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Soldotna council takes care of business

Posted: Friday, April 29, 2011

Soldotna City Council quickly and efficiently got down to business Wednesday night, passing a handful of ordinances and resolutions including one approving City Manager Larry Semmens' one-year employment agreement.

Semmens officially retired from the Public Employees Retirement Systems (PERS) in March, but the council voted to opt the city manager position out of the PERS program and engage in a contract with Semmens so he can work for the city for at least another year.

"We wish to retain Mr. Semmens for the time being; hopefully for as long as he'll stay with us," Mayor Peter Micciche said, adding that keeping someone as proficient as Semmens on the city roster is a benefit to Soldotna.

Micciche made sure to mention that there are no substantive changes to Semmens' contract, and that there will be no additional cost to the city or the system because of the council's actions on that matter.

The council also passed a resolution approving the lease of a significant chunk of Soldotna Airport property to Samaritan's Purse, a Christian humanitarian organization that provides aid while engaging in missionary work around the world.

The organization is leasing several lots of property at the airport for the standard rate of 10 cents per square foot.

"They're planning to build a hangar, an office, and a fueling facility estimated to cost about $1.5 million," Semmens said. "This level of investment allows them an initial lease term of five years and an additional 30 years."

The city has been negotiating the lease with Samaritan's Purse for over a year, with the attorneys of both parties repeatedly scrutinizing the document. The organization tweaked some aspects of the lease, such as the clause regarding hiring practices, since as a religiously-affiliated organization they are federally allowed to discriminate based on religion when hiring.

"Some entities have a federal waiver of that (non-discrimination clause), and Samaritan's Purse is one of those," Semmens said.

Certain airport administrators still have problems with some of the lease terms, but the city is working with them to get those issues resolved. Ultimately though, the lease is an agreement between the city and Samaritan's Purse, and those two entities have the final say on the terms.

Wednesday night's council meeting also saw the passage of an ordinance accepting $5,100 in federal grant money for the annual relicensing of computer software involved in Soldotna Police Department investigations on Internet crimes against children.

The software drives the police department's Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device (FRED).

The council's next meeting on May 11 will focus mainly on utilities, including a public hearing on an ordinance that will, on average, increase the city's water rate by 2.5 percent and sewer rate by 6.5 percent.

Karen Garcia can be reached at karen.garcia@peninsulaclarion.com.



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