by Phillip Manning ~ November 14th, 2013
On Wednesday, the Talkeetna Sewer and Water Advisory Board held a special evening meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to provide consumers with a public forum to speak to both Borough staff and elected officials. Many of the invitees canceled due to deteriorating road conditions, including the Borough staff who had planned to attend. The weather did not keep everyone away, however. State Senator Mike Dunleavy made the trip to Talkeetna, and listened to the concerns of both the Advisory Board and other community members.
The major topic of conversation at Wednesday’s Sewer and Water meeting was the $100,000 legislature grant that was issued to the Borough in order to fund an assessment of the Talkeetna Sewer and Water System. Some in Talkeetna are not happy with the way that the assessment is being handled. Advisory Board Chair Jane Steere cited concerns that the Board and community were not being included in the process. According to her, the Borough rejected multiple requests that the contractor be required to hold public meetings with the Advisory Board and community in order to discuss the system.
Concerns were also raised that the $100,000 grant would not be sufficient to accomplish the seven goals laid out by the Borough. Many community members were concerned that the contract would either not get bids, or would not produce useful findings as a result of the combination of lack of community input and funding.
KTNA contacted Mat-Su Borough Public Works Director Terry Dolan to ask about some of the concerns expressed at Wednesday’s meeting. Dolan was among those from the Borough who had planned to come to the meeting before freezing rain made road conditions hazardous. He says that it is not the Borough’s intent to cut the Advisory Board or community of Talkeetna out of the information loop. He says that the contractor will likely take input from the Board as well as many residents while they are in Talkeetna performing the engineering analyses. He also did not rule out the possibility of public meetings, but says that would be dependent on how much funding was available after the analysis was budgeted.
Terry Dolan also says that, once a contractor is chosen, negotiations will begin with the Borough regarding what aspects of the scope of work can be accomplished within the $100,000 state grant. According to Dolan, the engineering analysis to determine the magnitude of needed repairs and replacements is necessary before a financial plan can be accurately formed. He says that such an analysis would make it much easier to put together a capital improvement plan to present to the Assembly.
The request for proposals runs through December 9th, at which time the Borough will begin the process of choosing a contractor so that the assessment can begin early next year.