Adams Street sidewalk project funds approved

Councilors approve $252,466.96 transfer from permanent fund

The Cordova City Council has approved an ordinance allowing for the transfer of $252,466.96 from the general reserve fund to the city’s general fund.

The ordinance adopted on April 5 by a vote of 7-1 will allow a payout of $117,000 into the general fund for hospital equipment, and $135,466.96 to the general fund for a grant match for the Adams Street sidewalk project. Councilor Robert Beedle cast the lone vote against the ordinance.

This same ordinance failed during a council vote on March 15.

Beedle said he was not in favor of pulling more money out for unnecessary expenditures from a fund that is effectively the city’s savings account.  He agreed that the hospital equipment is needed and indicated he would vote in favor of the ordinance if it only encompassed an ask for the hospital.

The Adams Street sidewalk upgrades and the Universal Power Source (UPS) for the Cordova Community Medical Center, remained together, however, in Ordinance 1151, when it was returned for reconsideration nearly three weeks later.

Beedle voted no again, during the April 5 vote, while the remaining six councilors and the mayor voted in favor of the ordinance, and it passed.

Council members James Burton, Kenneth Jones, and Jeff Guard participated telephonically during the meeting; council members Beedle, Josh Hallquist, David Allison and James Wiese were physically present.

Mayor Clay Koplin also participated in the meeting telephonically.

Later in the meeting, Hallquist was unanimously elected to serve as vice-mayor.

“Asks are going to come in all year long,” Beedle said prior to the vote.

“Where does the money come from? We couldn’t even fully fund the school this year. Are teachers’ positions going to go next year? It’s not the time to be spending out of the permanent fund.

“You think this year was bad,” he said. “We’re going to be well over a million dollars out of the permanent fund this year. (The sidewalk) is something we can live without right now. We can’t be fiscally irresponsible at this time.”

The city had received a state grant for this project last year, with the state providing almost a 5-to-1 match in grant funds, but project was not pursued due to shortfalls in the FY17 operating budget.

Now that the ordinance has passed, $135,466.96 will be sent to the state for the city’s portion of matching funds for the upgrades, to officially set the project in motion.

Cordova’s legislative lobbyist, John Bitney, spoke to council over the phone during the meeting and provided a brief legislative update, including possible reductions in education funding, cuts to the Alaska Marine Highway System, raw fish taxes, potential revenue measures such as a state income tax, and restructuring of the permanent fund.

Cordova Public Schools Superintendent Alex Russin gave a brief update to council, noting that there was just over a month remaining in this school year.

Russin spoke about Senate Bill 96, which potentially has up to a five percent reduction in the base student allocation formula, he said, which could amount to a $236,000 reduction in funding next year to Cordova’s schools.

“SB96 is an omnibus bill which has a lot of things in it. Part of this bill aims at cost-saving measures which are really misguided. Consolidation of services, consolidation of multiple school districts into one district, is a little bit of the rhetoric which is being talked about,” Russin said.

Legislators are trying to decide how much to fund schools based on square footage of schools, the number of students enrolled, and if schools are operating at capacity, he said.

“It’s interesting that the Legislature would base the capacity off the square footage of the building, and tie that to school funding.

“The high school – if we went with that 80 percent threshold, we’re at a 60 percent, based on the number of students that we have in the building, and the square footage we have available. Mt. Eccles is at 40 percent capacity,” he said. “Based on a 1996 study when the Legislature put together their capital improvement projects’ study on new school construction and major renovation, they determined that a kindergarten through sixth grade student needed approximately 111 square feet per pupil to be adequately educated, and 176 square feet per junior high through high school student, to be adequately educated,” he said. But the formula doesn’t take into consideration shared spaces within schools around the state, he said.

The Prince William Sound Community College shares classrooms in Cordova High School, and the district’s offices are in the basement at Mt. Eccles. Emergency supplies for the community also are stored at CHS. None of the shared spaces can be deducted from the schools’ total square footage,” he said.

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Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson is a staff writer and photographer for The Cordova Times. She has been writing in one form or another for 30-plus years and has had a longstanding relationship with The Cordova Times starting in 1989. She's been an Alaskan since 1976 and first moved to Cordova in 1978. She's lived in various West Texas towns; in Denver, Colorado; in McGrath, Cordova, Galena, Kodiak, Wasilla, Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska and in Bangalore, India. She has two children and three grandchildren. She can be reached at cgibbens-stimson@thecordovatimes.com or follow her on Instagram @alaskatoindia.