The Soldotna City Council on Wednesday evening gave the go-ahead to the state for the design and construction of a walking trail from Soldotna Creek Park to Binkley Circle, near the Aspen Hotel.
The council unanimously approved authorizing City Manager Tom Boedeker to enter into an agreement with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and the Department of Natural Resources to complete bank restoration design and a walking trail along the Kenai River.
Boedeker said DOT would handle the design of the walking trail, which is planned to be built on a terrace approximately eight feet below the top surface of the land overlooking the river. Construction is expected to begin next year.
A conceptual plan for the trail, submitted by Soldotna's Parks and Recreation Department, calls for the construction of two sets of stairs to provide access to the trail. Another set of stairs already exists, leading down from Soldotna Creek Park to a boardwalk that extends to the mouth of the creek.
One of the additional stairways will be built downstream from the existing steps and the other will be midway along the new trail, about halfway between the park and the Davis Block Company storage yard.
A letter to the council from Parks and Recreation noted a need for the stairs to have a minimal aesthetic impact on property owners across the Kenai River and boaters on the river.
Although the council had earlier discussed whether to allow public fishing from the new trail, the issue was not brought up Wednesday. By including the stairways, the public will continue having access to fishing in the river, according to Boedeker.
In other council action, the city manager was authorized to advertise for sale a piece of city-owned property at the corner of Marydale Avenue and Fireweed Street.
Before approving council member Sharon Moock's motion on the sale, Council member Jim Stogsdill reminded the group that the city originally purchased the land with the intent that it be used for some medical purpose because of its close proximity to Central Peninsula General Hospital.
He asked that Moock's motion be amended to include a two-year restriction, insisting the purchaser uses the land in that manner.
Council member Scott McLane then spoke in opposition to the sale, saying with the planned expansion of the hospital, the land's value would be sure to increase beyond the suggested minimum sale price of $245,000.
However, Moock insisted the city never intended to acquire the land for its investment value, and with three potential bidders already expressing interest in the land, it would soon be generating revenue by being placed on the city's tax rolls.
"It costs us to hold it," Moock said.
"The city has a lot to gain by moving city property to someone who wants to develop it," she said.
During Mayor Dave Carey's report to the council, he announced that the city's holiday tree-lighting ceremony will be at 6 p.m. Dec. 11 at Parker Park.
Carey extended an invitation to all members of the community to attend, and after hearing comments about cold temperatures prevailing during the past two such ceremonies, he jokingly ordered warmer weather for Dec. 11.
Boedeker told council members that he has had discussions with the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce and the Kenai River Sport Fishing Association regarding the possible relocation of the visitors center and chamber offices. The discussions were very preliminary, he said.
The city manager also reported that after attending the Alaska Municipal League meeting in Nome, he anticipates increases in costs of health care insurance and wages for collective bargaining unit employees in the year ahead.
In his report to the council, Police Chief John Lucking Jr. said two new police officers would be graduating from the academy in Sitka Thursday and would begin a three-month training period in the city. He also announced that Officer Greg Landeis, who has been with the department for nearly 10 years, would be leaving on medical retirement Dec. 1.
Members of the council welcomed newly appointed City Clerk Teresa Fahning and student representative to the council, Kaitlin Vadla. Vadla invited the members to an education open forum at Soldotna High School at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
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