Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/21/1996 03:07 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 HB 506 - UNIVERSITY FIRE FIGHTING PROGRAM                                   
 Number 1306                                                                   
 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY announced the next bill on the agenda was HB 506.             
 MICHAEL McGOWAN, Coordinator and Assistant Professor, University of           
 Alaska Fairbanks, testified that Fairbanks has the largest fire               
 science program in the state and is considered by many                        
 professionals to be the best in the state, and possibly one of the            
 best in the United States.  Currently they have 101 fire science              
 majors.  In addition to offering associate degrees in municipal               
 fire, the university is the only campus offering associate degrees            
 in wildland fire and hazardous materials.  They also offer courses            
 in emergency trauma training, emergency medical technician, and               
 fire fighter I.  The university has a pool of 30 instructors that             
 provide a high level of technical expertise to the program.  The              
 university currently offers about 45 courses per year in fire                 
 emergency medical services.  During the last five years, 97                   
 students have graduated with degrees; of those about 80 percent of            
 them are employed in emergency services or related fields.  He has            
 been told by Representative Navarre's office and Mayor Williams of            
 Kenai that the primary purpose of HB 506 is to allow the facility             
 in Kenai to retain all the revenues they generate instead of                  
 turning it over to the general fund of the University of Alaska.              
 If that is true, he asked why the fire science program in Fairbanks           
 and Anchorage isn't being included in this bill?  He commented that           
 no one seems to understand the true purpose of the bill, and there            
 is concern around the state that this will take away from existing            
 programs.  From his point of view, this appears to be an                      
 unnecessary duplication of something already being done quite well.           
 He asked committee members not to pass this bill out of committee.            
 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY asked Mr. McGowan if he was saying that program               
 receipts from tuition will cover the cost of training?                        
 MR. McGOWAN said that was the information received from                       
 Representative Navarre's office and Mayor Williams of Kenai.                  
 Apparently the intent is to dedicate the revenues it generates back           
 to the facility rather than to the general fund of the University             
 of Alaska.                                                                    
 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY asked if there were any questions for Mr. McGowan.            
 She asked the next witness to begin his testimony.                            
 Number 1469                                                                   
 THOMAS MONK, Member, Interior Fire Chiefs Association, testified in           
 opposition to HB 506 because of the inaccurate language, the lack             
 of clarity and the failure to consider other fire programs within             
 the state and university system.  The association also opposed the            
 legislation due to their inability to get specific answers to                 
 questions from the university system regarding the policies and               
 details related to HB 506.                                                    
 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY asked Mr. Monk who he had contacted at the                    
 MR. MONK responded he had contacted several agencies; the                     
 President's office, the Provost, Vice President of Academic                   
 Affairs, University Relations, etc.  He added that he didn't have             
 specific names, but the people he had talked with were caught                 
 completely off guard as they had no knowledge of HB 506.                      
 Number 1538                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked for an overview of the structure of the            
 fire training and safety program at the University of Alaska                  
 MR. McGOWAN said he could only speak to the Fairbanks campus.  The            
 fire science program in Fairbanks is under the Tanana Valley                  
 Campus, which is under the College of Rural Alaska.  It was his               
 understanding that the Kenai program is just a campus of the                  
 University of Alaska Anchorage.                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked if the fire science was a department or            
 a school under the Tanana Community College.                                  
 MR. McGOWAN responded it is a program under the Tanana Valley                 
 Campus, which is under the College of Rural Alaska.                           
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked if there was a school between the                  
 program and the Tanana Valley Campus?                                         
 MR. McGOWAN said it's a direct line.  He added they used to be a              
 school of career and continuing education and then merged into the            
 College of Rural Alaska.                                                      
 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY noted that Representative Navarre was in                      
 Number 1633                                                                   
 DAVID BURNETT, Chief, Kenai Fire Department, testified in support             
 of HB 506.  He supported the funds coming back to the Mining and              
 Petroleum Training Service (MAPTS) in order to continue the                   
 development of this project.  He believes it is a viable program              
 and not in conflict with the university's fire science program.               
