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Council mulls over economic forum

Posted: Monday, February 12, 2001

A few days after the city's economic development forum, the Kenai City Council took the first steps in implementing some of the scores of suggestions it received.

"There were a lot of good comments," said council member Jim Bookey. "I was surprised at the frankness of some of the people, but that's what we asked for.

"There's a trend in there somewhere, but I don't know what it is," he added. "But there are some things we can agree on right away."

Council member Linda Swarner said there are things the city could do in as little as three months.

"I appreciated the frankness, too," she said. "And I would like more public comments."

The city of Kenai Economic Development Forum was held Feb. 3 and featured more than a dozen business and community leaders discussing what could be improved in the community and how to do it.

The suggestions included improving the hotel rooms in town, building a coastal trail and sea wall, promoting public art, attracting more retailers to town and creating a city economic development office.

Council member Joe Moore said two speakers struck him the most: Glenda Feeken of Re/Max of the Peninsula and Dr. Jim Zirul of Peninsula Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic.

"Glenda said we shouldn't forget what got us here," Moore said. "And Dr. Zirul was just a good speaker."

Moore added that bringing visitors into Kenai was a good thing, but he wanted people to move to town and settle here.

"We should work on making Kenai a great place to live," Council member Pat Porter said, adding, "The whole forum was wonderful."

"Any time we can get 150 people together, it's always a great thing," Council member Duane Bannock said.

He said the one area the forum could be improved would be in having more generalized information.

"We heard incredibly good information, but some of it we can't act upon right now," he said. "I hoped we could focus the speakers to specific problems and solutions."

Council member Bill Frazer said he was surprised at the high turnout and impressed by the speakers.

"I've got an idea what people are looking for," he said. "I really appreciated the negative comments, the openness and frankness."

He pointed out that most of the suggestions aired would come with price tags attached.

"But I didn't hear anyone say they wanted less government. There's a radio show where they say that, but none of the 150 people at the forum said it."

"We each got something different from the forum, but we need to sit down and talk it out," Bookey said. "I'd like to see the minutes brought back to us with the pros and cons and the dos and don'ts."

"I'd like to see a report from Betsy (Arbelovsky) and Amy (Anderson) in a timely fashion," Council member Linda Swarner said.

Arbelovsky and Anderson were the facilitators of the forum. The former is the executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Economic Development District, the latter is the executive director of the Kenai Chamber of Com-merce.

"I think it's unreasonable for us to ask (Arbelovsky) to come up with a report," Frazer responded. "I was there and I don't need a report."

Council member Pat Porter agreed.

"It's not fair in hindsight to ask the EDD for a report," she said.

Frazer suggested each council member list what they thought the top five things were that came out of the forum and then boil them down to what the city can deal with in the next year.

"We won't get anywhere if we try to deal with 30 suggestions at once."

In other council news:

n Porter asked that the ordinance she introduced in the fall prohibiting driving on vegetated areas of the south shore of the Kenai River be resurrected. The ordinance is designed to minimize damage to the sea grass during the summer dipnetting season, when trucks, campers and ATVs are present. Porter asked that it be tabled the first time when it became evident that she did not have enough support to pass it. It is scheduled to be on the agenda for the March 7 meeting.

n The council authorized spending $5,000 on a ground water exploration study, to be conducted by Coble Geophysical Services of Homer. The study will help the city map the water table and hopefully help in locating a new city well.

n The council authorized the administration's purchase of 3,000 cubic yards of road sand from Norris and Sons Contractors at $6.93 per yard, for a total cost of $20,790.

n The city also appropriated $6,928 for flowers and part-time labor to plant them in the city's flower beds and planters this spring.

n Decor Industries won a $14,987 bid from the city to lay down new carpet in the office and reception areas at the Kenai Flight Service Station. The city built and owns the property and leases it to the Federal Aviation Administra-tion. Under the contract, the city agreed to upgrades like this.

n The council passed a resolution in support of a film project by former Kenai resident Randy Chalawsky, who is developing a feature film based on the experiences of women from the peninsula's homesteading era.

The next regular council meeting is Feb. 21.



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