Adding more State Troopers and completing three State road upgrades (Knik-Goose Bay Road, the Glenn Highway through Palmer, and Seward Meridian) were among the requests made by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly, Mayor, and Manager as they met yesterday, Jan. 3, with the State Delegation for Mat-Su.
Seven Legislators attended, all of them asking questions, taking notes and sharing insight on what to expect this legislative session. Mat-Su Borough Manager John Moosey presented the Delegation with the Assembly’s list of priorities and presentations including needed matching funds for 10 voter-approved road bond projects, transferred funds for the Willow Library project, restored funding for fisheries science, and support for a wastewater and septage facility, among other projects. The priority list is posted on this page.
Moosey started off thanking the State for its quick response after the 7.0 earthquake when Alaska DOT staff and Commissioner John MacKinnon and local contractors stepped right in and helped repair crumpled Vine Road in just a few days.
FINISH STATE ROAD PROJECTS
He said he hopes DOT focus will continue that way. He requested a higher prioritization for Mat-Su Borough projects and efforts within the State Department of Transportation.
“We felt the last few years we were treated like second class citizens. And projects that were planned to happen did not happen here. What’s frustrating is the majority of those projects were federally (funded) so it wasn’t like we were charging extra for those services, but the money went elsewhere. It’s hard to swallow when we seem to be the fastest growing area in the state,” Moosey said.
CONSIDER PORT MACKENZIE FAIRLY ON LNG PROJECTS
Mayor Vern Halter told the Delegation, “the total misrepresentation of where our port is actually located is a tough thing to recover from.”
Port MacKenzie was misrepresented in a flawed analysis by the State’s gasline corporation. Last January, the Borough filed with a federal agency to be included as an intervener so it can submit comments as part of the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation’s application for the AK LNG project. The Borough continues defending the port’s viability as a terminus on the larger line, but the Mayor also highlighted the secondary plan with the smaller pipe. “The ASAP line terminus, Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline, is just 14 miles from Port MacKenzie. The EIS is complete, they’re just waiting on the Record of Decision. We feel that route would be the best for the future of Alaska,” Mayor Halter said.
WEST SUSITNA ROADS TO RESOURCES PROGRAM
The Assembly requested action on the State’s West Susitna Roads to Resources program. “We are so rich in resource development opportunities we just have to get across there (Susitna River), Moosey said. This is why Port Mackenzie was created for resource development. … We have resources that need to get to market cheaply so we can compete on the world market,” Moosey said.
PORT MACKENZIE RAIL
The Borough applied last year for a federal grant to complete Port MacKenzie Rail but the request was denied. Manager Moosey said the Borough is working hard to find a way to complete the project with a private-public partnership with the company, A2A, the Alberta to Alaska Railway project. “We have to find a way so that our previous investment ($184 million in State appropriations) is somehow valued. And their investment of $125 million (to complete the rail) is returned to them. We’re working through that,” Moosey said. He said a change in law allowing another operator on the Alaska Railroad would be necessary, and asked if the Delegation can help with it.
2018 ROAD BOND PROJECTS
The road bond projects don’t require a match from the State of Alaska but do require that the match be from a source that is not from property taxes. The ballot language approves for construction each project independently or the full package. The list of $47 million in road projects and a map are posted here. Residents’ taxes over time will fund $23.8 million or 50% of project costs if a match is found.
ENGSTROM ROAD UPGRADE
The Assembly requested funding for a State-owned section of Bogard Road at Engstrom Road, where many vehicles line up to turn off Bogard, causing traffic to back up onto this heavily traveled school commuter route.
As Transportation Chair, Sen. Shelley Hughes asked if the Borough would support a traffic signal if it’s timed so roundabout traffic wouldn’t back up near Colony schools.
Moosey said yes. “We would very much support any activity. And there is a plan that would require not moving the fire station. Any attention we get is helpful,” Moosey said.
TRANSFER FUNDS FROM COMPLETED TALKEETNA LIBRARY TO WILLOW LIBRARY PROJECT
The Assembly asked the Delegation to transfer State money left over from an appropriation for the completed Talkeetna Library construction project to the Willow Library project. Mayor Vern Halter gave $14,000 of his salary to the project last year.
Bill Mailer, Vice Chair, with the Willow Library Association said the Willow Library Replacement and Community Center Upgrade is a $5.7 million project. The Borough is funding $1.9 million. Mat-Su Health Foundation will fund $1.7 million. The Willow community has raised $75,000. He asked that the $423,000 left over in appropriations for the Talkeetna Library be transferred to the Willow project with an additional $576,971 for a total of $1 million in State funds. A grant for $500,000 is pending with the Rasmuson Foundation. The remaining balance to be raised locally would be $473,000, he said.
COMPREHENSIVE EFFORT TO REDUCE CRIME
On the Borough action list is a request for full Trooper staffing or 85 Troopers in the Mat-Su, within three years.
The Borough recently approached the crime problem in three ways. The Deputy Borough Manager held three public forums. The Borough put an advisory question on the ballot last Oct. to learn whether residents wanted the Borough to look further into the public safety issue. The Borough hired a consultant to conduct a scientific survey on perceptions of crime here. 96% of people think there is a serious crime issue. See press release. Assembly Member Ted Leonard reminded everyone that the Borough does not have the authority for police services nor can it lease or contract for services. The Assembly is seeking a partnership with the Department of Public Safety. Manager Moosey suggested the State might restore the Willow and Talkeetna Trooper station staffing if the Borough provides housing.
State Rep. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard asked if Troopers could share office space at fire stations? Mayor Halter said yes. “I was in Trapper Creek for 30 years. And there was always 2-3 Troopers stationed there every day. It means something to people. So we need to get back to that. Knik-Fairview, it would be the 4thlargest city in Alaska (if incorporated). We don’t have a Trooper station down there. So yes, we would love to,” he said.
Sen. Shelley Hughes said that as Senate Judiciary Chair, part of a proposal she is working on is separating non-violent offenders from violent offenders. … and really focusing on rehabilitation because those folks are going to be back out on our streets. They should be exiting in better shape than when they come into the jail system, Hughes said.
One idea is to house the first-time offenders at the idle Palmer Correctional Facility in Sutton,”
EVEN HIGHER TROOPER STAFFING THAN STUDY SUGGESTS
Sen. Hughes also said the Trooper staffing level may need to be higher than recommended in the Department of Public Safety study mentioned by Assembly Member Jesse Sumner.
PLETHORA OF BILLS COMING TO FIGHT CRIME
Sen. David Wilson said the approach of the Delegation and their peers in the Alaska Legislature will be comprehensive. “You probably won’t see just one bill replaced, you’re going to see a plethora of, sort of a replaced package, that’s going to deal with the Dept. of Public Safety, that will deal with Corrections, that will deal with Health & Social Services or rehabilitation needs. It’s going to be a very comprehensive approach to look and see what we need to address ... Not just how can we cut the budget but how can we improve especially in the area of crime. That’s something I know we’re trying to address,” Sen. Wilson said.
Photos of the Legislative Information Office meeting by Mat-Su Borough Public Affairs.