 Number 1668                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE MIKE NAVARRE, Sponsor, said the goal of HB 506 is              
 not to compete with any other fire training facilities around the             
 state.  There is a need for the facilities and there will continue            
 to be a need for them.  The impetus of bill was his frustration               
 with the university in that this is a program that was an outdoor             
 facility, it had to be moved once because it was generating too               
 much smoke, another outdoor facility was built.  Then there were              
 environmental problems and people began to build homes around the             
 facility, so it was going to be moved again in 1988.  Another                 
 outdoor facility was going to be constructed, but with the changes            
 to the Clean Air Act, he suggested that an indoor state of the art            
 facility be constructed.  It is a state of the art facility that is           
 used for all sorts of fire training, but one of the primary uses is           
 for oil fire service training.  The oil industry utilizes the                 
 facility and are trying, in a cooperative effort, to be able to               
 keep the funds and accumulate enough funds to buy the props                   
 necessary, which the university doesn't allow them to do, so they             
 can do the training.  The companies are currently buying the props            
 outside in places like Texas, Pennsylvania and Reno, so rather than           
 the dollars being spent out of state, they would be spent instate.            
 He reiterated the legislation is not meant to compete with anybody;           
 it came as a result of his frustration with the university.  He is            
 also working with the oil industry to see about utilization of the            
 tax credits that are currently on the statutes as a means of doing            
 a matching type fund, so they would have some input as to what type           
 of props are purchased, so specific growing needs within the oil              
 industry could be met.  The Mining and Petroleum Training Service             
 has also been working in development of the training and trying to            
 get commitments for the training for the American companies in the            
 Russian markets.  He apologized to the people in Fairbanks who view           
 this as a threat; it is not intended to be that.  The thrust is to            
 keep the funds where they are generated because this is a self-               
 funded facility that can continue to grow and meet needs in the               
 state that are currently not being met.                                       
 Number 1824                                                                   
 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY questioned what exactly gives the legislature the             
 right to dedicate funds.                                                      
 REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE responded they're not dedicated.  They are             
 separately accounted for and then the legislature has discretion in           
 the appropriation process as to the disposition of those funds.               
 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY said, "Of program receipts."                                  
 REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE said they are like program receipts but the            
 legislature gets to control that through the budget process.  He              
 hoped the funds would be allowed to be used at the facility in                
 Kenai, but he couldn't absolutely guarantee that.                             
 Number 1858                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE asked if the sponsor might consider deleting             
 "Kenai Peninsula" on page 1, line 7, which would imply a statewide            
 institute so the people in Fairbanks could participate.                       
 REPRESENTATIVE NAVARRE said he would be happy to come up with one             
 coordinated plan for fire training in the state that would allow              
 for designation of certain types of training being done in certain            
 parts of the state.  His frustration with the university is there             
 seems to be a propensity for whenever someone begins something                
 successful as a component of the university system, one of the                
 larger campuses proclaims there's a need and they can generate                
 additional revenues if they set up their own facility.  That has              
 happened with the petroleum technology training, which was started            
 in Kenai.  He believes there are a lot of programs at the                     
 university that should be combined into one comprehensive plan                
 statewide.  He commented this is his attempt at getting this one              
 facility in Kenai, which has been generating funds in excess of the           
 amount needed to operate the facility, and that money has been                
 stripped away from them and used in other areas.                              
 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY asked if there was anyone else who wished to                  
 testify on HB 506.                                                            
 MR. MONK said that Mr. Tim Biggane, President of the Alaska Fire              
 Chief's Association had been standing by in Fairbanks to testify,             
 but the time allotment didn't afford him the opportunity.                     
 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY apologized to those who didn't get to testify and             
 announced HB 506 would be heard again in committee.                           

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