Kenai set for Town Hall Meeting

Posted: Friday, May 07, 2010

Do you have any ideas to make Kenai a more sustainable community? Do you have any gripes about what the local government could do to improve the city?

Then Saturday's Town Hall meeting sponsored by the City of Kenai at the Challenger Learning Center will be a time to share those thoughts.

Do you think the City of Kenai is doing enough to deal with unemployment? Should Kenai try and attract more industry? Do you feel there are enough local parks and walking trails?

"The council really does want to hear from the public about these things," said Kenai City Council member Bob Molloy.

"It's an outgrowth of debates we had over whether or not city should sign Alaskan Coastal Communities Global Climate Change Compact," Molloy said, adding that the compact focuses on coastal communities networking together to share environmental ideas. From those debates on climate change, "it sort of morphed from that into a much bigger topic."

Saturday's meeting will be a more informal, open format to brainstorm on these subjects in small discussion groups. Peter and Susan Glaser, professors from the University of Oregon and business communication professionals, will facilitate the meeting.

The city is paying the Glasers about $11,000 for their facilitation and analysis of the town hall meeting. Included in that sum is a full-days training for city staff to prepare for Kenai's comprehensive planning process beginning next year. The total budget for the town hall meeting is about $7,500.

The three-hour meeting scheduled for Saturday will start with registration at 8:30 a.m. with some pastries and coffee and begin at 9 a.m. with an introduction, Molloy explained. Then the attendees will be by divided into small discussion groups to identify important concepts to share with the whole group.

"It'll be flushing some issues out," said Rick Koch, Kenai city manager.

After the meeting, city council, staff and the facilitators will analyze the ideas and see if there are any future council actions that could be taken on the issues.

The term "sustainable community" has been a buzz phrase recently, being frequently tossed around.

So what does being a sustainable community actually mean, at least to Kenai city officials?

"A sustainable community is one that is healthy and able to move forward providing opportunities for its citizens and not damaging the environment around it," Koch said.

Molloy said that a sustainable community is one that continues to grow, in population and service offerings.

The ideas from this meeting will be used to plan for the future. In fact, Molloy said, he sees the town hall meeting as a "warm-up for the comprehensive planning process."

"I hope that it's well attended by a wide range of people with diverse opinions," he said.

Koch compared a sustainable community to a well-balanced, three-legged stool. When all three legs of the stool -- economic, social, and environmental components -- acknowledged and supported.

The town hall meeting is a "way to identify what makes the legs of the stool stand," he said.

The Town Hall meeting will be at the Challenger Learning Center from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday.

Other council action:

Kenai City Council approved some $150,000 worth of infrastructure improvements for the personal use fishery, to be refunded by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The ordinance will construct restroom facilities with greater storage capacities, fix up the Meeks Trail pedestrian path and replace the Meeks Trail footbridge, as well as add permanent signs and additional barrier fencing to protect the upland habitat area. The city plans to work on these improvements as possible to utilize them for this summer's dipnet fishery.

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at brielle.schaeffer@peninsulaclarion.com.



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