Soldotna council rejects CARTS shuttle plan

Posted: Friday, June 28, 2002

Supporters of a shuttle bus service for Soldotna were left standing on the curb Wednesday night as the city council rejected a resolution that would have given $10,000 to an public transit organization.

The resolution was drafted with the support of council member Jane Stein and Mayor Dave Carey. It would have granted Central Area Rural Transit System Inc., or CARTS, $10,000 to start a pilot summer shuttle bus service in the city.

Council members said they were uneasy with the resolution for several reasons.

Council member Sharon Moock said she didn't believe Soldotna residents would be in favor of the plan. She said she took an informal poll of "six or seven" Soldotna citizens before the meeting, and the response was not favorable for the shuttle idea.

"No one was in favor of this idea," Moock told the council.

She said she was also concerned that a lack of public feedback on the idea would make giving CARTS such a large amount of money appear irresponsible.

Stein said a pilot shuttle bus would enable people without transportation options to easily travel throughout the city. She argued that a pilot project would enable the city to determine if bus service would be feasible.

"This is just an effort to say, 'let's see if it works,'" Stein said.

CARTS executive assistant Jennifer Beckmann spoke to the council in support of the program. However, she said, what CARTS was trying to do with the shuttle program was develop something the city could use.

"What we're really trying to do is fit the bill for you," she said. "Tell us what you want."

The council indicated it would rather see a small-scale study or survey to first determine what residents want for public transportation in Soldotna -- before allocating a large amount of money.

"I don't feel comfortable giving $10,000 for a trial program," council member Joyce Cox said, though she also recognized a shuttle could eventually have benefits.

"I do realize we would provide a service," Cox said.

The council eventually decided the resolution had too many problems to pass. The vote was 4-1 against passage of the resolution, with Stein casting the lone vote in favor. Council member Lisa Parker was absent.

Other than the CARTS debate, the city council breezed through its Wednesday agenda. All other votes in front of the council passed unanimously with either little or no discussion. Vice Mayor Jim Stogsdill, who sat in for the vacationing Mayor Carey, moved the meeting along at a brisk pace, moving through votes in quick succession.

Stogsdill's job was made easier in that many of the actions taken were routine measures, including revising the 2002 budget to compensate for any minor transfers and supplemental appropriations made by the city. City Manager Tom Boedeker said the measure was necessary to balance out the city's books for the year.

In other action Wednesday, the council:

n Heard from Mike Frost, chair of the Greater Soldotna Chamber of Commerce building committee. Frost said the chamber had selected a site for a new building and was in the process of planning and locating funding sources. He told the council he was at the meeting simply to keep them apprised of the situation.

"We're hoping to work with the city to get a building built," Frost said. "You'll see us in the future."

n Authorized sponsoring the television program "Exploring Alaska." Boedeker said he could normally authorize such a measure, but since no other program had asked the city for sponsorship, the competitive-bid process was not used. Therefore, the council had to authorize sponsorship.

n Authorized Blakeley's Auction Company of Soldotna to auction off surplus city equipment.

n Approved a change order for the Well R-1 Tie-in Project. The measure was needed because of a mix-up in the original bid process that inadvertently left a page out of the plans. Therefore, the contractor left approximately $6,000 of work out of the bid. The council authorized adding to the project funding amount to cover for the oversight.

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