The City of Kenai will use about $85,000 in grant funds to construct a boardwalk over the Shqui Tsatnu Creek drainage near the Kenai Peninsula Community Care Center. That’s following a green light given by the Kenai City Council during its Nov. 3 meeting.
The funds, made available via a grant opportunity through the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, are available through June of 2024 and are meant to support the creation of “healthy and equitable” communities in Alaska.
Through the program, the City of Kenai will receive about $43,300 directly, as well as about $43,000 from the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s allocation in the first year, according to an Oct. 27 memo from Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander to the council.
Kenai Finance Director Terry Eubank said during the city council’s Nov. 3 meeting that city administrators concentrated efforts on category number four of the program, which emphasizes the improvement of community spaces where people “live, learn, work and play, allowing individuals and families greater opportunities for better health outcomes.”
“Once we singled in on that, we went to the city’s adopted five-year capital plan and looked for projects that would be a good fit,” Eubank said during that meeting.
That review of the city’s capital plan produced two options: construction of an elevated boardwalk between the east and west ends of municipal park or replacing playground equipment at the Softball Green Strip. Constructing the boardwalk, which would cross the Shqui Tsatnu Creek drainage, is estimated to cost $85,000 and was scheduled for funding in the next fiscal year. Replacing the playground equipment at the Softball Green Strip is also estimated to cost $85,000 and is scheduled for funding in fiscal year 2024, which begins on July 1, 2023 and ends on June 30, 2024.
Eubank also told the council that the boardwalk project would require the city to secure an easement previously donated by the city to the Kenai Peninsula Community Care Center. Eubank said it is the city’s “hope” that the easement is secure, but that it would have to be negotiated with the center.
Both projects have already been approved by the grants administrator at DHSS, Ostrander said, which is a requirement of the program. The grant program’s Oct. 29 deadline was extended for the City of Kenai to give the city council time to consider the options during their Nov. 3 meeting.
Council member Teea Winger said she favored going with the playground equipment, and spoke more broadly about her desire to see more equipment at other city parks, such as the Fourth Avenue Park, where her children and their neighbors play and that does not have playground equipment.
Council member Henry Knackstedt said he favored moving forward with the boardwalk, which he said would benefit more people, and that he thought the city could get the necessary easement.
“I definitely support our capital improvement project book and these two (projects) are in it, as was pointed out,” Knackstedt said. “I also appreciate the funds that are coming in that will go toward one of them. Those funds will be something that aren’t going to come out of our constituents’ pockets out of taxes.”
The council voted 4-3 to move forward with the boardwalk project first, with council members Winger, James Basiden and Jim Glendenning voting in opposition.
Activities funded through DHSS’ grant program must have an emphasis on “high risk, underserved population groups,” according to a DHSS explanation of the grant program. Those activities and strategies may include expanding existing COVID-19 mitigation services to ensure adequate baseline care for high risk populations disproportionately affected by COVID, improving data collection and reporting for those disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, improving access to vaccines, or promoting healthy and equitable communities, among other things.
“Strategies that are implemented should aim to build infrastructures that both improve health outcomes for higher risk underserved Alaskans in the current COVID-19 pandemic and set the foundation for future responses,” DHSS documentation says.
The Kenai City Council’s Nov. 3 meeting can be viewed on the city’s YouTube channel.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.