Soldotna to seek public input on annexation

Some concerned Kenai Peninsula Borough residents got a head start weighing in on the city of Soldotna’s latest efforts to explore annexation of surrounding areas Wednesday night.

The Soldotna City Council introduced an ordinance at its Wednesday meeting on its consent agenda that would appropriate $100,000 from the general fund to the small capital projects fund “for the purpose of entering into a contract with a public engagement consultant” to gather community input on the idea of annexation, according to the ordinance text.

The city previously contracted with Northern Economics, an Anchorage consulting firm, to get an analysis of the fiscal impact annexation of certain areas around Soldotna would have. That report looked at nine areas around the city and was presented to the council in June. It is available on the city’s website. Now, the city would like to hear comments, questions and concerns about annexation from the public in regard to those areas.

“The consultant would assist in both designing and implementing a process to achieve broad public input not only in the areas being considered for annexation, but among City residents as well,” wrote City Planner John Czarnezki and Director of Economic Development and Planning Stephanie Queen in a memo to City Manager Mark Dixson about the ordinance.

Several borough residents attended the meeting and spoke against annexation, citing previous efforts by the city council to address annexation in the past. Alaska Berries owner Brian Olson said he feels the frustrations of the public in regard to annexation efforts have fallen on deaf ears. Another borough resident, Steve Wright, said previous mayors of Soldotna had assured borough residents that proposed annexation of an area would be put to a vote, and that he hasn’t heard a similar assurance from the current mayor and council.

“We should have the right to vote yes or no,” he said.

Vice Mayor Linda Murphy cautioned during her council comments at the end of the meeting against people getting too upset or worried at this stage, as the city council is looking to enter a phase of gathering public opinion before moving forward.

“Whatever the outcome, I will never, ever vote to annex a neighborhood if the people in the neighborhood do not want to be annexed,” she said. “(It) still might be annexed because I’m only one vote, but I have said that from the beginning and I think most of the council feels that way. Why would we want to annex a group of people when the majority of those people don’t want to be in the city? And I think that is why we want the public outreach, to see exactly how may people are out there objecting to annexation, and in fact it could be that your area isn’t even economically viable to bring into the city.”

Olson commented that spending $100,000 on the contract with a consultant would be a waste of money and encouraged input gathering and connecting with borough residents in a way that could be done for free. He said borough residents who are against annexation have been holding meetings for a year and a half and expressed frustration that city council members have not attended.

“Why can’t we get together at the (Soldotna Regional Sports Complex) once a month with these groups and do it neighbor to neighbor and say, ‘What are these issues?’” Olson said.

The ordinance will be up for public hearing at the Dec. 14 council meeting at Soldotna City Hall.

Megan Pacer can be reached at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Dr. Kim Thiele stands by a wall of newspaper clippings and images of family members and precursors in his office near Kenai on Monday. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
‘A ministry for me’

Kalifornsky doctor wraps up career after 44 years

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, listens to testimony during a Senate Community and Regional Affairs Committee hearing on Thursday in Juneau. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Bjorkman game seizure bill received warmly in Senate committee

Of the roughly 150 animals the department takes each year, an average of between one and two are determined to be wrongfully seized

A collage of photos of Nikiski North Star Elementary students taking swimming lessons at the Nikiski Pool. (Photo collages provided by Nikiski North Star Elementary)
Community effort puts 200 Nikiski North Star students through swimming lessons

The lessons covered “everything,” from basic flotation to constructing rough-but-functional life jackets out of clothing

From left, Rep. Andi Story, D-Juneau, hugs Rep. Stanley Wright, R-Anchorage, after House passage of sweeping education legislation while Rep. Maxine Dibert, D-Fairbanks, watches on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
House passes BSA increase, with other education provisions

The bill now goes back to the Senate, where lawmakers must approve the bill as-is before it can head to the governor’s desk

Rep. Justin Ruffridge speaks about
House considers, rejects multiple school funding amendments during Wednesday floor debate

Over several hours, lawmakers considered six different increases in the Base Student Allocation to public schools

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan addresses members of the Alaska Legislature in the House chambers on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
Dismissing critics, Sullivan touts LNG project

During his annual address to the Alaska Legislature on Wednesday, the U.S. senator said state leaders should be doing everything they can to make the project successful

From left, Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, east side setnetter Ken Coleman and Konrad Jackson present information about a bill establishing a voluntary buyback program for east side setnet fishery permits during a Senate Finance Committee meeting on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Senate committee hears setnet buyback bill

The East Side of Cook Inlet Set Net Fleet Reduction Act is sponsored by Nikiski Sen. Jesse Bjorkman

Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, speaks in support of debating an omnibus education bill in the Alaska House Chambers on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024 in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Tie vote kills early House debate on education funding

Lawmakers went into an hourslong recess that ended with adjournment until Tuesday morning

Most Read