Correction: This article has been edited to reflect the correct date of the special election, March 5, 2019. The Clarion regrets the error.
Soldotna will hold a special election on March 5, 2019, to ask the voters if the city should borrow $10 million in the form of a bond.
At their meeting Wednesday night, the Soldotna City Council passed a collection of ordinances and resolutions to approve the March 2019 special election where Soldotna residents will decide if the city should borrow $10 million for the field house. If the measure passes, the city’s sales tax would increase by a half percent to cover the debt.
The total cost of the project is estimated at $11.8 million dollars. If the bond was approved, $10 million will be financed through debt of a general obligation bond, with the remaining covered by private funders, donations, grants or, if needed, funds previously authorized by the city council.
The city would take on a 10-year bond with an interest rate between 3 and 3.5 percent. It would be paid off in 10 years with 10 annual payments.
The half-percent sales tax increase would cover that debt, increasing the tax from 3 percent to 3.5 percent.
The city could cover the cost of the field house with the city’s fund balance, but City Manager Stephanie Queen explained that wouldn’t be financially prudent.
“In our long-term investment account, we’re earning about 6 percent and that’s projected to continue into the future,” Queen said. “Our long-term investment will continue to return above 6 percent, so by borrowing this money we’ll leave the cash that have invested and earning.”
Some council members expressed concern with a special election, specifically related to the additional costs a special election would incur, but Queen said the March 2019 election leads to an ideal time line for the field house’s construction.
“We’re recommending a special election in March … It gives us the opportunity to be part of the bond issuance potentially in May or June for a project that is 95 percent designed. We could get started on construction in the summer and it could move pretty quickly.”
The field house project has been in the works in Soldotna for nearly a decade. The nearly completed designs were influenced by local stakeholders and community members who helped define the scope of the project and what the community needs are.
The approximately 42,000-square-foot metal building would be connected to the current sports complex and offer a variety of recreation options for the community. The building could hold three high school basketball courts, eight large wrestling mats or nine pickleball courts, Queen said. It will also house a removable turf field. The second floor of the field house would include an indoor track, with eight laps equalling 1 mile.
“So folks can recreate and exercise while activities are going on below and the removable turf allows us to use that space for other large events adjacent with the sports center, such as trade shows,” Queen said.
Public comments at Wednesday’s meeting were mixed, but a majority of comments from the public and city council were in favor of the field house project.
“I think it’s a great project,” said Council Member Paul Whitney. “I think there are a lot of adults and kids who would use it … I think it will be utilized by people and we would be able to do events down here instead of always travelling up there (to Anchorage) … I can’t see waiting any longer. We’ve been sitting on this for nearly 10 years.”
Reach Kat Sorensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.