Jenny Neyman

General Manager

Jenny Neyman has been the general manager of KDLL since 2017. Before that she was a reporter and the Morning Edition host at KDLL.
She also worked in print journalism for 15 years, including 7.5 years as owner, publisher and editor of the Redoubt Reporter community newspaper in the central Kenai Peninsula.
She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Whitworth University in Spokane, WA, and grew up listening to KSTK public radio in Wrangell, AK.

New meets old in this month's Drinking on the Last Frontier. Crack open the history book on Alaskan Brewing Co., meet the newcomer to the Kenai Peninsula brewing scene, Stoney Creek BrewHouse in Seward, and the Boots to Brews program in Anchorage, to train vets into the brewing industry.

Cheers!

Alaska VA Healthcare

For central Kenai Peninsula veterans, a new clinic in Soldotna is a nicer, bigger, more convenient location to get VA services. For the Veterans Administration, the facility represents more than just what it offers to local vets. It, and a new clinic that opened in Homer in 2020, represents a federal initiative to improve VA healthcare delivery throughout Alaska.

“We’re committed to serving our veterans across the state. Each one of our community-based outpatient clinics are being increased in size to provide better services and better access for our veterans. And, so, the Kenai Borough has benefitted from being on the tip of the spear, if you will," said Tom Steinbrunner, director of the Alaska VA healthcare system. 

Dec. 16 is the 80th anniversary of the establishment of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Joining KDLL to talk about the history and future of the refuge are refuge Manager Andy Loranger (by phone), Supervistory Biologist Chris Inman, Lead Park Ranger and Visitor Center Manager Leah Eskelin and Park Ranger Amber Kraxberger-Linson, who also coordinates the Stream Watch program with Chugach National Forest.

Courtesy of KPEDD

The annual Industry Outlook Forum, put on by the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, is Thursday, Jan. 6 at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center. It’s a snapshot of the economy of the Kenai Peninsula today and a forecast of what’s to come. According to Tim Dillon, executive director of KPEDD, the forum has changed substantially over its 15-year history, just like the peninsula’s economy.

Find the 2022 agenda and registration link for the 2022 Industry Outlook Forum at www.kpedd.org.
 

There were a couple of bright spots to the substantial power outage affecting the Soldotna area last night. If you lost power, you were in good company. Homer Electric Association reports about 7,000 members in Soldotna and the surrounding area lost electricity around 10 p.m. 

HEA Director of Member Relations Keriann Baker said HEA was prepared with additional linemen on call in preparation for outages.

“We just got, I don’t know, 35 outages in 30 minutes? And it was just boom, boom, boom, boom, boom — there were so many of them, with the wind,” Baker said. “And we were already prepared. We looked at the weather, we’d seen what had happened in Fairbanks and Anchorage, so we knew it was going to be a bumpy night. So we already had a ton of our linemen on standby.”

Redoubt Reporter

Several lakes on the central Kenai Peninsula treated for invasive northern pike are showing signs of native fish recovery but fishing is still restricted in 2022.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the restrictions today, for Stormy Lake in Nikiski and East and West Mackey, Sevena, Union and Derks lakes in the Soldota area.

For Stormy Lake, the bag and possession limit of Arctic char/Dolly Varden is one fish, less than 16 inches in length. Fish that are 16 inches or greater must be released.

Courtey Katie Evans

For about 40 years on the central Kenai Peninsula, walking into a local music event, it was obvious if Vickie Tinker was around. If she was performing, her steady alto voice was immediately recognizable, even when blended in three-part harmony. If she was in the audience, she was the most likely culprit for the laughter that was inevitably involved.

“There was this innocent, child-like quality to Vickie where she wasn’t afraid to just let loose and say whatever she thought or dance with wild abandon. She was just a lot of fun,” said Bonnie Nichols, bandmates with Vickie and Suzanne Little in Food For The Soul.

Vickie’s death on Dec. 26, after a three-and-a-half-year battle with complications of ovarian cancer, irrevocably changes the music landscape for many in the area. Little says the sadness of the moment is balanced with the lifetime of joy Vickie shared.

“I feel like we’re all holding sorrow in one hand and gratitude in the other for having known this incredible person,” Little said.


Bill celebrates the old and welcomes the new in the last Drinking on the Last Frontier of 2021, vising with Doug Houge of the central peninsula's first craft brewery, Kenai River Brewing Co., and Chad Ringer, brewer/owner of the brand-new Brewerks, in Anchorage. Cheers to a tasty and safe 2022!

Courtesy Kenai Peninsula Relay for Life

The Kenai Golf Course was aglow Tuesday on the longest night of the year, by a nearly full moon overhead, candle-lit bags lining a ski trail and the headlamps, neon safety vests and light-up glasses of the participants and organizers of the StarLight StarBright: Winter Solstice Ski Event, held as a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

“It warms my very frozen heart to see that there’s no parking in the parking lot, which means it’s a success already, said Solstice Ski organizer Johna Beech, who serves on the advisory board from the American Cancer Society for Alaska. “OK, mission moment — all the money raised tonight goes to the American Cancer Society. For those of you that aren’t aware, the American Cancer Society is the number one funder of research, second only to the U.S. government. So, we want to raise as much as we can to find a cure for cancer, right?”

