The Kodiak Island Borough Assembly approved its capital improvement projects list during its regular meeting Thursday.
The list contains projects the borough considers to be its highest priority, and it submits the list to state lawmakers and Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s office without obligating funds.
The assembly approved the list in a 5-1 vote, with Assembly Member Scott Smiley the lone dissenting vote. Assembly Member Aimee Williams was absent due to being off-island for a state conference.
Smiley proposed tabling the item until at least Kodiak’s representatives — House Speaker Louise Stutes and Sen. Gary Stevens — could provide their legislative updates ahead of the next regular session in Juneau, which starts in January.
“I would prefer to have them here telling us what they think we should do,” Smiley said. “I think there are way too many items on the tentative projects list … I don’t see the rationale for some of the items on this list.”
The borough’s final draft CIP list included 14 projects, including a message of support urging the state to complete the design and start construction of the $238 million replacement vessel for the 57-year-old Tustumena as soon as possible.
Beyond the Tustumena, the list prioritizes school-related projects first. Overall, the final draft list includes:
• Peterson Elementary School roof replacement and repairs, for $2.4 million; the borough already has allocated $800,000.
• Main Elementary roof evaluation and design for $80,000.
• East Elementary roof evaluation and design for $100,000.
• Safe Pathways to North Star Elementary to create safe walking areas for $1.5 million.
• Waste to Energy Project at the Kodiak Island Borough Landfill, which would turn gasifcated solid waste into energy, for $36 million.
• Port Lions water and sewer distribution project to overhaul the village’s outdated system for $2.5 million.
• Drainage improvements to the Chiniak Highway/Sargent Creek Road intersection near Bells Flats for $500,000.
• Sargent Creek Community playground and basketball court for the Sargent Creek side of Womens Bay for $110,000. The Borough has $1,000 set aside.
• Road improvements and paving for the borough’s four service area roadways for $7.5 million. The borough can contribute $750,000 in local funds, bringing funding needs to $6.75 million.
• Port Lions road improvements to pave the remaining gravel roads in the village for $1.5 million.
• Improvements to Kodiak Island trails for $50,000.
• The Anton Larsen Bay Road Extension to Ice Free Waters project for $8.45 million; the borough has committed $450,000, dropping needed funds to $8 million.
• Paving the gravel portion of Chiniak Highway from Mile 30 to Mile 41, where Chiniak is located, for $42 million. Chiniak residents requested the project in writing.
• Ouzinkie electrical distribution system overhaul for $1.5 million to replace the village’s aging and weather-deteriorating system.
• Larsen Bay water distribution system line replacements for $1.7 million. Larsen Bay reports that severe leaks cause a loss of 40,000 gallons of water a day.
Smiley said the assembly lacks a substantial policy-level decision on how to rank or prioritize items.
“I have talked with a former legislator and their advice was to do small projects in case there was small money available, which seems like a good idea to me,” Smiley said. “I think we need to have a larger conversation about this and go through each one of these items.”
Assembly Member Scott Arndt said Smiley had valid points, adding “it’s already too late” for the borough to submit its list to Dunleavy’s office.
“He is preparing his budget, which he is expected to release in the first part of December, so it’s already too late to get in there with anything at this time,” Arndt said, adding that talking with Stutes and Stevens and then “starting the process early next year” makes sense to ensure “there is some chance someone will look at it (the list).”
Assembly Member Joe Delgado said while he’s satisfied with the current draft CIP list, he agreed it was probably too late to submit it to the governor’s office.
Delgado said next year’s CIP list process would be better coordinated, after the borough has gone through staffing issues and dealing with the fallout from the COVID pandemic.
“I think staff will get more input from us to build the next CIP list,” Delgado said.