The Soldotna City Council receives a presentation from their auditors on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, via Zoom. (Screenshot)

The Soldotna City Council receives a presentation from their auditors on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, via Zoom. (Screenshot)

Seward to stop using Zoom for public meetings

The borough, in contrast, has no plans to phase out Zoom services.

The City of Seward announced last week that the city would no longer offer Zoom as a way for the public to participate in city council meetings and work sessions. A press release sent by Seward City Clerk Brenda Ballou said the decision was made in response to the reallowance of members of the public to attend those meetings in person with COVID-19 mitigation protocols.

Zoom, a software company founded in 2011 that became a dominant platform for remote gatherings during the pandemic, has been used by the Kenai Peninsula Borough and its cities over the last year.

Seward City Municipal Clerk Jessica Stallard said Thursday that the city paid just under $1,900 for a year of Zoom services, which was a discounted rate.

“It is my understand[ing] that it was only a special provision made due to COVID, and now that the meetings are open to the public again, it was decided that Zoom was no longer needed,” Stallard said via email.

People interested in participating in meetings remotely are able to listen to the meeting on the radio and on television or watch on the city’s YouTube channel. Those looking to provide public comment must email written comments to the clerk in advance, call into the meeting or give testimony over the phone.

The borough, in contrast, has no plans to phase out Zoom services.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Clerk Johni Blankenship said Thursday that the borough intends to use Zoom “for the foreseeable future.” Part of the appeal, Blankenship said, is that it allows for the borough’s diverse communities to participate in borough meetings from home.

“We have been seeking a remote participation solution for years for those members of the public and for staff,” Blankenship said. “COVID and Zoom have offered us that solution and our remodel has complete integration with the Zoom technology.”

A full remodel of the borough assembly chambers was completed earlier this year and included a new configuration of the assembly dais and the installation of new camera equipment and video monitors.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough spends about $1,300 monthly for Zoom service, $150 of which, Borough IT Director Ben Hanson said, is used to allow for remote participation during assembly meetings. The rest, Hanson said, goes toward borough use of Zoom services for other operations.

In the cities of Kenai and Soldotna, the future of Zoom participation is unclear.

Kenai City Clerk Jamie Heinz said Thursday that the city hasn’t thought about how much longer they will offer remote Zoom participation. Currently, the city has been following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance in its council chambers, which are currently open for members of the public who want to attend in person. Quarters are tight, though. Heinz said that the chambers can only fit 17 people while adhering to social distancing, and that includes city administration and council members.

Heinz said the city pays $1,850 annually for its Zoom subscription, which includes Heinz’s user account, a Zoom room and audio conferencing. That configuration is used for city council and commission meetings.

“We have been putting plans in place where needed, to extend some of the measures we’ve taken, beyond the possible expiration of an emergency declaration, so formal action may be taken in the future,” Heinz said Thursday.

The City of Soldotna pays $3,100 annually for Zoom Meetings Pro, City Clerk Shellie Saner said Thursday. The city’s subscription includes a video webinar that can host up to 500 participants and toll-free call in for audio conferencing in addition to regular Zoom services.

Saner said the city plans to continue offering remote participation through Zoom until the council makes a decision saying otherwise, which they have not discussed. The council only recently resumed in-person council meetings with COVID mitigation protocols observed.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at

More in News

Alaska Rep. David Eastman, a Republican from Wasilla, sits at his desk on the Alaska House floor in Juneau, Alaska, on March 5, 2020. Alaska lawmakers are discussing whether to sanction Eastman who is also a member of the Oath Keepers far-right paramilitary organization according to the Anchorage Daily News. Eastman, who is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, confirmed with the Associated Press, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, that he joined the Oath Keepers a little over 12 years ago, “along with 38,000 others who have committed to honoring oaths we have taken.” (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File)
State lawmaker could be sanctioned over Oath Keeper ties

Eastman was identified as a “life member” of the Oath Keepers last year

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
As cases surge, public health officials contemplate how to live with virus

Contact tracing and data collection will have to be reworked if COVID is here to stay

Upper Cook Inlet Exclusive Economic Zone can be seen on this map provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (Image via
Soldotna approves filing of EEZ lawsuit brief

The lawsuit seeks to reopen commercial salmon fishing in the Upper Cook Inlet Exclusive Economic Zone

University of Alaska Interim President Pat Pitney, bottom left, spoke to UA students in a virtual forum on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, and was joined by several UA administrators including UA Southeast President Karen Carey, bottom left, and UA Anchorage Vice Chancellor Bruce Schultz, top left. At top right, an American Sign Language professional provides translation services. (Screenshot)
UA President: University has turned a corner on funding

System sees modest increase in budget for first time in years

Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer; Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna; Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak and Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, spoke to reporters Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, immediately following Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s State of the State address. Members of the Senate Republican leadership said they appreciated the governor’s optimism, and hoped it signaled a better relationship between the administration and the Legislature. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Lawmakers welcome tone change in governor’s address

With caveats on financials, legislators optimistic about working together

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID deaths, hospitalizations climb statewide

The total number of statewide COVID deaths is nearly equivalent to the population of Funny River.

A fisher holds a reel on the Kenai River near Soldotna on June 30, 2021. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Restrictions on sport fishing announced

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced summer sport fishing regulations Wednesday

Community agencies administer social services to those in need during the Project Homeless Connect event Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
‘It’s nice to be able to help folks’

Project Homeless Connect offers services, supplies to those experiencing housing instability

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce attends the March 2, 2021, borough assembly meeting at the Betty J. Glick Assembly Chambers at the Borough Administration Building in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Former talk-show host to manage Pierce gubernatorial campaign

Jake Thompson is a former host of KSRM’s Tall, Dark and Handsome Show and Sound-off talk-show

Most Read