The city of Kodiak and Kodiak Island Borough are trying to hash out what expenses incurred by the COVID-19 response should be shared and how those expenses should be split. 

From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city of Kodiak, rather than the Kodiak Island Borough, has taken the lead on the response. Years ago, when officials codified Kodiak’s emergency response protocol for events like earthquakes, tsunamis and pandemics, the decision was made to have the city, generally, in charge of responding. 

The city employs full-time firefighters, police officers and others who would come in handy in bad situations, and the borough does not.

That also means that the city would incur a larger amount of expenses. This is part of the reason the city received $11.9 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act money, while the borough only got $5.8 million. 

And there have been plenty of expenses. The total project costs of pandemic response, as documented in a budget from March 1 to Aug. 21, is $11.5 million. That includes everything from temporary medical facilities, small-business assistance and signboards, to hotel rooms for quarantining people who test positive. 

But, over the course of that response, while all costs have been incurred by the city, some things have benefited both the city and borough. 

Over the past few weeks, the city and borough have met to try to hash out what the borough should help pay for, and how much it should pay. 

For instance, the two groups agreed that both sides should split the $50,000 cost of tents and supplies for testing sites. The same goes for two hotel rooms rented at $150 a night to quarantine people coming into the island who didn’t have other places to go. 

The total amount of potential shared expenses adds up to around $478,000.

Some borough assembly members, such as Julie Kavanaugh and Rebecca Skinner, thought the four large reader board signs the city bought to push out messages could be used after the pandemic, so they might not qualify as a shared expense. Still, there seemed to be general agreement on what costs should be shared on 12 or so items. 

How to split up those share costs will be trickier. Borough Mayor Bill Roberts said they should be divided down the middle. 

“This is a Kodiak Island cost, and we have two governments. We’re going to split the cost, and I think that’s probably the fairest way to look at it,” he said at last Thursday’s borough work session.  

Others felt that 30% from the borough would be more fair, given that the city got so much more CARES money than the borough. 

“I feel like the 30% could be reasonable given how much money each of the entities received,” Skinner said. 

“The city did receive considerably more than the borough. And they are essentially running the EOC (Emergency Operations Center) and the ESC (Emergency Services Council). They’re the decision makers, they’re doing the lion’s share of the work, and they got more CARES money, so would 50% make sense? I don’t know.” 

Fifty percent of the money would equal $238,000, while 30% would equal $143,000. 

The larger issue still is where the money would come from, regardless of what number the borough chooses. The assembly allocated $1.2 million of its CARES money to the borough itself, but it’s not clear whether that will be enough to cover the shared expenses too. 

At the work session, the assembly agreed to seek more information from the city on the shared items and continue to discuss funding mechanisms. 

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