KTNA Studio – Dave Totten, artist

Photo by Deb Wessler

Photo by Dora Miller

KTNA Studio

KTNA On Air Studio, Jan 2013

Photo by Deb Wessler

Photo by James Trump

Winter Black-capped Chickadee

winter chickadee

Photo by Robin Song

Fish Lake morning

Fish Lake morning

photo: Robin Song


Borough Does Not Plan to Close Talkeetna Transfer Site

Friday, May 15, 2015

While changes may be coming soon for the Talkeetna Solid Waste Transfer Site, the top borough official in the Public Works Department says the current plans do not include closure.

Currently, the borough solid waste division operates at a significant deficit.  The division is set up as an enterprise fund, which means that it should, in theory, pay for itself.  Since that is not currently happening, Public Works Director Terry Dolan says the Mat-Su Borough Assembly has directed him to look at other options for the transfer sites.

One option being considered at the direction of the assembly is privatization of the sites.  Terry Dolan says that the Solid Waste Division is discussing options with the Talkeetna Community Council, and that the community’s needs have to be taken into account.  He says that’s because the elected members of the borough assembly have final say over any change in the structure of the division.

For now, the Talkeetna Transfer Site will operate the same way it has for years, and while change is coming, it will likely take some time.

Mat-Su Assembly Members Offer Twelve Budget Amendments

Monday, May 11, 2015

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.


Mat-Su Borough Preliminary Budget Released

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Mat-Su Borough preliminary budget has been released, and the total figure is slightly smaller than the budget that ends on June 30th.  KTNA’s Phillip Manning has seen the budget, and has this report:

In total, the Fiscal Year 2016 budget comes in at $400,722,754, which is about $4.3 million smaller than last year.  About two-thirds of that money goes toward education.  The rest is divided up in various operating and capital areas for the borough.

Also included is a proposed increase in the areawide mill rate.  At a presentation to the Mat-Su Borough Assembly on Thursday, Borough Manager John Moosey said he has planned for a mill rate increase since early in the budget process, and that an increase, plus a borough-wide increase in property valuation would help bring in more money for the general fund. (more…)

Talkeetna Sewer and Water Rate Increases Proposed

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Mat-Su Borough Manager John Moosey has submitted the administration’s budget proposal for the coming fiscal year.  Included in that proposal is a rate increase for the Talkeetna Sewer and Water System.

Talkeetna Sewer and Water currently has an annual deficit of over $80,000.  Last year, CRW Engineering Group conducted a state-funded study on the health of the system as well as a financial analysis.  The new budget proposal includes the rate increases suggested by that report.

The rate structure for sewer and water customers will not change.  Residential users will be charged a flat fee, and commercial users will be charged a higher flat fee, plus a fee for usage over 8,000 gallons.  As part of last year’s assessment, four alternate water rate structures were proposed.  Terry Dolan, Public Works Director for the borough, says the rates themselves, and not the structure, were the problem.  Additionally, he says that alternatives that involve more comprehensive metering are likely to be met with distrust by local users, since the meters have had a number of issues since their installation.

If the borough follows the recommendations in the financial assessment, this year’s increases will be repeated for the next five years.  The rate hikes amount to 13% per year for water and 6% per year for sewer.  If the changes go into effect without amendment, that means a residential user will pay about $8 more per month than the current rate.  Commercial users’ base rate will increase by just over $10 per month, plus an increase of seventy-nine cents per thousand gallons of water used over 8,000.  If the rate increases continue for five years, as called for in the assessment, commercial and residential users will pay about 60% more for their sewer and water bill than they do today.

The assessment also notes that the proposed rate increases will bring the system close to the operating break-even point, but that there will not be additional funds left over to build a repair and replacement reserve.  In the current budget proposal, Public Works Director Terry Dolan lists the improvements recommended by the assessment among the priorities for his department.

Talkeetna Recycling Cmte. Looks to “Raise the Bar” on Fundraising

Friday, April 17, 2015

Efforts to establish a recycling program in Talkeetna continue to make significant financial progress, which is prompting organizers to consider expanding expectations for the program.

