Otmeloi Way is seen in this April 2016 file photo. Drew Herman/Kodiak Daily Mirror

 This past week KDM carried an announcement of an upcoming town hall meeting at the Bayside Fire Department on the evening of Tuesday, Jan 10, the subject of which is the Otmeloi Way paving project.

Ordinarily one would presume that such a project would only be of interest to the 1,000 or so non-exempt residents of Service District No. 1, who approved the project in last year’s municipal election and who alone will become financially responsible for road maintenance, repair, plowing, etc. once construction is complete and the state turns over ownership of the road to the borough.

This project has been ongoing for over 20 years now. And if one reviews background documentation for this project, one comes across interesting historical information. For example, in a Feb. 1, 1995, memo from the Service District No. 1 board to the borough assembly, the chair, Mr. Scott Arndt, notes the following:

“After much discussion on this subject, a positive motion was made for the Service District No. 1 Board to recommend to the Assembly that the Borough accept Otmeloi Way from the State of Alaska. This motion failed unanimously!

“The Board is in no way interested in maintenance on Otmeloi Way.”

However, apparently the borough assembly was not swayed by Service District No. 1’s recommendations, in part (presumably) because paving Otmeloi Way is important to the borough for future residential development in the North Star Elementary School area, as noted in early documents providing the rationale for paving Otmeloi Way (and the recent inclusion of 30-plus acres of public use lands just north of Otmeloi Way into Service District No. 1 for near-future development.  

So, in a Jan. 16, 1997, resolution the borough assembly agreed to accept maintenance and operation responsibility for Otmeloi Way from the state of Alaska once it has been improved to borough road standards.  However, after that not much happened, as there were no funds available to undertake the project.

Then, in a Nov. 16, 2005, Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities letter to the borough manager, it was noted that ADOT “received a $3.3 million general fund appropriation for Otmeloi Way Rehabilitation in the 2006 capital budget.” The letter further notes that ADOT “proposes that the ownership of Otmeloi Way be transferred to the Kodiak Island Borough, along with the $3.3 million in general funds, for the design and construction of the project.”

The letter then concludes by saying that if the borough desires, ADOT is willing to accept responsibility for the design and construction of the project; however, “the borough (would) be responsible for any costs that exceed the general fund appropriation.”

Subsequently, as best I can tell, it was determined that the $3.3 million was insufficient to pave all of Otmeloi Way, and additional federal funding in the amount of $4 million was tentatively secured. However, the additional federal funding apparently came with new design requirements for the roadway, leading to the current perception that this project is overdesigned.

Very interesting; but, so what? The important takeaway for the current Kodiak community is that the borough, not ADOT, is ultimately responsible for the planning, design, construction and financing of this project.  That is, the borough owns this project and is responsible for providing its contractor (whether ADOT or another engineering firm) with the necessary funding and clear direction as to the work to be accomplished.

Complicating the above is that there is no necessity for paving all of Otmeloi Way. The original concern was the safety of children walking to North Star Elementary School from Rezanof Drive. The original solution was a $1.5 million walkway separate from Otmeloi Way, from which today’s paving project (whatever it ends up being) has mushroomed.

All of which, of course, is just my opinion.


Jeff Stewart is a retired project manager and former member of the KIBSD Board of Education.

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