Flowers bloom at Soldotna City Hall on Wednesday, June 24, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Flowers bloom at Soldotna City Hall on Wednesday, June 24, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Multiple public works projects underway in Soldotna

Soldotna City Council received an update on eight different projects

The Soldotna Public Works department gave an update on eight different projects at the Soldotna City Council meeting on Wednesday.

Kyle Kornelis, Soldotna Public Works director, and C.O. Rudstrom, project manager, briefed the council on high-profile projects like upgrades to the city airport and renovations to various municipal facilities, as well as other programs like city beautification.

Water treatment

Kornelis updated the council on three different water projects in Soldotna.

One is the Well E upgrade initiative, which replaces the current sanitation system to more effectively clean potable city water and create disinfectant.

Specifically, the water is cleaned with the an on-site sodium hypochlorite generation system, which Kornelis said takes salt water and electricity to create a disinfectant — sodium hypochlorite — both to ensure the well water itself is safe to drink and to use as bleach-style surface disinfectant.

The project was funded through the federal CARES program, and Kornelis said the project both mitigates the effects of COVID-19 in the city while also providing long-term benefit to Soldotna’s utility fund. He said city departments have already used some of the disinfectant when it was unavailable at the store due to high demand during the pandemic.

In addition to the Well E upgrade, the city is also on the final stage of its Wastewater Treatment Plant dewatering project.

Kornelis said a screw press mechanism, which is mostly automated, has been installed to treat the water at the landfill. The press squeezes sludge and semi-solid materials through rollers to extract water from the wastewater plant.

The new press is more cost-effective than the current system, which is a belt press technology that is outdated and more labor-intensive, he said.

“We went through a process and analyzed our specific sludge,” Kornelis told the council. “And the results of that analysis indicated that the screw press was probably the best option for us based on our needs.”

The watershed treatment project is ongoing. Kornelis said the department has issued proposals to obtain the new equipment.

Another is the Alaska Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit Project, which is part of a two-year watershed and wastewater treatment plant water sampling program — the first major step forward in analyzing the health of the city’s water.

Kornelis said Public Works has collaborated with the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Environmental Protection Agency for the initiative.

The sampling has provided the departments with data about aquatic life using a “complex algorithm” called the biotic ligand model, Kornelis said Wednesday. Currently, Public Works is exchanging reports and meeting with the agencies to analyze the findings of the samples in order to renew its permit, which sets the environmental regulations for both the watershed and the wastewater treatment plant.

“We are demonstrating what is and isn’t harmful to aquatic life based on the exact water quality makeup for our receiving waters,” Kornelis said during the council meeting. “We have been having meetings and working back and forth between our consultant (and) we’ve been advising the city.”

He said the sampling completion is “a huge milestone” for the project, and that Public Works is now just waiting on the permit.

City renovations

Large renovations are taking place at both the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex and Soldotna City Hall.

Rudstrom said some of the changes being made to the sports complex include replacing rusty exterior doors, re-tiling the showers in the locker room, updating the popcorn-style ceiling, remodeling the interior Parks and Recreation offices, and making the parking lot more compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Kornelis said the sports complex is also set to receive a new electronic readerboard to replace the current one along Kalifornsky Beach Road.

Construction is set to start in mid-May, Rudstrom said, and conclude before next winter.

City Hall will also be undergoing renovations to become more ADA accessible — including changes to the customer service area of the facility, offices and restrooms.

Kornelis said during the council meeting that while City Hall is ADA compliant, the project intends to make it even easier for people with disabilities to maneuver through the building.

With the project, he said Public Works wants to get to a place “where we don’t need to take any action in order to provide for the ADA-compliant services.”

The City Hall renovations are in the conceptual-level planning stage, Kornelis said.

Cemetery expansion

This summer will conclude Phase II of the Soldotna Community Memorial Parks expansion project, which seeks to add approximately 380 plots to the cemetery. Phase II is projected to provide enough space for about 20 years.

Rudstrom said Wednesday that part of the expansion has included removing mostly beetle-kill trees on the borough-owned parcel of land, new landscaping, the installation of a new waterline and surveying the plots.

Others

Kornelis and Rudstrom also discussed the completion of the downtown right of way beautification tree-planting project in Soldotna last summer, as well as improvements to the Soldotna Municipal Airport.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the council voted to accept a $32,000 grant from the American Rescue Plan Act to fund the airport improvements.

More information on the Soldotna Public Works projects can be found at soldotna.org/departments/public-works.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

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