The city of Soldotna is proposing a capital budget with significant attention to downtown improvement projects aimed at community identity.
New light pole banners, landscaping improvements and two gateway signs are among the beautification projects in the city’s fiscal year 2015 capital budget.
The final draft will be introduced at Wednesday’s council meeting, and the final list of capital projects will be open for public comment on July 23.
Promoting downtown development was determined to be the highest priority goal from the Economic Development section of Envision Soldotna 2030 Comprehensive Plan, according to the document.
The projects for this fiscal year were identified by the public, city administration, or council based on current needs or opportunities, said Stephanie Queen, Director of Economic Development and Planning.
“The capital budget is a way to annually implement high-priority city projects,” Queen said. “Many projects on the list were identified as goals in one of the city’s various planning documents, such as the Comprehensive Plan or Recreation and Trails Master Plan.”
This year’s proposed budget is $1.45 million to be appropriated to the city’s General Fund.
In previous years the operating budget and capital budget were in the same ordinance, but this year the two were taken on individually said Kyle Kornelis, City Engineer.
By looking at the two budgets separately, an emphasis can be directed at which projects need to get done, rather working around a number, Kornelis said.
After the first work session with the council and the public on June 27, Kornelis added an additional $172,000 allocation for extending the sidewalk on Riverside Drive, a section that receives high pedestrian traffic, he said.
The council also requested funding for improving the Soldotna City Hall sign, Kornelis said.
Improvements to the city’s parks and waterfronts were also a high priority in this year’s budget.
Proposed projects include the installation of informational and educational signage for guiding visitors and preventing environmental damage, according to the document.
Council member Pete Sprague said he was particularly pleased to see a priority placed on renovations to Swiftwater Park this year. The area needs “a lot of work,” he said.
Upgrades to Swiftwater Park include work on the water systems, restrooms and pedestrian facilities, as well as road improvements within the park, which is at full capacity during the summer months, according to the document.
Kornelis worked closely with Rachel Nash, the City Librarian at the Joyce K. Carver Memorial Library to come up with a plan to allocate funding for a self-checkout program.
An appropriation of $40,000 is set for purchasing Radio Frequency Identification tags, according to the document.
The independent system is aimed at “improving patron confidentiality,” and “decreases the potential for repetitive stress injuries in the staff members,” Nash said.
Soldotna’s Safe Routes to School Walk Zone Inventory and Recommendations plan are already receiving attention with the allocations in this year’s budget.
Park Avenue and Redoubt Avenue were identified as the two top locations for installing mid-block crossings, according to the capital budget. The project would involve “the removal of existing signs and warning lights; installation of mid-block crossings and signage; and striping.”
A final schedule has not yet been decided for implementing the proposed projects, Kornelis said. Design timeframes, weather conditions, and the bidding climate are among the many considerations required when analyzing and planning the completion of the projects.
Kornelis said it is a challenge coming up with a plan on how to implement these projects when the fiscal year ends in the middle of the short summer construction season.
Kelly Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com.