KTNA provides 24/7 news, music, cultural and public affairs information to our listening and streaming audience. Our mission is based on the premise that we are here to build community. KTNA needs your support to stay strong and steady in working towards that mission.
KTNA’s Spring One Day Membership Drive is coming up Thursday, April 24. Stay tuned and pledge your support early at http://ktna.org/support-ktna/pledge-now/
On Tuesday, Mat-Su Borough Manager John Moosey submitted his proposed Borough budget for the next fiscal year. The proposal comes in at $403 million dollars, which is about $20 million less than the budget for the current year.
The largest expenditure in the proposed budget is just over $269 million for schools in the Borough. $55.9 million is allocated for borough operations, making it the second highest expenditure. Debt service is the third most expensive item, at $34.3 million.
The M/V Susitna continues to be a major expense for the Borough as well. The proposed budget estimates more than $700,000 in maintenance and other costs associated with the ferry prototype. That number represents approximately half of the budget for the current year. The Borough is continuing to attempt to sell the ferry or give it to another government entity.
At Tuesday’s budget presentation, Borough Manager Moosey also said that the Borough will lose $1 million in revenue sharing funds from the state. He says the change is accounted for in the budget, and will be considered in future budgets, as it could mean a gradual stepping-down of the program over the course of a few years.
Included in the budget is the revenue projection for the Talkeetna Sewer and Water utility. For the current budget year, the total revenue budget was set at $307, which included a $75,000 infusion that Assembly Member Vern Halter pushed through the Borough Assembly. Given current rates, the total revenue is estimated for next fiscal year is estimated at $245,000, and expenses are estimated at about $330,000. Both of those numbers are subject to change once the current assessment of the utility’s finances and operation is completed this year.
The Borough Manager’s proposed budget is subject to amendment by the Borough Assembly. The Assembly will hold public meetings on May 1st in Wasilla, May 2nd in Willow, and May 5th in Palmer to listen to input from Mat-Su residents.
Warm weather is easing the process of clearing the Park Road in Denali National Park. According to a press release on Thursday, the road will be open to the Teklanika Rest area beginning Friday.
The spring thaw has also brought out some of Denali National Park’s wildlife. According to the National Park Service, moose, caribou, Dall sheep, ravens, ptarmigans, fox, eagles, and a wolverine have been sighted. The bears are evidently still waking up, however, as the road clearing crew has not reported any sightings, yet.
While the road will be open to private vehicles, the Park Service cautions visitors that snow and ice can still be present, especially in shaded areas.
Tuesday evening, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly voted to amend an ordinance that could result in a redrawing of the voting districts of the Borough. Assembly Member Steve Colligan, who sponsored the ordinance, says that the goal is to align the Borough’s districts with the state’s voting precincts.
Vern Halter, Assembly Member for District 7, which includes the Upper Valley, took issue with the original redrawing of district lines. The original plan would have included most of the land in District 7 east of Talkeetna being moved to District 1, which mostly covers the southeastern portion of the Borough. Assembly Member Halter says that the northern portion of that land has traditionally been part of District 7, and the four residents in the area are often dependent on Talkeetna for airborne transportation and resupply.
Mike Wood, resident of the Chase Community, said at the meeting that the original plan would mean that the community council area would be split into two Borough districts. Jok Bondurant, Talkeetna-based pilot and KTNA board of directors member, testified that the area in question was tied more to Talkeetna via the airport than to other areas of the Borough.
An amendment, offered by Assembly Member Halter, kept the northern portion of the land in question as part of District 7, and ceded land closer to the Hatcher Pass area to District 1. Jim Sykes, Assembly Member for District 1, said he did not object to the amendment, and it passed unanimously. The ordinance as a whole also passed without objection. The final decision will be up to Borough voters during the October election.
At 12:24 pm on Wednesday, the Upper Valley got a bit of a jolt. A magnitude 5.1 earthquake, centered near the Parks Highway between Talkeetna and Cantwell, occurred at a depth of seventy-six kilometers. No damage or injuries were immediately reported.
At the KTNA studio, the ground shook for about half a minute in total. The earthquake was felt as far away as Valdez and Fairbanks.
Eclipsed moon next to Virgo’s brightest star Spica, and well below Mars, now at opposition, it’s closest (and therefore brightest) to Earth. What a night! Kathleen Fleming took this photo with her point and shoot digital camera.
Earlier this month, the Alaska Energy Authority reached a land access agreement with the Cook Inlet Regional Working Group regarding land access to conduct field studies. The working group, which is composed six village corporations and Cook Inlet Region, Incorporated, will allow the studies to proceed on their land through 2015 and AEA will pay a permit fee of $2.5 million. The previous lack of an agreement meant that studies could not be conducted on the Alaska Native-owned land during 2013, and was the major reason cited by Governor Sean Parnell for cutting back significantly on Susitna-Watana’s budget for the fiscal year beginning in July.
The budget cuts and land access issues contributed to AEA’s request for an extension on the multi-year licensing required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on projects like Susitna-Watana. Part of that delay includes pushing back the release of an Initial Study Report, which details the work that took place in 2013 and will lay out the plan for work through the second study season. Originally, that report was scheduled to come out at the beginning of February, but has been pushed back to the beginning of June. When the review period is taken into account, it means that the meetings to discuss future study plans will take place in October. Read More »
At it’s meeting on Tuesday, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly will consider an ordinance that would call for a public vote to change assembly district maps. Part of that change would involve splitting off most of the land north and east of Talkeetna, which currently lies in District 7, and placing it in District 1.
Most of the population of District 1 lies in the far Southeast of the Borough, including the communities of Butte, Lazy Mountain, and Sutton. It does, however, contain land along the eastern border of the Borough, stretching north from Lake Louise. The new map would put what is currently considered Sheep Mountain into District 1, as well as part of Chase.
Vern Halter, Assembly Member for District 7, says that he opposes the ordinance. Halter says that while only a handful of voters are affected, it would mean that his district would no longer include the area near the proposed Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project, which he opposes.
The ordinance is scheduled for public hearing at the April 15th Assembly meeting. If the ordinance passes as-is, the issue will be on the Borough Election ballot this October.