Daily Archives: October 21, 2015

Driven to assess — AK LNG presents Spur highway reroute options

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Kirk and Jeannie Nickel examine a map of options to reroute the Kenai Spur Highway around the proposed AK LNG plant in Nikiski.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Kirk and Jeannie Nickel examine a map of options to reroute the Kenai Spur Highway around the proposed AK LNG plant in Nikiski.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

There are still far more questions than answers about the proposed AK LNG project and its potential terminus facility in Nikiski. But of the many unknowns, one thing, at least, was certain Monday — the route driven by the more than 100 attendees of a community meeting at the Nikiski Recreation Center will not be the same road driven in four or five years if the project does happen.

The Nikiski facility as it’s currently envisioned lies right on top of the Kenai Spur Highway.

“When we are looking where plant site is, the highway does bisect that and that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. So we’d like to look at options of redirecting that traffic and redirecting the major road that goes through this area in a safe manner,” said Lydia Johnson, technical manager for the AK LNG project.

The facility will need around 700 to 800 acres, she said. The current design places it between about Industrial Avenue south to Robert Walker Avenue and from the bluff east to about McCaughey Street. That puts it right on top of the Kenai Spur Highway as it parallels the bluff between its intersections with North and South Miller Loops.

Project managers are working with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, federal highway managers and the Kenai Peninsula Borough to look at how to relocate the road, and want public input, as well. To that end, an open house was held Monday evening to provide information on the project, answer questions and collect feedback. As with previous meetings AK LNG has held in Nikiski, this one got a sizable turnout.

“Hopefully the message has gotten out that we’ve just really started in this process and we really want to hear feedback and comments from the people that live here and are going to have to live with this road,” Johnson said. “So we want to make sure that gets stewed into our designs and into all of our considerations, as well, so we’re thrilled that there are this many people here.”

Large-scale maps showing the various reroute options were displayed around the room with sticky notes provided so people could write and affix their observations, preferences and concerns. The new section would be posted with a 55 mph speed limit and have two, 12-foot travel lanes with a 12-foot turning lane to ease the additional traffic to the LNG facility, 8-foot shoulders and a 12-foot multiuse pathway separated from the road.

Eleven highlighted route options crisscross the map. Most turn inland around South Miller Loop and head north either between Cabin Lake and the AK LNG site or along the eastern side of Cabin Lake. They connect back to the existing highway route in a variety of options — including along North Miller Loop, south and north of Bernice Lake, near Foreland Street and along Island Lake Road.

It’s a bit of a spaghetti bowl, Johnson concedes, because nothing has been ruled out yet. Options will be whittled down based on several factors — community input, regulatory requirements, acquisition of land parcels and environmental concerns, among many others.

“And it will depend on what the geometry will look like and what the water looks like and what the geology looks like of the roads and then, ultimately, how our site lays out, as well,” Johnson said. “We still haven’t finalized that either. You have to be certain distances from different things for air emission and noise and all of that stuff. So it’s all a big puzzle that we’re putting together, so that’s why all those options are out there.”

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Filed under industry, Nikiski, transportation

Contract talks resume — School district, employees seek agreement before having to go to arbitration

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Ranada Hassemer, an interventionist at Redoubt Elementary School, waves a sign at passing motorists on K-Beach Road on Oct. 14 in support of teacher and support staff associations in continuing contract negotiations with the school district.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Ranada Hassemer, an interventionist at Redoubt Elementary School, waves a sign at passing motorists on K-Beach Road on Oct. 14 in support of teacher and support staff associations in continuing contract negotiations with the school district.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District teachers and support staff took to street corners Oct. 14, waving at cars and holding signs seeking support in continued contract negotiations with the school district.

“I just think teachers and support, certified and classified staff deserve a fair contract and a decent living wage. And we think it’s important, and we want it to be over and have a set contract,” said Megan Murphy, who works at Soldotna High School.

