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


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…)

Talkeetna Community Council Notes from January 5th Meeting

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

This story has been updated to better reflect the Mat-Su Borough’s role in the float plane lease program on Christiansen Lake.

On Monday, the Talkeetna Community Council board of directors held its regular monthly meeting.  Most of the discussion centered around float planes on Christiansen Lake, but other topics got attention as well, including flood mitigation and nuisance beavers.

On the issue of flooding, the board noted on Monday that the process of including East Talkeetna in the Talkeetna Flood Service Area is making progress.  Currently, all of Talkeetna east of the railroad tracks is not covered under the Mat-Su Borough’s flood service area.  That means that the borough cannot currently allocate funds or conduct any work on flood control in the area.  The issue is in the hands of the borough clerk, and will ultimately require a vote by all residents of both East Talkeetna and the current flood service area. (more…)

Borough Eyes Plan for Recycling at Transfer Stations

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Dealing with trash is a growing issue in the Mat-Su Borough.  The borough’s solid waste division is millions in the red, and user fees are not making up the difference.  Now, the Mat-Su may be laying the groundwork for a community-driven recycling program to take pressure off of the landfill.

At Monday night’s meeting of the Talkeetna Community Council, the most discussed topic was the outline of a plan to incorporate recycling with refuse transfer stations in the Mat-Su Borough.  Butch Shapiro is the borough’s solid waste manager.  He started Monday’s presentation by explaining how landfills are divided into units called ‘cells:’

“A landfill cell is like a big swimming pool.  You have to build this structure to put this stuff in because you don’t want this stuff leaking out into the water system, and those things are expensive.”

The expense comes from measures that are required to prevent toxins from leaking out of the trash and into soil and groundwater.  Those cells eventually fill up.  Butch Shapiro says that each one is estimated to last for 5-7 years.  After that, a new cell is needed.  Shapiro says that adds up quickly.

“The last one we built was about $4,350,000.  That’s just to open a cell…We have about another $4 million to close a cell to EPA standards.” (more…)

Mushing Legislation Proposed for Mat-Su Borough

Monday, November 17, 2014

The next regular meeting of the Mat-Su Borough Assembly will be on Wednesday.  One item on the agenda is an ordinance sponsored by Assembly Member Vern Halter, whose district includes the Upper Valley.  The proposed ordinance deals with sled dog facilities, and comes in the wake of the Alaska Legislature declaring Alaska a “right to mush” state.

The proposed legislation would allow owners of sled dog kennels to apply for a special designation.  To qualify, owners must have been registered as a kennel for at least three years, and must meet a list of care requirements that are more strict than regular kennel regulations.  Vern Halter says that there is no requirement to register for the special license, but that it comes with benefits.

One potential benefit is the official recognition of tethering as the traditional method of restraint for sled dogs.  The practice is opposed by some animal rights groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.  The ordinance also lays out that sled dog kennels are loud places at times, and that a certain level of noise is to be expected.  Property licensed as a sled dog facility would thus be exempt from the borough’s animal annoyance code.  Subdivision covenants and city ordinances would still apply.

In addition to the special licensing, the proposed ordinance would make it illegal to intentionally interfere with legal mushing activity, such as felling trees in trails or using firearms to scare mushers or dogs.   The Borough Assembly will hear public comment on the ordinance and make its decision on Wednesday.

Final Assessment of Talkeetna Sewer and Water System Submitted

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The final assessment of Talkeetna’s sewer and water system has been completed.  Included is analysis of the functionality of the system, suggested improvements, and plans to make the system fiscally solvent.

In total, the assessment of the sewer and water system in Talkeetna is hundreds of pages.  It was funded through a $100,000 grant from the state legislature at the request of local residents, including the Talkeetna Sewer and Water Advisory Board.  CRW Engineering did the study, and looked at a number of areas.

Not much changed in the assessment of the system itself since the draft report was released in July.  One interesting note has to do with the water treatment plant.  The plant was not required until allowable levels of arsenic were dropped from 50 parts-per-million to 10 parts-per million.  The increased cost of operating the plant is a major cost driver.  The report says that arsenic levels are still too high to meet regulations, but that the region as a whole has seen shifts in levels of arsenic, with some of them dropping.  If the base level of arsenic were to fall below 10 parts-per-million and stay there, it could be feasible to shut down the treatment plant.

Whether or not that happens in the future, the system is currently deep in the red.  According to the study, the current annual deficit is likely to be over $100,000.  If rates were to remain constant, that figure would grow due to inflation and other factors.  As a result, the report suggests revenue increases of 13% per year for water and 6% for sewer for each of the next five years. The report notes that this would allow the system to break even on operations, but that more money would be needed to establish a reserve fund and for repair and replacement costs. (more…)

Mat-Su Borough Assembly to Certify Election Results This Week

Monday, October 20, 2014

All of the counting in this year’s Mat-Su Borough election is done, and none of the results have changed.  Final numbers show 13.6% of eligible voters went to the polls earlier this month, up from an initial figure of 11%.

Upper Valley voters decided on two ballot issues and two school board seats.  The candidates for both of those seats ran unopposed.  Proposition B-1, which passed comfortably, allows the borough to redraw district maps to bring them in line with the state’s voting precinct boundaries.  Borough officials have said that the change will mean fewer unique ballots will have to be printed due to precinct overlap between the borough and the state.

Proposition B-2 passed overwhelmingly, and allows for increased property tax exemptions for senior citizens and disabled veterans.

Elsewhere in the borough, Steve Colligan was re-elected to represent District 4, which covers much of Wasilla, in the borough assembly, and Dan Mayfield defeated Bill Kendig to represent District 5, which includes Big Lake.  Darcie Salmon, who currently represents District 5, did not run for re-election.

The results will be certified at a special meeting of the borough assembly on Tuesday.

Litigation Blamed for Port MacKenzie Rail Spur Delays

Friday, August 8, 2014

by:  Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Construction of the railroad link between the Matanuska-Susitna Borough city of Houston and Port MacKenzie is over budget and way behind schedule. Borough officials blame litigation for the delays.

At Tuesday night’s Mat Su Borough Assembly meeting, Joe Perkins, the Borough’s executive for the rail extension project, updated earlier financial data on the cost overruns beyond the initial $272 million  pricetag.

“When you add all this up, it totals about $31 million. So if you take $ 272 .5 and add $31 (million) to it,  you get a total project cost now of  $303. 5. (million)” (more…)

Proposed Vehicle Registration Changes Could Cost Borough

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Next Tuesday, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly will hold a regular meeting for the first time since June.  One ordinance that is scheduled for introduction next Tuesday would eliminate recurring registration for older vehicles.   While that could mean less out-of-pocket expense for some drivers, KTNA’s Phillip Manning found that it could also come with trade-offs.

The ordinance, sponsored by Assembly Member Jim Colver, takes advantage of a new state law that gives municipalities the option to allow permanent registration of vehicles that are more than eight years old.  Under the proposed system, owners would have to register the vehicle one last time and pay a $25 fee to the state, but would then be exempt from state or borough registration fees as long as the vehicle did not change ownership.

While that could mean a significant convenience for many borough residents, it’s not without a potential cost in the form of lost revenue. According to the borough’s estimates, it could mean a total loss of more than $2.4 million in revenue by fiscal year 2018.  According to Terry Dolan, Public Works Director for the borough, dust control is a major part of what the registration fees cover. (more…)