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Archives

Borough To Begin Budget Process on Tuesday

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Mat-Su Borough’s budget process is about to get underway, and following along may be easier than in years past.

At 1:00 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly will hear budget proposals from borough departments. Last week, Borough Mayor Vern Halter and Borough Manager John Moosey participated in a teleconferenced town hall sponsored by AARP in order to hear the priorities of borough residents.

Recently, the borough updated the portion of its website covering meetings. One of the new features included in the update is a live video stream from the assembly chambers in Palmer. This provides an additional method for following meetings remotely. Previously, Radio Free Palmer’s audio stream was the only way to listen in on assembly meetings without driving to Palmer.

Departmental budget presentations are just the first step in a process that is anticipated to be complete by May. In recent years, that process has included special assembly meetings outside of Palmer, including one in Willow for the last two years. In those years, the Willow meetings have seen triple-digit turnouts.

 

Mat-Su Assembly Approves Expansion of Talkeetna Community Council Area

Wednesday, March 22, 2017
The yellow area in this map was added to the Talkeetna Community Council area on Tuesday. Click to enlarge. Photo courtesy: Matanuska-Susitna Borough

The yellow area in this map was added to the Talkeetna Community Council area on Tuesday. Click to enlarge. Photo courtesy: Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Correction:  A previous version of the story incorrectly stated that the expansion incorporated the entirety of the Greater Talkeetna Road Service Area.  A significant portion of the GTRSA lies within the Susitna Community Council area.  This story has been changed to reflect that.

On Tuesday, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly has approved the expansion of Talkeetna’s community council boundary to the east.

The expansion keeps the Talkeetna River as the northern boundary, and the Sunshine Community Council as the southern boundary for as far as it extends. The newly included area is largely undeveloped, and stretches into the Talkeetna Mountains. Many neighborhoods closer to the Talkeetna Spur Road are also now part of the Talkeetna Community Council area, and the expansion means the entirety of the Greater Talkeetna Road Service Area is now inside either the Talkeetna or Susitna Council area. Only those living inside a council’s area are considered members and thus allowed to run for its board of directors.

Consideration of expansion by the Talkeetna Community Council began after the Mat-Su Borough Planning Department sent notice that council boundaries were being reviewed. Last year, a committee of Talkeetna Community Council, Inc. met and discussed various options. The one they settled on, and which the Assembly ultimately approved, matches up with the Talkeetna Comprehensive Plan. During discussions at TCCI board meetings, some members expressed a desire to make sure that the decision of which council the area would end up in was left to the local community. (more…)

Talkeetna dike repair design on schedule, but improvement would require other funds

Monday, November 14, 2016

This month, Mat-Su Borough Emergency Manager Casey Cook provided an update to the Talkeetna Community Council board of directors on the federally funded repairs to the Talkeetna dike.

After years of applications and appeals, the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved funds to repair damage to the dike caused by the fall 2012 flood. Cook confirmed information from borough engineer Jamie Taylor that the repair design is on schedule for completion in December. After completion, the design goes back to FEMA for final approval. Cook says plans are being made for work next year, including contacting the Alaska Railroad to use the train to transport the necessary armor rock. If an agreement is reached with the railroad, Cook believes it would reduce the need for trucking materials for the work through Downtown Talkeetna. (more…)

Borough finalizes sale of MV Susitna

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

As of last Thursday, the Mat-Su Borough no longer owns the MV Susitna.

 

When the borough acquired Susitna, the intent was to establish a ferry service between Port Mackenzie and Government Hill in Anchorage. While the Mat-Su Borough moved forward with the plan, the Municipality of Anchorage could not decide where a ferry dock and terminal should be placed, and the plan ultimately fell through.

 

Following years of attempts to sell the vessel, and a recent round of multi-million dollar repairs, the borough has sold the ship, a former naval prototype, to the Philippine Red Cross. The Susitna is on its way to the South Pacific, where it will be used as an emergency hospital ship for the thousands of islands that make up the Philippines. (more…)

Study: Mat-Su’s Rural Areas Bring in More Borough Revenue than They Spend

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Earlier this month, the Mat-Su Borough released the findings of its internal cost of community services study. According to that study, the incorporated cities of the borough generate less revenue for the borough than is spent on borough services, and areas with less development generate more revenue than their services cost.

