Soldotna simplifies code enforcement

The Soldotna City Council has updated its code to simplify enforcing city ordinances.

Council members unanimously enacted an ordinance at their Wednesday meeting that changes the language of the code’s enforcement chapter and updates the city’s fine schedule.

“What this does is it brings our code into conformity with the Alaska Rules of Minor Offense (Procedure) so that the court system can now process our citations,” City Manager Mark Dixson told the council.

No changes to actual rules were made, but rather to the way they are enforced to make it more simple, he said. The Rules of Minor Offense Procedure were adopted by the Alaska Court System in 2013, and the court system does not process citations of ordinances that are not consistent with the new rules, Patrick Munson, from the city’s attorney’s office, wrote in a memo to the council.

Minor offenses that would violate city code include things like parking, smoking and public nuisance violations.

The City of Soldotna will now be the prosecuting entity when someone commits a minor offense, meaning it would be a Soldotna Police Department officer or other city official who would issue the citation. Any fines associated with the minor offense will then go to the city, not the state, according to the memo.

“One of the reasons that we are doing this is that the District Attorney’s office is so swamped and understaffed and has had their budget cut considerably that they are dismissing a lot of the low-level misdemeanors,” Dixson told the council. “And with those low-level misdemeanors we can also issue a citation, and that citation will then go through this process and the city rather than the state would be receiving the fines for those.”

Soldotna Police Chief Peter Mlynarik, who Dixson said worked with city staff to bring about the code update, clarified that minor offenses will not be cited under both state statute and city ordinance.

“The language of those (minor offenses) mimics the state statute,” Mlynarik told the council. “So it gives us the opportunity to charge them under a violation, or if we deemed it necessary we could still use a state statute and charge it as a misdemeanor crime.”

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