Cities ready for busy building season

Posted: Thursday, February 17, 2005


  Traffic backs up on the Sterling Highway near the Kenai River Bridge in Soldotna. The structure is scheduled for replacement. Clarion file photo by M. Scott M

Traffic backs up on the Sterling Highway near the Kenai River Bridge in Soldotna. The structure is scheduled for replacement.

Clarion file photo by M. Scott M

A new library, a major hospital expansion, some new restrooms and the addition of miles of water and sewer lines are among the major projects Kenai Peninsula residents can expect to see in various stages of construction this summer.

The two biggest projects happening on the peninsula are taking place in Soldotna, although neither are city projects. The Kenai Peninsula Borough expects to continue work on its $49.9 million expansion project at Central Peninsula General Hospital. Work on the initial phase of the project wrapped up this fall and CPGH Chief Executive Officer David Gilbreath said work on phase two will go on throughout the spring and summer. Phase two includes construction of an additional 80,000 square feet at the hospital, work that's expected to take more than a year.

The second big "noncity" project happening in Soldotna is the state of Alaska's $28 million project to replace the Sterling Highway bridge across the Kenai River. Work is set to begin this spring.

Although the city of Soldotna isn't footing the bill for the new bridge, City Manager Tom Boedeker said the city will be involved in a couple bridge-related projects this summer.

Boedeker said the city will replace some sewer lines in the area of the project, as well as run a brand-new line along Riverside Drive. He said he expects the city's tab for these projects to come to around $300,000.

The biggest news for public works in Soldotna is that an ongoing project at the city's wastewater treatment plant is nearly complete.

"We're finishing up the wastewater plant conversion and upgrade," Boedeker said.

With the new ultraviolet clarifying process now in place at the plant, Boedeker said the city has greatly increased its ability to handle waste.

"We basically have the capacity to double what we're handling now," he said.

Other city projects in the works for Soldotna include the extension of water and sewer lines along Kalifornsky Beach Road to Endicott Drive, construction of a trail running from Soldotna Creek Park to Binkley Circle, improvements to the Soldotna Sports Center driveway and a number of smaller paving projects.

"We've got enough to keep us busy," Boedeker said.

Up the road in Kenai, things are a bit quieter. City Manager Linda Snow said the biggest upcoming project the city has planned is to bring the city into compliance with new federal arsenic guidelines.

"One of the main things we're dealing with is the requirement to treat arsenic in water," Snow said.

Kenai water was in compliance with old regulations, but not more stringent ones that go into effect next year. Snow said the city plans to install a treatment facility to deal with the problem and hopes to have an additional city well online by summer that will allow the city to increase its water handling capacity.

"The water line is the big project," she said.

Snow said the entire cost for water treatment and expanded capacity could come to nearly $1 million, although the city has received funding for much of the project from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

Other Kenai projects include the paving of several residential streets, as well as the second phase of an ongoing Army Corps of Engineers study aimed at finding a solution to Kenai's bluff erosion problem along the mouth of the Kenai River.

In Homer, two big capital projects are set to give the town a new look. Public Works Director Carey Meyer said construction of a new library and ice skating rink are the two major projects slated for this summer.

The library will be located downtown and is expected to cost $6.7 million. Much of the cost will be paid for by grants and private donations.

The ice rink project is being completed as part of preparations for the 2006 Arctic Winter Games and is being funded through the Games host society.

In addition to those big projects, Meyer said Homer crews will work on a couple major sewer projects, including a $2.5 million water and sewer expansion at Hillside Acres on the west end of town and extensions of water and sewer lines along Kachemak Bay Drive and Ocean Loop Drive. Finally, three new public bathrooms are scheduled to be in place on the Homer Spit when the summer tourism season rolls around.

"It's a pretty active place around here," Meyer said.

Over on the east side of the peninsula, Seward is wrapping up a project that has greatly changed the city's waterfront.

"The big one we're currently working on is the expansion of the small boat harbor," Seward City Manager Philip Shealy said.

Shealy said the $8 million Army Corps of Engineers harbor expansion is expected to be completed by spring. Once done, he said an additional 250 slips will be available.

"It's a 50 percent increase," he said.

Shealy said the city also plans to replace a water line beneath Third Avenue in conjunction with a DOT project to upgrade Mile 0 through 8 of the Seward Highway — the main drag through town. The road work will mean the usual hustle and bustle of Seward's cramped downtown will be even busier — a situation Shealy said the city is already preparing to cope with.

"I think we can," he said. "We'll have to."

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