Hurricanes prompt Soldotna to look at disaster readiness

Posted: Monday, October 17, 2005

In the wake of news about Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the city of Soldotna has been asked if it's prepared for a catastrophe of that magnitude.

At the city council meeting Wednesday evening, Mayor Dave Carey answered the question with a flat "no."

"No one could be," Carey said.

The mayor did say Soldotna has an emergency management plan and has "done all things that are prudent."

Carey said the city has looked at the need for an emergency bypass route to detour around the Soldotna "Y" if some sort of catastrophe caused the closure of that key intersection.

One lesson learned from the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans was seeing how that city's communications system broke down entirely, Carey said. Soldotna now is working on a communications plan that might include establishing a satellite up-link for use in a major emergency.

During the city manager's report, Tom Boedeker said the city has conducted some emergency drills, switching city operations over to emergency generator power.

He said the switch worked, but all computers went down. The test showed adjustments need to be made.

In an unrelated item, Boedeker reported to the council that the city levied people's Alaska Permanent Fund dividends for $35,000 in unpaid traffic fines this year. He said a number of people called city hall Wednesday after learning their dividends had been garnished by the city.

In other business, the council appropriated $427,500 for additional work on nature trails and riverbank habitat improvements.

Boedeker explained the appropriation was necessary to retain U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resour-ces Conservation Service grant funds in that amount, set to expire Sept. 30, 2006.

He said a specific list of proposed improvement projects would be submitted to the council for approval by some time in December.

As expected, the city council passed a resolution certifying Soldotna's city election results, confirming another term of office for the mayor and two council members.

Carey, who received 718 votes, was confirmed as mayor, and Lisa Parker and M. Scott McLane, whose vote totals were 675 and 683, respectively, were confirmed for three more years as council members.

None of the candidates were opposed in the election.

Included in Andrew Carmichael's report on activity of the Parks and Recreation Department, was the fact that the hockey rink dasher boards have been installed at the Soldotna Sports Center and, "We're up and running," he said.

Carmichael also said a hole has been dug in front of the sports center for a new marquee, which is expected to be delivered in November.

Soldotna Police Chief John Lucking Jr. told the council the department has been interviewing to fill two openings for police officers and has had "some exceptional candidates."

He also said police have received reports of "a few bears in the trees," and said if bears are in the neighborhoods, there's garbage being left out.

In reference to the Soldotna skateboard park closing, council member Ed Sleater said, "There's just a very small minority of peoples that cause problems."

He said, while helping dig up potatoes recently at the food bank, five or six carloads of junior-varsity football players from Kenai Central High School pulled up and took over the work.

"They did a good job. They did a good thing," Sleater said.

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