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Unalaska City Council discusses island’s COVID case count, quality of life and Captains Bay Road

unalaska city hall
Laura Kraegel
/
KUCB
113 households participated in a National Community Survey, which evaluates the quality of life in different cities and towns around the country. Overall, Unalaskans said their quality of life was mostly positive, but ratings have declined slightly since the city last participated in the survey in 2017.

Unalaska’s official COVID-19 cases count is back to zero, as of March 7.

City Manager Erin Reinders announced at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that the number of reported infections had fallen to zero for the first time since the winter surge – when confirmed cases numbered in the hundreds.

“I have one exciting update for you all. As of yesterday, there are zero confirmed cases of COVID-19 here on the island,” Reinders said. “We should be getting updates from the clinic if that number were to grow.”

Those official numbers do not include at-home tests, only people whose positive test was reported to the state, so it is possible that the coronavirus is still on the island.

Still, that’s a huge milestone since January, when cases skyrocketed in Unalaska due to the highly-transmissible Omicron variant.

Also at the meeting, the city’s planning director, Bil Homka, presented the results from a survey that measures the quality of life in Unalaska.

Around 600 communities participated in this year’s National Community Survey, which evaluates the quality of life in different cities and towns around the country.

In Unalaska, 113 households participated, which is roughly 15% of the 700 households in Unalaska that were provided surveys.

It asked community members to rate their satisfaction for things like the economy, safety, natural environment, and education, arts and culture.

Overall, Unalaskans said their quality of life was mostly positive. But ratings have declined slightly since the city last participated in the survey in 2017.

Homka said that’s likely a result of the pandemic.

“There’s [been] a 14% decline in the perception of the quality of Unalaska as a place to raise children, and a similar 16% decline in the sense of community,” Homka said. “Again, they are likely attributing some of this to COVID.”

The survey said most residents think Unalaska does a good job attracting people from diverse backgrounds. And about 70% say it’s a good place to raise kids.

Unalaska City Council members also reviewed a cost benefit analysis for the Captains Bay Road improvement project, the city’s most expensive capital project.

The city contracted with HDR Engineering, which ran the numbers to see if the proposed improvements would generate enough revenue to justify the cost of construction.

They crunched the numbers for the full buildout — that includes paving the road, expanding it and extending utilities out to the end of Captains Bay — and found that it wouldn’t earn enough money to justify the cost.

So they tried half a dozen different scenarios, like not including the utility extensions or creating pedestrian paths.

When they did that, the analysts said only one scenario got close enough to be considered practical.

That option would only include basic roadway paving and would cost around $20 million – rather than the approximately $60 million it would cost for the full design.

The report says the island would be a good candidate for grant money to help pay for the project.

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  • Unalaska is in the midst of its largest surge of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. As of Wednesday, there were 214 active cases on the island, according to the city’s COVID-19 dashboard. One hundred and thirty five are considered community-acquired and 79 are industry-quarantined. Previously, the city had reported its highest number of community cases at 30, during the height of the delta surge this summer.