Soldotna to discuss disclosure rules

Posted: Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Soldotna lawmakers are poised to seek voter permission to adopt their own guidelines for financial disclosure rather than comply with state statutes.

In the wake of corruption allegations in the state capital, the Alaska Legislature enacted tougher financial disclosure requirements in 2007 for pubic officials and candidates for elective office.

In an ordinance to be introduced by the Soldotna City Council tonight, the new requirements are described as "intrusive and unreasonable."

If voters approve, a municipality may exempt its municipal officers and candidates for elective municipal office from the requirements.

When Kenai considered the exemption last year, background information from the Alaska Public Offices Commission said about one-half of the state's 200 communities voted to be exempt. Kenai voters approved the exemption, instead requiring municipal officers and candidates to file a City of Kenai Public Official Financial Disclosure Statement.

On Monday, Soldotna City Manager Larry Semmens said the state's requirements "clearly discourage people" from wanting to serve as elected and appointed officials. The ordinance provides for establishing local financial disclosure guidelines.

The council also is scheduled to discuss methods such as the issuance of bonds for financing the planned expansion of the city's public library. In order to issue bonds for the financing, the city would need voter approval. To get the measure on the October ballot, the council must approve the proposal by the first council meeting in August.

A needs analysis last year showed the existing 8,000 square-foot library should be expanded to 15,824 to serve Soldotna's current population, and should be at 17,774 square feet to meet the projected 2020 needs.

In October 2008, a Kenai architect estimated the cost of doubling the size of the library at around $12 million.

Semmens said he has signed closing documents for the purchase of land next to the library for the expansion. The council had earlier appropriated $325,000 for the 1.417-acre parcel owned by Dr. Lavern Davidhizar, immediately north of and adjacent to the existing library site.

A resolution on the council's consent agenda for tonight's meeting would amend job descriptions and raise the salary ranges for the directors of Finance and Public Works, the police chief and several other city employees. The proposal also creates a 30-hour position for a Human Resources adviser for 10 months.

The adviser would review the city's human resources program, update policies and ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations, as well as possibly participating on the city management's negotiating team for union contract negotiations. Currently the human resources responsibilities are vested with the city clerk, according to Semmens.

The final public hearing on the fiscal year 2009-2010 city budget also is scheduled for tonight's meeting. The proposed General Fund budget is $8,280,934.

If the budget is adopted, council members are expected to approve setting the rate of levy of taxes on all real and personal property within the city at 1.65 mills, unchanged from the previous year.

The council also is slated to consider rezoning a lot in the Dawn Glow Subdivision southwest of Central Peninsula Hospital from Single-family Residential to Limited Commercial at the request of the property owner. The zoning change would make way for an orthotics and prosthetic services business.

The city council meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.



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