The City of Soldotna’s disaster declaration was extended to the end of the year following a unanimous council vote in support at the Oct. 14 meeting.
In addition to activating the city’s response plan, the disaster declaration, which was made on March 19, made Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen “principal executive officer” for the duration of the declaration. After the federal CARES Act was signed into law on March 27, Queen said one of the ways she exercised the authority granted to her by the disaster declaration was to spend funds granted to the city. At the Wednesday meeting, Queen said that the city is still responding to COVID-19 and focusing on using CARES Act funds, which must be spent by Dec. 30.
“We anticipate needing to be in that kind of response mode at least through the next 90 days, which is the effective date of this ordinance,” Queen said.
The resolution originally extended the declaration by 90 days, which Queen said is the maximum amount of time the city council can extend the declaration. That means it would have expired on Jan. 18, 2021, however some didn’t support extending the deadline for so long.
Tamara Miller, who spoke later in the meeting as a representative of the Kenai Peninsula Hockey Association, said that she thinks it is important that the city start moving out of emergency mode and begin thinking about how they will operate without extra funding.
“We just really need to start heading in that direction,” Miller said. “I would just implore you guys to change that or at least to start the conversation of ‘when are we going to quit extending this?’ ”
City Council Members Lisa Parker and Justin Ruffridge said they agreed that it was a good idea for the city to begin looking ahead.
“I also think that there is a responsibility sort of to progress through some of the stages that we will need to be cognizant of as we decide how to proceed out of this,” Ruffridge said, adding that he would support changing the extension.
Council Member Jordan Chilson proposed amending the resolution so that the expiration date more closely aligned with the CARES Act deadline, which would allow Queen to exercise her procurement authority but the declaration wouldn’t need to stretch into next year.
All members who were present at the meeting voted in favor of amending the expiration date and of the resolution as amended.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org