Board Shake-ups at Buccaneer Continue

The role of the jack-up rig Endeavour in Buccaneer's portfolio was a source of contention this summer when two Singapore-based firms installed three new board members. (Photo courtesy Bill Smith)

The Board of Directors for Buccaneer Energy has a new look again, just weeks after an attempt to overtake the Board by two Singapore-based investment companies was only partially successful.


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In a press release, the company announced three of the six Board members resigned effective August 14th. Nicholas Davies, Clinton Adams and Shaun Scott  had only been on the Board since July 2nd, when they were nominated by Pacific Hill International and Harbour Sun Limited, both based in Singapore. Those two companies hold approximately five and a half percent of the Buccaneer’s issued capital funds.

The Board split earlier this summer was about Buccaneer’s future plans for the jack-up rig Endeavour. The Singapore faction felt the focus should narrow to onshore development of natural gas, while the rest of the Board, which includes Buccaneer founder and CEO Curtis Burton and executive chairmen Dean Gallegos supported using Endeavour in Cook Inlet.

Now, Buccaneer will enlist the help of a search firm to find a new Board member. It will also have to work out another Board appointee with yet another investment firm. Meridian Capital, which has an almost twenty percent interest in Buccaneer, gets to appoint its own nominee as part of the deal it signed back in June.

That Buccaneer’s board is in a prolonged game of musical chairs should be of interest to Alaska taxpayers. They’re one of the company’s partners by way of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority. AIDEA has invested more than $23 million into Kenai Offshore Ventures, which co-owns Endeauvour with Buccaneer and another investment company, Ezion, which took a 50% interest in Kenai Offshore Ventures when it signed on in 2011.

-Shaylon Cochran/KDLL-

Kardinals Fly Over Bulldogs 51-16 In First Game At New Ed Hollier Field

Long-time Kardinal announcer Dale Sandahl gives a brief history of Ed Hollier Field at a rededication ceremony Saturday.

Touted as one of, if not the, finest athletic fields in the state, Ed Hollier Field at Kenai Central High School saw its first action Saturday, following a history-filled re-dedication ceremony.


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Gary Hollier made the final speech to close the re-dedication ceremonies on a rainy, overcast day at the newly christened Ed Hollier Field, thanking everyone who came on behalf of the Hollier family.

The weather wasn’t too good for drawing a crowd, but it certainly felt like football season as the Kenai Kardinals took the field against the Nikiski Bulldogs for the first game of the year. Long-time Kardinal announcer and former superintendent of the school district Dale Sandahl gave a brief history of high school football on the Kenai and Ed Hollier’s role in making it all happen.

“He was what I call an ordinary man with some very extraordinary traits and that’s what sets him apart. What I remember about Ed and all of the folks involved in (building the first football field) is that they didn’t have any egos in mind. They didn’t have to take a lot of things to committees because there wasn’t time to take it to committees. They knew what had to be done and they got it done.”

Sandahl told the crowd that Hollier was generally regarded as one of the best bulldozer operators around. He was the second road foreman on the Peninsula, and his access to that equipment made construction of the first field possible in 1968.

In those boom years, newly arrived oil rig workers wanted football. The field they carved out was located by what was then Wildwood Air Force Base. Kari Mohn had just arrived with her husband, who was going to begin teaching in the rapidly expanding school district. Fresh in from California, she says she was a bit surprised at that first game 45 years ago.

“There weren’t any bleachers, we just stood around the field. The Airmen were dangling out of their dorms to watch this game,” she said with a chuckle. “The woman standing next to me was wearing a fur parka. And it was August. And I thought, what did I get myself into?”

During his presentation, Sandahl noted that in 1968, the population was growing so fast that no one could even make a guess as to the true number.

“This was a boom town, and those boomers were going to get football. The organized a booster club, and it was an interesting time. There were a lot of steps that didn’t have to be taken to get things done. That whole booster club was kind of like an Ed Hollier, and that’s why I think it’s neat that this field is named after Ed.”

