The Kodiak City Council eliminated two services Thursday in approving the city budget for the next fiscal year. The city provided the services in cooperation with the Kodiak Island Borough, but the borough assembly cut its side of the deal when formulating their budget earlier in June.
First, the city council withdrew $84,125 from a line item providing animal control services in the Kodiak Island Borough.
“Well, I think this is another trigger by the borough,” council member Pat Branson said. “This is what they’ve done, and so we go along with this because we are not going to pay for animal control outside the city limits.”
At the last regular meeting of the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly, Humane Society of Kodiak president Karen Yashin articulated some of the problems that existed before the borough had an animal control officer.
“Previous to the system we now have in place, animal control was basically whatever anyone felt they had to do, or wanted to do, to alleviate the problems of irresponsible breeding, roaming and various types of nuisance,” Yashin said. “In many cases this did not lead to friendlier, humane actions. Not only did animals suffer and have no one to champion them, but neighbors suffered with no one helping them find solutions to very difficult situations.”
Animal problems in the borough ran the gamut, Yashin said, from dogs attacking wildlife and livestock to noise complaints, and it was not unusual to have animals tied up to trees and shot, dumped in dumpsters, or dropped off in the woods only to show up starving months later.
“When people know they have somewhere to turn, they will often do just that,” Yashin said. “The animal control officer is the only official the borough citizens can rely on to represent their needs as well as the needs of the animals. They are like a mediator, so we can call that person and have them come out and help us find solutions.”
For its part, the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly members found persuasive the argument that, in a year when budget cuts were necessary, the animal control is only offered in the area of the road system, and is not a borough-wide service. Yet the funding to provide the service could come from property owners outside the road system.
Second, council members approved a cut of $10,000 for the annual legislative reception in Juneau and another $5,600 from travel expenses to attend the reception.
Council member John Whiddon said the goal of these cuts was to “clean up our own house a little bit.”
“The $15,600 that ultimately would be removed … is not a huge
sum out of a $43 million budget,” Whiddon said. “What it really speaks to is the goal of the council to establish policies for council travel so that we actually spend tax payer money wisely.”
Noting that the Kodiak Island Borough, which shared costs for this legislative reception, deleted their part of the funding, Branson said, “It goes, I think, hand in hand for us to do as well.”
“I really do not see the city carrying the full burden of a very expensive reception,” she said. “It’s not to say that we did not enjoy the reception or we did not make some contacts at the reception.”
Council member Tom Walters thanked all of the seafood processors who provided Kodiak seafood free for the legislative reception
But as the council was asking for departmental cuts of 1 percent in the city’s budget, “I think this makes a statement to the public as well as our staff that we are in alignment with them,” Branson said.
Before the city council approved its fiscal year budget, city manager Aimée Kniaziowski reiterated that the budget was designed as just a maintenance-level budget.
“We have actually taken a 1 percent reduction in revenues and expenses this year trying to maintain that status quo element to the budget,” Kniaziowski said.
Baranov Museum repairs
Also at Thursday’s meeting the city council approved a bid award of $214,520 to replace the retaining wall in front of the Baranov Museum that runs along both Marine Way and Center Ave.
The custom rock retaining wall is cracked in several places and is leaning in toward the sidewalk. On the Marine Way side the retaining wall is actually leaning on a Kodiak Electric Association transformer, Kniaziowski said.
“It is a safety issue,” she said. “We need to get it done this season.”
Baranov Museum director Katie Oliver said the new retaining wall was a good design.
“We were very grateful for the level of input we were invited to give throughout the design process and we’re grateful for the responsiveness to our concerns that were shown by public works and by the engineers at DOWL HKM,” Oliver said.
She said the guardrail system in the design will allow the public to use the space to a fuller extent.