The contract under negotiation was supposed to take effect at the beginning of this school year, but employees are working under the terms of the previous contract until this one gets hammered out. This is Murphy’s first time through a round of negotiations in KPBSD, but she grew up in the area with her mom working for the district, and remembers past negotiations almost coming to a strike.

“It definitely makes you feel a little, definitely not valued, to be honest,” she said. “I think that we all work here, we’re for the kids, but it’s nice to be able to go to work and know that your district supports you and is willing to pay you at cost and a good wage.”

From left, Tamra Wear, Megan Murphy, LaDawn Druce and Patti Sirois rally for support of school district employees in continued contract negotiations at the intersection of K-Beach and Poppy Lone on Oct. 14.

From left, Tamra Wear, Megan Murphy, LaDawn Druce and Patti Sirois rally for support of school district employees in continued contract negotiations at the intersection of K-Beach and Poppy Lone on Oct. 14.

At 4:30 p.m., demonstrators stationed themselves in front of the George A. Navarre Borough Building and at the “Y” intersection in Soldotna, at Bridge Access and the Kenai Spur Highway intersection in Kenai, and at the Poppy Lane-Kalifornsky Beach Road intersection, ahead of the bargaining meeting at 5:30 p.m. called by the employee associations.

It’s shaping up to be a repeat of the previous round of negotiations, which started in winter 2012 and concluded with arbitration 14 months later. LaDawn Druce was the president of the Kenai Peninsula Education Association during the last round of negotiations. She was holding a sign at K-Beach as a school district employee this go-around, now working as a high school counselor.

“We made these signs three years ago. Time to get use out of them again,” she said.

Patti Sirois, president of the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association, said she’s frustrated with the negotiations process.

“It’s really disheartening because it seems like every time we negotiate we are out on the street corner waving our hands, and it shouldn’t be that way,” she said. “The children are our future, our community, and we’re a big part of this community as educators and support staff and we deserve at least the respect of negotiations.”

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Filed under budget, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

Budget brainstorms — School district enlists community help in preparing for cuts

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is facing some difficult budget decisions for next fiscal year and needs your help to make them.

Twenty-two schools across the district hosted budget meetings Thursday evening, to share information about the district’s financial situation and request input on what should be done to cover the more than $3 million shortfall expected in next year’s budget.

“We want as much input as we can get so that we can make good decisions for our kids,” said Superintendent Sean Dusek.

He and Dave Jones, assistant superintendent of instructional support, gave an overview of the district’s expenditures and revenues, and how the former is outpacing the latter. The district gets the majority — about 64 percent — of its general fund operating money from the state. That amount was cut last year and looks like it will at least remain decreased this year, if not be cut further.

“We know, based upon what’s coming out of Juneau from the governor, the Legislature, that the fiscal climate is actually getting worse. We are anticipating some additional reductions from the state,” Dusek said. “… We hope not, but the situation is not good from Juneau.”

The Kenai Peninsula Borough contributes about 35 percent, which equated to about $48 million in this year’s budget. About 36 percent of the borough’s contribution is from property taxes, and 64 percent from sales taxes.

“So that’s why in the summer when I go to the grocery store and have to stand in line behind a bunch of tourists and a bunch of dip-netters from Anchorage, I just smile and say, ‘Hey, thanks for coming,’” Jones said. “Because that’s where a lot of that money comes from, and I appreciate that.”

Where does that money go? Most of it, 81 percent, is spent on salary and benefits — in other words, teachers, administrators, support staff and other personnel. The remaining 19 percent covers everything else — utilities, travel, supplies, technology, curriculum materials, and so on.

That’s the first area of the budget to be looked at when reductions need to be made, but can only be cut so much.

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Filed under budget, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

Seen and heard — Photovoice seeks to tell visual stories of community

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

There’s photography that preserves a scene or moment — a pretty sunset or a snapshot at a family gathering — capturing whatever is in front of the lens. But the medium can also be used for more complex purposes, to tell a story, evoke a feeling or convey an idea.

