Jeff Stewart

Thursday’s borough assembly meeting left one wondering whether he indeed heard what he thought he heard, or merely is suffering from a neurologic disorder.

The meeting began with status report (via telephone) from our lobbyist in Washington, D.C. To no one’s surprise, one can expect federal funding opportunities for the borough will continue to decline.

Next up on the agenda was a good presentation and Q-and-A with Louise Stutes, our state representative. At present, the state’s expenditures for education are about 22 percent of the state budget, and reductions in this year’s allocation will result in the borough having to come up with an unplanned, additional $1.7 million of to cover this shortfall. In the future, it is reasonable to expect further state educational cuts — for which, again, the borough will have to come up with additional money.

Skipping ahead, one item of discussion at the meeting was the replanting of the Chiniak forest. Consensus appeared to be that if we do not replant this spring (2017), likely we will not replant at all. And our only option at this late date is to purchase a lot of 300,000 saplings, which likely will result in tens of thousands of excess trees. If this proves to be the case, the assembly has no idea of what to do with them. Talk about poor planning on the borough assembly’s part (although borough staff seems to be on top of the situation and, if the assembly follows their recommendations, likely we could have an excellent planting in spring, 2017).

But in focusing on the assembly’s role in restoring the Chiniak forest, all I could think of was that this is the same organization now proposing to consolidate our two island polities into one unified boroughwide government … and this from an assembly that can’t even get their act together to plant one square mile of trees given 10 months of knowing that this was going to be required? However, it gets even better.

Approximately 20 years ago in the mid-1990s, there was a borough assembly project to construct a pedestrian/bike path from Rezanof Drive along to Otmeloi Way up to North Star Elementary School so students could safely walk to school. As far as I can tell, this would be similar to the current pedestrian walkway along Rezanof and would connect into that pathway. Today this project is coming to fruition at an estimated cost of $4 million. From its inception it has grown to now include a largely nonessential reconstruction of Otmeloi Way to widen, straighten and flatten this one-mile section of road and to then pave it with asphalt (resulting in very expensive maintenance costs). Also, new street lighting will replace the existing.

Following completion of construction, the cost of maintenance and sanding will be the sole responsibility of local residents of Service Area 1 — not at the expense of the borough (which has no road equipment) — even though students from all over the borough attend North Star.

New street lighting will be installed, with the cost of monthly KEA service now to be paid by only the two dozen or so residents along Otmeloi, who will be formed into a new lighting district. And what if these residents don’t want to be formed into a new lighting district (as the existing street lights work just fine)? The borough assembly’s recommendation at Thursday’s meeting was to install the new street lights, just not turn them on. And this will improve student safety how?

This, of course, is the same borough assembly that is going to work to consolidate our city and borough governments. Maybe we should encourage them to try, if for no other reason than the entertainment value alone.

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

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