The plan for the recycling program is to have one or more three-compartment containers in Talkeetna, which the Mat-Su Borough would be responsible for hauling to Valley Community Recycling Solutions.  The Mat-Su Solid Waste Division is backing the program as a cost-saving tool, since recycling could slow the rate at which new landfill cells must be opened.  The Borough Assembly will vote on spending more than $2 million to close a landfill cell at next week’s meeting.


Borough Names New Emergency Services Director

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

On Wednesday,  Bill Gamble was chosen as the new Emergency Services Director for the Mat-Su Borough.  Gamble has served as the interim director since since the resignation of his predecessor, Dennis Brodigan, on April 1st.  Gamble served as the Chief of the West Lakes Fire Department since 2003, and first worked as a responder in the borough in 1990.  He oversaw the merging of West Lakes and Big Lake Fire Departments, and was Big Lake Fire Chief during the Miller’s Reach fire in 1996.

In a statement, Borough Manager John Moosey says he believes Gamble will “bring a new level of leadership.”

As Bill Gamble takes over Emergency Services, he inherits an environment where three of his chief deputies have either been terminated or resigned amidst an internal investigation.  Gamble’s title will change from Acting Director to Emergency Services Director on April 20th.

Borough Assembly Hears Talkeetna Sewer and Water Financial Report

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

At Tuesday’s Mat-Su Borough Assembly meeting, Borough Public Works Director Terry Dolan presented the financial analysis of Talkeetna’s sewer and water system, and gave an indication of what the new rates may look like.  KTNA’s Phillip Manning has more.

Last year, a grant from the state legislature paid for an assessment of Talkeetna’s sewer and water utility.  That report covered the operation and condition of the system as well as the finances.  On Tuesday, Mat-Su Borough Public Works Director Terry Dolan presented the fiscal portion of the assessment to the Borough Assembly.  The report shows a significant annual gap between revenue and expenditure.  Dolan says that does not come as a surprise.

“We knew at the beginning, but they verified that the revenues do not cover the cost of operating the water system.  The difference is about $80,000 on the water side of this.  And, the study also noted that there are no budgetary provisions for things like major maintenance or renewal and replacement, which are normal functions of a public utility.” (more…)

Talkeetna Recycling Committee Broadens Fundraising

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Talkeetna residents raising funds for a local recycling program have made significant progress.  At Monday’s Talkeetna Community Council board of directors meeting, board treasurer Katie Writer said that local funds have begun to come in at a faster pace, and there is the possibility of help from other organizations.  Writer says the fundraising committee’s goal is $25,000.  With that money, the committee would pay for two refurbished three-bin trash containers and allow for additional funds for outreach and education.

Thus far, Katie Writer says that over $1,800 has been raised locally, and an unnamed entity has offered a $1,000 match for additional donations.  Those donations have come through the designated account at Matanuska Valley Federal Credit Union, through the committee’s crowdfunding site, and from cash donations at the Talkeetna transfer site. (more…)

Moosey: Mat-Su Working Through Federal ‘Hoops’ Regarding M/V Susitna

Thursday, March 19, 2015

This week, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly went through the quarterly process of approving the next three months of funding for storage and maintenance of the M/V Susitna, which currently amounts to about $18,000 per month, excluding insurance.

The Susitna was meant to be used as a ferry between the Mat-Su Borough and Anchorage across Knik Arm.  That project never came to fruition, however, and the borough has been trying to find a new home for the boat.  For more than a year and a half, that has meant trying to sell it.  The borough has an interested buyer, but there’s a catch.  That buyer is located outside of the United States.  Mat-Su Borough Manager John Moosey says that means going to the federal government, who built the vessel, for permission.

“Because this is a U.S. Navy prototype, primarily designed for battle missions, that it was potentially thought could be used as a ferry, we have to go through these extra hoops.  A second thing is, as far as export license, when you sell outside of [the] Continental United States, you need permission to do that.” (more…)