“Yeah!” 

“This is not a race, so please don’t feel like you have to race, Beech continued. “I know there’s some high schoolers here that I heard them talking about being warmed up already. I’m proud of you, don’t knock anyone over. I know it’s cold, so I’m going to turn you guys loose. I’m getting out of the way and we’ll go on three, fair enough? One, two, three go!”


The following requirements were developed by the KDLL Board of Directors for attendees of KDLL in-person music events:

    Please stay home if you don’t feel well, have exhibited symptoms of COVID-19 in the past 10 days, have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 10 days, or been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 in the past 10 days.

In this month's Drinking on the Last Frontier, Bill checks in on Cooper Landing Brewing Co. and King Street Brewing, plus food and beer pairing suggestions to help celebrate your holiday meals.
Cheers!

Thanks to Kenai Middle School teacher Brian Lyke and his language arts and drama students for studying the art of storytelling. Students were asked to tell a story about something scary that happened to them. Following are stories KDLL aired during our Fall Membership Drive on Oct. 30.

On this month’s Drinking on the Last Frontier, Bill gets an update on how Fairbanks’ HooDoo Brewing is doing, and a brewery travel guide around the state with Rick VanHatten. Plus, what’s in your desert island six-pack? And a couple of books to bring if you do get stranded.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

For most of us, COVID has meant life, work and social interruptions, logistical hurdles, stress, cumulative days lost to Zoom meetings and, hopefully, physically, nothing more than temporary flu symptoms. But for some of our family, friends and neighbors, a struggle with COVID has been life or death.
That was the case for Roger and Jodi Helvie, of Soldotna. Eleven months after coming down with COVID, they're finally on the other side, getting back to life in their new normal.
Thanks to the Helvies for sharing their story.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

Soldotna's Roger and Jodi Helvie aren't taking any part of life for granted, after a harrowing experience with COVID-19.

You can hear more about Roger and Jodi's experience on next week’s Kenai Conversation at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 13, rebroadcast at 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, on KDLL.

It takes a good idea, the right market and a lot of research, planning and preparation to get a new business off the ground.

Ready cash doesn’t hurt, either.

If you’ve got the first part, the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce has the second in its Spark Soldotna competition.

It’s patterned off the “Shark Tank” TV show, where entrepreneurs submit a business pitch for a panel of sharks — experienced businesspeople — to review. Five finalists are selected to pitch their ideas to a live audience, and one will win $4,000.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

If you’re looking for a less-rustic approach to rainbow trout fishing on the northern Kenai Peninsula, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has a spot for you.

The department recently finished improving access to Barbara Lake, about 30 miles north of Kenia. Access is off Ballard Drive, off Halibouty Road.

Fish and Game has been stocking the lake since 1980. It’s not one of their highest-use fisheries, but this project might help hook some more interest.

“It’s more just improving the access and experience for anglers that either live out in Nikiski or choose to travel out there and go look for fish,” said Colton Lipka, area management biologist.

Courtesy of KPEDD

Among the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act are pockets of funding that could advance projects on the Kenai Peninsula.

Tim Dillon, executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, is working with communities and organizations to match projects with available sources of money.

Municipal election day saw low voter turnout across the Kenai Peninsula Borough but a nail-biter for a Soldotna City Council seat, and a few upsets in the works.

Polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday for in-person voting across the borough, but absentee, questioned and special-needs ballots still need to be counted before results are certified. Across the borough, 7,395 votes were cast on election day, which is about 14 percent turnout.

100 Women Who Care Soldotna-Kenai

There are many ways to support the organizations that matter to you, whether you’ve got funds, time or just word of mouth to share. Tami Murray, with 100 Women Who Care, and Rhonda McCormick, with the Soldotna Cash Mob, join the Kenai Conversation to talk about easy, direct ways to give.

To find out more about 100 Women Who Care Soldotna-Kenai, email Murray.

KPBSD

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is considering changing how it evaluates contact tracing in its COVID mitigation plan to allow more kids to stay in school.

The Board of Education held a work session Monday to discuss alternatives. In the board meeting Monday night, superintendent Clayton Holland said the district is trying to keep kids in school as much as possible.

NOAA

Residents along the banks of the middle and lower Kenai River should prepare for elevated water levels in the next few days. The Skilak Glacier dammed lake started releasing Friday and that extra water is making its way downriver. The National Weather Service predicts the water level will crest at the outlet of Skilak Lake and the low-lying Kenai Keys area Wednesday or Thursday. The river is expected to be bank full but flooding is not expected.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough municipal election is today.

