After the Mat-Su Borough Assembly’s final public hearing on the borough budget on Thursday, three assembly members submitted a total of twelve proposed amendments. The first amendment listed is a three percent increase to the borough’s portion of funding for the Mat-Su Borough School District’s operating budget. The increase amounts to about $1.5 million. The amendment was submitted by Assembly Member Matthew Beck, who sits on the joint School Board and Borough Assembly committee. Beck also submitted an amendment re-establishing municipal block grants for the cities of Palmer, Wasilla, and Houston, totaling about $120,000. Beck’s other two amendments would provide a $90,000 planning grant to the City of Wasilla and transfer $50,000 to the Youth Court program. All of Assembly Member Beck’s amendments involve relatively small increases to the areawide mill rate.
Assembly Member Dan Mayfield is proposing a handful of amendments around emergency services. He is proposing an areawide mill rate increase to buy three new ambulances for the borough, to hire three paramedics and five EMTs, to add two Fire Service Area Assistant positions, and to reshuffle the staffing structure in the Mat-Su Central Fire Service Area.
The amendments submitted by Assembly Member Vern Halter, whose district includes the Upper Valley, deal primarily with the borough’s solid waste division. Halter proposes a small increase to the non-areawide mill rate in order to transfer funds to solid waste and to provide start-up costs and operational support for recycling programs based at borough transfer sites. Halter is also proposing a $100,000 payment from the Willow Fire Service area toward a loan taken from the borough.
Meetings are currently scheduled for Monday and Wednesday, with a third scheduled for May 20th, if needed.
Recent aerial photographs confirm the concerns of some local residents that the only water flowing past the Talkeetna Boat Launch area is coming from the slough that drains the Talkeetna sewage treatment lagoon.
Despite that, Mat-Su Borough Public Works Director Terry Dolan says it’s not necessarily a cause for concern at the moment, because the lagoons are not discharging. Dolan says that the lagoons store contaminated water through the winter, and it begins being discharged late in the spring. He says that the discharge has not begun, yet, and that the effluent will be confirmed to be in compliance levels before water is let out from the lagoons. What Dolan says is currently flowing in the slough is runoff from rain and melting snow, and not treated sewage.
Terry Dolan says that the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation recently visited the Talkeetna site after media coverage of issues with the system. He says the discussion was around the periodic problems with lagoon effluent and the measures to fix them.
One issue Dolan cites is grease and fat mixed with sewage. He says the Talkeetna lagoons are designed to allow a natural bacterial process to destroy contaminants before the water is discharged. If too much grease or fat gets in the water, Terry Dolan says it can stop oxygen transfer and prevent proper treatment. He says the borough is planning to use cameras in some downtown sewer pipes to determine where the grease and oils are coming from.
Attached is the complete audio from Thursday’s meeting. The two dominant issues were the Willow Fire Service Area Mill Rate and the borough contribution to the Mat-Su Borough School District’s funding. Talkeetna residents also spoke about the Talkeetna sewer and water system.
This October, East Talkeetna and River Subdivision residents will vote on whether to join the Talkeetna Flood Control Service Area. The service area is a special tax district, currently levied at 1.39 mills. The Borough Manager’s proposed budget would reduce the mill rate to 1.07 for the area.
The proposed expansion would be bordered by the Alaksa Railroad, the Talkeetna River, and a combination of Twister Creek slough and the ridge line.
The issue of annexation came up after it was discovered that East Talkeetna is not covered by the existing flood service area. According to Mat-Su Borough officials, that designation is required in order for the borough to do flood mitigation work or act as a pass-through for state and federal flood control funds. FEMA funding after a flood is not affected by the designation. Taxes raised through the levy are also available for flood control, but the amount is not sufficient to do major work. The flood service area’s current revenue is about $22,000 per year.
According to borough code, a majority of voters residing in the proposed expansion zone who vote in the borough election must approve the annexation for it to take place. The Talkeetna Community Council conducted an advisory vote on pursuing the expansion last October. On a vote of 48-10, the council was advised to proceed. This year’s borough election will be on October 6th,
In this edition of Su-Valley Voice, Mat-Su Borough Assembly Member Vern Halter joins Phillip Manning to discuss the borough budget and other issues facing the borough and assembly.
Cari Sayre continues the book The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum.
The changing landscape of rivers in the Upper Valley is causing concern for business owners and residents in Talkeetna. One issue is the filling of the Talkeetna Boat Launch with silt. That issue, and the planned solution came up at Monday’s Talkeetna Community Council meeting. KTNA’s Phillip Manning was there and has this report:
Upper Valley residents sometimes pride themselves on the area’s “wild” rivers. The Talkeetna, Chulitna, and Susitna are not dammed at any point, and allowed to flow in their channels freely. Over time, those channels can shift. At Monday’s Talkeetna Community Council board of directors meeting, Talkeetna Boat Launch operator Aaron Benjamin told the Council about the problem he has seen growing in recent years.
“Right now, the Talkeetna river has been moving to the far side, as everybody knows, and the channel that the launch is in is getting less and less water every year.” Read More »
Rick and Kathy Ernst
Chris Mannix, Bill FitzGerald
Evening by the river
Thirty-four birders enjoyed mostly sunny skies and snow-free hiking for the annual Talkeetna-Trapper Creek Birdathon held on Friday and Saturday. The informal event is a competition, as well as a group effort, to find and identify all the resident and migrating bird species in the area.
Local birders turned up a total of 62 different species, one more than last year. The highest count was ten years ago, with 85 species for a group total.
Birdathon participants remarked on the amazing numbers of common redpolls. Lack of birch seeds last year meant that these small finches were very scarce, but the recent bumper crop of their preferred food brought flocks that seemed to fill the landscape and soundscape this spring.
Read More »
The Media Skills class at Su Valley Junior-Senior High School produced podcasts which they uploaded to SoundCloud. KTNA airs one each Tuesday at 12:30. Here, Nova Papasadora makes the case for considering shopping a sport.