Soldotna Vice Mayor Lisa Parker speaks during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna Vice Mayor Lisa Parker speaks during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna looks to outsource grant-writing labor

The city wants to maximize funding opportunities made available through the federal government

The City of Soldotna will work to outsource grant-writing consulting services as a way to ensure the city maximizes funding opportunities made available through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, following unanimous approval of the move by the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed last year, includes $550 billion in new spending on infrastructure over five years.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski helped lead a bipartisan cohort that worked to advance the bill and has spoken many times about the benefits Alaska could see as a result. She’s placed particular emphasis on $42 billion the legislation makes available in grants for broadband deployment on top of billions for highway funding and bridge repair.

Soldotna Mayor Paul Whitney said during a Wednesday night meeting of the city council that after reviewing the more than 450-page guide to the legislation, it became clear to both he and City Manager Stephanie Queen that the city would benefit from additional assistance with navigating funding opportunities.

“It became a little obvious that it’s very complicated and it would probably take someone on staff full-time as an employee to wade through it,” Whitney said.

Queen wrote in a Feb. 11 memo to the city council that the funding opportunities available through the bill have been called “once-in-a-generation” and that many priority projects outlined in the city’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan are likely to be eligible for funding.

“The scale of these federal programs is staggering,” Queen wrote.

The resolution approved Wednesday gives Queen the authority to put out a request for proposals for grant-writing consulting services, and says it is in the best interest of the city to “leverage additional expertise” when drafting and submitting proposals.

“To ensure the City of Soldotna is in the best possible position to benefit from this historic opportunity, we need to increase our capacity to both identify grant programs that fit our project priorities, and draft and submit competitive applications,” Queen wrote.

Among other things, the contract sought by the city would include regular updates on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, tracking communications and deadlines, researching program eligibility and developing funding strategies for different projects, on top of actually developing and submitting grant proposals, Queen wrote.

She added that Soldotna is able to use money received through the American Rescue Plan Act that hasn’t been spent yet for the position. Through the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, passed last year, the City of Soldotna received about $1.14 million.

Those funds, Queen wrote, can be used to cover expenses related to the grant-writing consulting contract and noted the total budget would likely be tied to the number of grants identified and pursued.

Capital improvement projects are usually one-time expenditures that cost more than $50,000 and result in a “tangible fixed asset.” Projects can either focus on the city’s immediate needs or anticipate future needs, according to city documentation.

The Capital Improvement Plan adopted by the Soldotna City Council last summer identifies about $1.06 million in projects for the current fiscal year — July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022 — that would be paid for from the city’s general fund.

Those projects include, among other things, $250,000 for the construction of public parking in downtown Soldotna, $45,000 to purchase and install rubber mulch at Farnsworth Park for fall protection and $15,000 to provide an off-street grass field at Riverview Park.

Projects identified as priorities by the city for later fiscal years include nearly $2 million to reconstruct Marydale Avenue from Kenai Spur Highway to Kobuk Street, $5 million to expand the conference center at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex and $300,000 to replace the playground equipment at Soldotna Creek Park.

Wednesday’s city council meeting can be viewed on the city’s website at soldotna.org.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

Soldotna Public Works Director Kyle Kornelis attends a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna Public Works Director Kyle Kornelis attends a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna City Council members Dan Nelson (right) and Jordan Chilson (left) attend a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna City Council members Dan Nelson (right) and Jordan Chilson (left) attend a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna City Council member Dave Carey speaks during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna City Council member Dave Carey speaks during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna City Council member Justin Ruffridge speaks during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna City Council member Justin Ruffridge speaks during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna Mayor Paul Whitney speaks during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna Mayor Paul Whitney speaks during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

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