Soldotna candidates opine on big issues

Posted: Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Big issues as seen by candidates running for Soldotna City Council seats range from activities for youth to speeding cars and how to accommodate growth.

John Smallwood said he hears “a lot of old folks hollering about (property) taxes. There’s a lot of talk about the $150,000 exemption,” he said when asked to name the biggest issue facing Soldotna this election season.

“But I would like to see the kids have a sports center so they don’t have to hang out at the mall with their skateboards,” he said.

When asked about the skateboard park the city built for youth, Smallwood said, “Yeah, but some scoundrel went there and burned down the outhouse or something, and then they closed it for an extended length of time.”

He also said, “I think they’re charging kids to get in (the Soldotna Sports Center). Some kids can’t afford it.”

If elected, Smallwood said he would like to see something done about traffic in the city.

“Our traffic is out of control,” he said. “There are people scooting through here — down my street — 40, 50 miles per hour.

“We’ve got a lot of kids here and certainly don’t want to get ’em killed,” Smallwood said.

He would also like to see the city go forward with a noise ordinance to deal with loud car mufflers.

“I asked Mayor Carey for a noise ordinance and Sgt. (Tod) McGillivray made a joke out of it. He said you couldn’t enforce it without crawling under the car to see if it was factory installed.

“I can hear it from a couple blocks away,” Smallwood said.

When Betty Obendorf says removing snow is the biggest issue facing Soldotna, she is talking about sidewalks.

“I think it would be a good idea to be able to walk around the city in all seasons,” Obendorf said.

On some streets, such as Binkley, she said snow removal is the responsibility of the city. On the Sterling Highway, it’s the state. In front of residences and businesses, it is the responsibility of the homeowner or business owner, she said.

“I believe in personal responsibility,” Obendorf said. “People should be responsible for things they can do themselves.”

She also said she has been told the city is buying a new snowplow that should make clearing sidewalks easier.

When asked what she would do to improve the city, if elected, Obendorf said, “It’s hard for me to find a big negative for Soldotna.

“It has a very high quality of life,” she said.

As the central Kenai Peninsula continues to grow, Sharon Hale said, “I’m not sure we have all the amenities we need to accommodate growth ... things like senior housing and things for kids to do.”

When asked about the Soldotna Sports Center, Hale said, “It’s not exactly easy to get to ... unless you drive.

“Once you’re there, there’s not much to do if you don’t ice skate or play hockey.

“I think it would be amazing if we had a whole rec center for kids,” Hale said.

She also said as the city grows, it needs to work closely with the businesses it has to promote them so they stay.

“I support these businesses here because these local guys support our schools and our community whenever there’s a need,” Hale said.

Running unopposed for Council Seat A, Jim Stogsdill said he believes the biggest issue facing the city is the Public Employee Retirement System indebtedness.

“We’re not going to be able to deal with that; no municipalities are,” Stogsdill said.

He said the situation will require relief in some form from the state Legislature.

“Or there will have to be some pain in the way of cuts in services,” he said.

“It will be things people like — Community Schools, Sport Center time, snow plowing. Maybe instead of plowing when there’s more than two inches, we won’t plow until there’s six or seven ... something like that,” he said.

When asked if he believed Soldotna should make another supplemental payment toward its PERS unfunded liability as it did a year ago, Stogsdill said, “We made an advance payment to lower it and all it did was essentially double it.

“We’re going to have to have a plan before July 1,” he said.

On a more positive note, Stogsdill said he looks forward to the start of a new visitors center in Soldotna.

“I think it’s going to be a really nice project,” he said.

Jerrad Hutchings, a candidate running against Hale, Obendorf and Smallwood, did not return phone calls seeking his input for this article.

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