Putting aside a rivalry as old as the towns themselves, the leaders of Kenai and Soldotna came together Monday for the first joint meeting of city officials.
The informal meeting was held in Kenai and attended by city council members and administrators representing the "Twin Cities." The purpose of the meeting was to begin a discussion on how to bring the neighboring towns closer together.
Although no formal decisions were made, Monday's meeting gave officials a chance to begin working cooperatively in areas affecting both cities. Topics discussed by city officials included possible joint water and sewer facilities, municipal and borough land issues, lobbying efforts in the state Legislature and animal control.
At Wednesday's Soldotna City Council meeting, Soldotna officials praised the joint meeting as a sign city leaders are ready to put aside their differences and work toward what's best for the residents of both Kenai and Soldotna.
"I felt it was an excellent meeting," Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey told the council.
Council member Lisa Parker was unable to attend Monday's joint meeting. However, she told the council Wednesday that any effort to unify the central peninsula is a good idea because many area residents -- like her -- have interests in both towns.
"I live in Soldotna, will always live in Soldotna," Parker said. "But I'm a member of the Kenai Rotary and I work in Nikiski."
Council member Sharon Moock said she was excited the cities were finally working toward establishing a dialogue.
"This is a big first," Moock said. "I feel really optimistic about working with them."
Kenai officials were equally enthusiastic about the new spirit of cooperation between the cities.
"You can't live 10 miles apart and not have common interests," Kenai Mayor John Williams said Thursday.
Kenai City Council member Linda Swarner said Thursday she also believes Monday's meeting is a big positive for the area.
"I think it went very well," Swarner said, pointing to the peninsula's representation in Juneau as one area where cooperation can benefit both cities.
"We share a representative and a senator," she said. "The more we can be united, the better it is for both communities."
Williams said he'd like to see the councils meet at least a couple times each year, with the idea that Kenai and Soldotna soon could begin working together on projects affecting both areas.
In other action Wednesday, the Soldotna council:
Set a second public hearing for paving improvements to Anthurium Street, Amaryllis Street, Trollius Avenue, Lily Drive and Rose Garland Drive for April 9 at 7:30 p.m. The council decided to go ahead with a plan to assess residents in the affected neighborhood an equal amount -- roughly $3,897 per lot -- to pay for the improvements. Council member Moock had introduced a plan that would charge residents based on a formula derived from a combination of per-lot and square-foot values, but the council decided there wasn't enough public input to warrant using Moock's plan.
Authorized the Soldotna Police Department to purchase a 1998 Chevrolet four-wheel-drive pickup to replace a 1991 model currently being used. The 1998 vehicle was seized as a result of a drug forfeiture, and police chief Shirley Gifford said the department would be getting a good deal by buying the truck for only $11,598.
"I think it's an excellent deal," Gifford told the council.
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