“Dale Sandahl was right when he said that people had come for the oil patch from all over and their heritage was football, so let’s play football. And you heard all these accents, and to bring all these kids together into a cohesive team …Nobody expected them to do very well and they won their first game. It was very exciting,” Mohn said.

Those early teams were made of up students from all over the Central Peninsula. Sandahl said one player hitchhiked from Sterling each day to practice, and so that the first game at the new field was against a team that grew from that much more regional squad of the early days is telling of the overall growth the area has gone through.

In the game that followed, the Kardinals took down the Bulldogs 51-16.

Residents, Groups Submit Proposals To Board of Fish

One proposal, from the South Central Dipnetters Association, would extend the Kenai River personal use fishery into August during good run years.

As the big fishing seasons wind down around the state, various user groups have submitted their proposals for rule changes for the Board of Fish to consider during its winter meetings.


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Nearly 400 proposals were submitted statewide, and upper and lower Cook Inlet fisheries were some of the most popular targets for new ideas. In the realm of salmon fisheries, it’s not much of a surprise that many proposals call for better tracking of the numbers.

With king salmon numbers the way they’ve been the past few years, keeping everyone in the water for an equal shot at harvest has been a challenge. Several proposals seek to address that challenge.

Proposal 190, submitted by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, calls for a new management plan for the Kenai and Kasilof River early run king fishery. They want a comprehensive revision of the plan that would stabilize the fisheries in low run years.

That sounds pretty good on paper, but when sport and commercial fishermen got together earlier this year in the Upper Cook Inlet Task Force looking for the same kinds of revisions, ADF&G Sportfish Director Charlie Swanton explained why that’s something of a white whale. The timing of the early and late runs is changing, and biologists are still trying to figure out why.

“The problem with some of that stuff is that it may line up one year and then the next year it falls apart,” he said.

A proposal submitted by some local setnetters also seeks to address some of the shortcomings of reporting numbers, calling for more reports, and using technology like smart phone apps to get them. Sport groups also want the Board to raise escapement goals, to 20,000-40,000 fish, up from the current 15,000 to 30,000.

Municipalities also submitted some proposals. Citing safety concerns, the City of Soldotna has proposed to prohibit sport fishing within the Centennial Campground boat launch lagoon. The City says in its proposal that anglers fishing from there are doing so in a manner that endangers both themselves and boaters launching or leaving the lagoon, with at least one instance of a fisher casting from a boat launch and being backed over by a boater attempting get his boat in the water.

The City of Kenai has a proposal of its own, calling for more drift only days. It wants to add Thursdays as a day when no motors are allowed, citing high turbidity on the river, which can adversely affect salmon and other wildlife.

Sport and commercial interests dominate the proposals, but at least one speaks for personal use fishing. Cover your ears eyes if you’re not a fan of dipnetting on the Kenai:

The South Central Alaska Dipnetters Association wants to see the personal use fishery expanded into August in years when runs hit 4.6 million fish or more, and the bag limit increased to 35 fish.

The Board of Fish will take up these and many more proposals when it begins meetings in October. Those meetings will continue through March of next year.

-Shaylon Cochran/KDLL-

Memories Served: Old Timers Meet For Annual Luncheon

Paul Wilson, long time Peninsula mail carrier, delivers letters and a prisoner in this 1934 photo from Peggy Arness' collection.

Long-time residents from across the Kenai Peninsula gathered Thursday for the annual Old Timers Luncheon at the Kenai Senior Center.


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Hearing the names of those in attendance is like hearing a who’s who of the modern history of the Kenai Peninsula. More than 150 people were at this year’s Old Timer’s Luncheon, most of them truly old timers, lots of homesteaders, which is impressive given that most of that generation are well into their 80’s or even 90’s.

Peggy Arness, who was born in Seldovia and has lived her whole life on the Kenai, heads up the event each year. This was somewhere around the 17th annual luncheon, though, unofficially, it goes back further.

