Soldotna seeks input from youth

Posted: Wednesday, April 26, 2006

City officials hope to hear from youth during a public hearing this evening seeking a solution for Soldotna’s vandalism-plagued skateboard park.

The public hearing is slated for 5:30 p.m., an hour before the regular meeting of the Soldotna City Council.

City officials ordered the park closed last September due to continuing vandalism and reports of drug abuse at the popular facility on Karen Street near Marydale Avenue.

Now the city is seeking the help of young users of the park to determine if the park should reopen, what measures should be taken to keep it open and whether the attraction should be moved.

City Manager Tom Boedeker said Tuesday the city has four options: move it, do nothing, close it or keep it where it is and explore options to address the problems.

Boedeker said moving the park would be the most expensive option, and poses the question of where it should go.

Among suggestions for a location that would have more visibility are the park area between the Soldotna police station and Central Emergency Services, in front of Alaska State Troopers post on Kalifornsky Beach Road, next to the Soldotna Sports Center and in the Peninsula Center Mall parking lot.

“We don’t own the property at the mall, and it is not being offered,” Boedeker said.

“Putting it beside the police station also puts it alongside one of the busiest streets (in Soldotna),” he said.

The trooper post is on state-owned property, not on city land, and putting the skateboard park at the sports center brings up other issues.

“Do we tear up the parking lot we just paved, or do we put it in back of the sports center?” Boedeker asked rhetorically.

He said putting the park behind the center presents the same lack of visibility issue that exists with the current location.

After several young people addressed the city council about the skate park closure in September, council members promised to include them in discussions this spring.

With their input, the city hopes to come up with a viable solution.

The council also will get a first look at the proposed city budget for fiscal year 2007.

The proposed operating budget is $10 million, but Boedeker said that total includes $1.5 million, which is being transferred to capital and $600,000 transferred to other funds.

“Basically, we have an operating budget of $8 million,” he said.

Additionally $1.1 million has been identified as capital or grant funded projects, according to Boedeker. The projects include purchasing a new road grader, some airport improvements and street pothole repairs.

The total general fund budget for 2007 is $7.39 million, which is down 0.29 percent from the 2006 budget of $7.41 million.

In a proposed budget ordinance being introduced tonight, city administration is recommending using 75 percent of the city’s sales tax for operations and 25 percent for capital projects, rather than the two-thirds, one-third ratio currently in place, to allow the city to continue providing services at the current level.

Following introduction tonight, the budget is scheduled for public hearings May 10 and 24.

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