Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly 2020

Debbie Hollen, US Forest Service

This week on The Coffee Table, learn about the Kenai Peninsula Borough's Resilience and Security Commission and get a link to their first public meeting on Thursday of this week, November 12 at 6 p.m.

COVID-19 housing relief expanding on Peninsula

Oct 15, 2020

Residents of Kenai, Soldotna and Kachemak have been eligible for housing relief funding for a month or more. Soon, residents from the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s unincorporated areas will be able to apply for rent and mortgage relief, as well.

The relief comes from a partnership with the Alaska Housing Financing Corporation. Much like the programs in the cities, this one will subsidize up to $1,200 per month for eligible households, paid directly to recipients’ landlords. 


Lane Chesley, who ran unopposed, will be the new Kenai Peninsula Borough Assemblymember from District 8 Homer. Chesley gathered 848 votes on election day.

When he replaces current Assembly President Kelly Cooper (who was forced to move on because of term limits), later in the month, the entire assembly membership will be male.

Smithsonian Institute

Borough Ballot Measure One is the topic on this week's Coffee Table.
Voters in the October 6 Municipal Election will decide whether or not to expand of the Anchor Point Fire and Emergency Medical Service Area to include the Ninilchik area, creating the Western Emergency Services Area.

KBBI Zoom screengrab

Last night, for the second year in a row, a Homer man gave the invocation for the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting. Last year it was before a packed Homer City Council chambers, but due to social distancing rules, this year the invocation was given over Zoom. Nevertheless, Barrett Fletcher wore his church’s traditional headdress to deliver the prayer, a colander.
    “I am Barrett Fletcher, the founding pastor of the First Lower Peninsula Congregation of Pastafarians, and I’ve been asked to do the invocation.

Kenai Peninsula Borough

Ever since the Kenai Peninsula Borough entered a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, assembly meetings have been held via Zoom video conferencing in order to comply with social distancing guidelines issued by the State of Alaska and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    But despite the dangers inherent in public gatherings at this time, some in the public -- and on the assembly -- think it’s time for video meetings to end.
    A gentleman named Robert, who did not give his last name, commented at Tuesday night’s assembly meeting.

Smithsonian Institute

Voting accessibility is on the ballot for the October 6th Borough elections. Borough Proposition Two would repeal the hybrid vote by mail system passed by the Assembly in 2019. The Assembly was responding to the report and recommendations of the Election Stakeholders Group when they passed an ordinance to institute vote by mail, borough-wide.

The Stakeholders Group was created by the Borough in response to a case before the Alaska Human Rights Commission concerning a Homer voter who was unable to vote a secret ballot due to their disability.

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

    The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly met via Zoom video conferencing Tuesday afternoon to make adjustments to how it distributes federal CARES Act funds received from the State of Alaska.

    Among other items, the change will reimburse single audit fees for awardees, provide funds to install air purification systems in all borough and school facilities, and increase funds for the 911 backup dispatch center project. Cities will get an additional $8.1 million to divvy up.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough will soon be moving into the age of “remote sensing.” The assembly approved a nearly-half-million-dollar no-bid contract with a company to provide the borough with “Pictometry Oblique Imagery” for the purposes of property assessment. Currently, the borough assesses real property from the ground. The contract with Bellevue-based EagleView will be for photographing private property from the air.
Nikiski Assemblyman Jessie Bjorkman, however, felt that was an invasion of privacy.

Kenai Peninsula Borough

This fall, voters in the Anchor Point and Ninilchik areas will consider whether to join forces on their emergency services.
     The Kenai Peninsula Borough assembly approved an ordinance last Tuesday that will ask voters on the Oct. 6 ballot whether they want to become a single service area for fire and emergency medical services. The move has had several public meetings and has been in the works since earlier this spring.

Kenai Peninsula Borough

The latest attempt to keep an easier, hybrid vote-by-mail system from coming to Kenai Peninsula Borough residents was turned back at Tuesday night’s assembly meeting. A veto made by Mayor Charlie Pierce on Monday of Ordinance 20-24 was overturned on a 6-to-3 vote.
    In defense of his veto, Pierce had previously claimed on social media that the vote-by-mail system would be mandatory, which is not the case. Assembly President Kelly Cooper called a post on Pierce’s campaign Facebook to that effect on June 13 irresponsible for its inaccuracy.

After failing to block an ordinance in the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly that would provide for an expanded number of options for residents to casts votes, foes of voting-by-mail, led by Assemblymembers Norm Blakley of Sterling and Jesse Bjorkman of Nikiski, have filed a referendum petition application to have the measure repealed by voters in October.
    The Borough Mayor's Office and assembly members were notified by the clerk of the filing on Thursday.

About two weeks after the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly passed an expanded elections options ordinance, it came up for a reconsideration vote about four hours into Tuesday night’s regular meeting. A reconsideration vote is a final effort to change something that’s already passed.
    During the meeting, Seward Assemblymember Kenn Carpenter explained why he asked to have the expanded elections ordinance reconsidered after it passed 6-to-3 two weeks earlier.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly’s marathon meeting this week overflowed into Wednesday afternoon after reaching midnight on Tuesday night.
    When the body resumed its Zoom meeting, it was in the middle of debate over amendments to modify borough elections under Ordinance 20-24. The ordinance would provide for voting by mail, give more time before a run-off election, and would remove statements attached to ballot propositions.


At Tuesday night's Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting, there will be a public hearing on an ordinance to establish a vote-by-mail option for elections in the Borough. Communities all over the country are considering vote-by-mail due to the current public health crisis and because of concerns about free and fair elections. Assemblymember Willy Dunne of Fritz Creek introduced this ordinance because of a recommendation from a Borough stakeholder group that issued a report in January of 2019.