Renee Gross

Reporter/Host
Kenai Peninsula Borough School District

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is facing a $3 million deficit this year. The district intends to reduce that figure by using roughly one million from its savings. Budget deficits have been a constant theme for the district since the state hit hard financial times over the past few years, and up until now, the district has avoided budget cuts to the classroom. But those cuts may be hard to avoid this year.

Renee Gross, KBBI News

Kachemak Selo, a small Russian Old Believer village at the head of Kachemak Bay, is desperate for a new school building. Deteriorating infrastructure and limited space has plagued the community for years. However, progress toward a new school is happening. The state dedicated about $10 million toward building a new school in 2016, and on Friday, the community choose a building site. A new school isn’t guaranteed just yet. The community still needs to convince Kenai Peninsula Borough residents to vote in favor of paying for the rest of the roughly $16 million project.  

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Common murres have had a few bad years. The unusual warm weather temperatures, known as the blob, dramatically shifted the availability of their food supply in the Gulf of Alaska, starving thousands of birds to death. And most murres stopped breeding. But there is some good news. A small amount of baby murres are hatching again in colonies from the Gulf of Alaska to the Bering Sea.

It’s not unusual for common murres to have die-offs. But Heather Renner, a supervisory biologist at the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, said the die-off a few years ago was unprecedented.

Boys and Girls Club

After-school programming options have been slim for working parents in Homer, and earlier release times for elementary students, which went into effect this fall, have only accentuated parents' needs for consistent after-school care. Local schools are heeding parents' calls and are working to re-instate a Boys and Girls club. But there’s still logistics to be figured out.

Sarah Richardson has two kids. Her five-year-old is at Paul Banks Elementary and her eight-year-old is at West Homer Elementary. This year, she’s put a lot of mileage on her car picking them up.

John Cox

The deadline to enter Republican primaries around the state is just four months away, and in District 31, only one candidate has filed. 

The Chair of the Alaska Republican Party, Tuckerman Babcock, said Republicans are busy trying to enlist other people to run from the Homer area. 

“I have, and I know the local Republican Party activists in District 31 have been talking to lots of people about whether they will consider running," Babcock said. “We are very very focused on replacing Representative Paul Seaton.”

Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District

The Kenai Peninsula unemployment rate rose by 1 percent in 2017. The Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District's end of the year report, which came out last week, found the unemployment rate was at 8.7 percent, up from 7.7 percent in 2016. Still, the increase is not as bad as the unemployment hike the borough saw from 2015-2016. The oil and gas industry lost the most jobs in the borough over the past five years with roughly 200 fewer jobs. 

South Peninsula Hospital

South Peninsula Hospital has a new CEO. Joe Woodin is taking over after Robert Letson retired this fall. Woodin has thirty years of experience in healthcare leadership in Massachusetts and Vermont. He said South Peninsula Hospital has similar qualities and challenges to the other small-sized hospitals where he’s worked.

Claudia Haines, Homer Public Library

There has been plenty of initiatives in recent years to get young women and girls in science and technology jobs. But in general, tech and science programs have been few and far between in rural communities. The Homer Public Library is working to solve that problem. The library expanded its computer coding program this month to target young girls in the community and wants to set them up for success in the tech business.

Courtesy of Alaska Legislature

Alaska State Representative Paul Seaton of Homer spoke with Renee Gross on Feb. 9 about updates to the House education funding bill, options for funding Kachemak Selo's new school and Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Craig Stowers' State of the Judiciary speech. 

Daysha Eaton, KBBI News

Kachemak Selo, a small Russian Old Believer village at the head of Kachemak Bay on the Kenai Peninsula, has been dealing with deteriorating school buildings for years. The school, built about 30 years ago, has cracks in the walls and students have testified at the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly that they feel they’re at risk every time they enter the buildings. The state dedicated a little over $10 million for a new school about two years ago, but the borough hasn’t had the money to fund the rest of the roughly $16 million project.

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