Eldridge: Bluff erosion project essential to river, Kenai

Posted: Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Barry Eldridge hopes to use the experience he's gained from his years as a sea captain to help steer the city of Kenai as a member of the city council.

"I've been in management positions throughout my career," he said. "... I am not afraid of making decisions, I have done that over the past 40-plus years. I feel I can make good decisions for the city based on the information provided."

Eldridge, 66, has been a Kenai resident for the past 17 years. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in education from Tufts University and a master's degree in management from Webster's University.

Eldridge spent 27 years as a commanding officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. After retiring, he captained cargo and tour vessels and in 1985 was hired at Cook Inlet Response Organization, the predecessor of Cook Inlet Spill Prevention and Response Inc. Now he works as a marine consultant. He and his wife, Marta, have three children.

For the last 15 years, Eldridge has served on the Kenai Harbor Commission. In the past few months he has attended several council meetings as an audience member. He made an unsuccessful bid for a council seat in last year's election and is trying again this year for a chance to "give back to the city," he said.

"I just enjoy working with the city. I've done that with the harbor commission for a number of years and feel that I have some experience and expertise that might be suitable for the city council as well."

As a commissioner, he has supported the construction of a bluff erosion protection project, including a Kenai Coastal Trail, which he would continue to work toward if elected to the council, he said.

"I think that (project) is essential in preserving what we have left downtown and providing access to the river," he said.

Balancing the budget would be Eldridge's other main priority if elected. This should be done through budget cuts rather than increased taxes, he said.

"The population of Kenai really has not grown that much, yet city government has continued to grow," Eldridge said. "We need to look at how necessary some of that growth was, especially since the city has been operating with deficit budgets the last several years."

He could think of no specific areas to cut in the budget at this time, but said there are probably areas that receive more funding than necessary.

"It's going to take a real sharp pencil and the cooperation of the administration to find those areas that may be nice to have but are not essential to provide as a service to the public," he said. "Then you have to look at what services to the public do we need to cut out or reduce.

"I really haven't been involved in the details in all the departments. I'd have to wait until the presentations were made and saw where the dollars were actually destined for. I think there probably are areas where you could take up to a 5 percent deduction."

The new operations facility at the airport, for instance, would be an example of governmental excess considering the operational costs it will incur, Eldridge said.

"Though it is a very beautiful facility and I understand it will be beneficial for the airport, I thought it was a little more than what they needed."

If elected, Eldridge said he also would be interested in providing water and sewer utilities to property on the south side of the river, continuing the Unity Trail project to improve the relationship between Kenai and Soldotna and looking into annexation as a way to add to the city's tax base.

Eldridge considers himself to be a truthful person and usually sees things in black and white, which are qualities he plans to bring to the council.

"I am a man of integrity and honesty," he said. "I'll be straight with the people as far as what's going on and what my feelings are. Also, I will be willing to listen to folks out there and hear what they have to say and what their interests are and what they'd like to see their city doing."



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