Assembly supports bond sale for Soldotna hospital expansion

A plan to build a $43 million expansion at Central Peninsula Hospital passed its first hurdle Tuesday night following a failed attempt by two assembly members to derail it.

The Kenai Borough Assembly voted 7-2 in favor of selling revenue bonds to finance the 89,000-square-foot specialty clinics building. Voting against expansion were assembly members Kelly Wolf, District 1, and newly elected Wayne Ogle, District 3, after a failed attempt to delay the vote for two weeks in response to some members of the public that said they had no idea about the planned bond sale.

Still needed before the bonds can be sold and the hospital can go forward is a Certificate of Need from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

The certificate is expected by mid-December and the current plan calls for bond sales to begin in February, construction to begin in the spring and the new center to be complete in December 2015.

The assembly chamber was full for the first time since the Anadromous Streams Ordinance passed last summer. Several small-government anti-tax citizens spoke against the expansion saying that the people should get to vote on the issuance of the bonds to pay for it.

Those who spoke in favor of financing the expansion worked for the hospital or in the local healthcare industry. 

The bonds are guaranteed by hospital revenue and do not rely upon the borough’s credit, said Kenai Peninsula Mayor Mike Navarre.

Using revenue bonds rather than general obligation bonds to finance the expansion was his idea.

The only people at risk are those who buy the bonds, there is nearly zero risk to the borough or the taxpayer, Navarre said.