PALMER — The Mat-Su Borough Assembly conducted its regular business on May 21 ahead of a busy week of meetings to prepare the final Borough Budget.
Among the items on Tuesday’s agenda, a new concern arose from residents of Lazy Mountain. The Wolverine Lake mine project that was passed in February would require an overhaul of the road and large quarry hundreds of feet from pristine Wolverine Lake for use on the completion of the Point Mackenzie rail project. Those members of the public who commented on the issue believe that safety concerns were overlooked.
“Their intention was not to destroy a neighborhood but to bring more revenue to the Borough and that’s a full attempt and I think their hearts are pure on that and we’ll get through those details,” said Borough Manager John Moosey.
Moosey immediately asked Larry Lynn for his list of logistical problems and further communication with the project after Lynn had given his comments.
“Unfortunately the location on the northeast end of Wolverine lake poses significant public safety concerns and appears to be a poor expenditure of borough funds. While the right type and quality of rock may be present, the extraction of this rock was not thought through,” Lynn said.
Wolverine road runs up around Lazy Mountain and traverses a steep canyon. The road would have to be extended a half-mile to reach Wolverine Lake from the end of the existing road. Lynn was also concerned with the millions of dollars it may cost to widen and improve sections of curvy, steep road. Lynn said that rail is the most efficient method of transporting rock, and that the presence of side dumping trucks on the narrow, winding roads would disrupt the residents that live there.
“The cost of infrastructure development and improvements to support mining rock at the end of the road and the distance from the rock source and user location would far outweigh the benefit of acquiring rock from this location,” Lynn said.
Lynn inferred that the $132,382 for the project was spread over three years so that it would not have to be brought to the attention of the Assembly, but Moosey corrected him later in the meeting.
“I am concerned that there is an impression that we are splitting these things up in order to avoid bringing it to the assembly. I don’t want that to be the case. I don’t want that to be the impression,” Moosey said.
Fellow Lazy Mountain Resident John Vinduska was also concerned about transporting rocks from Lazy Mountain through Palmer, Wasilla and up Knik-Goose Bay Road to Point Mackenzie. Vinduska had seen a flyer with misinformation that he corrected and asked the borough to terminate the contract.
“It would just be a mess. The state ain’t going to pay a penny for that. It would be picked up by the taxpayers. The revenue for this could not possibly offset property taxes as the flyer said. In these economic times the budget shortfall, you need to consider all unnecessary expenditures and this is one,” Vinduska said.
Moosey mentioned during his comments that he will present to the assembly on the direction of the project.
Ordinance 19-063 also saw some heated debate. Ron Forsythe, who is chair of the Willow Fire Board, spoke gratefully to the assembly about the improvements that have been made in the Willow Fire Service area and harkened back to packed meetings of residents concerned at how to protect their homes from fire.
“I was part of that group four years ago who came and actually asked to raise taxes in our community,” said Assemblywoman Tam Boeve.
Boeve noted that the four-year anniversary of the Sockeye Fire is June 14 and said that as a result of the assembly action four years ago, Willow has improved their fire service capabilities and lowered homeowners insurance rates by 40 percent.
“People are very very pleased and this is exciting. This is kind of what we worked for, the opportunity to start replacing apparatus,” Boeve said.
Ordinance 19-063 would appropriate $600,000 to purchase a Rescue Pumper for the Willow Fire Service Area. Not every member of the Assembly was in favor of the ordinance.
“I get people just coming in saying we need a fire truck. Okay, that doesn’t seem like it’s really good management to me,” said Assemblyman George McKee.
McKee asked for a detailed list on equipment in need of replacing. Assemblyman Jesse Sumner provided McKee the list, who also believed that the borough has too much special equipment.
“They’re simply asking the assembly to say would you allow us to do what we need to do in order to be successful and protect our citizens,” Assemblyman Dan Mayfield said.
The motion passed without opposition. The assembly is scheduled to have budget deliberations Tuesday through Friday this week.