Sterling Highway crossing may become safer in Soldotna

Posted: Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It soon may be a little less daunting to cross the Sterling Highway in Soldotna thanks in part to action taken by the city council Wednesday night.

Council members unanimously approved an ordinance appropriating $50,000 for a stairway down to the Kenai River on the upstream side of the Soldotna bridge.

The stairs would lead to a path under the bridge, connecting with the fish walk and Soldotna Visitors Center stairway on the downstream side.

Mayor Peter Micciche also said, after receiving no positive response from the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, he spoke with Sen. Lisa Murkowski's staff regarding a traffic light and crosswalk at the Birch Street intersection of the busy highway.

Funding for the stairway will come from an Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund grant, and welded aluminum grate materials would be coming from a previously canceled ASSF project.

Besides allowing for safe highway crossing, the stairs would provide a way for summertime anglers to get down to the river without damaging the grass slope installed as part of the bridge project, according to Andrew Carmichael, director of Parks and Recreation.

Carmichael said the stairway would be installed this year.

The council also passed a resolution rescinding a resolution that previously authorized City Manager Larry Semmens to award a contract to Northwest Playgrounds for new equipment destined for Farnsworth Park.

Semmens told the council, "We made an error when evaluating the bids and picked a number off the bid which was only for a portion (of the project)."

The city administration then recommended the council authorize awarding the contract to Northwest, which was not the lowest bidder. The contract, not to exceed $75,000, should instead be awarded to Sitelines Inc.

The incorrect selection was based on Northwest's bid on equipment only, and did not include an additional amount for engineered wood-fiber fall protection material. Adding both components together, Northwest's bid would have been $89,323. The Sitelines bid was $63,102, more than $26,000 lower, according to a memo from Carmichael.

The council rescinded the earlier resolution, and authorized the manager to award the contract to Sitelines.

City employees are to provide the labor for installing the new playground equipment.

The council also approved an agreement with Wince-Corthell-Bryson consulting engineers for design and engineering services for the Kobuk Street storm-water out fall improvement project to improve the quality of water going into the Kenai River.

Public Works Director Steve Bonebrake said the project is a number-one priority project for the state Clean Water Fund list. Design would be fully funded through a state grant and construction would be paid for with federal stimulus fund money.

Because federal stimulus fund projects have a short time line for getting approved, Bonebrake recommended the $185,400 sole-source agreement be approved with Wince-Corthell-Bryson, the firm that designed the most recent underground sedimentation basin in Soldotna, one of the elements of the out fall improvement project.

The project also includes design of an underground trash collector, oil separator and the sedimentation basin.

During a Committee of the Whole work session before the council meeting, Micciche and the councilors discussed a number of planned capital improvement projects in the city, including installation of flashing school-crossing lights in front of Redoubt Elementary School.

One estimate received by the city administration for the lights was $60,000. Electrical wiring would need to be routed under West Redoubt Avenue, driving up the cost significantly.

The city views the lights as being the responsibility of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, but Micciche said he has seen no action from the borough in response to the city's requests.

"Kids walk to school there everyday with no protection," Micciche said.

At the end of the council meeting, City Clerk Teresa Fahning issued a plea for board members to serve on the city's Planning and Zoning, Airport and Library commissions. Interested residents can contact her at city hall.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at

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