Kenai mulls benefit of rec center as repair costs add up

Efforts to consolidate funds for multiple projects at the Kenai Recreation Center prompted existential questions about the building’s role within the city during a Feb. 16 meeting of the Kenai City Council.

The council last week approved legislation that consolidates funding for multiple projects at the facility into an existing city account. Previously, separate funds existed for planned improvements to the center, such as $40,000 for roof repairs, $60,000 for water heater replacements and about $280,000 for rooftop heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

The Kenai Recreation Center, located between 1st Street and the Kenai Spur Highway on Caviar Street, offers year-round programming and recreational activities, including a weight room, basketball and saunas. The Boys and Girls Club of the Kenai Peninsula’s Teen Center is also located in the building.

In all, the resolution transferred about $380,000 into an account with an existing balance of about $750,000 designated for roofing replacements. The new balance of the account is $1.13 million. Consolidating the funds, the resolution says, will simplify management of the project for the city.

Kenai Public Works Director Scott Curtin wrote in a Feb. 8 memo to city council members the need for larger projects at the rec center was identified as the city worked to address some of the building’s smaller, more immediate needs. A larger project, Curtin wrote, is needed to comply with building codes and makes it less likely that the city will need to revisit work that has already been completed.

Work is currently underway at the rec center to replace the building’s roof and mechanical systems, Curtin wrote. The project is currently in the design phase with construction expected to begin this summer. In addition to the money discussed by the resolution passed by the council, a separate $280,000 will be needed to address mechanical improvements at the building.

Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander told the council it’s possible that, as the city completes work at the center, additional projects will arise that the city will need to address.

“There’s going to be things, almost certainly, that we will find that we’re not anticipating to find,” Ostrander said. “Council may be seeing something from the administration in the future, if the issues are larger than we think, to ask for additional funding.”

Council Member Teea Winger asked if, once a total scope of work was prepared, analysis could be done on how much the building costs the city and city residents as compared to how much the facility is being used.

Ostrander said the design work currently underway for the facility should help determine whether or not the building is worth continued investments by the city. He added that the facility’s appeal is in the quality of life it affords Kenai residents, and not so much in the financial profit to the city.

“It provides a lot of opportunities for a lot of the residents of the city to recreate and exercise in that facility, but it’s never going to be revenue-positive,” Ostrander said.

The Kenai City Council’s Feb. 16 meeting can be viewed on the City of Kenai’s YouTube channel.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.