“You can tell it’s not very organized,” Arness said with a laugh after the luncheon. She’s part of a regular lunch group of eight, but one time each year, they do it this way. Complete with prizes like homegrown tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes and farm-fresh eggs.

Placed on each table were home photographs that Arness pulled out of old photo albums. Adorning the table I was at was an old picture of mail, and a prisoner, being delivered by dogsled. The man in the photo, Paul WIlson, was Linda Ross’ uncle.

“My older sister could probably tell you better than I could, but that’s my uncle Paul,” said Ross, who was born in Kenai. The house she grew up in still stands next to the bluff near Kenai Bible Church.

I had lunch next to Gary and Dee Timlin. They came up in 1970 so Gary could take a job. That was supposed to last just a few years, but, eventually this became home. In those 40 plus years, I had to ask, what’s the biggest change?

“There were no stoplights, but probably the biggest change is the Kenai River,” Gary said of the once docile fishing spot.

Dee Timlin tells me when they were netting king salmon in those days, it was busy if they saw three or four boats on the river.

I asked several people what the biggest change has been over the decades, and the answer was pretty much the same from everyone. There are a lot more people. I didn’t hear that it was a good or bad thing, simply the reality.

Leading off the program, Peggy’s son Joe read the names of longtime residents who have passed over the last year, but that list pales in comparison to how many old timers are left. Perhaps the best marker for the kind of people who have helped make the Kenai what it is today.

KPC Opens New Dorms, Tech Center

Workers prepare to install a sign above the doors of KPC's new student housing.


On Thursday, Kenai Peninsula College opened the doors to two knew facilities. The new Career and Technical Education Center and brand new student housing.


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After more than a year of construction, the dorms and the college’s Career and Technical Education Center, or C-TEC, will be ready for students when the fall semester starts on August 26th. Suzie Kendrick, KPC’s Advance Programs Manager says the apartment-style dorms will house four students each, with 90 beds in total, plus six resident assistants.

“The apartment model is the newest approach,” Kendrick says as Resident Life Administrative Assistant Hannah Parker swipes her key card to unlock one of the bedrooms. Students will share a living room, kitchen and two bathrooms.

The dorms are pretty swanky and a far cry from the traditional dorm room, where your whole life is crammed into a 100 square foot bedroom you share with a total stranger.

Commons areas feature big flat screen TV’s and game consoles. There’s a pool table and gym and laundry on site. In the summer, the college plans to market the dorms as a kind of convention center, with plenty of rooms for visitors, a conference room and a full kitchen for catering. The goal there being to make the dorm’s financially self-sufficient.

The people overseeing those dorms, the resident assistants, they’re students, too. They live in the dorms for free, saving them about $3,200 a year, but it’s also a job. On Wednesday, they were finishing up some training classes before everyone moves in. Associate Director of Resident Life Tammie Willis is prepping the RA staff by giving them hypothetical situations to deal with, like how to handle questions from the press in the event of a gas leak.

“Your focus is not about getting your name in the paper,” Willis tells her staff.

“Your focus is about making sure the students are being kept safe. That they’re getting the support and resources they need.”

It’s a lot of responsibility. Many students will be away from home for the first time, and the RA’s are learning how to make this place as much like home as possible. Scott Sellers is one of the RA’s for next year. He says in addition to handling emergency situations, like that gas leak, they’re also focused on creating a sense of community in the dorms.

“(We will) set up things to have the students come together, get to know each other and learn how to settle differences, how to work together and how to keep an eye out for troubled situations.”

“At times, they’re going to be a disciplinarian and enforce the policies. At other times they’re going to be a mentor. Other times they’re going to be a friend, a resource, a tutor,” Willis says about the many roles RA’s will be expected to play.

Across the street from the new dorms, Kendrick and Parker lead the tour upstairs in the C-Tec. This is where a variety of the college’s technical programs will be housed. Kendrick says the instructors here have more than a century of combined experience in the oil and gas industry, which is the main focus for training. She says the new classrooms will be a lot more efficient.

