In Soldotna this has become increasingly more apparent. As a local nonprofit organization Youth Restoration Corps has been publicly brought to question by the Soldotna City Council in the June 15 Peninsula Clarion. Since 1997 this local nonprofit organization has served the Kenai Peninsula and the youth of its communities with integrity, honor, stewardship and a safety record that has earned it national recognition. Investing more than 67,000 hours in Alaska involving youth without injury or incident, while involving over four hundred local youth in successfully accomplished community projects here on the Kenai Peninsula and across Alaska for all to enjoy.
So why after all these years of engaging a structured, safe service learning program for youth to learn, earn while giving back to community, would the city council of Soldotna declare that it had issues with this organization? Could it be after a one year fight with the state of Alaska, which told this nonprofit organization that it must acquire a contractor's license in order to maintain its mission and purpose of involving youth in community projects? That subsequently allowed this organization to publicly bid the veterans memorial project funded by a state grant and coming in with the lowest responsive bid. Why would this matter to the city of Soldotna, after all they're already doing business with nonprofit organizations and some even being a licensed contractors like the Kenai Watershed Forum. Some do public building projects like the Soldotna Rotary fish walk and Soldotna playground. The Kenai Watershed Forum is remodeling a publicly owned building on public lands and they are a licensed nonprofit contractor. What is the difference?
We complied with the state's request, acquired a general contractor's license followed the directions of the Internal Revenue Service to insure any, and all proceeds from projects went to forward the mission and purpose of the organization. YRC even developed a vocational trades training program with skilled experience staff advisory committee members, and has built four public safety cabins along the Iditarod trail with BLM. Why would a city council raise questions about 18-year-old youth learning to work, pouring concrete for a monument and a side walk to honor veterans in their own community? Was the bid not in the best fiscal interest to the city, was the 20-plus years' construction experience not enough?
As elected officials of our cities, borough and the state, you people are the leaders of each community; our youth look to you as leaders. When you make inflammatory public statements as to "issues," those are damaging, and disrespectful. When they are directed at efforts of Youth Restoration Corps whose core focus has always been engaging youth on community projects, I cannot tolerate that. You are shaming the hundreds of local youth who have done so much. Our youth are more deserving than that. The city council acted without public openness, from postponing action of accepting any bids for the veterans project in one council meeting to two weeks later taking no public response and rejecting all bids. Our youth are more deserving. Shame on all of you, this just smells and it's not spawning season.