Donning a festive, green holiday vest and a Christmas tie, Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey likened the city to a Christmas tree as he and other central Kenai Peninsula officials revisited the past year with area business people and gave them a look forward to 2004 and beyond.
Carey listed numerous 2003 additions and improvements in the city as its "ornaments," including the new Soldotna Professional Pharmacy, the new car wash being built next to Fred Meyer, the new Key Bank branch coming to the city and the new flower shop at the Soldotna "Y."
Carey also listed the Central Peninsula General Hospital expansion, the new Gottschalk's store and improvements at the Soldotna Sports Center and city water treatment facility as other ornaments.
"The tinsel would be that Soldotna has the third-largest chamber of commerce in the state, its many street-paving projects and the planned expansion at the airport," he said.
"And the star on top of the Christmas tree is the city's employees, including the new police chief and new city clerk.
"Soldotna is Christmas every day," he said.
Carey, Soldotna City Manager Tom Boedeker, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dale Bagley and CPGH Chief Executive Officer David Gilbreath all presented the past year's accomplishments during the regular luncheon meeting of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce at the Riverside House Restaurant on Tuesday.
Before Carey's spirited presentation, Bagley told the group that the big news in 2003 for the borough was landing the 2006 Arctic Winter Games and forming the nonprofit host society organization to prepare for producing the games.
Bagley also pointed to natural gas as being an important topic in 2003.
"We're starting to feel the impacts of low gas at Agrium. Natural gas will be big in the next year," Bagley said.
Bagley reported that the owners of the Kenai-Kachemak natural gas pipeline have applied to extend the pipeline by 15 miles; natural gas companies would increase exploration activity on the Kenai Peninsula; the federal government would be conducting lease sales for oil and natural gas along the Outer Continental Shelf, at least three miles off the peninsula shores of Cook Inlet; and the borough would continue lobbying for the natural gas pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to pass to the inlet.
The borough paved Edgington Avenue in Sterling as the first borough-owned road paved by the governing body, according to Bagley.
He said in the past, the state has paved state-owned roads within the borough and then turned them over to the borough, but the borough had not previously paved a borough-owned road.
After the meeting, Bagley said the borough would be doing more paving of borough-owned roads, but would not list any specifics.
He also explained that the particular type of paving projects he addressed did not include Road Improvement Assessment District paving projects such as the recently paved East Poppy Road RIAD.
Looking ahead, Bagley again mentioned the coming Arctic Winter Games and said a group of about 100 Kenai Peninsula residents will travel to the 2004 games in Canada from Feb. 28 to March 6.
He also said his hope for the Kenai Wild labeling project is that it will reward the fishing industry with better prices this summer.
Boedeker gave the business people an update on the Kenai River bridge project, saying bidding will be done in February with construction starting in May.
He said the most probable starting point would be to begin building a temporary, two-lane bridge, which would be used over two summers while the new five-lane highway bridge is being built.
"The temporary bridge will be ugly," he said.
However, when the new bridge is complete around June 15, 2006 it will improve traffic flow through Soldotna tremendously, he said.
Hospital CEO Gilbreath told the group he is happy the voting on the bond issue to expand the hospital is over and offered an update on the approved expansion.
"As early as this week, I expect the money will be coming in," he said.
"The (Kenai Peninsula Borough) Assembly is poised to award a design contract tonight (Tuesday)," he said.
He told the group that the hospital expansion project has been divided into three phases, the first of which clearing trees and running utility lines could begin as early as June 25.
Phase two the two-story building addition would begin Dec. 4, and phase three renovating the existing hospital is scheduled for completion by December 2006.
In conjunction with the building project, Gilbreath said the hospital would be incorporating the Planetree philosophy of patient-centered health care.
"Planetree humanizes and demystifies health care for patients and their families. They become part of the healing process," he said.
He explained that because health-care facility architecture has an impact on patient health, it is part of Planetree.
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