“In our old facility, everything was just kind of stuck in a corner. They had to go and dig things out to show students this particular valve or this particular piece of equipment.” Now, she says everything is readily accessible.

With up-to-date working models of incredibly complex looking equipment for students to learn on, the goal of all of this is to make graduates ready to go to work on the north slope or other places the day they graduate.

KPC President Gary Turner is fond of saying that when students are in the dorms, they’re at home. But when they come to class, they’re at work. Both buildings were built to silver LEED standards, that’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, though they’re not certified. That would have added another year of construction and more than $100,000 to the price tag of $33 million. There will be an official ribbon cutting ceremony for both buildings, plus a barbeque Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m.

-Shaylon Cochran/KDLL-

Mapping Domestic Violence Prevention With Green Dot

Greed Dot volunteers participate in training exercises Monday at the Kenai Visitor's and Cultural Center.

A national training program aimed at reducing domestic violence is making its way around Alaska. It’s called Green Dot. And its major goal is make it easier for communities to talk about violence and abuse.


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The website for Green Dot sets it up best: Imagine a map showing something like the spread of an epidemic across the country. There are all these little red dots showing where each outbreak occurs. Now, take that image, and instead of a map of something like a flu outbreak, the little dots represent some sort of violent or threatening act. Bullying or physical or sexual abuse. The bad stuff. And it’s a problem, but one that can be solved. That’s where the green dots come in.

“The solution must be  a reflection of the problem, the green dot is just a moment in time where somebody lets folks know that violence isn’t okay with them,” said Jennifer Messina, the director of training and development for Green Dot.

“So what we’re going to do is get lots and lots of green dots on the map. They’re going to displace the red dots and our communities will be safer.”

Messina was leading a training workshop Monday at the Kenai Visitor’s Center. There were about 20 women in attendance. All learning about different markers of red dot situations. And learning what they can do to help create more green dots, that is, a safer community.

“Because of the scope of this violence, it can feel really overwhelming. There’s something about knowing I don’t have to do everything. My green dot goes on the map with all of the other folks in my community who care about this issue like I do and are carrying their piece in the life that they’re living,” Messina said.

Making those green dots around the community doesn’t have to be some big gesture or heroic act. It can be something simple. One example I was given was the mom in the store with a a couple kids. They’re being kids. It’s late in the afternoon and they’re tired and she’s visibly stressed. You can see the moment coming. Maybe, in a moment of frustration, it will be a swat on the behind or some yelling. Simply offering a condolence: “They sure can be a handful, can’t they?” Might be enough to diffuse the situation. And comfort someone who is clearly under some pressure.

“The whole purpose of Green Dot is to help people be aware that they have a voice, and can make a choice to get involved, said Cheri Smith, executive director at the Leeshore Center, which works to promote healthy families and provide a place for victims of abuse.

“We are the ones who have to make those changes. We are the ones who, on a personal level, must say violence will not be tolerated.”

Messina says the mission of Green Dot isn’t to tell people explicitly what to do or not to do when they see violence or the potential for it. It’s designed to help come up with an appropriate response.

“There’s almost always something you can do, and that’s where we talk about the three D’s: Maybe something direct would work for you, maybe it wouldn’t so that’s when we talk about delegating, which just means get someone else to help. If that doesn’t work, maybe we can distract, and just enough of a diffusion to just kind of bring it down.”

 Green Dot is ending year one of a three year pilot program in Alaska. Training seminars have also been held in Homer, Anchorage, Fairbanks, Bethel and Prince of Wales Island. Messina says in year two, the teams that have been trained, like the one in Kenai Monday, will be deployed to help get these conversations started, and turn those red dots into green dots.

-Shaylon Cochran/KDLL-

7th Annual Kids Classic Puts New Anglers On The River

Young anglers set off from Harry Gaines Fish Camp in Soldotna for the Kenai River Jr. Classic

One hundred kids shoved off from the Harry Gaines Fish Camp in Soldotna Tuesday for the seventh annual Kenai River Junior Classic.


