A road improvement project on Kobe Road has been added to the Denali Borough budget, after more than eight hours of public comment and discussion.
“Not everyone is going to leave 100% happy when there is a contentious issue like this,” said Denali Borough Mayor Clay Walker at the start of a special June 6 meeting to continue discussions surrounding the subject. “But hopefully, everyone will leave here with a better understanding and move forward together, because that’s what we do.”
The dispute rose over a plan to improve 2 miles of Kobe Road. This road heads west from the Parks Highway, just south of the Rex Bridge. It is the main access for a number of state subdivisions, as well as some large agricultural parcels.
Some members of the agricultural area formed a nonprofit and applied for a matching grant from the Denali Borough to improve the road. A grant of $24,000 was awarded, and the applicants must pay a match of at least $6,000. Total project cost is $30,000. In addition, the nonprofit applied for a contribution grant, which does not have a matching component. The group was awarded an additional $15,000.
But not everyone in the area was happy, and they let the borough assembly know.
Some were dissatisfied about the newly-formed nonprofit, but Walker reminded the audience that the borough has “no business impinging upon the freedom of people to organize a nonprofit for their own goals.” Nonprofits are state recognized entities, and the borough has no involvement, he said.
Those opposing the project expressed concern about the quality of the work, who would do the work, whether access would remain open during the project and how they would be notified of possible road closures. Some people didn’t want any improvements to the road at all.
“We have no intention of blocking people,” said Tom DeBlauw, president of the Kobe Farm Community. “Certainly, it is our goal to improve the road and access without interrupting our neighbors.”
“I want to be able to drive a fertilizer truck out and haul hay out without it getting soaked,” Sam DeBlauw said. “I want the neighborhood to be peaceful as well.”
DeBlauw works as a physicians assistant in Nenana and has personally coordinated emergency medical responses to this area. “Anyone along that section of road, any improvement will greatly increase their safety as far as access,” he said. Better road access means an ambulance can get closer and maybe a patient in need of emergency medical treatment won’t have to be transported via snowmachine or helicopter.
The first public hearing lasted nearly five hours and was contentious. This subsequent hearing lasted more than three hours and was calmer. Everyone had their say, multiple times.
“I think we can work things out,” said Joe Chatfield, borough assembly member.
The borough assembly approved the grant and placed it in the final budget, which now must be approved.
The borough assembly meets tonight at 6 p.m. in Healy.
Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at firstname.lastname@example.org. Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.