A Mat-Su Borough official says that his office has received the draft of the state-funded assessment of the Talkeetna Sewer and Water System. Terry Dolan, Director of Public Works for the borough, says that the report arrived while he was on leave last week. Dolan says there are two documents, one each for the sewer and water system. He says the total page count is somewhere around 500. Terry Dolan says he and other borough staff will be reviewing the draft report to ensure that it covers all of the areas requested. Of particular interest to many, including Dolan, is the financial analysis. The Talkeetna system is currently operating at a significant deficit, and one aspect that the contractor, CRW Enigneering Group, is tasked to look into is potential rate structures. The document is not yet publicly available, but CRW has said they do plan to present the findings of the assessment to the community in the form of a public meeting.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced that a total of $28.5 million will be coming to Alaskan municipalities in the form of payment in lieu of taxes, or PILT. That’s the money that the federal government pays on land it owns that is exempt from local property taxes. This year’s amount is the highest ever, and it will mean more money for many boroughs throughout the state.
The Mat-Su Borough will once again receive the largest sum, more than $3.4 million. That’s an increase over last year’s $3.2 million. PILT funds represent a substantial revenue source for the borough. Since the announcement was just made, it’s unknown what the extra money in the borough and statewide could eventually be used for.
One of the items up for consideration as the Mat-Su Borough Assembly discusses the upcoming borough budget is EMS services in the Valley. The Department of Emergency Services has a new plan on the table that, if proven successful in the core area, could make its way to the Upper Valley next year. KTNA’s Phillip Manning has more:
In the last year, borough EMS service has encountered two major unanticipated financial hurdles. The first came in the form of contribution to the Public Employee Retirement System, or PERS. The State of Alaska ruled in 2013 that the borough is required to make contributions to PERS for emergency personnel who work more than thirty hours per week. In addition, those same employees will, starting next year, be subject to health coverage mandated by the federal Affordable Care Act. As a result, hours for responders were cut throughout the borough so that they would not trigger those requirements. A long-term solution was held off pending the current budget discussions. (more…)
On Wednesday morning, Mat-Su Borough Assembly Member Vern Halter visited the KTNA studio to answer questions about the borough budget, schools, the railroad, and other issues facing Upper Valley residents on Su-Valley Voice. Unfortunately, an issue with the recording means that KTNA will not be able to re-air the program or post it online this week. Su-Valley Voice host and News Producer Phillip Manning went through the parts of the recording that were recovered, and has this report: (more…)
On Friday, the Mat-Su Borough Assembly held a special meeting at the Willow Community Center to discuss the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. More than thirty area residents attended the meeting, but only a handful spoke. KTNA’s Phillip Manning was there, and has this report:
Most of the public testimony at Friday’s meeting came from Willow area residents requesting funding for area trails. After that, about half of the meeting consisted of comments from the Assembly Members themselves. Jim Sykes, who represents District 1, expressed concern about the borough relying increasingly on grants in order to fund expenses. He says that the portion of the budget paid for by borough taxes has decreased, while the amount funded by grants, mostly from the state, has increased from one-fifth of the budget to about one-third over the last decade. (more…)
On Monday, the Talkeetna Community Council board of directors held its regular monthly meeting. The bulk of the discussion centered around recovery from the 2012 flood, particularly funding for the repair of the dike and revetment on the Talkeetna River.
Casey Cook, Mat-Su Borough Emergency Manager, and Pam Ness, Borough Flood Plain Administrator, were present at the meeting to discuss the progress of flood control measures, including both state and federal funding. (more…)
The Alaska Board of Fisheries is in the midst of two weeks of meetings on potential changes to fishing regulations in the Upper Cook Inlet. The meetings have become the most recent venue for what are often referred to as the “fish wars.” Commercial, sport, and subsistence fishermen all depend on a finite resource, and all of them want to make sure they get their share of the stock. Often, discussions center around the Kenai and Kasilof, but the Mat-Su Borough is doing its best to shift some focus to the Susitna River as well. Acting Borough Fish Commission chair Larry Engel says that sustainability has become a serious problem for the Valley. (more…)
On Friday, a class-action suit was filed against the Matanuska-Susitna Borough on behalf of emergency services personnel. The suit claims that some Borough Emergency Services staff are owed for contributions to the Public Employee Retirement System, or PERS. The state’s Department of Administration audited the Borough in 2012, and determined that paid on-call emergency services workers should be eligible for the program. The Borough’s employment agreement does not include PERS contribution for emergency services employees. (more…)
The Talkeetna Chamber of Commerce is attempting to revitalize a nine-year-old Borough plan for the riverfront. Under the plan, which was approved by the Borough Assembly in 2004, the Mat-Su Borough would lease riverfront land from the Alaska Railroad with the intent to develop campsites and establish a concessionaire to maintain the property.
The plan has never been implemented, because no agreement has been made between the Borough and the Railroad. According to Chamber of Commerce President Beth Valentine, the Railroad is ready to look into leasing the property, but first needs a lease application from the Borough. (more…)