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Grant Would Create Emergency Center in Alaskan Town

LAKE LOUISE, Ak. -- Little tasks like cleaning nozzles on fire hoses can be a noteworthy event in the small, mostly recreational community of Lake Louise, Alaska, the easternmost spot in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

But before getting their gear in working order, volunteer firefighters must gather hoses and gear from various cabins, round up tools and find a spot in which to work.

That stuff gets a little more scattered than it needs to be, said Robert Tree Farmer, owner of the Wolverine Lodge, by phone Monday.

Lacking a fire hall, public safety building or other community space, Lake Louise residents are hoping the borough Assembly will back their request for a heated community center on 17 acres of borough land.

This emergency safety facility would be such a help. We could keep the equipment we have in better shape, Lake Louise Community Non-Profit Corp. president Beverly Matthews said by phone Friday.

$850,000 GRANT

Borough planner and grant writer Pam Graham is applying on behalf of the community for a state grant of up to $850,000 for a two-bay garage, generator, locked storage area and stove. She said she would know how much money is needed for the project when the site plan is finished later this month.

The Assembly was poised Tuesday to consider a resolution supporting the grant request.

It already approved $125,000 in matching funds for the project, some of which is being used for the site plan, Graham said.

A Community Development Block Grant in 2004 paid just over $276,000 for a six-bed teen transitional living home in Wasilla for the group Kids Are People Inc., now part of Alaska Family Services, Graham said. It also provides funding for an ongoing homeowner s rehabilitation program that makes needed repairs like plumbing or new roofs or windows for low-income Valley families.

Along with storing firefighting equipment and maintenance tools in a central spot, Matthews said, the building would house the Lake Louise ambulance.

Farmer said the ambulance is typically stored at his lodge. He makes sure it is always plugged in and parks it inside his shop when he can.

The minute we see we have a problem, someone goes and starts up the ambulance, Matthews said.

Emergency trauma technicians store their gear bags at home so temperature-sensitive supplies stay warm, she said.

Matthews is one of 12 emergency trauma technicians who live at Lake Louise. She and her husband, Corky, live year-round on an island and, according to several community members, are a driving force in what goes on there.

POPULATION OF 89

The Matthews are part of a growing group of residents who live at the lake year-round.

Like many in that group, both are retired.

State census data puts the Lake Louise population at 89. Farmer said he could count nearly 80 who live there most of the year, although the number is always changing.

Many of the year-round residents are trained to respond to fires or emergencies, Farmer said. Lodges share the responsibility for housing community equipment: a snowmachine trail groomer is stored at the Point Lodge, a grader that maintains community roads is kept at Lake Louise Lodge and the ambulance at Wolverine Lodge.

The lodges also share the benefits, such as sharing hosting duties for events like annual community council meetings, yearly fundraisers for the snowmachine club and frequent community council board meetings.

Point Lodge owner Victoria Paulson said she sees the community building as a big benefit for remote emergency responders and to the community that relies on their training.

It s a lot of work to respond to emergencies in an environment like this. Things have to go well and it doesn t always, Paulson said.

Having an opportunity to store things in an organized manner, you can imagine the benefit.

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