Soldotna chamber touts city as safe place to meet

Posted: Sunday, September 19, 2004

Upset over a recent decision by the Alaska Board of Fisheries, the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce has passed a resolution touting the city of Soldotna as an attractive meeting destination.

"Basically we took the view that, strictly from a commerce side of it, we want to promote Soldotna," Michelle Glaves, the chamber's executive director, said Friday.

Glaves said after the board decided not to meet in Soldotna, the chamber's board felt like something needed to be said about the city and its ability to host meetings like the fish board's. Glaves said the resolution was the result of those board discussions, and a draft of the resolution was finalized Friday.

"Number one, it says we would like them to reconsider their decision," she said. "And number two, we would like them to put Soldotna on their cycle of meetings."

The board's decision was made last month. At the time, some board members said they were simply following a policy of trying to hold its meetings in large cities, such as Anchorage and Fairbanks.

However, criticism of the decision arose from several local individuals and government organizations after an e-mail from the executive director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association surfaced. The e-mail, sent from KRSA's Ricky Gease to Board of Fish Executive Director Diana Cote, questioned whether Soldotna would be a safe place to hold such a meeting, which is expected to cover a number of controversial Cook Inlet fishing topics.

On Friday, Glaves said the chamber board decided it needed to take a position on the issue.

"People have been asking us what our view is," she said. "The chamber is always looking to support Soldotna as a meeting destination, and that's what it says."

In addition to saying the city is a good place to hold a meeting, it also asks that the board reconsider its decision.

"... The need continues to exist for accessible Board of Fisheries meetings for the Soldotna community," it reads in part.

It's unlikely the resolution will have much impact on the January 2005 meeting, which is scheduled to last for 13 days. When the fish board made its decision, it also made it clear its decision was final.

However, board members did say at the time they would consider holding a special teleconference in the Kenai-Soldotna area to address concerns from area residents.

"I'm working on ways to get as much input from the Kenai-Soldotna area as possible," board chair Ed Dersham said at the time.

The chamber's resolution which was forwarded to Gov. Frank Murkowski, the Board of Fish and the Kenai Peninsula's legislative delegation calls on the board to also look more closely at Soldotna when planning future meetings.

"... The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce continues to promote Soldotna as a meeting destination and requests to be included in the future cycle of meeting destinations," it says.

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