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Four at a time, they slipped into the turquois waters of the Kenai Rivers. With well-seasoned guides to put them in just the right spots, the target was silvers.

Many of these kids come down from Joint Base Elmendorg/Richardson. Thirteen year old Aaron Regevig has a little experience fishing on the Kenai. He’s gone for silvers before in Seward, but for many, it’s their first time even handling a rod and reel. That’s really the whole point of the day. To introduce kids to fishing and the outdoors where they might not have many opportunities otherwise.

“You would think in Alaska everybody would be out hunting and fishing, that’s why a lot of people are here, but unfortunately, a lot of parents don’t have time to take their kids outdoors, or don’t have the skills, so we offer the kids an opportunity to get outside and when they come back from their fist time fishing, first time on this river and their smiles, their whole being is smiles,” said Kenai River Sportfishing Association executive director Ricky Gease.

One of the event’s biggest cheerleaders, Senator Lisa Murkowski, was talking to some of the young anglers just before she set off to watch the action on the river.

“It’s one of those things that brings a smile to your fave from the time you wake up and it’s still there when you go to bed, it’s great,” she said.

The energy and the excitement the kids have, especially those first timers, is what makes this special, Murkowski said.

-Shaylon Cochran/KDLL-


CARTS Funding Left To Assembly Discretion

Public transportation was again a hot topic for the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly this week. Assembly member Brent Johnson introduced a resolution to put the question of funding the Central Area Rural Transist System before voters back in June.


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Johnson wanted to get a final say from voters across the Peninsula on if they thought CARTS should continue to receive Borough funding.

“When I first brought this up, I had heard for the years that I’ve been on the Assembly, a lot of criticism for CARTS. Once in awhile, there’s a voice or two in favor. I wanted to go to the people to find out if the criticism was wide-spread or if there was just a few vocal people that are against it,” Johnson  said.

That was back in June. The measure has been brought back up and tabled a couple times since then. Johnson says he isn’t picking on CARTS, specifically. He chose it as an example of the non-departmental expenditures that some voters just don’t like too much. Voters have acted on a similar question for other areas before.

“I didn’t want to pick on all the non-departmentals because the biggest of those is Kenai Peninsula College. Here’s the scoop on the college: back about 1990, the voters voted on the college and the college won by 32 votes. Since that, those 32 votes have carried the day and we haven’t had to complain about the college very much, and I thought that was pretty cool. So if we could get 32 votes on this issue, maybe we could quit talking about it,” Johnson said.

In the budget the Assembly adopted in July, $25,000 was appropriated for CARTS. That’s from a general fund of more than $73 million. A couple years ago, the program was receiving $50,000 from the Borough annually. That funding is augmented by various state and federal transportation grants and the rider fees.

To some, though, the program isn’t being administered efficiently. George Pierce, a fixture at Borough Assembly meetings and a former cab driver on the Peninsula, says his experience with CARTS is one of headaches and lost profits.

“CARTS sounds like a great idea and it does help the community. If CARTS has all this money to give rides to the cab companies, why fund them? When I worked on Sundays for the cab company, all we did on Sundays was CART rides,” Pierce said, adding it could take two months to be reimbursed for the trip.

Pierce said he wasn’t disputing the contract between CARTS and the cab companies. CARTS only guarantees rides during the week between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. or rides for work. Other rides are contracted out.

Even noting that as a shortcoming of the program, CARTS’ executive director Jennifer Beckmann says any downsides are more than outweighed by the benefits. She says the program helps get people where then need to be, but it’s also kind of a funnel, to get tax dollars back to work here locally.

“We bring back to this community federal tax dollars that are collected every time vehicle owners fill up their gas tanks. We have paid over $3 million to non-profit and for-profit companies to deliver rides for us. Plus, we buy fuel, supplies, vehicle repair and other services from local businesses,” Beckmann said.

Even though Borough funding makes up only three percent of their total budget, it’s an important three percent. They use it to leverage more funding from other places, including matching grants that can effectively double the amount the Borough kicks in.

The final vote of 8-1 defeated the resolution putting CARTS funding on the fall ballot.

