The first ordinance introduced by Soldotna in the new year and set for public hearings could lead to enlarging the city by nearly 1,400 acres.
The Soldotna Council last week approved the introduction of Ordinance 2008-01, authorizing the city manager to file a petition to annex four areas totaling approximately 2.17 square miles, using the Legislative Review Method.
Area 1, referred to as "Funny River Road," includes 305 acres between Funny River Road and the Kenai River from the Sterling Highway to the Soldotna Municipal Airport.
Area 2, the "Kalifornsky Beach Area," encompassing about 317 acres, is South of Kalifornsky Beach Road to Tagala Avenue, from the Alaska State Troopers "E" Detachment Headquarters to Slikok Creek.
Area 3, known as the "Ridgeway Area," includes 276 acres north of Knight Drive to Spruce Avenue and Ridgeway Road from Pioneer Drive to Mackey Lake Road.
Area 4, the "Skyview Area," contains 485 acres from the intersection of Kalifornsky Beach Road and the Sterling Highway up to and including Skyview High School. The area also includes the large tract of Kenai Peninsula Borough land used by the Tsalteshi Trail Association.
To annex using the Legislative Review Method, a petition needs to be filed with the Local Boundary Commission for review and tacit approval. If approved, the commission presents the petition to the state Legislature for its approval.
Before the petition can be submitted, Soldotna is required to conduct a minimum of two public hearings, according to a memorandum presented to the city council by then special projects and research assistant Leila Kimbrell.
Then, the boundary commission conducts its own hearings in the areas proposed for annexation, Kimbrell said. Finally, petitions submitted for legislative review may still require a local election in the proposed area before obtaining final approval.
The council, on Wednesday, set public hearings for Jan. 23 and Feb. 13.
A property tax exemption for disabled veterans and surviving spouses was unanimously approved by the council Wednesday. Under the new law, the property must be owned and occupied as the primary residence and permanent place of abode by the disabled veteran or resident who is at least 60 years old and is the widow or widower of the veteran.
The council also adopted a resolution asking the governor and the Legislature to refund advance payments made by the city to reduce unfunded liability for the Public Employee Retirement System.
When the state discovered three years ago that actuarial projections missed the mark, leaving municipalities throughout the state with huge amounts of unfunded liability outstanding in their PERS accounts, Soldotna found it "fiscally prudent" to pay what it could to reduce its liability.
One single payment of $1 million was made and on other occasions, the city paid more than required by the state as annual payments into its PERS account.
In other business, the council:
* Appropriated $9,450 in state grants to pay for police overtime while they enforced seatbelt laws and patrolled for drunk or impaired drivers;
* Appropriated a Department of Defense grant in the amount of $19,536 for three portable radios for police emergency use with the Alaska Land Mobile Radio project;
* Appropriated a $3,000 state grant for police computer fraud detection training;
* Appropriated a $65,000 state grant for computerized police records management; and
* Appropriated a state grant for $69,945 to upgrade in-car police video systems.
The council also discussed whether Soldotna should consider seeking to have a new state crime lab built within the city.
According to Police Chief John Lucking, Anchorage announced plans to develop a $100 million replacement crime lab on 50 acres in that city; then Wasilla said it should be built there.
"The money has not been appropriated yet," Lucking said.
Mayor Dave Carey said he would be open to having the lab built somewhere else on the Kenai Peninsula if not Soldotna.
"We should consider supporting Kenai as a secondary (location) if they can make a competitive bid," Carey said.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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