Ordinance would place bonds for borough building on ballot

Kenai Peninsula voters may get a chance to decide whether the Kenai Peninsula Borough should issue bonds to pay for renovations to the borough administration building.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly voted at its Tuesday meeting to introduce an ordinance that would place a proposition on the Oct. 3 ballot asking voters if the borough should take out up to $5 million in bonds to replace the aging heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at the George A. Navarre Borough Administration Building in Soldotna. The building, constructed in the 1970s to house the then-fledgling borough, has not been significantly renovated since.

The system is inefficient and leads to poor heating in the winter and cooling in the summer, said Borough Mayor Mike Navarre at the assembly’s finance committee meeting Tuesday. Employees use space heaters throughout the building in the winter, which is a major power draw and could be a fire hazard, and leave doors open in the summer, he said.

“It’s increasing in problems, and a lot of time is spent by our maintenance department on this building particularly trying to get adequate heat here in the middle of the winter,” he said.

The borough has listed the replacement among its top capital project priorities for several years, but with the state’s ongoing budget crisis, capital project funding has been sparse. An estimate provided by the borough in its 2016 capital priority listing priced the project at approximately $6.7 million and a year to complete.

Navarre said people may not be eager for the borough to take out debt to finance repairs to a government building, but the problem is significant and needs to be dealt with. In a speech to the joint Kenai and Soldotna chambers of commerce in January, he named the project among his top priorities for his last year in office.

A memo from Acting Finance Director Brandi Harbaugh to the assembly estimates the total capital costs at $5 million and would space out the construction in phases over three years, with the first bond sale possible in late 2017.

“If borough voters approve this proposition, it is currently anticipated that the bond issuance or other debt mechanism would be provided through three separate transactions,” the memo states. “…In total, the three-phase debt transaction would coincide with plans for the three-phased design, planning, constructing and equipping the HVAC mechanical system to serve all three floors of the borough building.”

The assembly did not challenge the ordinance’s introduction at the meeting and had no amendments. Assembly member Wayne Ogle brought up a concern about the power draw from all the space heaters increasing the borough’s electrical expense.

“I think that is a very persuasive argument,” he said. “It’s a big concern — people plug them in and hide them out under their desks where you don’t know where they are, and you have an electrical nightmare.”

The assembly will hear the ordinance again at its Aug. 1 meeting, and if approved, voters will see it on the Oct. 3 regular election ballot.

The assembly also voted to introduce an ordinance appropriating $1,500 to cover the costs of printing and distributing information on the proposed ballot proposition, which will also be heard at the Aug. 1 meeting.

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

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