At the Kenai Economic Development Forum in February, city officials will try to determine how to attract more businesses to the community and how to keep them.
To develop the agenda for the Feb. 3 forum, the Kenai City Council has held two work sessions and plans another. The most recent draft plan was criticized by several council members as not having enough experts in key fields and not enough time for the public to speak.
"This is not the direction I wanted this to go," said council member Jim Bookey, adding it might be better to postpone the meeting until an improved agenda could be drawn up.
He also said he wanted more public involvement at the forum.
Council member Bill Frazer agreed.
"I thought we'd have a banker or a builder or two," he said. "I guess I'm looking for input from movers and shakers. And I think we need more than one Realtor."
Council member Duane Bannock said the two main things the city should focus on are transportation and land.
The discussion moved to the topic of development of the Kenai Spur Highway corridor as it heads out of town to the east.
"In Soldotna, businesses are all up and down the Spur or Sterling highways," Frazer said.
Frazer also said he wanted to hear from people who have taken their businesses out of Kenai.
Bookey said he thinks many Kenai-earned dollars are spent in Soldotna, and he wants to know why.
The council set another planning session for the development forum on Jan. 17 at 6 p.m., just before the next scheduled council meeting.
In other news from the council's Wednesday meeting:
n While it was on the topic of economic development, the council shifted gears and briefly discussed three interlocking lots on the Kenai bluff near the Kenai Senior Center, which it should have clear title to by summer. Frazer said he would like to see a sales brochure drawn up that would promote the property to potential investors.
Mayor John Williams agreed that was a good idea, and also proposed a lease option to anyone who wants to develop it.
"That's the problem with this community, there is too much land tied up with nothing going on," he said.
His lease option idea would require a developer to move forward with plans for the property right away.
Williams has long promoted the idea of a hotel and convention center on the property, which has a sweeping view of the mouth of the Kenai River and Cook Inlet. However, Wednesday, he said that wasn't as important as getting it developed.
"If someone wants to put up a 10-story glass box to deal in credit cards, I don't care," he said.
n The council appropriated $7,000 to conduct a federally mandated wildlife hazard assessment at the Kenai Municipal Airport. Airport Manager Becky Cronkhite said the cost was reasonable but could go up if more assessment is needed. She said at other airports, the study has cost up to $50,000.
n The council approved the city's legislative wish list. No. 1 on the Capital Improvements Projects list is $1.4 million for development of the city's fourth well house. The council also is asking for $450,000 to conduct engineering of the proposed Kenai Coastal Trail and sea wall, $2 million for road improvements and $900,000 upgrades to the public dock area to accommodate the annual dipnet fishery. Bannock suggested labeling the dipnet fishery as the state of Alaska's dipnet fishery might garner more attention or support for the improvements.
n Bannock, who is the council's representative on the Planning and Zoning Commission, said a landscape and site plan review for a new gas station near Carrs Quality Center is being done by the planning department. Construction is scheduled for summer.
n Retired Kenai Community Library Librarian Emily DeForest was appointed to serve on the Library Commission.
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