Soldotna City Hall is seen on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna City Hall is seen on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna to end Zoom access for meetings

Soldotna Mayor Paul Whitney wrote in a June 23 memo to the council that the need for video conferencing had decreased.

Individuals looking to testify at Soldotna city council meetings will have to do so in person following approval of the discontinuation of the city’s Zoom services by the council during their June 23 meeting.

The city introduced two-way video conferencing through Zoom for meetings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Soldotna City Clerk Shellie Saner said earlier this year that Soldotna’s Zoom subscription costs the city about $3,100 annually. Soldotna’s Zoom Meetings Pro subscription included a video webinar that could host up to 500 participants and toll-free call in for audio conferencing, in addition to regular Zoom services.

The city was one of many peninsula municipalities that used the remote conferencing platform for meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Zoom is also currently used by the City of Kenai and by the Kenai Peninsula Borough. Kenai Peninsula Borough Clerk Johni Blankenship has said that the borough plans to continue offering Zoom participation during borough meetings. The City of Seward announced in April that Zoom participation would no longer be offered for city meetings.

Soldotna Mayor Paul Whitney wrote in a June 23 memo to the council that the need for video conferencing had decreased.

“The conditions that generated the need for two-way video conferencing have subsided, vaccinations are now available and public participation through video conferencing has decreased substantially, with no public interaction through zoom during the last three meetings,” Whitney says in the memo.

Whitney said during Wednesday’s meeting that discontinuing Zoom service will also eliminate the need to open up public comment periods both to people on Zoom and to people attending in person and that the council will return to regular seating for their next meeting.

“Everyone will be back sitting up here like we had a year ago,” Whitney said. “We’ll be next to each other and we won’t be shouting across the room to hear each other. One of the best parts of this is that I will be able to end the Zoom comments.”

Soldotna toggled between holding meetings in person and holding meetings remotely, depending on the community’s COVID-19 risk level. A resolution introduced by council member Justin Ruffridge in April said that the council would operate in person, even if the community’s COVID risk level was high.

In addition to suspending Zoom service, the Soldotna Council Chambers will also be reconfigured such that seating arrangements return to pre-COVID times. Council, city administration and audience member seating was socially distanced during the council’s June 23 meeting.

Because the installation of video cameras in the conference chambers was permanent, city council livestreams will include video as well as audio. Soldotna City Council meetings can be viewed on the city’s website at

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at

More in News

Ryan Tunks works at the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management on Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn OՈara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘The first, first responders’

Dispatchers hope service isn’t lost in political dispute

FILE - In this March 12, 2020 file photo, Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, addresses reporters at a news conference in Anchorage, Alaska. Alaska on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, reported its highest number of new COVID-19 cases, a day after the state’s largest hospital announced it had entered crisis protocol and began rationing care. When many people become ill at the same time, it overwhelms the state’s health care system. "And then we start to see excess mortality where more people dying from other things such as heart attacks and strokes and car accidents and bear maulings or whatever else happens," Zink said. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)
Zink: Health care workers face increasing hostility

Health care professionals with the state have borne the brunt of scrutiny… Continue reading

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccination drive-thru clinic at Evraz Place in Regina on Thursday, April 15, 2021. Saskatchewan’s only children’s hospital is opening its pediatric intensive care unit to younger adults who have COVID-19 as the province runs out of critical care beds. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor
Weekly vaccine lottery winners announced

The Alaska Chamber of Commerce announced the second week’s lottery winners Thursday,… Continue reading

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
State reports 7 recent COVID-19 deaths

The state Department of Health and Social Services reported another seven recent… Continue reading

Skilak Lake can be seen from Hideout Trail in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on July 5, 2020, in Alaska. (Photograph by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Refuge cancels ‘Fall Fun Day’ due to state of COVID

Peninsula Clarion The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge canceled its weekend “Fall Fun… Continue reading

Ahlberg to take over as OEM manager

Brenda Ahlberg is the new emergency manager for the Kenai Peninsula Borough.… Continue reading

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Nikiski North Star goes to universal masks

Universal indoor masking for staff and students was instituted at Nikiski North… Continue reading

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Another COVID death, more than 1,200 new cases reported statewide

Statewide, there were 213 COVID-related hospitalizations as of Wednesday.

Candidates for Soldotna City Council attend a forum at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna council candidates discuss city development, COVID response at forum

Jordan Chilson, Erick Hugarte, Dan Nelson and Micah Shields participated in the event.

Most Read