Soldotna keeps capital projects in mind during budget process

The Soldotna City Council discussed future planning for capital improvement projects within the city as part of this year’s budget process, even as the likelihood of receiving state support for such projects remains slim.

Public Works Director Kyle Kornelis presented an updated version of the Five Year Capital Plan to the council in a work session before their May 24 meeting. The plan is a “living document” updated every year in the springtime, he said.

“The five-year capital plan is really just that — it’s five years’ worth of planning and capital expenditures and efforts, and as such it’s kind of a malleable plan that we do update and change every year as needs and issues arise and things change in the city,” he told the council.

Kornelis said in a later interview it’s important to recognize that the document doesn’t act as an appropriation of funds for projects, and that the projects listed in the five-year plan are not guaranteed to happen. However, the plan helps the city prioritize what improvements to its infrastructure are needed first, he said.

The projects in the document are listed by year and are separated in “essential” and “other” categories. This is a way of organizing the plan that’s new this year.

“We wanted to be able to … better delineate some of the priorities that we’ve identified in regard to capital projects,” Kornelis said.

A building roof, for example, has a specific lifespan and timeline that can give the city a good idea of exactly when it needs to be replaced, Kornelis said, so a project like that has a specific year on the plan.

The projects listed as essential for 2018 include improvements to the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex kitchen and phase two of the city’s Kobuk Street project. Work to improve Kobuk is broken out into four phases that extend into 2020. Projects viewed as essential in 2019 include the next Kobuk phase and providing Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant access to the mezzanine at the sports complex.

The five-year plan is a document made by the city in addition to a few other planning tools. The actual capital budget contains actual appropriations for project identified to move forward and be completed, Kornelis told the council, and city staff also put together a list of capital priorities for the state.

“We do a legislative capital priority list each year, as do most municipalities, with waning importance,” he said. “The results of that are diminishing in the last few years with no capital budget … but it’s …been a perennial capital plan document that we’ve done.”

Kornelis said the city can also sometimes take advantage of time-specific capital planning tools that become available.

“More recently, the state has noted there could be potential infrastructure stimulus-type funding in place in the future,” he said.

The state recently sent out a request for municipal or tribal infrastructure projects that might qualify for consideration by President Donald Trump’s administration, recognizing that Trump “has made investment in national infrastructure a priority,” according to the request.

In the absence of state funding for capital improvements, Kornelis said his department tries to maximize efficiencies in addition to prioritizing needs.

“There’s a number of people at the city that have been looking at different grant opportunities, just striving to find outside funding,” he said.

The council is set to adopt its budget for fiscal year 2018 at its June 14 meeting at Soldotna City Hall, at which there will be a public hearing.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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