Kenai council hopefuls talk issues

Council candidates debate dipnet and bluff erosion, among other topics

Three candidates competing for two seats on the Kenai City Council fielded a number of questions ranging from city issues to long term infrastructure improvements in a Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday.

Incumbent council members Ryan Marquis and Bob Molloy are running against newcomer James Rowell in Tuesday’s election. Kenai residents will vote for their top two candidates.

Marquis said the city’s greatest issue is how users trash local beaches during the dipnet season each July.

He appreciates the efforts of ROC the Kenai — a group founded and run by teenagers — to clean up the beaches, but he said it is not their responsibility.

“They have a summer break that they need to be able to enjoy,” he said, “and they need to have the city step up and take responsibility for that.”

He said the fishery needs a clearly defined and broadcasted location for garbage to be dumped, but its policies have to agree with what regulatory agencies have mandated.

This year the normal 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. schedule was extended to an all-hours opening, per emergency order, and Molloy, 59, said the 10,000-people masses that populate the beach overwhelm city crews.

He said enforcing any garbage-removal rules will require additional resources, and the council needs to decide if they should change the city’s policy for the fishery.

Rowell, 46, said it is a matter of personal accountability.

“If you’re going to make the mess, pick up the mess and take it home with you or take it to the garbage with you or put it in a bag and throw it in the back of your truck,” he said.

Marquis also said because the Board of Fish is involved, politics are too.

He said the city has written letters to Gov. Sean Parnell, and council members and the city manager have gone to Board of Fish meetings. But the change, he said, must occur at home.

“We need to have them come down here, and make the decisions down here, and listen to the people down here that are affected by the policies,” he said.

Molloy said the council could host a Salmon Summit meeting to brainstorm possible solutions.

“(We could) try and get all the different user groups together, think outside the box and have them try to dialogue through a kind of town hall type meeting and see if they can come up with some solutions themselves,” he said.

The most important issue the city is facing, in Rowell’s opinion, is its sustainable economic growth.

He said the city has done well with its “stable tax structure” and “un-burdomesome regulations process” for small businesses to get started — and he said it needs to continue.

Molloy said planning is the most important issue for the city.

“The big picture of that would be the comprehensive planning that we’re doing, which are guidelines for the future,” he said.

Examples he gave were: “looking what our city’s going to be like in 2030, what we will need for additional schools, what are we going to do for business — things like that.”

Both Molloy and Rowell also cited the dipnet fishery as a major concern for the city.

The Bluff Stabilization Project was another topic all three candidates addressed.

“That’s been something that’s been worked on since I was a little kid and I would like to see us actually start to move some dirt and get some rocks on the ground,” Marquis said.

Rowell said the project is “ready to go,” but the city is waiting for the federal government. He expects the project to be underway by the end of the next city council term.

Marquis also said the city’s sewage treatment plant needs to be updated, along with regular repairs and improvements to structures already built.

“We have the central heights subdivision,” he said. “I was in there the other day going door-to-door. There was a kid out there floating in a little boat because the drain backed up and couldn’t drain fast enough.”

** Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect accurate voting rules in Kenai.

Dan Schwartz can be reached at daniel.schwartz@peninsulaclarion.com.

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