-Shaylon Cochran/KDLL-

Run For Women Brings Awareness Of Domestic Violence

For nearly 30 years, women runners on the Central Kenai Peninsula have put in a few miles to help raise awareness about domestic violence for the Leeshore Center.


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A quick google search about domestic abuse in Alaska will tell you two things immediately: It’s an ongoing and serious problem, and there are lots of groups trying to raise awareness about its consequences on families and communities.

“We are trying to bring awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault in our communities,” said Jeanette Browning, the volunteer coordinator at the Leeshore Center in Kenai. She’s been leading the small army of volunteers that organize the Run for Women for thirteen years.

“Of course we’re always looking for more participants because it is helping our cause to end domestic violence,” she said.

By opening the field to include men under the age of 18 last year, they opened the door for more participation. About 160 runners completed last year’s race. Browning says that was a progressive step toward educating broader sections of the public about domestic violence.

“For 25 years, we were only asking the women and the girls to run in the race because it is the Run for Women. But if we’re able to teach (boys) at a young age, that would help our goal tremendously,” Browning said.

The Run for Women is more than a quarter century old now, and it’s just one of a growing number of awareness events held throughout the year. Governor Sean Parnell was influential in shining a light on the cause, too, when he vowed to end domestic violence in the state. The annual March for Respect is trying to do the same thing as the Run for Women, just without the running shoes.

“We’re on our fifth year to march. In the beginning we had approximately 20 agencies join us within the state of Alaska. We walk the same time, the same day each year,” she said. Last year, 140 agencies joined the cause.

A report done a few years ago by the UAA Justice Center and the Council on Domestic Violence and Assault looked closely at just the year 2004 to gain some insight and make some recommendations about how to stop abuse. In just that one year, more than 1,200 cases were reported. More than half the cases involved current or former intimate partners, and almost 75% of victims were living with their abuser at the time. Eighty nine-percent of victims were female. Marchers and runs are good for raising awareness, but Browning says the Leeshore Center is also spearheading a new program, called the Green Dot initiative.

“Green Dot is when, perhaps you and I as a bystander, we see some violence happening, maybe we can divert the situation, maybe we can distract the person or maybe we can call 9-1-1. It’s just getting us involved so we can help stop this violence within our own communities. We have got to start helping each other out,” Browning said.

That event runs all day at the Kenai Visitor’s Center Monday. The Run for Women kicks off with a group stretch and warm up at 9:45 Saturday morning at the Park Strip in Kenai. Lunch and door prizes follow the race at noon and race day registration is $25.

-Shaylon Cochran/KDLL-

Soldotna Hires New Librarian

The city of Soldotna has announced its decision for a new librarian. Rachel Nash will begin in her new position August 12th.

Nash grew up in Sterling, the daughter of John and Katherine Beatty. She graduated from Skyview high school, then pursued a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. After that, she earned a master’s degree in library and information services from  the University of Pittsburgh.

Nash already has experience at the Joyce K. Carver Memorial Library, having previously worked there as a page. One of her first duties will be overseeing the opening of the newly expanded library.

-Staff Report-

Buccaneer Testing Cosmo Well

Buccaneer has begun flow testing a natural gas well in the Cosmopolitan Unit near Anchor Point.

The company announced in a press release Tuesday that it had flared natural gas during a production test on Sunday.

From a depth of 5,500 feet, the well was successfully tested at a maximum rate of 7.2 million cubic feet per day, according to the company.

More testing was done to estimate flow potential out of the reservoir to find out how much pressure the gas is under, and other tests are planned for a second gas zone in the well.

-Staff Report-

Borough Term Limits To Go Before Voters Again

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly once again tackled the question of term limits at its meeting Tuesday night. After a fair amount of discussion, the question of term limits will go before the voters this fall.


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On paper, it seemed relatively simple.

The Assembly had to recess twice to work out specific language in the amendments that were proposed. It got a little confusing because the question ended up being more complicated than just ‘should the question of term limits be on the fall ballot’.

