Soldotna council's face in for a change

Posted: Tuesday, September 25, 2001

The Soldotna City Council has three seats to fill in the upcoming election. The new and old members will face several issues in the next council season.

At the top of the list is the $3.5 million bond for the proposed $7 million events center.

"The most immediate concern for the council would be the events center bond," said Mayor David Carey. "If it passes there's going to be a lot of work to do, and if it doesn't there's going to be some restructuring of some priorities."

Residents of Soldotna will vote on the bond in the Oct. 2 election. (See related story this page.)

The city of Soldotna recently finished a road study that may generate some work for the council. According to Carey, the study will serve Soldotna as a planning document to look at what roads need to be paved and what roads should get priority for development.

Extending transportation also includes the issue of locating and building a new bridge across the Kenai River. While the city will have input, the state would build it.

Along with paving, the council will have to make decisions about extending the water and sewer infrastructure. For instance, the council will need to decide whether to extend water and sewer utilities in conjunction with annexation or not, said Soldotna City Manager Tom Boedeker.

Expansion of the water treatment plant also will be an issue. The plant received a $2 million grant, so decisions will need to be made about what the proper expansion and long-term growth of the facility should be, Carey said.

Issues related to the development around and protection of the Kenai River will continue to face the council.

"There are issues with the development of river-front access and public access and questions of how you protect the parks and banks and what goes to fishing and what goes to other recreations," Boedeker said.

Boedeker added that moving the city shop to the other side of the river might come up. And that the council will decide what efforts to take to promote economic development in the city that still maintains the lifestyle people would like in Soldotna.

Along with the events center and road infrastructure expansion, council member Kurt Olsen said another challenge facing the new council is simply to learn to work together.

"With all the changes on the council, I think we need to see what the feel of the new council will be since we'll have a bit of turnover," Olson said.

With council members Steve Horn and Mike Tarr declining to seek re-election, and Jane Stein in a race for her seat, there will be two, and possibly three new faces on the council.

Candidates Sharon Moock and Audrey Porter are running unopposed, one for Horn's seat, one for Tarr's. Fred Sturman is running against Stein.

Two-term council member Horn announced he would not seek re-election this summer, citing a desire to spend more time with his family and on his new job as director of the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska in Kenai.

Tarr, who was appointed to fill in when Carey was elected mayor, said he would not seek election, as he and his wife, Kathy, plan to build a home outside city limits within a year.

Horn offered some advice to incoming council members: Get to know the people who run the city.

"Visit all the departments, all the properties the city owns and talk to the department heads to get a better idea what the city is responsible for," he said. "Going around and talking to the employees is the best thing they can do."

He also advised the new council to continue to focus on diversifying the city's income base, which currently is based on sales tax revenue.

"They have to recognize that to have all our money come from one source is risky," Horn said. "Diversifying our revenue source has been something the city always tries to do, and I think it will continue to challenge the council members."

One way to diversify income, he said, is to open up more land for development by extending water and sewer to areas the city currently does not serve.

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