Change 4 the Kenai is hoping people use the latter, abstract approach in its 2015 Photovoice Project to create the former, concrete results.

“It’s a data-collection effort to see how the community sees the resources here, or lack thereof.
It’s an opportunity to see our community through the lens of fellow community members,” said Shari Conner, program coordinator for the coalition.

Change 4 the Kenai is a coalition of individuals, area agencies, law enforcement officers, government officials and area businesses united to work toward connecting community members.

A community is made up of separate elements — economics, transportation and so on — united by connections, such as a sense of identity. As Change 4 the Kenai has discovered, the central Kenai Peninsula has a lot of separate elements going for it, but is lacking in connections to bring them all together.

“We did a connection survey, asking questions like, ‘Do you know your neighbors? Do you have contact with others outside your immediate family? Do you attend communitywide events?’ And the answers kept coming back ‘No, no, no,’” Conner said.

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Filed under art, community, photography

Common Ground: Always on the Hugo

Photos courtesy of Christine Cunningham.

Photos courtesy of Christine Cunningham.

By Christine Cunningham, for the Redoubt Reporter

There’s something about Hugo that is ancient and spirited at the same time. He even has an old, sagging right eye with white lashes and a young, daring left eye with brown lashes. When he stares out the truck window, he hunts the ravens flying down the road and the songbirds bursting from the bushes. He is hitchhiking across the Alaska roadways even before daylight because he believes there’s a chance in every moment. While my mind drifts and describes the things I see, he goes to them directly with eyes, nose and body, until he is pressed against the windshield as a grouse flies low across the highway.

“Spruce grouse,” my partner says.

He’s driving and more aware of the road and its travelers than I am. If a dog could talk, he might be the same kind of conversationalist as my partner. Especially a pointing dog, I imagine. They would tend to point things out. As a backseat passenger, Winchester might be the kid who reads signs along the highway. His black-and-white coloring and stylish repose give him the smart looks of a dog that might read. He might peer up through his bifocals and say, “Spruce grouse.”

While the younger, more enthusiastic Hugo would vault over my seat just the way he did, slamming into the windshield. “Spruce grouse!” he’d yell, like it was Bigfoot in the flesh or a woman in a red dress. He’d walk smack into a light pole just to have a look.

Steady to wing and shot Hugo was not. His pointing technique was to pin his quarry into the ground. “It counts,” he seemed to think.

“He’s road hunting,” I said. “We’ve never had a dog that hunted the road before.”

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Filed under Common Ground, hunting, pets

Plugged In: Take precautions to protect important data

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Protecting your data involves more than just preventing inadvertent disclosure or hacking. You also need to ensure that your financial, photo and family data is protected from loss.

Loss may occur in many ways. Data may be lost due to hacking, hardware failure, operator error or casualty. Smartphones, notebook computers and other mobile devices are commonly misplaced, forgotten, dropped and broken, or stolen.

Protecting your electronic data is as basic as locking your house or car and buying insurance to protect you in case of loss. Extending this analogy, computer security has two components. An electronic “lock” protects you against those who might invade your privacy and misappropriate or vandalize your data. That’s where network security and, as appropriate, data encryption, come into play.

Physical security, on the other hand, including data backup, protects you against physical loss such as electrical surges, fire or theft. I’ll address physical loss first because, in some ways, it is more straightforward.

Casualty losses such as fire or flood damage and thefts of smartphones, computers and related equipment are fairly common. Your best bet under these circumstances is to ensure you have adequate physical security for your premises and that highly sensitive data is encrypted.

It’s no different than protecting any other valuables, but with one exception — you could also lose a great deal of crucial information unless you back up your data every day. I have had clients who went out of business after their premises and business equipment were destroyed by fire. Losing the bulk of your business data is one of the surest paths to business problems.

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Filed under Plugged in, technology