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Culvert repair ordinance postponed

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The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday mulled funding for repair of borough culverts near anadromous stream crossings outside of city limits.

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The borough postponed Ordinance 2011-19-24, which sought to appropriate $100,000 from the borough's general fund to the Kenai Watershed Forum for culvert repair projects.

Assembly member Mako Haggerty said assembly members discussed where the money might come from other than the general fund during committee.

According to the ordinance, the borough receives revenues from the state averaging $729,162 per year depending on the success of the commercial fishing industry. It draws connections between improving fishery habitat in the borough, increasing the fish tax revenue for the borough and later mentions the borough's authority to provide for economic development.

It also details one of the objectives in the Kenai Peninsula Borough Comprehensive Plan to "minimize adverse impacts to critical habitat and population of sensitive threatened and endangered fish plant and wildlife species."

George Pierce, of Kasilof, said he wanted the borough to "throw (the ordinance) in the trash." He said voters already "spoke on giving money to non-profits and these organizations like this."

"It is not even two months old and here you are trying to give money away to non-profits," he said. "Some of you are going to say this is like apples and oranges. Well whatever it is, it is still fruit. We don't want you to give this money continually to these non-profits."

Robert Ruffner, executive director of the Watershed Forum, said the ordinance follows up on several years of work to support culvert restoration critical to fish migration.

He said all of the money would be spent on borough roads.

"What we are proposing to do is to use the funding we have requested to leverage that at least 2-to-1, if not greater ... to go out and fix borough roads," he said.

The assembly will host a final hearing on the matter at its Jan. 3 meeting.

The borough assembly also introduced Ordinance 2011-19-59, which seeks to appropriate $100,000 to the assessing department to obtain assistance in the 2012 appraisal of the Tesoro refinery.

Borough assessor Tom Anderson said Tuesday afternoon that the borough and Tesoro had a 5-year settlement agreement in place that went through 2010.

However, after going through the appraisal process, the borough valued the refinery in 2011 at $303 million, which Tesoro "strongly disagreed with," Anderson said.

Tesoro filed an appeal and, through their own appraisal, determined the value at $128 million.

However, the Board of Equalization decided to set the 2011 value at $143 million, although the borough is still waiting for a final written decision on the matter.

A value of $303 million would have landed the borough a little more than $3 million in revenue, Anderson said.

But a value of $143 million, as determined by the Board of Equalization, equates to $1.4 million in tax revenue.

The borough administration hasn't yet decided if it will appeal that decision, and if it did, it would go to Superior Court, Anderson said.

The money from the ordinance, which will be up for public testimony at the assembly's meeting on Jan. 3, would help fund the 2012 assessment, Anderson said.

Brian Smith can be reached at brian.smith@peninsulaclarion.com.

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