One question facing the Soldotna City Council tonight may find its answer in the unusually warm and snowless winter the central Kenai Peninsula is experiencing.
After meeting with Parks and Recreation officials, City Manager Tom Boedeker wants to know whether to buy ski hill insurance this year and open the skill hill or keep the attraction closed pending further feasibility study.
Without snow, the issue is moot. Last year, the ski hill was open only 18 days, Boedeker said on Tuesday.
With liability insurance alone costing the city $16,000 per year, "this gets especially expensive," Parks and Rec Director Andrew Carmichael said in a memo to the council and Mayor Dave Carey.
Since the ski hill opened, weather has not allowed the city to operate it more than 60 days in any given season.
Even though the hill is not equipped with a rope tow or with snow-making equipment, Boedeker said operating expenses add about $14,000 to the cost of running the ski hill each year.
"They use their snowmachine to drag a grooming (attachment) across the hill, but even that doesn't do a great job," he said of Parks and Rec efforts to make the hill more attractive.
Skiers and snowboarders must hike up the hill in order to ski or ride down, and on occasion, city workers have cut steps into the snow to make the climb easier.
On any given day, though, the hill attracts fewer than 20 users, said Carmichael, including users of the sledding hill.
City administrators are seeking direction from the city council as to whether adding snow-making equipment and a rope tow should be considered, whether the ski hill should continue to be operated as at present, or if it should be shut down.
Boedeker said if the ski hill is closed and ski hill insurance is not purchased, other city insurance does cover the sledding hill.
The current ski hill insurance coverage runs out Dec. 12.
The city council tonight also is expected to consider authorizing a 30-year lease with the Kenai Watershed Forum for the "White House" and adjoining property in Soldotna Creek Park.
KWF plans to use the building as its office and educational facility for teaching conservation methods particularly to young people.
The building had been deeded to the city by the state Department of Transportation along with the open grassy area of Soldotna Creek Park, and was used temporarily by the city for its Parks and Rec director's residence. It has since been declared surplus.
Under a proposed agreement, the city would allow KWF to use the building in exchange for making renovations and routine repairs and maintenance.
Also on the council's agenda tonight is an agreement with the Kenai Peninsula Borough to allow an easement needed for an additional city water well to be drilled near Well-house C between Soldotna High School and Soldotna Middle School.
The council meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.
Phil Hermanek can be reached at email@example.com.
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