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Trails, city manager candidates on agenda

Posted: July 25, 2012 - 9:10am

An ordinance accepting grants from the state for a series of city improvements will be discussed at the Soldotna City Council meeting. 

The three grants, for a total of $2,225,000 are for a paving improvements project, a police building roof replacement project and the Centennial Park Trail Development Project. 

The $400,000 grant being offered for the trail development project was removed from the city’s five-year plan at the last capital projects meeting over concerns about the capacity of the Kenai River to handle another section of trail. 

“What happens is, build it and they will come,” City Manager Larry Semmens said. “So if you build a trail, let’s say along the river, without thinking about how additional traffic is going to behave and without properly designing that trail to limit impact on the river ... then you could have a situation where the riverbank is degraded by increased traffic. That’s the concern as I see it.”

Semmens said the trail will start at the visitors center and and connect to the boardwalk below the visitors center and then to Centennial Park. 

Currently there is no trail connecting the platform near the visitors center to the park. 

“For quite some time we’ve talked about building a trail in between there,” Semmens said. 

While the city council has the authority to accept or reject grant money, Semmens said he’d recommend approving it and then doing a feasibility study on the area to determine the best way to build a trail. 

“That grant lasts for five years so maybe that project’s not ready right now or maybe the Legislature would be agreeable for using that money for a slightly different project,” he said. “Should this project get moving the design team will be given direction to develop this such that it would not negatively impact that river. I personally believe that it can be done.”

There are several different options for the trail including an extension of the trail that provides outlets for fishing, but Semmens said the feasibility study would have to be performed before the city could determine whether or not an extension of fishing areas was a good idea. 

The other two projects include a $325,000 grant to replace the roof of the police building and $1.5 million in paving improvements. 

The city released a statement about five candidates for the city manager’s position to be interviewed in a series of public meetings Monday beginning at 2 p.m. in City Hall. 

They are: 

* Tonya Miller from Unalaska, where she is currently the finance director for the city. She is a certified public accountant and has a MBA with an emphasis in public administration. 

* Rick Hohnbaum from Gardiner, Ore., where he was the business manager at Compliance Services of America. He has been the city manager for Kotzebue, Whittier and Cordova. He has a master’s degree in public administration. 

* Mark Dixson from Soldotna, currently the general services director for the Kenai Peninsula Borough. He has a J.D. law degree. He has been the county attorney for the County of Tioga, N.Y., and a managing parter for Dixson Schumacher, P.C. 

* James Voetberg rom Newport, Ore., where he is currently the city manager. He has been the Assistant Borough Manager/Special Projects Manager at Ketchikan Gateway borough, assistant city manager for Ketchikan and the public works director for the Ketchikan Gateway Borough. He has a bachelor’s degree in civil and forestry engineering. 

* Mark Lynch from Cordova, where he is currently the city manager. His prior experience includes being the city administrator for Hillsboro, Wisc., and the county administrator for Fulton County,Ill. He has a master’s in political science with an emphasis in public administration. 

Soldotna Mayor Peter Micciche said he expects a candidate will be chosen by the council before they adjourn Monday night, but that losing Larry Semmens as the city manager was going to be a hit. 

“We’ve grown accustomed to a city manager that performs at a very high level and has done incredible things for the City of Soldotna and our goal is to identify someone that satisfies some of the similar qualifications to bring Soldotna similar results in the future.”

Micciche said he was excited that each of the candidates had experience living in Alaska. 

“We prefer to hire locally but certainly find it very important to forgo the risk of folks from somewhere else not understanding what it’s like to be an Alaskan and having them decide a year or so from now that it’s not for them,” he said. 

Rashah McChesney can be reached at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com.

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