Soldotna Council talks capital projects, TV show funding with new member

Czarnezki a flip

With the flip of a coin, John Czarnezki became the newest Soldotna City Council Member.


Czarnezki then got to vote on a number of issues facing the council during Wednesday's meeting including an ordinance appropriating $825,000 for the small capital projects fund, a proposal to allocate $3,000 toward an Exploring Alaska TV show which would spotlight fishing for pink and silver salmon in the city.

After three tries resulting in tied 2-2 votes for Czarnezki and the other applicant, Nancy Eoff, Mayor Peter Micciche suggested a coin toss rather than a continuation of the hung vote.

In his application for appointment to the council Czarnezki wrote that he wanted to create an environment for sustainable economic growth, work on annexation issues, and protect and enhance the fisheries and habitat of the Kenai River and other fish streams.

The bulk of the capital projects funding, more than $500,000, is for citywide efficiency measures being put into place after an energy use audit city officials performed as part of a state program.

City Engineer Kyle Kornelis said the state's audit prompted the city to do an investment grade audit.

"We actually looked at product changes, manufacturing changes, equipment change-outs; identified the potential savings of making those changes and the cost of the capital improvements to make those changes," he said.

The council authorized the city to move forward with those changes last year, Kornelis said.

"The next phase in this project would be to appropriate adequate funding and actually implement those facility changes in order to achieve those energy changes both in energy consumption and then the cost of paying for that energy use," Kornelis said. "Additionally there's operational and maintenance savings that's much less easily quantified and then there's just an increase in control and ability to operate our buildings that doesn't have a tangible financial aspect."

One of those intangible financial gains, Kornelis said, would be the improvements to the Soldotna Sports Center.

"When we upgrade to direct digital controls we'll be not only able to save energy ... we'll be able to provide a better environment for the facility as a whole," he said. "We'll be able to interface with the building much more easily. That'll result in less effort from staff."

Kornelis said the city has been saving money for energy efficiency and the $505,000 allocation would see an immediate return.

"We'll see roughly a 5.29 (percent) year payback and that's using a projected $95,000 per year savings," he said. "We're anticipating seeing a $95,000 reduction in costs immediately."

Other appropriations include money for city landscaping repair, the second year of the city's storefront improvement program and paving Tyee Street.

"We have a long-standing goal to slowly eliminate our gravel roads both for maintenance reasons and cost reasons," Kornelis said. "This portion of the road already has water and sewer in it, so it's very easily attacked for eliminating it as a gravel road ... once we are able to clean it up, dress up the road a little bit, do a little excavation and backfill then we no longer have to maintain a gravel road both seasons."

Stephanie Queen, planning director for the city, said the city has seen a good return on its contribution to the storefront improvement program.
"I think for the current year that we’re in, we’ve got six projects and the city’s contribution would be approximately $25,000 and it was over 200,000 worth of private improvements.

The council also voted to give Paul Gray, a producer for the Exploring Alaska TV Show $3,000 toward the production of a segment to spotlight Soldotna River Park as well as pink and silver fishing. The show is slated to run in August and September.

Soldotna participated in the same type of show in 2010 and Micciche asked why the city would pay Gray to refilm.

"To show the new things you have," Gray said during his presentation. "You have a new fish cleaning table. Remind them of some safety features and some habitat restitution that you've done. Why it's necessary to fish in the river instead of on the banks and to use elevated boardwalks. Some of the new campsites to show accessibility and the nice landscaping you have."

Council member Pete Sprague asked if dates where scheduled for airing already as the pink salmon season was coming up fast.

"We would still be able to get it in this year and broadcast it, the latter part of July and August. To make those deadlines," Gray said.

Council member Regina Daniels asked if it could run more than once.

"Yes, it would, and it will," Gray said. "Because of the silver season, that's all part of the show. One show lasts for many years because it's ... evergreen. It's a type of show that will hold interest for people."

Micciche said he and the city manager had been contacted by a group that wanted to do a television show in Soldotna.

"It ended up being a sales call ... but their basic cost was significantly more expensive for the same sort of thing," he said.

Rashah McChesney can be reached at