Hal Smalley introduced an ordinance to that effect back in June. What the Assembly was hammering out Tuesday was two possible substitutes. One introduced by President Linda Murphy, and there was also the Smith substitute, put forward by Bill Smith, and it offered to put two ballot measures out, one to repeal term limits and another to extend the limits to three terms.

The Murphy Substitute passed.  Then Assembly member Brent Johnson put forward some amendments. At that point, the Assembly had to break, as Thompson and Borough Clerk Johni Blankenship finalized the language. The Assembly needed a couple breaks to wade through all of this. Johnson said his amendment was a compromise.

“It’s a new question. The voters have spoke loud and clear that they want term limits, but…there’s a lot of good reasons why experience should be retained on the Assembly for a third term.,” Johnson said.

It was finally whittled down to something simple, should there be term limits, and if so, how many terms?

But Assembly member Charlie Pierce says previous ballot initiatives have already answered that question.

“How many times do we have to debate this and change the terms and the conditions before we believe the voters have already voted on it? I think we need to respect the fact that, you know what, it’s there. And until someone takes the initiative out in the community, the voters, the constituency, takes the initiative, I believe the right thing to do is to have that happen and not have the initiative occur here,” Pierce said.

But, in the end, the Assembly decided to put the question on the ballot. Actually, two questions: should we have term limits, and if so, should we limit it to two or three terms? Those questions will be answered, again, during regular elections in October.

-Shaylon Cochran/KDLL-

National Guardsmen Go On First Kenai Spur Ride

Every weekend across the country, service men and women in the National Guard fall in for training drills. Troops with the 1-297th Cavalry Squadron did the same in Kenai, but this wasn’t an ordinary drill weekend.


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A little short of breath, but no worse for wear after a long weekend of intense training, national guardsmen belt out Fiddler’s Green. The Calvarymen’s poem. They’re singing it, or yelling it, I suppose, because the Kenai National Guard unit is being reorganized into the state’s Cavalry Squadron.

This weekend, troops were on a Spur Ride, part of the tradition and the heraldry of the Calvary. They’re quite literally earning their spurs. Those who successfully complete this training weekend will receive silver spurs. Combat veterans, like Brigadier General Leon “Mike” Bridges, are wearing gold spurs.

General Bridges explained to me, a life-long civilian, what all this means… as troops rush by us, carrying giant packs, .50 calibur machine guns, or, sometimes, each other.

The spurs and the Stetsons and all the heraldry sort of pay homage to the horseback cavalry units of the past.

“Well the mission is the same, although the task has obviously changed (compared to the equine-equipped cavalry). Now they use armored Humvees with special weapons or long range surveillance systems on them. We also have some armored vehicles, the Armored Knight,” Bridges said.

The Kenai unit is a light cavalry unit. Their job is to get in, identify the enemy or target, report it, and get out.

“Heavy cavalry is meant to go find somebody and destroy them. These guys’ job is just to have enough fire power to extract themselves from heavy engagement. These guys are specialists in finding the enemy and reporting on what the enemy is doing. Not be seen, not to be found, not be directly engaged,” Bridges said.

This is serious training, but it becomes a little light hearted when the teams run down field, set up that big .50 calibur machine gun, and start making gun noises. These exercises are taking place a few hundred feet from a city park, so that all makes pretty good sense.

“Down here you’ll see they’re carrying what looks like M-16’s. These are dummy rifles, because what they’ve been doing here is crawling through the dirt and jumping up and down and doing a bunch of hard, harsh things. We don’t want to destroy our real weapons for this particular event, but they’re still having to carry the weapon, manage it like it’s real, deal with the weight, deal with the inconvenience. If they’re having to carry a casualty, make sure no weapons are left behind. So it’s accountability and maintenance and all that sort of stuff. No shortcuts,” Bridges said.

To get some of the special certifications and badges for the training this weekend, the troops were put into teams. If each member of the team doesn’t make through, then the team can’t make it through. There isn’t any one person in charge of each team…It just depends on what the exercise is. So a Private could be making decisions that are carried out by a Lieutenant. It’s all about building leadership skills.