James Wilson, the borough’s internal auditor, prepared the study. Wilson divides communities into descending categories based on the level of development present: cities, unincorporated areas with community councils, and areas without community councils. (more…)

Talkeetna Council forms committee to look at Downtown SPUD

Monday, April 11, 2016

A new committee of Talkeetna Community Council, Inc. will be tasked with looking into the Downtown Talkeetna Special Land use district in the coming months.

 

At each of the last two meetings of the Talkeetna Community Council board of directors, concerns have been raised over the historic status of Downtown Talkeetna. The most recent discussion was spurred by the renovations taking place at the Denali Brewpub on Main Street. According to Denali Brewing’s general manager, Sassan Mossanen, the current remodel will improve the building and eventually allow for some deck seating on the roof. He says that the remodel is being done with materials and techniques that will make the building fall more in line with a historical aesthetic than it does right now.

 

Some community members, as well as the Talkeetna Historical Society, have expressed concerns that there currently are no regulations on how new construction must look. The current Special Land Use District, or SPUD, has restrictions on height, footprint, and other factors, but historic qualities such as rooflines and materials are guidelines, not rules. As Talkeetna grows, some fear that the historic aesthetic of the town will be lost. In addition, they say that Talkeetna’s historic district status could be at risk.

 

One option that garnered support at the most recent community council meeting is local review of building permits. The catch is that the Mat-Su Borough does not currently require building permits the way it has in the past. Asking the borough to resume the permitting process is on the able.

 

According to TCCI chair Whitney Wolff, the borough planning department’s recommendation was to form a committee to gauge the community’s desire. At its last meeting, the council did that. Currently, no meeting dates for the new committee have been set.

State and borough discuss Talkeetna sewer lagoon violations

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Representatives from the Mat-Su Borough have met with state officials regarding violations of the Clean Water Act at the Talkeetna sewer lagoon, but the details of those discussions have not yet been made public.

Mat-Su Borough Attorney Nicholas Spiropoulos confirms that the borough is in discussions with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to come to an “amicable solution” regarding the violations. Spiropoulos says he cannot share specifics because a resolution has not yet been reached.

Borough Assembly Member Randall Kowalke, whose district includes Talkeetna, believes the real goal of the meeting was to make improvements, rather than punish the borough. Kowalke also says he cannot discuss details from the meeting.

Michael Solter, Compliance Program Mangaer for ADEC, says results may take time to manifest, since wastewater remains in the treatment system for more than six months. Solter believes that the state and the borough both recognize the issue and are working in good faith to solve it.

Last November, the ADEC sent a letter to the borough, which operates the Talkeetna sewer and water system, stating that the state intended to begin enforcement actions for numerous violations the Clean Water Act. Specifically, the Talkeetna Sewer Lagoon has consistently been out of compliance on levels of fecal coliform and dissolved oxygen contained in treated water leaving the system and flowing to the Talkeetna River.

The Mat-Su Borough attempted numerous temporary fixes last summer, including skimming grease from the surface of the lagoon, replanting vegetation, and artificially aerating the system. While those efforts did yield results, they were not enough to bring the system fully into compliance.

Further meetings between ADEC and the borough are expected to take place next month.

State offers to meet with borough over Clean Water Act violations

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has started the process of an enforcement action against the Matanuska-Susitna Borough for violations of the federal Clean Water Act. KTNA’s Phillip Manning has more:

 

 

The violations the state cites are due to inadequate treatment of wastewater from the Talkeetna sewer lagoon. The borough operates the lagoon under an ADEC permit. That permit requires that certain criteria be met in the water that is eventually released into the Talkeetna River.

(more…)

Borough one step closer to selling MV Susitna

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The U.S. State Department has given the Mat-Su Borough the green light to proceed with the sale of the ill-fated MV Susitna. The sale was initially announced in September, but was subject to federal approval.

The borough plans to sell the former naval prototype to the Philippine Red Cross for $1.75 million. Because the buyer is located outside of the United States, federal clearance is required. According to Borough Attorney Nicholas Spiropoulos, the State Department informed the borough that the sale is not subject to Department of Defense controls, but export provisions from the Department of Commerce will apply. That means that the final agreement between the borough and the Philippine Red Cross will contain resale restrictions.

(more…)