Assembly passes emergency ordinances

The Clerk’s Office set up remote ways for residents to call in and speak on the emergency ordinances.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly passed emergency ordinances at its special assembly meeting on Friday.

The ordinances appropriate $125,000 to the borough’s Office of Emergency Management, push deadlines for residences with outstanding balances on their special district assessments, and allow South Peninsula Hospital to use its cash excess to respond to the pandemic instead of transferring it to a savings account.

The public was not allowed to physically attend the meeting, however, the Clerk’s Office set up remote ways for residents to call in and speak on the emergency ordinances.

The emergency manager for the borough, Dan Nelson, started the meeting with an overview of how the borough’s Office of Emergency Management has been responding to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

He said that since the borough doesn’t have health powers, and can’t enforce local mandates and advisories, his office is working to pass on information to residents about important healthy habits like social distancing, disinfecting surfaces and hand-washing.

“We’re trying to make sure people have facts,” Nelson said.

Nelson said that “not everyone is taking this as seriously as we want them to,” which “could have consequences later down the line.”

One of the ordinances the assembly passed made $125,000 available for the Office of Emergency Management. The office has already spent most of the $50,000 appropriated for disaster response contingency purposes on incident management wages, contracting costs, personal protective equipment and other costs directly related to the disaster response, the ordinance said.

The emergency management is estimating they’ll need approximately $125,000, based on expenditures the office has incurred so far, to cover costs through the end of the local disaster declaration, April 21.

Nelson, said “it’s not at all unlikely” the office will come back to the assembly with requests for additional appropriations if the pandemic continues longer than expected.

Another ordinance extended the annual payment deadline from March 31 to June 30 for all outstanding special assessment districts. Beginning July 1, interest will start accruing again if payments are not made by the payment deadline of June 30.

All special assessment districts are used to finance capital improvements that benefit specific properties within a certain designated area, referred to as ‘districts,’ according to the borough’s assessing department. The districts are billed annually March 1 and 466 special assessment bills have been mailed out, according to the ordinance.

“Given the current Covid-19 pandemic and the numerous difficulties many of our citizens are experiencing, the Kenai Peninsula Borough is committed to providing relief where we can through these economic hard times,” the ordinance said.

Another emergency ordinance the assembly passed Friday provides an exception to the operating agreement the borough has with South Peninsula Hospital. On March 20, the borough received a request from the hospital asking if the hospital could retain cash in excess of 90 days to support “anticipated cash outflow that the hospital anticipates experiencing during the next three months,” the ordinance said.

The agreement with the borough requires “cash in excess of 90 days operating cash on hand” be transferred to the borough for deposit into the hospital’s Plant Replacement and Expansion Fund.

“We are in uncertain times and dealing with challenges that have no certainty to the end,” Mayor Charlie Pierce said at the meeting. “I’ll say to all of you, continue to deliver services people count on. I encourage people to follow the mandates. I think we’re doing great as a peninsula community and I think that’s making a big difference.”

The next scheduled meeting is April 21.