City and borough officials are back in Kodiak this week after a trip to Juneau to lobby the Alaska Legislature and host Kodiak’s annual reception for state lawmakers.
On Wednesday night, more than 100 people attended the reception where Kodiak’s elected officials met state legislators and lobbyists while enjoying fresh Kodiak seafood.
In addition to public funding, the reception was put on with donations from Kodiak’s seafood processors, the Alaska Aerospace Corporation and local Native corporations and tribal councils.
“The banquet is a big hit; we had a lot of people show up,” councilman Rich Walker said. “It really helps when you go in there and talk to people face to face, and they can relate to you and your community.”
Public funding of the reception has been controversial, and two years ago the city and borough cut costs by finding local sponsors for the annual event.
City mayor Pat Branson, city manager Aimée Kniaziowski, and city councilmen Rich Walker, Charles Davidson and Gabriel Saravia attended the reception to represent the city.
Branson said city officials focused on talking to legislators about the city’s top two capital improvement projects — the Monashka Reservoir pump house replacement and the replacement of the 911 system.
Branson was in Juneau from Monday through Wednesday in order to meet finance committee members and Senate president Charlie Huggins.
“It was strategically laid out that we met with these people who are very influential in deciding, especially on capital budgets, where the money goes,” Branson said.
City representatives also met Karen Rehfeld from the Alaska Office of Management and Budget to discuss shifting $900,000 from the completed ultraviolet water treatment facility to the pump house project.
The reappropriation would lower the city's pump house funding request from $5.7 million to $4.5 million.
“That was very well received,” Branson said. “I met with Rep. (Bill) Stolze, co-chair of the (House) finance committee. He called our request, ‘meat and potatoes, safety issues, nothing frivolous,’ so that was a good response from him.”
Kodiak Island Borough mayor Jerome Selby, manager Bud Cassidy, and assembly members Carol Austerman, Aaron Griffin, David Kaplan and Louise Stutes also traveled to Juneau. The assembly members arrived Sunday night and spent all of Monday and most of Tuesday meeting with finance leaders, legislators and administration.
“It’s tiring but it’s required if you really want to have people know your projects and know your community,” Griffin said. “You have to wave your hands in their face and say look at us we’re important too, otherwise Anchorage walks away with all the money.”
The borough took the same approach as the city and focused on lobbying for funding for a few key projects.
“We really hit hard on the landfill and additional money for the high school,” Griffin said. “I think we got a lot of traction on that (the landfill). It’s a necessary public works project.”
Borough manager Bud Cassidy said he was impressed with what he saw at the reception. He said the borough also requested funding for projects around the island such as the Ouzinkie dam project, which is on the edge of failure, and the water system in Akhiok.
“The Akhiok water system is in real bad shape,” Cassidy said. “The community has to boil water. Obviously it’s a pretty basic need.”
Contact Mirror writer Nicole Klauss at firstname.lastname@example.org.