there were no local stores to make up for it, he said.
Gilman said he ran to help with the cleanup. During his term on council the city managed to rebuild a balanced budget for the city. However, he does not foresee dealing with an issue of that magnitude if elected to the assembly.
Gilman currently works as an attorney at his business Gilman & Associates. If elected, he will become the successor to three-term assembly member Hal Smalley.
Gilman works for local organizations such as Our Lady of Angels catholic church, the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank and the Kenai Peninsula Bar Association. He has bachelor of arts in philosophy and a law degree. He has claimed Alaskan residency for 45 years where he has raised his four children with wife Margaret Gilman.
“This is my community,” Gilman said. “I think I have it right on the pulse of the community. People want schools supported.”
The primary reason Gilman entered the race this year was to assist the borough in keeping balanced budget that will ensure the school system receives adequate funding, he said.
With the potential for major growth and consequential revenue boom from Nikiski if the Alaska LNG Project is approved, there will be an influx of funds to find a place for, Gilman said.
The potential growth in Nikiski is likely bigger than the area has ever seen, Gilman said. For construction alone the area is looking at 3,500 temporary jobs, and 600 permanent positions, if the liquefied natural gas facility comes to Nikiski. That is huge for a community this size, he said.
There are growing pains to go along with that, Gilman said. Local schools will need more class space and roughly 1,000 new families will be looking for homes.
There is also the possibility of a huge economic advancement, Gilman said. Contractors and construction companies will have more jobs, property tax revenue will increase and local businesses will be stimulated with more people around to buy their products.
With the increase in revenue, the borough should be focusing on schools, roads and garbage, Gilman said. The assembly should have funded the school district to the cap last year, which should be its policy, he said. He also believes it should maintain a larger reserve.
During the last fiscal year the assembly funded the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District to 92.5 percent of the maximum local possible contribution, Gilman said. That meant $3.5 million was left on the table, which may seem like a small amount, but what is means it the possibly closing local pools.
Gilman said none of the borough’s money should be going toward non-departmentals.
“It moves away from essential services,” Gilman said. “How can you make the decision which nonprofit should receive funds? How do you make that decision which of those groups get peoples tax dollars?”
Gilman said as long as some nonprofits are receiving assistance, others will be requesting help. He said while Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council and Central Area Rural Transit System are wonderful organizations, why is the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, Hospice or the Kenai Habitat for Humanity not able to receive funding as well?
Gilman said if elected he is prepared to face other big issues such as the Kalifornsky Beach flooding issue. He said he sees the issue as a very unfortunate natural disaster.
“The situation is really troublesome,” Gilman said. “It’s no one’s fault.”
Gilman said a big concern with the flooding is the consequential septic issues. Residents’ wells are being contaminated without them even knowing it.
Gilman said he agreed with borough Mayor Mike Navarre’s decision to veto the proposed 3 percent borough-wide bed tax. With a distressed river, marketing tourism should not be a priority right now, he said.
While Gilman is most concerned about providing excellent resources to local youth in the form of education, the school district is performing quite well, Gilman said. However, improvements can always be made.
Reach Kelly Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org.