The governor's pledge to hold the line on cities' public employee retirement contribution rates was welcome news to Soldotna leaders, but they aren't ready to forgive the $1.3 million the city already paid into the fund.
The Soldotna City Council on Wednesday asked City Manager Tom Boedeker to prepare a city resolution seeking assistance from Juneau crediting the city for its advance payment toward its estimated unfunded liability in the PERS account.
"Gov. (Sarah) Palin said the rate cities have to pay this year remains at 22 percent," Boedeker told council members, adding that is the same rate being applied to all municipalities, whether they made advance payments or not.
"That means we don't get any credit for the $1.3 million," he said.
Mayor Dave Carey said, additionally, had the city not made the payment, the money could have remained in the bank earning interest for the citizens of Soldotna.
Boedeker said he would bring a resolution back to the council for consideration at its next meeting and he suggested council members continually remind legislators, including Rep. Kurt Olson and Sen. Tom Wagoner, of Soldotna's advance payment.
Carey opened Wednesday's council meeting with a remembrance for the crew and patient on the LifeGuard medevac helicopter that apparently crashed into Prince William Sound Dec. 3 while transporting the patient from Cordova to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.
A procession and memorial service are planned for Saturday afternoon from Central Emergency Services to Soldotna Bible Chapel. A CES paramedic, Cameron Carter, was aboard the Central Peninsula Hospital-based helicopter.
Soldotna Police Sgt. Robbie Quelland told the council he is working with CES to designate a suitable route for the procession.
"We don't want something nice to turn into something bad," he said, referring to potentially disruptive road closures that would be created by selecting the wrong route. Quelland said as many as 60 fire trucks from departments throughout Southcentral Alaska are expected to take part in the procession honoring their fallen comrades.
In other action, the council set a public hearing for Dec. 26 on an ordinance giving council members and Planning and Zoning commission members a pay raise. If approved, council members' pay would go from $50 to $250 per month and planning commissioners would be paid $75 for each regular meeting they attend, not to exceed two per month. Currently, planning commission members receive $25 per meeting.
The council also approved creating a full-time city planner position in Soldotna.
Boedeker said the city is facing a number of issues requiring an additional amount of professional training that a full-time planner would bring. On the city's horizon are a number of annexation proposals as well as central city development projects.
"It's time to move to the next step," Boedeker said. He also said funding for the position is available in this year's budget by way of unexpended funds for the special projects assistant to the city manager position vacated recently by Leila Kimbrell.
At its last council meeting, Councilman Peter Micciche suggested the city double the amount of Kenai Peninsula Borough funding assistance it is requesting to pay for hiring someone to create a new comprehensive plan.
Micciche suggested asking for $50,000 rather than $25,000. His motion received unanimous approval from the four council members present. Jim Stogsdill and Shane Horan were on excused absence.
Having attended the most recent Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, Councilman Ed Sleater reported that the group "hoped we can get a cemetery site picked soon."
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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