The Kenai City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to extend the city’s COVID-19 disaster declaration, which, among other things, gives city administration more flexibility in how they can respond to the pandemic.
Specifically, the city’s disaster declaration allows for “COVID leave” for city employees, prevents penalty and interest fees for water and sewer accounts and prevents water and sewer disconnect for non-payment. The declaration also allows the mayor to waive certain provisions related to teleconference participation in city meetings and for the city manager to take emergency action if necessary.
The Kenai City Council previously extended the city’s disaster declaration, which was first issued on March 18, 2020, on June 3, Sept. 2, Dec. 16 and Jan. 20, 2021.
Council member Teea Winger said during Wednesday’s meeting that it would be the last time she voted in favor of extending the declaration while Alaska does not have a statewide declaration. The state’s COVID disaster declaration expired last Sunday after Gov. Mike Dunleavy and the Alaska Legislature failed to extend it.
“I will support this, but this will be my last time voting to support this,” Winger said. “I would like the city to move on that path to resiliency as well.”
Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander said Wednesday that the expiration of the statewide declaration does not have much of an impact on Kenai.
COVID-related travel requirements went away with the expiration of the declaration, which Ostrander said impacts Kenai city employees who travel between states. Under the declaration, residents traveling back to Alaska were required to follow specific protocols such as isolating or social distancing, which impacted when they were able to return to work.
“I guess the result of the emergency declaration expiring was that those mandates now become guidance,” Ostrander said Wednesday. “And so we are going to change the way that we return folks to work primarily from interstate travel.”
As of Thursday, the City of Soldotna’s COVID disaster declaration is set to expire on March 31. The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s disaster declaration is also set to expire on March 31.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at email@example.com.