Road board joins community council in opposition to road bond

Tuesday, January 28, 2020 - 10:56
  • (Star file photo by Kirsten Swann)

A modest and seemingly unremarkable road bond package has drawn criticism from folks in Chugiak-Eagle River worried it could interfere with their area’s ability to pay for and maintain their own roads.

On Monday the local road board joined the Birchwood Community Council in opposing the $1.1 million bond package, which the assembly will consider for inclusion on the April ballot at its Tuesday night meeting. The matter was brought to the board’s attention by Assembly member Crystal Kennedy, who said she’s concerned local control could be at stake.

“It really is about who has authority to make these decisions,” said Kennedy, who spoke about the issue at the Chugiak-Birchwood-Eagle River Rural Road Service Area (CBERRRSA) board of supervisors meeting Monday night in Eagle River.

If approved by voters in April, the bonds would pay for design work on three “life/safety access roads,” including Boundary Avenue in East Anchorage, Mountain Air Drive on the Hillside and Kullberg Drive in Peters Creek. All three projects would build short sections of connector roads between previously unconnected streets in order to provide better access for both residents and emergency vehicles.

Kennedy said there’s no doubt the projects have merit. But the devil is in the details, and Kennedy said she is concerned passage of the bond could have unforeseen consequences for Chugiak-Eagle River — namely, that it would set a precedent that the area is subject to areawide road bonds.

“It really does come down to clashing with jurisdiction and authority of the two groups,” she said.

The Chugiak-Eagle River area is governed by its own Rural Road Service Area, meaning its residents tax themselves a mill levy of up to 2.1 mills and the local Eagle River Street Maintenance Department maintains and plows about 350 miles of local roads in the Chugiak-Eagle River area. The CBERRRSA board sets the tax rate each year, determines which capital projects to undertake and gives the street maintenance department its policy guidelines.

CBERRRSA board member Matt Cruickshank told the road board his community council — Birchwood — took a strong stance against the bond because they believe passage of the funding measure could remove that autonomy and “goes against the very principles of CBERRRSA.”

“We do not support this ordinance,” he said.

If passed, the bond is expected to add an additional $0.25 in taxes per $100,000 of assessed property value.

but board member Joe Wright said the bond appears to be setting a precedent that Chugiak-Eagle River could now be included in future road bonds.

“This is establishing areawide bonding on top of us,” he said.

Following the discussion the board voted unanimously to oppose the bond, a sentiment Kennedy said she would relay at Tuesday night’s assembly meeting, which took place after the Star’s print deadline. Visit alaskastar.com for updates.

In other action Monday, the road board:

-Voted to include Voyles Boulevard and Coronado Street on the “hazardous walkways list,” which authorizes the street maintenance department to clear the sidewalks of snow. Littlefield told the board the cost of clearing the sidewalks would be relatively small.

-Board members considered a request by Littlefield to ask their respective community councils if they’d like to see any policy changes before he moves forward on a new 7-year contract with CBERRRSA’s contractor. The main policy change under consideration would be clearing snow berms, but Littlefield said that would require a significant cost increase (more than double current plowing costs) and board members indicated they support the status quo. Littlefield said he’d like to hear about any other requests by the February board meeting.

-Littlefield said a small amount of work will be done on Brooks Loop, which will remain a one-way street but will get upgraded sidewalks and have some drainage work done.

-Littlefield said there has been little news from the state on whether CBERRRSA will be able to reallocate unused funding from the Yosemite Drive upgrade to improve the Starner Bridge. -Board members were asked to solicit input from their community councils on upcoming capital improvement project requests.

Littlefield said he expects there to be little change to next year’s budget unless local community councils request significant changes to the department’s policies.

Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected] or call 257-4274.

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