To help Love INC meet a state grant application deadline for a homeless shelter, the Soldotna City Council met in special session Monday afternoon specifically to move the process along.
Despite some hesitation by council member Lisa Parker, meeting telephonically from her North Kenai office, a resolution authorizing a Community Development block grant application was approved on a 4-to-0 vote. Council members Jim Stogsdill and Betty Obendorf were absent.
Love INC wants to build the Family Hope Center, a 30-unit, two-story transitional housing facility on an eight-acre, triangular-shaped piece of city-owned land next to the Alaska State Troopers E Detachment post on Kalifornsky Beach Road.
The city has not yet decided whether to donate the land to the project.
Parker questioned the suitability of the land for a homeless shelter and questioned the rationale of the city taking on another project when “we’ve got a multitude of projects on the books that are not getting resolved.”
City Manager Tom Boedeker concurred with Parker, saying his office already has a number of pending projects including a city cemetery, annexation, a planning project seeking to develop a multiyear plan for the city, municipal code rewrites, negotiating for the acquisition of airport expansion land and a Central Emergency Services land issue.
He said, at the same time, he is continuing recruiting efforts for an assistant city manager, and he is looking to replace retiring city Finance Officer Marti Wilkinson.
At a city council public hearing Oct. 11, Ingrid Edgerly, executive director of the Kenai-based Love INC, told the city the shelter would accept only clients referred by a case manager from some other recognized agency.
“The facility will accommodate single-parent families, intact families, single adults, people with disabilities and veterans,” Edgerly said at the earlier meeting.
The shelter will not be for women in crisis or teens alone and will not accept walk-in clients.
The preliminary plan calls for each of the 30 units to have two double beds or a combination of bunk beds and a double bed, a full bathroom, microwave, refrigerator, coffee maker and television set.
The building will include a kitchen, eating area, lounge, play room for children, community center, laundromat for guests and office space.
Love INC approached the city wanting to apply for $200,000 from the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation and a $500,000 Community Development block grant.
The block grants are only awarded to municipalities.
The resolution approved by the council Monday names the city as the applicant and Love INC as co-applicant, assigning responsibility to the city for assuring compliance with all applicable laws and program regulations pertaining to the grant.
Boedeker said if the project moves forward, the city would need to conduct another public hearing before granting use of the city-owned property.
Parker said the property was deemed unsuitable for a Kenai Peninsula Food Bank expansion “a couple years ago,” and asked if the land did not have the same problems now.
Boedeker said some of the property, toward the back edge, is wetlands, which was filled in “years ago.”
He said the land will probably have some water table issues, and that an environmental impact statement would be a requirement of a grant award.
Following the meeting, he said the property is zoned for commercial development, though not all the land is usable. It has access to all utilities.
Because three council members are scheduled to be traveling today, the council will not have a quorum for a meeting tonight, so the special meeting was hurriedly scheduled for Monday.
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