Soldotna economy healthy

City departments keep busy with expanding community

Posted: Monday, August 16, 2004

Soldotna city officials say preliminary indications show the economic health is good and getting better in the city.

At Wednesday's city council meeting, several city department heads said things in their offices were as busy over the summer as they could remember.

Soldotna Public Works Director Steve Bonebrake said the departments he oversees have all been booming. Bonebrake told the council that new buildings are popping up all over town, and that new building permits have the department working overtime just to keep up.

"It's probably the busiest I've ever seen it," Bonebrake said.

On Friday, Soldotna building official Ralph Linn said the value of building permits in Soldotna are way up over last year. Linn said that, to date, the city has issued permits for construction valued at $9.78 million. This compares to a total of just over $8 million last year.

"It's been a healthy year," Linn said.

He did note, however, that part of that figure is due to the city's own $3 million wastewater treatment plant project. Still, Linn said 2004 appears to be a busy year for building both residential and commercial buildings in the city.

"The numbers are very healthy," he said.

Not only is the building department busy, but Bonebrake said water and sewer hook-ups are running far ahead of normal, as well. And, he added, Soldotna Municipal Airport is busier than normal.

"There's more planes out there than there ever has been," he said.

All the activity in Soldotna means the city could see a windfall when it comes time to run next year's budget numbers. In addition to a potential boost in property taxes, the hustle and bustle seems to be spilling over into the retail sector.

On Friday, Soldotna Finance Director Marti Wilkinson said she believes sales tax collections for the second quarter will come in higher than last year when the borough finalizes its tax figures later this week.

One downside of all the action in Soldotna has been at the city's animal control facility, where Bonebrake said Soldotna animal control officer Marianne Clark has had her hands full dealing with more stray dogs and cats than she can handle.

"We have so many cats down there, we're out of cages," Bonebrake told the council.

At the Soldotna Sports Center, Parks and Recreation Director Andrew Carmichael said the center has been extremely busy with skating camps, and that the conference rooms have been rented out every weekend all summer long until this weekend, when a wedding party canceled.

"They got free tickets to Mexico to get married down there," Carmichael said of the unexpected cancellation.

The heightened activity around town has not translated into excitement over the upcoming city council elections. According to City Clerk Theresa Fahning, only two people have filed to run for the council's two open seats.

One of those seats, Seat D, will be filled by incumbent Jane Stein. The other will go to Ed Sleater, the only other person to file for a council seat. That's because the current holder of Seat E, Audrey Porter, announced at Wednesday's meeting she intends to step down from the council when her term expires.

Porter told the council she's enjoyed her time serving the city, but is ready to move on.

"It's been an experience I never dreamed I would have," Porter said.

She said she hopes the work she's done in her three years on the council has helped the city become a more enjoyable place to live.

"I hope I have done something that has put a mark and has done some good," she said.

In other action Wednesday, the council:

n Appropriated $20,000 to install a sidewalk and curb on Binkley Circle. City Manager Tom Boedeker said the project will be done in conjunction with an adjacent property owner, saving the city money.

n Authorized Bonebrake to go forward with the design engineering and preliminary land purchase process for a proposed airport construction project approved under the revised airport master plan.

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