Kenai Peninsula Borough assembly member Dale Bagley can add the title of President to his business card.
Bagley was unanimously elected Assembly President at Tuesday’s borough assembly meeting in Soldotna. Assembly member Sue McClure, of Seward, was elected Vice President. Bagley replaced Hal Smalley as President while McClure replaced Bill Smith as Vice President, who both term-limited out. Assembly member Brent Johnson respectfully declined a nomination from assembly member Mako Haggerty.
Bagley, who served two terms as borough mayor and is in his fourth year representing Soldotna, said his goal is to run meetings as quick and efficiently as possible and make sure everyone is treated with respect.
“I have sat through a number of years (of assembly meetings) and it’s tougher to run the meeting versus sitting and letting it happen,” Bagley said. “I want to make sure it runs efficiently and be respectful to people that come here to testify. Hopefully assembly members will treat each other with professionalism and respect.”
The meeting was the first for three assembly members –Blaine Gilman of Kenai, Stan Welles of Sterling, and Kelly Cooper of Homer. Gilman said his mantra will be that education is funded to the cap. Cooper accepted a mayor’s proclamation from Mike Navarre declaring November as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. Cooper’s husband Jim Cooper lost his battle with Pancreatic Cancer in January of 2011 and she has since hosted events to raise awareness to fund a cure.
The new members will look to fill three vacanies in the finance, policies and procedures and legislative committees, Bagley said.
The assembly discussed reconsideration of a resolution regarding climate change and ocean acidification that passed at the Oct. 15 meeting. The resolution, introduced by Haggerty, requested the state reconvene a task force and take action on recommendations and support efforts to adapt to climate change.
Assembly member Kelly Wolf said he gave notice for reconsideration because he didn’t believe the assembly should tell the state of Alaska what to do. Assembly member Wayne Ogle, who was absent at the last meeting, agreed that climate change wasn’t a matter the borough should get involved in.
Gilman said he would hate it if the resolution was used against the borough to argue against oil and gas development.
Haggerty opposed reconsideration because he said it is important the state takes proactive steps to address climate change and ocean acidification for the benefit of the next generation.
Johnson said the resolution doesn’t allude to whether climate change is human-caused, or how to mitigate the effects. He said evidence of climate change could be seen in the glacier melt and bluff erosion, which threatens infrastructure, as the borough has seen with the hole near the Sterling Highway near Clam Gulch.
“We are seeing aggressive erosion,” he said. “The place is warming up.”
The assembly voted 5-4 to reverse the vote and the resolution failed by the same count with assembly members Wolf, Ogle, Welles, Gilman and Bagley against the resolution.
Haggerty said he was disappointed the vote failed. The resolution was intended to ask the state to get more information on the issue. He said the result of the vote gives him a better understanding of the assembly members perspective.
“The whole idea of climate change seems to threaten people,” he said. “People are worried how it hits their pocket book. I’m worried how it affects the future.”
The assembly heard two presentations. Rick Davis, CEO of Central Peninsula Hospital gave a quarterly report that showed hospital revenue has gone up 11 percent since the first quarter last year with $64 million in gross revenue and the net income went up 27 percent. Davis said revenue is based on utilization multiplied by price. CPH had a five percent price increase last year, which factors into the rise in income, he said.
Davis reported the average Medicaid inpatient charge was on the lower end compared to other hospitals in the state. CPH has added eight physicians since the 2013 first quarter.
Ogle asked Davis what measures CPH has taken against infectious diseases like Ebola. Davis said the hospital has four negative pressure rooms used for isolation of potential Ebola patients and new guidelines from the Center Disease Control instruct any person screened for Ebola to be transported to one of four hospitals in the U.S. for treatment.
Davis said it is unlikely Alaska will see any Ebola cases because all travelers to Alaska are screened for potential Ebola exposure. He said CPH has a protocol in place in the event they come across an Ebola patient.
“We are doing all we can to get ready for it,” he said. “Even though it is unlikely we will need it but we will take it seriously.”
Larry Persily, a Federal Coordinator of the Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Projects, provided an update on the Alaska North Slope Gas Line project. Persily said growth in the market for natural gas to China has increased the demand. An environmental impact statement will have a big impact on weather the project will move forward. The timeline for a final investment decision could come in 2019, he said.
The assembly passed an ordinance that appropriated nearly $65,000 for the purchase of portable radios for the Anchor Point Fire Service area and an emergency generator for the Moose Pass Volunteer Fire Company. The funding comes from the state department of military and veteran affairs, division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
The assembly passed a resolution to approve community revenue sharing program expenditures for 27 unincorporated communities. Through various community meetings, the borough gathered information for program funding and appropriated $545,000.
Among the projects: volunteer fire departments borough-wide received $19,804 for equipment, supplies and training. The Kasilof Regional Historical Association received $15,300 for building renovations. The Tsalteshi Trails Association received more than $7,000 for trail improvements and the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank received nearly $8,000 for food provisions, according to the resolution.
The next borough assembly meeting is Nov. 25 at 6 p.m. in Soldotna.