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Alaska communities awarded for excellence in 2006.

The Alaska Municipal League recognized its 2006 Alaska Community Awards for Excellence winners during the League's 56th Annual Local Government Conference Awards Banquet, on Thursday, November 16, 2006 in Juneau.

Education & Local Government Category

Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Wildfire Mitigation Education: First Firewise USA Community in Alaska

The Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Borough's Wildfire Mitigation Program began in July 2003, with the goal to "reduce the wildfire hazard due to the Spruce Bark Beetle infestation."

The two major components to the plan were fuel reduction and community education. In 2006, the Mat-Su Borough's Community Development Division in Lands Management assumed responsibility for fuels reduction, thus allowing the project coordinator to increase community education.

Education programs across the community included distributing an informative brochure throughout the borough, demonstrations at local schools and public buildings and urging residents to take action by instituting a cost-share program that would help cover the first $600 of contractor's fees for residential hazardous trees and shrubs removal. On June 15, 2006, Horseshoe Lake accepted the Firewise USA Community award, making it the first Firewise Community in Alaska. To date. the total program funding has been $4.5 million.

Public Works Category City of Wasilla

Downtown Storm Drain Improvements

The City of Wasilla began its Storm Drain Improvement project in August 2001 upon completion of the city's storm water master plan. The overall objective of the plan was to provide the necessary infrastructure to collect and treat storm water runoff and make use of the old Wasilla Airport by creating Iditapark, a new city park.

In 2001, collaborating with the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 302, the City was able to provide the necessary training to break ground on the project. Storm water basins created several ponds throughout the new park and the excess material excavated made a large enough mound to serve as a sledding hill and amphitheater.

Additionally, the city worked with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to improve storm water runoff from state-owned streets. This portion of the project included new collection piping, four pretreatment vaults and a pumping vault with four 5,000 gallon per minute pumps that flow into the newly created water basins. The total cost of the project to date is approximately $4 million. Through this project, regular flooding of downtown Wasilla streets has been eliminated and the park has become a popular destination for school groups and residents year-round.

Public Works Category Municipality of Anchorage Renewable Resources Program

Mayor Mark Begich, in August 2001, created the Renewable Resources Program. The goal of the program was to find ways to reduce waste, encourage recycling and create economic development from commonly thrown away commodities. The project was able to gather funds by using one dollar of every tip from the Anchorage Regional Landfill's tipping fee ($45 per ton).

With one full-time staff person, the project relied on citizen working groups to address waste issues across the community. The result brought together local government, business leaders and citizens who in turn created several solutions that were in the benefit of the community.

In just over one year, Anchorage has created steady recycling programs across the community, initiated the first green building in Anchorage, identified a long-term plan for recycling cooking oils, reduced energy use by installing energy efficient lights and replacing fixtures, installed methane recovery systems at the landfill and is actively promoting energy alternatives to fossil fuels.

Land Use Category Matanuska-Susitna Borough Title 16/27

The goal of this program was to rewrite Title 16 of the Mat-Su Borough Code of Ordinances. The Title centered on subdivisions and was last revised in 1988 when the Borough was experiencing a major decline in its population and economy. Amendments made to Title 16 reduced standards in an effort to promote economic growth and development.

By the late 1990s, the population in the Borough had nearly doubled and the economy was strong once again. In 1998, the rewrite process to Title 16 resumed in an effort to address the impact of the rapid increase of subdivision activity. In December 2003, the Assembly created the Citizens Advisory Committee for the Title 16 Rewrite, which allowed increased public participation in the title revision process.

Working with the Platting Board and Planning Commission, the Committee was able to keep the revision process on track with the current Borough growth and development patterns.

By September 2006, the Assembly adopted Title 27 with implementation of the ordinance beginning in April 2007, allowing the public to adjust to the new rules. A long-awaited success, Title 27 includes revisions that lead to the protection of the health, safety and welfare of residents and provides the orderly development of the Borough.

Just A Darn Good Idea Municipality of Anchorage

MyNeighborhood: One-Stop Citizen Information Source

The MyNeighborhood program gives citizens the opportunity through an online program that provides a plethora of information about daily community services ranging from gas stations and recycling centers to polling places and hospitals.

The interactive database allows users to navigate through their desired choices to locate and map the city services and conveniences that best fit their needs. The program also provides detailed demographic information about commercial areas and neighborhoods, which is invaluable to potential investors, business owners and non-profit organizations who have all utilized the online tool.

This information is also widely used by developers and people who are looking to move to Anchorage as a source of where to build or live. In addition to staff time, the cost for hardware, software and training was around $150,000 making it an extremely low cost and effective tool. The successful tool received 10,000 hits on its first day online.
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Article Details
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Author:Woodrow, Jeremy
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Geographic Code:1U9AK
Date:Feb 12, 2007
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