A few weeks of unseasonably warm temperatures and a shortage of snowfall may be making residents of Soldotna overconfident.
The sky is warm enough, but the ground beneath it is still frozen, as evidenced by the relatively large number of frozen water lines Soldotna maintenance workers have tended to this winter.
“We haven’t really had a cold winter, but it’s been a long, cold spell,” said Soldotna Public Works Director Steve Bonebrake.
Bonebrake said the department has responded to at least 15 frozen water or sewer line calls this winter, and a few of the sites are located in areas previously considered safe from frozen lines.
One of the surprises came at the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
“Service in that building has never frozen before,” Bonebrake said.
The odd winter weather patterns at play this year are partially at fault, but Soldotna itself bears the brunt of the blame.
The soil in Soldotna is mostly gravel, which freezes deeper than the sand or silt characterizing Kenai soil. Kenai also has a larger share of groundwater, which helps alleviate the threat of pipe freezes.
Above-freezing days do little to fix the problem until well into May, Bonebrake said. Even though temperatures may increase for days on end nearing the start of summer, the ground doesn’t thaw until much later.
“You may have some really beautiful days, but that ground is probably still frozen,” he said, adding “If you are someone who has their water freeze up, now is the time to keep the water running.”
Keep it running, he said, until about May 15. That trickle of water, running from just one faucet in the house, ought to be enough to keep your pipes safe from a freeze.
There is one exception, though: Residents with an on-site septic system and city water service should definitely not leave the water running.
To do so could lead to the flooding of the septic system.
“You could be looking at doing some septic work in the middle of winter,” Bonebrake said.
Soldotna City Council business
On Wednesday, the Soldotna City Council passed the following ordinances and resolutions:
· Ordinance 2006-04, changing a tract of land in the Soldotna Creek Hills Subdivision and a tract east of Mackey Lake Road from rural residential districts to commercial districts.
· Ordinance 2006-05, changing a portion of land owned by the Church of the Nazarene in Soldotna from a limited commercial district to an institutional district.
· Ordinance 2006-06, accepting and appropriating a software grant of $1,300 from the Gates Foundation to Soldotna Public Library.
· Ordinance 2006-07, accepting and appropriating three grants totaling $44,115.50 from the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Highway Safety Office for overtime pay and a traffic sign.
· Ordinance 2006-08, authorizing the purchase of property next to the Soldotna Visitors Center from the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce for $400,000.
· Resolution 2006-007, authorizing the disposal of outdated city records.
· Resolution 2006-009, supporting Kenai Peninsula Borough changes to the area cost differential used to calculate state aid to schools in the district.
· Resolution 2006-008, authorizing a land purchase offer for property on Funny River Road next to Soldotna Municipal Airport.
The council also approved liquor license applications for Mykel’s Restaurant, Hooligan’s Lodging and Saloon, the Maverick Saloon, Safeway in Soldotna, Fred Meyer, the Timber Wolf Lodge, Froso’s and the Bear’s Den Restaurant. The council also confirmed the mayor’s appointment of Marge Hays to the library board.
The next meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. March 22 in the city council chambers at Soldotna City Hall.
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