Borough extends emergency disaster declaration

Response and recovery efforts against the pandemic are expected to continue.

During their Tuesday meeting, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly extended the local COVID-19 emergency disaster declaration to Dec. 30.

The borough expects response and recovery efforts against the pandemic to continue “the ongoing use of borough resources,” the resolution to extend the declaration said. The declaration allows borough administration to provide assistance to cities and communities with resources and other technical needs, an Aug. 20 memo, from borough Emergency Manager Dan Nelson to the assembly, said.

Nelson said Kenai Peninsula case counts for COVID-19 have flattened out in the last few days.

Local health care systems continue to be stable, Nelson said. The borough is working with peninsula cities and the school district on mitigation and vaccine plans, he said.

“At some point, there will likely be some type of vaccine or other type of thing that needs to be distributed — those are called points of dispensing plans. We’re starting to look at that.”

Nelson said the borough’s emergency response team began the pandemic with daily situation monitoring and check-ins with borough cities, but that monitoring has gone down to twice a week, he said during a presentation he gave to the assembly during the Tuesday meeting.

“We are still, on a daily basis, looking at numbers, trying to get information and intelligence from our hospitals — information like how many beds are available, do they have any patients that are positive, are they seeing a demand on their system?” Nelson said. “We’re keeping a good eye on our critical infrastructure.”

Nelson said residents can help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by choosing to wear a face mask and to continue hand-washing and sanitizing frequently touched surfaces. He emphasized that the borough does not have health powers or the authority to issue COVID-19 health mandates.

“We want people to make good choices and help their friends and neighbors out, because I think that is really the spirit of the Kenai Peninsula and our community,” Nelson said.

Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce issued the disaster declaration March 16, due to the “current and expected imminent impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic” in and around the borough. The declaration puts the borough and state’s emergency response plan to work and allows assistance from the state and federal government to be made available locally. This is the third extension to the disaster declaration — the first time was March 17, the second time was declared June 2.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the assembly approved an ordinance that means a new and expanded roof is on the way for the Homer Medical Clinic. The ordinance appropriates South Peninsula Hospital funds to replace and expand the Homer Medical Clinic roof.

The roof has reached the end of its useful life and is in need of replacement, the ordinance said. The total estimated cost of construction is $360,000.

Other renovations at the Homer Medical Clinic were made possible in 2017 with the help of general obligation bonds. At that time a “priority for replacement” of the facility’s 5,500 square foot roof was set aside due to the lack of funding for its completion, the ordinance said.

The South Peninsula Hospital, Inc. Board voted to recommend approval of the ordinance. The South Kenai Peninsula Hospital Service Area Board did not take action regarding the ordinance.

Victoria Petersen is a freelance writer living in Anchorage and a former Peninsula Clarion reporter.