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City makes wish list: Well house upgrades, library, Birch Street signal top Soldotna's capital priorities

Posted: Sunday, November 14, 2010

The City of Soldotna has its sights set on 10 capital improvement projects that are legislative priorities for fiscal year 2012, and its eyes on federal and state sources for the funding.

At its Wednesday night meeting, Soldotna City Council approved a resolution adopting the city's capital improvement program funding requests for the next fiscal cycle.

Among the priorities are additional funding for the Joyce K. Carver Public Library expansion, upgrades to aging city facilities, airport improvements, and a crosswalk and traffic light at Birch Street.

"When you look down the list of our capital improvements all of these are going to represent quality of life enhancements for our citizens or are there to support environmental sustainability," said Soldotna City Manager Larry Semmens.

Top of the list is a nearly $700,000 funding request for improvements to a city well house. But Semmens is anticipating it might be funded by the state this year

"That project is one that we submitted to the state last year and the Department of Environmental Conservation has run it through their rating criteria and ranked it quite high so we do expect that project to get funds through the next legislative cycle," he said.

The money would be used to install a computerized monitoring system in the house, as well as an on-site chlorine generator.

"It's the last of our well houses that need to be brought up to a standard the other well houses are at," Semmens said.

This project would make the well house more efficient and save money for the city, he said.

The request for funding to install a traffic light at Birch Street is city's other top priority, as it has been working for many years to get one for safety reasons.

Semmens said that now with the playground at Soldotna Creek Park and the city's plan to make that area more of a city center, getting a traffic signal along the Sterling Highway is a higher priority.

The city has already appropriated funding for the traffic signal's design but it is asking some $1.5 million for the project's construction.

"Unfortunately that $1.5 million price tag is a significant commitment on the state's behalf or the federal behalf for that project," Semmens said.

And while the city is not responsible for the state's highway system, Semmens said he is hoping that Soldotna's dedication to this project will help get it funded.

"It's not like the city should go out and build that project," he said, but "once we get it designed it will add more credibility to the project."

"The state DOT is in agreement that a traffic signal belongs there, it's just a matter of getting the funding for it," Semmens added.

As a quality of life improvement on the priority list, Soldotna is looking for $2 million to recondition and re-pave East Redoubt Avenue from Robin Street through the Soldotna Avenue/Smith Way intersection, according to Semmens.

Other recommended highway improvement projects for the state Department of Transportation include expanding the Sterling highway from two to four lanes from Fred Meyer to northern city limits, re-paving Funny River Road to the Soldotna Municipal Airport, expanding the Kenai Spur to five lanes, and safety road improvements in Cooper Landing.

Next on the priority list is additional funding for the Soldotna library expansion, with the city asking for $3.4 million to cover construction.

The nearly $6 million project was partly funded by the approval of a ballot proposition by Soldotna voters last month authorizing a $2.5 million bond.

"The rest of the project has to be funded from somewhere," Semmens said. "The state does have a library expansion program and last year there was significant funding for that program."

"We're hoping that there will be funding for libraries in this next state budget," he added.

Other projects on the list include improvements to Centennial Park water and sewer improvements for $810,000 as well as trail developments there for some $400,000.

"Due to the proximity to the river there it's our long-term goal to have water and sewer systems as opposed to typical private systems," he said. "If you had a sewer system down there it would be an upgrade for certain types of recreational campers."

The trail development in Centennial Park would mitigate erosion and aid in habitat protection.

"It's part of continuing efforts to protect the river," he said.

The city would also like some funding to finish improvements to the Soldotna airport's apron and lease lots.

"The airport apron expansion project is going to really kick off next construction season. This is just the next step in that airport plan," Semmens said.

The funding would create new apron space, develop it, pave it and divide it up, he explained.

"We've done things out there that are attractive to private pilots so we're hoping to continue to create opportunities for airplane owners at our airport," Semmens said.

The city is also hoping for half a million dollars for HVAC upgrades at the Soldotna Sports Center, some $100,00 to create a water and sewer master plan and nearly $730,00 for a water and sewer mainline installation on Soldotna Avenue.

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at brielle.schaeffer@peninsulaclarion.com.



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