Biathlon enthusiasts from Kasilof to Soldotna to Sterling pleaded with the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday to allow a biathlon shooting range to be set up in Centennial Park.
About a dozen members of the Kenai Peninsula Biathlon Club attended the meeting, and some representatives said they have an opportunity to acquire some Arctic Winter Games biathlon equipment if they can demonstrate a bona fide interest in establishing a home for the range.
Walter Ward, a Ridgeway resident, said the group “is feeling some pressure timewise” because Games officials are meeting in April to decide the disposition of legacy items, such as biathlon range target equipment.
Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey, who is also a member of the Games advisory board, said the city would take the request under advisement.
Joan Miller of Sterling said the site in Centennial Park “doesn’t have the perfect terrain (for a biathlon course), but it would work.”
“We’re very committed to this,” said Mike Dunn of Soldotna.
“We had 100-plus (Games) volunteers just for biathlon,” Dunn said. “I’d hate to see the momentum of this die by not finding a home for biathlon.”
Council member Lisa Parker asked Dunn if the club was seeking a site for only the shooting range or ski trails as well.
He said the club would like at least the shooting range and a ski loop long enough to get athletes’ heart rates up.
Dunn also said he would like to see the biathlon range open all year, not just winter, with competitors running or biking to the shooting range in summer.
City Manager Tom Boedeker, however, said a shooting range would not be compatible with other summertime uses of Centennial Park.
On a motion by Parker, the council unanimously approved continuing the discussion with the biathlon club to help them obtain legacy materials.
The council also unanimously approved creating the new position of assistant city manager.
Boedeker told the council the city administration workload is continually increasing, and the new assistant would manage personnel matters as human resources manager and oversee city planning and zoning issues.
“We’re far too reactive on too many things,” Boedeker said. “We need some staffing.”
In his mayor’s report, Carey said Wilder Construction officials told him the Kenai River bridge project is three weeks behind their own construction schedule, and by October, all work will be done.
“It looks like we will be able to drive on the bridge in August,” he said.
Boedeker told the council he has been approached by a local insurance broker with a proposal to take over the health insurance plan for city workers.
Currently city employees are covered under the state health insurance plan.
Boedeker asked whether he should examine the one proposal or advertise for others.
Carey said, “This is a public process. When it’s known we’re looking at one, others will come forward.”
Public Works Director Steve Bonebrake told the council his department has moved into its new building off Marydale Avenue and said the Central Emergency Services building under construction behind the Soldotna Police Department “is no longer the CES building.”
According to CES Chief Chris Mokracek, the fire service area board passed a resolution opting out of the planned move into the new emergency response building on Wilson Lane.
He said fire officials determined because of the day-to-day involvement of officers and crew, moving administration across the street could have a negative impact.
Mokracek said the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly is expected to consider an ordinance to reimburse CES the $1 million it already invested into the new building from its capital projects budget.
If returned, the money would be used to renovate the existing building on Binkley Street at Wilson Lane.
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