Snow removal, city-promotion top candidates’ concerns

Soldotna city council hopefuls face off in forum

Posted: Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The two of four candidates who showed up for a Soldotna Chamber of Commerce candidate forum Tuesday agreed on all issues except when asked what the city could be doing better.

Agreeing with a comment from the audience, Betty Obendorf said she the city could do a better job of snow removal.

Sharon Hale said Soldotna might need to do a better job of promoting itself.

“Big box stores are not particularly my cup of tea, but why are they going to Kenai?” Hale asked rhetorically.

Obendorf and Hale are vying for Soldotna City Council Seat C, which is being vacated by Sharon Moock.

Two other candidates running for the same office — John Smallwood and Jerrad Hutchings — chose not to attend the candidate forum.

Contacted by phone, Smallwood said he was in court earlier in the day and needed to do personal business in Sterling later. Hutchings did not reply to a phone message.

Obendorf, who said she and her husband, Chuck, “could live anywhere in the world,” but choose to live in Soldotna, said the city needs to start being concerned about providing good jobs for its children as they get older.

“Not all kids are going to be doctors,” she said, adding the city needed to have jobs kids could come back to after receiving their education.

Hale’s response also centered on the city’s youth, but focused on a younger age group.

“We need a recreation center for the kids of our town,” she said. “We shouldn’t keep paying the Kenai Rec Center for activities like after prom parties for our kids.”

When asked what they felt was the largest issue facing Soldotna, Obendorf and Hale said growth.

“The way we’re growing needs to be addressed,” Hale said.

“Kenai is getting two box stores ... what are we doing to compete?” she asked.

Neither of the candidates had a solution for the pending state retirement system shortfalls and resulting burdens they will place on municipalities.

Council member Jim Stogsdill, who is running unopposed for his own seat on the council, was in the audience and reported that the state told Soldotna, “We are going to have to pay $1 million on PERS next July 1.

“Where are we going to get $1 million?” he asked, adding, in order to achieve that goal, the city would need to triple the amount it currently receives in sales taxes.

Soldotna businessman Norm Blakeley asked the candidates what happened to the plans to build a city cemetery.

Hale said she asked that same question of the city and learned the city is continuing to work on getting recreational use restrictions lifted from city property at Arc Lake.

Obendorf said, “What they were doing was correct. What they ended up with was not.”

Stogsdill added that the city council is “committed to having a cemetery.”

When asked how they felt about Smallwood and Hutchings not attending the candidate forum, Obendorf and Hale said it was their choice.

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