April 19, 2012 | Vol. 110, No. 16

Capital budget project meets with controversy

A dozen proposed capital budget projects were promised funding at the close of the 27th Alaska Legislature, but only one is wrapped in controversy.

Petersburg projects on the fiscal year 2013 Capital Budget include a commercial dock drive down for $5.6 million, the North Harbor rebuild for $3.5 million, crane dock upgrade for $800,000, dry (unheated) storage building replacement for $400,000, new police station planning and design development for $350,000, hospital roof replacement for $275,000, Sons of Norway Hall upgrades for $250,000, Sandy Beach shelter and restroom improvements for $65,000, and shooting range facilities repair for $50,000.

“Petersburg is doing really, really well,” said City Manager Steve Giesbrecht in his report to the City Council on Monday. “If everything stays in the Governor's budget, we are doing really well,” he added.

The Southeast region is slated for more than $65 million in capital funds including a controversial $40 million gravel road that would link Kake and Petersburg,

Petersburg resident Mike Steinbrook talked to the City Council on Monday asking for the city to take a stand against the road.

“I would ask that the council discuss this budget item in a timely fashion. I realize that Petersburg, Kake and the City of Kupreanof have many pressing financial needs,” he said. “I suggest that the city make evident to the governor, the financial priorities in the budget by requesting a line-item veto for the Kake-Petersburg road.”

Senator Stedman added the proposed 18-foot-wide gravel road that, depending on design, could be about 51 miles long. This was an item on the budget two years ago, but was vetoed by the Governor after receiving public pressure to remove it.

“One thing I found a little odd was the folks approaching the City of Petersburg instead of Alaska Department of Transportation or even Senator Stedman's office directly. The City of Petersburg did not ask for this funding,” Giesbrecht told the Pilot. “In my opinion, the City should not weigh in on this issue, but that will be up to the Mayor and the City Council. We are not yet a Borough and no portion of Kupreanof Island is our responsibility at this time. Honestly, this should be up to the City of Kupreanof and the City of Kake to discuss and fight or support the issue.”

If Governor Sean Parnell leaves the road project on the budget, it could benefit Kake by allowing residents easier access to shopping, transportation, and even tourism. A road would also help Kake with their plan to tie into the electric power grid. While SEAPA could still run power lines, it is much easier to do if there is road access, Giesbrecht said.

“I find it interesting how the government can put a road in a city that has an ordinance against roads,” said Mayor Al Dywer regarding the City of Kupreanof.

The Kake-Petersburg road will be on the agenda as a discussion item for the May 7 regular City Council meeting.

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