Kasilof neighborhood gets gas hookup

Residents of a Kasilof neighborhood now have a natural gas connection to their homes.

As the final part of the improvement project, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly approved an ordinance confirming the assessment roll for a natural gas pipeline in a neighborhood off about mile 1.5 of Kalifornsky Beach Road, just north of Kasilof, at its Tuesday meeting. The owners of the 39 properties included in the area will pay $5,694 per parcel for a total cost of approximately $222,098 for the total project. Enstar Natural Gas Co. built the pipeline itself and the borough will use the funds to reimburse the company.

“This is the final step for the borough in a process that began with the borough mayor approving the petition application for the formation of the District, the adoption of the (establishing) resolution which formed the district and authorized construction of the improvements, and the passage of the (appropriation) ordinance which appropriated $22,098.76 for this project,” wrote Borough Director of Finance Brandi Harbaugh in a memo to the assembly.

The system of residents opting into a gas line or other public infrastructure by paying an assessment on their properties is called a special assessment district — in this case, a utility special assessment district. Residents gather signatures from neighbors and submit them to the borough to prove there is community support. A petition has to have at least 60 percent of the property owners’ approval to go through.

In the South Kasilof Utility Special Assessment District case, about 79.5 percent of the parcel owners voted yes on the project. However, a few asked the assembly at the Tuesday meeting to exempt them from paying for it.

Raymond Davis, who owns two parcels property in the area, told the assembly that he never plans to use the natural gas pipeline and felt he shouldn’t be held financially responsible for it. Because he owns two parcels, he is responsible for more than $11,300 in assessment costs for the pipeline. He said no one approached him with the petition.

“It’s kind of a financial hardship — it’s more like extortion, bringing it in and we have to pay for it whether we use it or not,” he said. “…I would like you to take that into consideration and terminate my assessment.”

Another neighbor, Paul Vos, told the assembly he felt similarly. With wood stoves as his primary heating source inside his home, he said he never planned to take advantage of the gas line coming to the neighborhood. The approved assessment roll before the assembly recorded that he and his wife voted yes on the proposal, but he said he felt pushed into the project by its proponents.

“Since then, I’ve given it a lot of thought, studied it, did the math and it didn’t equate,” he said. “… I still didn’t like the idea of having to purchase a product I do not want. We moved to Kasilof 11, 12 years ago, built a house that was designed to be heated with wood and backup heat with propane. I’m perfectly happy with that and contented with it.”

Assembly member Kelly Cooper said she understood where the neighbors were coming from but that the majority of the parcel owners did vote yes. She also pointed out that there was significant time in the petition process for people to change their minds.

“I understand … about not wanting the product and I am sensitive to that, but that is our code,” she said. “One could argue that it does add some value to your property. You may not agree with that or not.”

Public improvement projects are rarely without opposition in the borough. When they come before the assembly they have typically been in the works for some time, and the majority of neighbors approved it though a few ask the assembly to deny the project because of concerns about cost. During a debate over the assembly’s approval of a utility special assessment district for the east end of Funny River Road, multiple people presented the same argument that they didn’t plan to take advantage of the gas line so shouldn’t be held responsible for the project.

The property owners in the Kasilof utility special assessment district can either pay the whole cost up front or space it out over 10 years, beginning in March 2018, accruing 6.25 percent interest annually, according to the ordinance.

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

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