City manager briefs chamber luncheon

Soldotna may face tax hike

Posted: Thursday, May 03, 2001

Soldotna City Manager Tom Boedeker raised the specter of new city taxes in his annual report before the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce at its luncheon Tuesday afternoon.

In it, he briefly touched on the city's budget, saying there will be no tax increase this year, but that may change down the road.

"We will face new taxes in the future," he said. "We have many new parks that we need to maintain, and we have to decide how to pay for them. We can't keep adding them without additional revenue."

He said one new expenditure in the fiscal year 2002 budget that goes into effect on July 1 will be $25,000 for clearing snow from the sides of the Kenai Spur Highway within the city limits. The state will still plow the highway, but the city will push snow back off the sidewalks and side streets and haul it away. Boedeker said the city may do the same on the Sterling Highway.

He also reported that surveying and marking have already begun on the reconstruction of the mile-long stretch of the Sterling Highway between East Redoubt Avenue and Kobuk Street. Contractors should be done with the road by July 1, but light poles and landscaping will take longer, he said.

"Right now the project ends at Kobuk, but we're discussing a change order to put an overlay one block further where it's a little rough, until the bridge project goes through," he said. "I suspect if the council requests it, it's likely to occur."

Kobuk is the next to last street before the Kenai River bridge, which is scheduled for widening in 2003.

Boedeker said there will be a public meeting on Friday evening from 5 to 7:30 p.m. in the Peninsula Center Mall, where the Sterling Highway project office is located. Present will be representatives of Coalaska, formerly known as Quality Asphalt Paving, and the Alaska Department of Transpor-tation and Public Facilities. Representatives from the two also will address next week's chamber lunch.

Boedeker also talked about roads the city is improving through a bond issue and grant money it received some years ago.

"People ask why we pick certain streets to improve," he said. "Since we have limited funds, we look at -- one -- will it reduce our maintenance costs? Two -- will it open up land for development? And three -- how many people live on a road or travel on it each day."

He said East Redoubt, near Fred Meyer, was chosen because maintaining its gravel surface cost the city more per mile than any road in the city.

But new improvements may be few and far between in the future.

"Without additional bonds or grant money, there will be no more major road projects in the city," he said.

Boedeker said between park, street and water and sewer improvement, the city has spent about $4 million a year over the last five years.

"That's $18 million in real dollars, and when you add staff time and administration, it's about $20 million in capital projects done or under way," he said.

Water and sewer improvements are ongoing, he said, with the city trying to loop all water lines to keep the water from going stale at the end of dead end lines. He said six dead ends have been looped -- that is, connected on both ends to the system -- and there are a dozen left to do.

On the waste-water side, a new ultraviolet treatment system is scheduled to go in, but the city also needs a new back-up generator to make sure the system has power in event of an outage.

"If the power goes off for three or four hours, we're discharging overflow -- raw sewage -- into the river," he said.

He also pointed out that all the improvements to the existing facility are only designed to keep the plant up and running until a new, larger waste water treatment system can be built, perhaps in conjunction with the city of Kenai.

A new plant will cost $60 to $65 on every customer's sewer bill each month for 30 years, if it only serves Soldotna's 1,200 customers, Boedeker said.

"That's why we need more customers to help pay for it," he said.

A new plant, even if it were begun today, would take 10 to 12 years before it is complete, since permits and financing will take some time.

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