Soldotna will sport new road

Posted: Wednesday, August 03, 2005

At a glance, it would appear the city of Soldotna is planning to thumb its nose at a half million federal dollars, and instead pay $317,000 in city money for a new road into the Soldotna Sports Center.

The city council approved, on first reading, an ordinance appropriating $317,490 for the project last week.

A public hearing has been scheduled on the matter for Aug. 10.

Things are not always as they appear, however.

First of all, according to Mayor Dave Carey, the city's estimate of the cost of the road is significantly less than the state's estimate.

The state estimate is $602,150.96.

Secondly, the state's gift to the project, in the form of a federal grant, has so many strings attached, the road would not be complete in time for the 2006 Arctic Winter Games, a road commitment the city made in conjunction with an agreement that places a number of events at the center, according to Carey and City Manager Tom Boe-deker.

"The cost almost doubled when (the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities) got involved," Carey said Tuesday.

The mayor said when the city first submitted its bid document to get the Arctic Winter Games, officials were assured funding for the road would come.

Initially it was to be the full amount of the project. It was to be federally funded.

Then Soldotna learned the funding was coming through DOT with a requirement of matching funds from the city.

On July 15, when the city received a copy of the actual grant, they found the road would need to be a five-lane road, built up to federal highway standards, a utility corridor alongside the road could never be violated and the city would be required to maintain the road forever, according to Carey.

"We would be required to maintain that road into perpetuity," Carey said.

In a letter to the state declining the earmarked grant, Boedeker said, "The encumbrances placed on property we already own and the obligations we must undertake are out of proportion to the benefit the city receives.

"More to the point is that given our time schedule for the upcoming 2006 Arctic Winter Games, there is no way we could follow the provisions of the (Memorandum of Agreement) and have any of the road work ready by the games."

Boedeker told the state the city has committed to adding another entrance to the center for the games, and to do so, work must begin now.

What the city plans to build — pending the approval of the city council — is a two-lane road in the shape of an inverted "U" as seen from Kalifornsky Beach Road, beginning near the Little League fields, heading to the rodeo grounds, then turning toward the side entrance to the Sports Center.

Carey said because time is short, and during the Games the road would be under snow and ice, the new road will not be paved this year.

"Construction will have to begin real soon, following approval of the city council," Carey said.

"When it's approved, we will go through the normal procedures (to get the road built)," he said.

Paving would be done during the construction season next year.

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