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Mayor: Soldotna at a crossroads

Posted: Friday, July 24, 2009

Progress is seen as being at a crossroads in Soldotna by the city's mayor.

Having pioneers residing in Soldotna who carved the town out of the woods as homesteaders back in the late '40s and newer residents ready to landscape the city to a functional level as it moves into the future is Mayor Peter Micciche's vision of progress.

"For me, progress has little to do with a growing population or increasing the size of Soldotna," Micciche said.

For him, progress is more about quality of life issues, increasing opportunities for young people, providing security for residential areas and providing security and recreation for senior citizens.

"In the past, Soldotna was a senior community," Micciche said. "Now we're at the next stage of the city's development and we need to plan for the young."

The mayor sees the timing of development of the new comprehensive plan -- Envision 2030 -- as being fortunate. It allows the city to interpret the wishes of the widely diverse demographic community.

He sees the visitor industry and the medical profession as being two very important aspects of the Soldotna community.

Because of the city's dependence on sales tax revenue, the tourist industry is important, and he sees the medical community as affording Soldotna the long-term ability to sustain itself by generating good jobs that will attract the city's young people to return after completing their education.

"One of the most important things is to bring our young people back," Micciche said. "Progress is to bring infants and seniors a life that's high in quality."

In terms of Soldotna's economy, Micciche said "one of the very positive things is that it's been slow and steady."

"Although we've seen a few businesses have a hard time over the past year, we have seen success," he said, pointing to the St. Elias Brewing Company, the complex of businesses around Mykel's Restaurant and the Kenai River Lodge. He also said the city plans to work with the owners of the Peninsula Center Mall to revitalize that area by helping attract quality renters.

"We've also seen an influx of younger folks getting involved on boards and commissions and older folks mentoring us younger ones," Micciche said. "We've had great participation in dialog toward a new cemetery ... Soldotna Creek Park is very exciting with services from toddlers to seniors ... ice skating and bonfires to tie us back to the winter community we are."

Paramount among Micciche's concerns for Soldotna's future is maintaining a healthy Kenai River.

"Adverse development on the river will not be part of our development plan," he said. "We absolutely cannot allow this salmon river to fail here."

Continued progress in Soldotna means the city should always have competition with its sister city -- Kenai -- and "we should always work together to have better opportunities for both communities," he said.

"We have a very effective new city leadership in Soldotna," he said, with the city's economic growth being conservatively managed, only supporting the services requested by Soldotna residents.

"They expect a certain level of services and they are willing to pay for them," Micciche said.

"It was the pioneers who carved the city out of the woods; now it's our role to re-landscape to a functional level of natural vegetation with limited environmental impact," he said.

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



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