Fiscal year-end financial issues and two personnel matters were the focus of last Thursday’s Kodiak Island Borough Assembly meeting.
The Assembly scheduled a public hearing at its July 7 meeting to get feedback on whether to increase fiscal 2022 budget funding by a total amount of $6.03 million. At issue is funding for these eight projects:
· Landfill Stage 3 closure: add $2.75 million
· Leachate aeration: add $2.5 million
· Main Elementary roof replacement: add $650,000
· Kodiak Fisheries Research Center ozonator: add $140,000
· East Elementary roof replacement: add $10,000
· Islandwide underground storage tank removal/replacement: add $5,000
· KFRC fire alarm replacement and upgrades: reduce by $17,656
· Fire Protection Area No. 1 exterior improvement: reduce by $2,134
“Since most projects cover multiple years, the Borough does not create annual budgets for them,” according to staff-prepared documents given to Assembly members. “Each project budget is developed when the project is originated. Throughout the life of a project, funds will cycle in and out of the perspective budgets due to continuous changes with the scope of work. …”
The Assembly also voted to schedule a July 7 hearing on whether it should proceed with increasing the mayor’s monthly compensation for service on the Assembly from $500 to $700 and increasing Assembly members’ compensation from $300 to $500 a month. The last increase in compensation came in August 2007, according to staff documents.
The Assembly, by a 3-1 vote with Scott Arndt dissenting, decided against transferring $20,000 in unused economic development money from the fiscal 2022 budget, which ends June 30, to the 2023 budget for use by the Kodiak Economic Development Corp. James Turner, Aimee Williams and Scott Smiley voted in favor, but since Joseph Delgado, Jared Griffin and Geoffrey Smith were not present the vote failed to achieve positive votes by a majority of the total Assembly.
Before the vote, John Whiddon, president of the KEDC, gave the Assembly a progress report. He pointed out that in the last six months alone, the economic development organization has established a board, hired a project manager, created a housing committee to focus on the shortage of affordable housing, created a workforce development committee and started an apprenticeship program. He also said that KEDC has received a $250,000 grant to help two local kelp farms find other markets, and KEDC has another $1 million in grants pending.
Before his “no” vote, Arndt said: “I’m interested in what they do during their first year. … I’m willing to take a look at next year what they’ve accomplished before I vote to spend more money. Like I said, my hesitation is lack of return on investment in the past” by other Kodiak economic development efforts.
“The idea behind economic development is you’re planting seeds,” said Williams, who serves as an ex-officio member of the KEDC. “It’s not a straight line between planting seeds and getting results. Mr. Whiddon has demonstrated a pretty good track record.”
Whiddon pointed out that while his presentation focused on accomplishments so far this year, KEDC has been in existence for about two years. It started out as the organization tasked with handing out CARES Act funding to keep Kodiak small businesses going during the height of the COVID pandemic.
The Assembly spent a total of 1 hour, 35 minutes in two separate executive sessions — one to discuss the employment agreement with Borough Clerk Nova Javier, and the other to discuss the performance evaluation of Borough Manager Roxanne Murphy.
She was offered the job last November after serving as the assistant city manager in Valdez. Her predecessor, Michael Powers, was terminated as Kodiak Island Borough manager last September.
After coming out of executive session regarding Javier’s contract, Assembly members said only that they had made “some alterations” to her contract. They took no action other than to adjourn the meeting after coming out of their second executive session.
The Assembly also made a revision to certain provisions pertaining to future declarations of a disaster or emergency and how they would affect attendance at Assembly meetings.
The biggest change is that whenever such conditions exist, the Assembly now will be required to vote every 30 days or less on whether the mayor has the continued authority to order meetings to be telephonic with limited public access.
The Assembly also voted to hold a public hearing on July 7 regarding sweeping changes to the election code.