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


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…)

Alcoholic Beverage Control Board issues ‘emergency regulation’ regarding public marijuana use

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

On Tuesday, Ballot Proposition 2 went into effect.  The measure allows possession, consumption, transportation, and display of limited amounts of marijuana.  The state legislature and many local governments are in the process of crafting regulations.  While the initiative does allow marijuana consumption, public use is still banned.  What constitutes ‘public’ has yet to be defined by the legislature, however.  On Tuesday, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board issued an emergency regulation defining public to include places such as highways, transportation facilities, schools, places of business, parks, and playgrounds.  It also includes areas in hotels and apartments with public access, such as hallways and lobbies.

For the Upper Valley, all of which consists of unincorporated communities, the state regulations are the law of the land as of now.  The Mat-Su Borough has the option to impose certain restrictions within its boundaries, but has not yet done so.  The borough has established an advisory committee to take part in the crafting of any local regulations.

Sale of marijuana is not yet legal, though the ballot initiative passed last November does call on the State of Alaska to create regulations and a permitting process that will eventually allow commercial sales of the substance.

Update:  Alaska Governor Bill Walker’s office has released a PSA concerning some of the more commonly asked questions.

Talkeetna holds recycling meeting

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

On Tuesday, the Talkeetna Recycling Committee held its first meeting.  About twenty-five area residents attended the meeting to discuss the possibility of a recycling program for Talkeetna.  A handful of local business were represented at the meeting as well.

The committee was formed by the Talkeetna Community Council board of directors after hearing from Macey “Butch” Shapiro, Solid Waste Manager for the Mat-Su Borough.  Shapiro says he is interested in community-driven recycling programs, because they would result in fewer new landfill cells being built.  Each cell costs the borough more than $4 million to open.  The plan would involve a refurbished container being placed at the Talkeetna transfer site.  The container will be divided into three sections, allowing for three different types of recyclables.  The borough would manage the hauling of the container to the Valley Community for Recycling Solutions facility, which is located near the borough’s central landfill. (more…)