From left, Kenai City Council members Henry Knackstedt, James Baisden and Teea Winger participate in a city council meeting on Wednesday, March 16, 2022 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

From left, Kenai City Council members Henry Knackstedt, James Baisden and Teea Winger participate in a city council meeting on Wednesday, March 16, 2022 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Council formalizes support for field facilities fundraising

Kenai Central High School issued an open call for help funding the $250,000 project

Kenai City Council members formalized their support for the construction of permanent restroom and concessions facilities at Kenai Central High School’s Ed Hollier football field via a resolution passed Wednesday. The resolution, to which all council members signed on as co-sponsors, voices the city’s support for efforts by KCHS to secure grant funds for construction of the facilities.

In bringing forth the resolution, Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel said KCHS Vice Principal Will Chervenak applied for project funding through a mini grant program offered by the City of Kenai, but that the project “didn’t really meet” the criteria for the program. Gabriel said the school has been given permission to reach out and raise funds and that a resolution from the city council will aid those efforts.

“This just … shows that there’s buy-in from the community (and) that we certainly support this effort on his part,” Gabriel said.

KCHS issued an open call via social media in February for help funding the $250,000 project, which Chervenak told the Clarion was prompted by limited available funds at the district level.

The school’s vision for the facilities includes two bathrooms, concession and storage in a single facility. It would replace the port-a-potties currently used to accommodate users of the field, which cost more than $6,000 annually in rental costs. KPBSD Director of Planning and Operation Kevin Lyon told the Clarion in February that the project doesn’t quite have the same urgency as some of the district’s other capital priorities, such as deferred maintenance.

Council member Teea Winger said she supports the resolution but asked whether the council would be able support the project financially.

“I think it’d be great to have a better setup there that would be more inviting for the public and just all the numerous different programs that use this,” Winger said. “My only concern is, you know, I’d like to support this more as a body financially.”

Kenai Finance Director Terry Eubank told council members that because Kenai Peninsula Borough School District facilities are owned by the Kenai Peninsula Borough, it would be unusual for the city to help fund the project.

“I think the real question is, you know, looking at ownership of the facility, and whether it’s, again, the city’s role to invest in a borough facility or something like that,” Eubank said.

Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander said that while the city will work with the school district and with the borough to make the project a priority, it is “very much a borough school district project.” Ostrander said he has already reached out to the borough to ask about getting the project into the school district’s bond package, but said the project has not historically been recognized as a priority of the district.

Council member James Baisden proposed asking the school district to include the restroom facilities in a bond package it is in the process of putting together as a way, citing the district’s need for borough-wide voter approval in order to get the package passed.

“For them to be able to do that they need to get buy-in from communities, us included,” Baisden said.

Projects included in a recommended bond package — which was presented to the KPBSD Board of Education on Monday — include the reconstruction of Soldotna Elementary School at $21.6 million, $4.8 million work of school roof replacements and other repairs to school buildings. In all, the projects included in the proposed bond package total $65,550,000.

The council voted Wednesday to amend the resolution to request that permanent restroom and storage facilities at Ed Hollier field be included in any current or future school district bond proposals. All city council members also signed on to the resolution as co-sponsors. Wednesday’s full meeting of the Kenai City Council can be found on the city’s YouTube channel.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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