I approach Private Saupa, who is attentively waiting outside a tent where he’s in line demonstrate a mastery of small arms.

“People that have been enlisted longer, it’s easier for them to give tips to us, rather than us who haven’t been that long and don’t know what to do. It’s a good thing that they put at least one guy on our team who knows what he’s doing so he can spread it throughout the team. Whoever is strongest in the event, that’s who takes over,” Saupa said.

Private Saupa and more than 100 other troops participated in the Spur Run over the weekend. It was the first one held

in Kenai, and to mark the event, the VFW and the City gave the troops a big barbeque after the field exercises were finished.

-Shaylon Cochran/KDLL-


Discussions Start On Sports Center Remodel

At 30 years old, the Soldotna Sports Complex is beginning to show its age. A major remodel and expansion is planned for the facility, and the City of Soldotna is asking the public to weigh in on a master plan that will determine how the complex is used for the next 30 years.


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 A crowd of almost 20 people were digging into the nuts and bolts of the future of the Soldotna Sports Complex in one of the conference rooms there. How it should expand, why it should expand. Who it will serve, and during what parts of the year.

This was the first of two public meetings scheduled to get that kind of input. Thursday night focused on what needs to be addressed for sports and athletic uses. I was only there a few minutes before I got the idea that whatever plan is eventually decided on, it will be built on compromise.

The city’s Parks and Rec Director, Andrew Carmichael says there are dozens of potential uses that will have to be factored in.

“This community is so diverse in its interests, it’s a challenge. Right now we’re trying to finish up our spring schedule for next year, trying to get ten events in five weeks, all needing…needing. And it’s just a matter of trying to fit in everything. Over the years, the Sports Center has grown and the use base has grown, and you’re just trying to figure out how to make the best, diverse facility that will adapt to everyone,” Carmichael said.

The plan won’t be a total rebuild. The existing structure is a good place to start a remodel and possible expansion. Some roof repairs will be necessary. And upgrades to mechanical and electrical things, of course.

In the three decades since the Sports Complex was built, participation in youth sports has grown by leaps and bounds. Now the needs of all those young athletes has out grown the capacity to serve them. When the city of Kenai got an ice rink, that helped, but, Carmichael says that same need is developing in Soldotna with soccer groups or the court sports like volleyball and basketball.

“They’re trying to get some kind of a space in the winter months, i.e. nine months out of the year, so they can develop their skills a little further, compete at higher level, and at the same time accommodate groups like the Moms and Tots in the mornings,” Carmichael said.

There was a wide range of interests represented Thursday night. People wondering how a remodeled Complex would work with Boys and Girls Clubs or other after school programs. What it would mean for economic development. Can we host big conferences here? Or state tournaments for hockey or wrestling.

Nancy Casey was leading the discussion. She’s with the design firm that’s putting together both the Parks and Rec Master Trails Plan and this master plan for the Sports Center.

“It’ll be a lot of creative design and space utilization. I suspect we’ll need a lot of storage for moving different things in and out. We are looking to do as versatile and all accommodating facility as we possibly can,” Casey said.

Because of that versatility, at least in these early discussions, a dedicated artificial turf field like what was just finished at Kenai Central High School seems unlikely. Instead the focus will be on how to bring as many people in as possible for as much of the year as possible. By being able to zero in on just what the place will be used for, city leaders can start to think of the best ways to raise money to pay for it all.

“We’ll be starting with some of the partners, the folks who are using the facility. Anything from the University of Alaska system to the hospital to the Borough. At this point we are identifying community needs and trying to package them into something that makes sense and is reasonable, yet gets the job done,” Casey said.

Before that though, there’s another public meeting. Monday night at the Sports Center in the Conference Rooms from 5 to 7 p.m. The focus of that meeting will be on teen and community center needs and how those will fit, or not, into the master plans.

-Shaylon Cochran/KDLL-