Soldotna identified an expansion to the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex as its top capital project for the fiscal year 2016.
City council member Pete Sprague said he would like to see the 2016 fiscal year legislative priorities list formatted so that the funding request for the complex expansion would be designated a regional project.
“The regional sports center complex is a center piece for many different public functions,” Sprague said. “I would like the list at least formatted so that it is a standalone project.”
The project would include a renovation of the existing facility. The total cost, originally estimated at $17 million, is now closer to $10.4 million, City Manager Mark Dixson said in a previous Clarion interview.
Soldotna requested $5.9 million from the state for the expansion, according to the priorities list submitted by Engineer Kyle Kornelis.
The list is submitted to the Kenai Peninsula Borough for inclusion in their federal and state requests, Kornelis said. Of the 20 that made the list, projects were divided into two categories, those costing more than $100,000 and smaller projects that require less than $100,000.
The city will also support Department of Transportation projects within or just around Soldotna city limits, Kornelis said.
Council member Linda Murphy said she had reservations about listing the expansion as the city’s top priority, because of the state’s limited budget flexibility.
Murphy said she felt the project was something the city wanted, but was not an immediate need. She said she is curious what supplemental funding will come from the state or borough to offset the added annual costs, which will likely be close to $500,000 in maintenance and operations.
Mayor Nels Anderson said the city has only been discussing the potential for the borough to fund a portion of the yearly costs. He said nothing has been ratified or outlined, but the assembly has said it wanted to assist financially.
Now that the local election season is over those talks will resume, Anderson said.
Dixson said he has spoken with Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre, Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, Kurt Olson, R-Soldotna, and House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski who are all in favor of designating the expansion as a regional project.
“It is a regional project that the city of Soldotna supports, not only for the city but for the region itself,” Dixson said. “The city is going to be saddled with the burden of operating and maintaining the complex.”
Dixson said the governor may consider allocating funding for the project because the complex could function as a command center or shelter in the case of a natural disaster, such as the Funny River Horse Trail wildfire.
The city submitted their list of projects early to increase the probability that they may receive funding on the state level, Dixson said.
Placing a project as a top priority does mean the city is placing extra emphasis on the urgency in the funding request, Kornelis said. The projects lower on the list can be more interchangeably carried out, he said. “There is some credence to the very top of the list,” Kornelis said. “Projects further down the list can be funded any different manner of ways.”
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