The Soldotna City Council sent down the drain a pilot program that would have given water and sewer connection discounts to contractors building new subdivisions in the city.
The proposal, floated by Public Works Director Steve Bonebrake, was voted down 4 to 1 at Wednesday night's meeting. Vice Mayor Jim Stogsdill was the only vote in favor, and council member Joyce Cox was absent.
"We're trying to get economic development going around here," Bonebrake told the council.
The cost to hook a home to city water is $250; sewer $500. Bonebrake's plan would give a contractor who is building five or more homes a year a $100 discount on both hook-ups for each home. Builders erecting 10 or more homes would get another $25 dollars off for each hook-up.
"It's just an incentive," Bonebrake said. "Just an idea to help out a little bit."
In a memo Bonebrake wrote supporting his plan, he said many buildings are being built that are not hooking up to city water and sewer. The incentive could entice contractors to connect to the system rather than going with a septic system for each home.
"For some housing, these costs ... have led builders to favor residential lots away from those served by city utilities or even out of the city," he wrote.
The $200 per home would be offered as a rebate after the building inspector certified the home. Bonebrake suggested this be tried on a two-year trial basis.
"Would this make a difference?" asked council member Jane Stein.
"Two-hundred dollars for each one, and if someone builds 50 homes, that's a sizable chunk," Bonebrake said.
"Who would build 50 homes?" asked council member Steve Horn. "Is there enough land in the city for that?"
Bonebrake said there was land on West Redoubt and in other areas, and said the incentive wasn't meant to be a make or break deal for contractors.
At up to $250 per home, 50 homes would mean a reduction in fees to the city of up to $12,500, money Bonebrake argued could be made up through the sales and property tax generated by more people moving into town.
In other news from Wednesday's meeting:
n Dick Metteer, proponent of the Alaska Pork Project, made much the same presentation to the council as he has made in recent months to the Kenai City Council, asking for support in helping him find $396,000 in seed money to develop a business plan, which he hopes will lead to construction of factory hog farms on the Kenai Peninsula.
He said the farms would have 30,000 sows breeding enough hogs to export 660,000 a year to Asia.
"Everyone in the house knows we have to start diversifying our economy," Metteer said. "If you feel you want on-board, let me know how you can support me."
n The council authorized a new position in the city: a management information system technician to provide computer support. It had previously been a temporary job performed by interns.
n City Manager Tom Boedeker was authorized to negotiate with contractors to tie in the city 's new Well F with the rest of the system, rather than go through the normal bidding process. The city felt the dry weather was enough of an incentive to get the well tied in as soon as possible, bypassing the usual procedures.
n Stein asked what progress has happened on the Sterling Highway project through town regarding traffic signals at Birch Street and Kobuk. Bonebrake said conduit for traffic signal wires was laid at Birch, though to his knowledge no in-road sensors have been laid at either intersection. Last month the council passed a resolution asking the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to install traffic light sensors in the roads at those intersections so future stop lights can be put there without digging up the new pavement.
The next regular council meeting will be June 27.
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