Ordinance prohibits camping at Fred Meyer

Posted: Monday, May 19, 2003

The city of Soldotna is working with the Fred Meyer store manager to put an end to summertime camping in the store parking lot. Such camping is prohibited by city ordinance.

Soldotna City Council members Wednesday were given copies of Planning and Zoning letters to store manager Terry Rahlfs discussing the law and the store's plan for coming into compliance.

Three-foot by four-foot white, sandwich board-type signs were placed by store management at parking lot entrances informing visitors that "Overnight parking (no camping) is limited to no more than three days/nights."

In one of two letters to the store, however, Anna M. Johnson, administrative assistant to Planning and Zoning, said, "... in a previous letter, you were informed that camping is strictly prohibited with a maximum stay of eight hours."

"There was a misunderstanding there," Rob Boley, public relations assistant vice president for Fred Meyer, said Friday.

"We're changing the signs to state 'No camping. Overnight parking only,'" he said. "We'll have the new signs up as soon as we can have them produced.

"We will also have hand-out sheets to give to RV people in the evening referring them to the visitors center for information on RV parks and campgrounds.

"We'll have someone take them around in the morning also for RV people who arrive late at night," Boley said.

Council member Jane Stein said she appreciated receiving the letters in the packet of information given to the members, but added she is unable to read the small signs.

"We need to take a stand on this," she said, referring to the illegal parking lot camping.

Council member Audrey Porter agreed, saying, "I hope the problem at Fred Meyer can get finished."

The city offered the help of Soldotna police to enforce the camping prohibition.

In other business Wednesday, the council set a public hearing for May 28 on an ordinance adopting the city's budget for fiscal year 2004.

The proposed $5.9 million budget balances, according to City Manager Tom Boedeker, who told council members an operating expense pie chart and other comparative charts on the proposed budget are available for review on the city's Web site.

One change he noted in the proposal calls for increasing the pay rate for the "police officer 1" position to help recruit and retain officers. He said the increase would make the pay comparable to that received in neighboring communities.

Boedeker also said every one of the city's operating departments requested additional clerical staff for the coming year, but the budget did not allow adding any.

Council members also listened to a presentation by Henry Knack-stedt, an engineer with Mike Tauriainen, P.E., the engineering firm designing the Funny River Road water and sewer main extension project.

He told the group the construction project would be put out for bid in three weeks and construction is expected to begin sometime in July.

A two-acre parcel of land the city owns at Marydale Avenue and Fireweed received much discussion by council members. Purchased years ago for a possible future health care facility, the site recently received interest from two physicians, one hoping to swap the land with property he owns elsewhere in Soldotna, the other hoping to purchase only one-fourth of the parcel for an oral-surgery office.

On a motion of council member Sharon Moock, Boedeker was authorized to discuss possible uses of the city's parcel with the potential buyers as well as with Central Peninsula General Hospital, which is nearby.

During the city manager's portion of the council meeting, Boedeker reported he's spent a good deal of time working with the state Legislature on the proposed state sales tax bill.

"The bill has some significant problems for municipalities. I feel there is a significant risk that our sales tax revenues would drop," he said.

Boedeker explained that in most states that have state sales taxes, the tax was in place first before municipalities were allowed to implement city sales taxes to augment their revenues.

In Alaska, he said, the opposite is true. The cities were allowed to implement municipal sales taxes and now the state is proposing to supersede them with a state sales tax.

He did tell the council the state sales tax bill was meeting with "revisions coming fast and furious," and said, "It's chaotic."

He said he did not see how the proposal could be worked out before the end of the current legislative session.

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