Murphy: Soldotna should advocate stricter controls on river

Soldotna City Council Seat D

Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2007

Name: Linda Murphy

Age: 59

Occupation: Retired Kenai Peninsula Borough clerk

Family: Husband, Dan; children, Krystal

Education: Longwood College and Master Municipal Clerk (IIMC)

Organizations and special interests: Hospice board of directors and Soldotna Chamber of Commerce

Previously held elected office: Seward City clerk, Kenai Peninsula Borough Clerk and Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer's Elections Transition Team

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

Residential development in the commercial district should be limited. It is common in large metropolitan areas to see condos and apartment buildings located within commercial areas, but we are not a large metropolitan area and the commercial district is rather small in size. I believe the city should encourage more business and commercial development in this area and only allow high density residential development (such as condos and apartments) in those areas outside the commercial district that are zoned multi-family residential.

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

The Mayor has recently appointed another Task Force to review the city's options and to select a site for a city cemetery. Once the task force has made its recommendations to the City Council and the Council selects a site, the city manager should be given a reasonable deadline for acquiring the property (if a site other than a city-owned one is selected) and for constructing the cemetery.

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

As I understand it, the bulk of the pollution in the river is not in Soldotna, and the City really has no jurisdiction over those who operate in the waterway. However, the City should continue to advocate for stricter controls and oversight of operators by working with the Kenai River Working Group and the KRSMA Board.

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?

The best way for the city to ensure that Birch Ridge Golf Course is not sold to a developer is for the city to purchase the property and operate the golf course as part of the city's parks and recreation program, and I believe that this option would be in the city's best interest. A recent study indicated that revenues from the golf course would cover the city's costs to operate it, and preserving this recreational outlet will certainly add to the quality of life so important to a thriving community. I would not advocate for a change in zoning unless the city owned the property because such a change would severely limit the options of the current owners when they decide to sell the golf course.

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?

Nearly every city and borough in the state of Alaska is facing this problem, and it should be noted that the problem was not created by the cities and boroughs, nor was it created by their employees. The state created this problem a number of years ago by setting an unrealistically low rate for public employers to pay into the system. In my opinion, it is the state's responsibility to fund a substantial portion of this liability, and we must continue to press this issue with our legislators in Juneau. Of course, if the state does not come forward with this funding, the city will have no choice but to increase revenues to cover this cost. I would prefer to see a seasonal increase in sales tax in addition to a small increase in the property tax rate to equitably spread the burden among residents and visitors to our community.

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