Micciche: Raising tax rate should be last choice for council

Soldotna City Council Seat D

Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2007

Name: Peter Micciche

Age: 45

Occupation: Superintendent of Asset and Operating Integrity

Family: Wife, Erin; children, Madeline and Sophia

Education: Bachelor of Arts (Management): Alaska Pacific University

Organizations and special interests: Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, Boys and Girls Club of the Kenai Peninsula board member and National Fire Protection Association Appointed

Previously held elected office: None

1. How much residential development should the city allow in the commercial district? Should the high-value commercial district be preserved for businesses?

Take a moment to visualize a place you prefer to go on vacation. Consider that the reason for commercial/residential separation in such established communities with a visitor industry income base is to preserve the quality of life in residential areas, as well as to preserve the commercial district for services, retail, lodging and restaurants. In the 7.5 square miles that is Soldotna, the Sterling Highway commercial corridor between the Spur Highway and the Soldotna Bridge, the "Gateway to the Peninsula", includes approximately 151 acres of prime commercial opportunity. As Soldotna develops we will need an adequate proportion of the 151 acres for responsible and well-planned commercial development as one way of condensing our visitor industry within a comfortable walking distance. Logical, sustainable and responsible development must include expectations for developers that highlight requirements for the protection of our quality of life and the Kenai River watershed.

2. What can be done to expedite building a city cemetery? Should the city manager be given a firm deadline to start building it?

Soldotna is blessed with a quality facility in which to be born. A final resting place would complete the cycle, providing a feeling of permanence and history. Guidance must be provided by the council to assist the cemetery commission with a clear set of objectives, such as: an RFP for potential private investment; a contract organization to manage the facility should the city not receive an acceptable proposal and land purchase is required; impacts on neighbors and the environment; a memorial facility for urns and memorial plaques for those choosing cremation; and sustainability, including the most effective long-term, environmentally responsible use of the parcel reserved for the facility. The council should attempt to provide ample opportunity for comments and suggestions. I believe the key to success is open government and active resident participation.

3. What can Soldotna do to get the Kenai River off the impaired water body list? Is enough being done already?

One issue we all agree on is the health of the Kenai River watershed is imperative for the recreational, cultural and economic well-being of Soldotna. The Kenai being listed on the EPA's impaired water body list is a wake-up call. The greatest reduction in the hydrocarbon levels from the Kenai water column, the primary cause of the EPA listing, will be through the conversion from 2 cycle to the much-cleaner 4 cycle outboards. I support promoting the EPA's Targeted Watershed buyback program to assist individuals in replacing their engines. As I have demonstrated since coordinating one of the Soldotna's first fish walks in partnership with ConocoPhillips at Swiftwater Park, I intend to promote a positive working relationship with the Kenai Watershed Forum and other NGOs and agencies assigned as watchdogs for the health of our river asset.

4. How can the city ensure Birch Ridge Golf Course is not sold to a developer? Should it be zoned recreational or be restricted to some similar use; should the city purchase it?

My primary platform includes the recognition of the absolute need for comprehensive planning in Soldotna. Recreational opportunities will be a part of that effort and the golf course is an important piece. Birch Ridge should remain a golf course and I would support zoning revisions to protect the property as recreational. The facility would be an attractive investment for a private party, which is my preference. If a private investor is unavailable, I support an exercise in due diligence to determine if owning the course would be economically feasible. Speaking to officials at other smaller municipalities that own golf courses, I find there are leaseholder arrangements that provide for such facilities to be self-sustaining while being operated by contract organizations.

5. Should property taxes or sales taxes be raised to pay for public servants' pensions under PERS? What other solutions to the PERS unfunded liability situation should the city explore?

Soldotna is not alone in Alaska municipalities facing budget challenges due to grossly under-funded PERS liabilities. Soldotna has attempted to be proactive by paying down $1 million on the liability which the council will request to be credited upon the arrival of a legislative solution. As a member of the council, I intend to encourage continued involvement in the Alaska Municipal League for a legislative solution to provide fair and equitable funding to cover a high percentage of the currently unfunded liability. I see challenges as opportunities. Taxes should never be raised specifically for one economic challenge. In the event we are not funded adequately, the council should consider current healthy sales and property tax revenues and see if a need exists to reduce services, or as a last choice, increase the tax rate.

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