Kenai and Soldotna city councils have contested races for council seats. In Kenai, you vote for two candidates among five hopefuls. Victoria Askin, James Baisden, Alex Douthit, Jim Duffield and Deborah Sounart are running for the two open seats.

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities

While the Kenai Peninsula still has fall colors near sea level, winter is slowly but surely lowering its white curtain across the mountains. Lowland drivers can probably put off tire changes for a bit yet, but anyone planning a trip to Anchorage should prepare for inclement conditions.

“Turnagain Pass, because it gets the moisture from the ocean, it can really be very different than Kenai Peninsula or Anchorage weather. It’s its own system. So, just be cautious, make sure you’re checking that before you head out,” said Shannon McCarthy, spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. “Be prepared, be sure that you have good tires, you’re prepared for the potential of winter driving conditions at all times. Make sure you have some stuff in the car that, should you get stranded, you can at least be comfortable.”

McCarthy says the Silvertip Maintenance Station, at the junction of the Seward and Hope highways, is staffed and ready for winter. The station was closed due to budget cuts and declining fuel tax revenue in 2019, leaving maintenance operators to come from Girdwood and Crown Point to cover Turnagain Pass and the Summit Lakes area. After a public outcry, the station was re-opened last year. McCarthy says four of the five positions are filled but it’s a tight labor market, so hiring has been challenging.

“You almost can’t go to any business without seeing those help wanted signs. … Yeah, we are literally competing for good employees and, hopefully, we’ll have that position filled shortly,” McCarthy said.

KTOO

Seward Olympic champion Lydia Jacoby added to her medal collection in a FINA World Cup short-course meet in Germany this weekend. The 17-year-old won a bronze in the 100-meter breaststroke Saturday, followed by silver in the 50-meter breaststroke Sunday. She was fifth in the 200-meter breaststroke Friday.

Jacoby’s silver time of 30.04 seconds in the 50-meter was a personal best and an unofficial record for Americans 18 or younger. Her bronze time of 1 minute, 5.20 seconds in the 100-meter set another unofficial record for junior Americans.

We’ve all heard the adage — weather is what’s happening now, climate is what happens over time. That is the case in the National Weather Service’s recent Alaska and Northwestern Canada quarterly climate outlook report.

The report covers observations and analysis of June through August and offers predictions for October through December. As with all the quarterly reports, there are snapshots of anomalies, synthesis and predictions of temperature and precipitation throughout the region, and writeups of significant events, like flooding and wildfires. In this particular report, there are also opportunities for recency bias in action.   

 

Brian Brettschneider is a research physical scientist with the weather service in Alaksa who contributes to the quarterly reports. Though the data shows that summer temperatures and rainfall were overall pretty much normal in Anchorage and on the western Kenai Peninsula this year, residents might not feel like that’s the case. 

 

“All summer long, I heard, almost on a daily basis, ‘Wow, this has been a really cool, rainy summer. And in reality, it was warmer than the vast majority of summers. And for most areas, it was drier than normal. … We compare against what we have become accustomed to. So, yes, it was cooler than almost every summer in the last decade but by historical standards, it was actually pretty warm,” Brettschneider said.

 

That’s recency bias — putting more weight on what we’ve recently observed. 

 

Kenai Peninsula Borough

There’s another hat — sort of — in the ring for the Kenai seat on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Board of Education.

Kenai’s Hal Smalley, who has served in the state Legislature, Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly and Kenai City Council, says he’s agreed to a write-in campaign.

“A couple weeks ago I was asked by some folks if they could put me as a write-in, they said because there was a lack of choice for the school board. They weren’t happy with what was there,” Smalley said. “And I said, ‘Sure, that’s fine.’ And they said, ‘Well, if you were elected, would you serve?’ And I said, ‘Well, by all means, I would.’”

Smalley is retired from a career in education. He was a guidance counselor and language arts teacher in Ninilchik starting in 1976 and finished his career teaching English at Kenai Central High School. He volunteers for the breakfast program at Kenai Alternative School, as well as at the food bank, and serves on the Kenai Peninsula College Council. He says he’s enjoying doing what he likes in retirement but is willing to be conscripted back into public service.  

“I’m sort of a, I guess, somewhat declared write-in candidate. But, again, I’m not campaigning. It’s a very long shot,” he said.

KCHS

Operating school programs during COVID is an uncertain endeavor in the best of circumstances. The latest wrinkle for cross country teams on the peninsula is a scramble to get to the Region III Tournament in Kodiak this weekend, with most Kenai and Soldotna runners missing out on what would have been their last meet of the year.

Several teams had planned to take the ferry Tustumena from Homer to Kodiak for the region meet, Oct. 1 and 2. But the Alaska Department of Transportation canceled all Tustumena sailings until Oct. 5, citing crew shortages. Kenai Central coach Todd Boonstra heard the news in the middle of the Borough meet last weekend in Seward.

“So we didn’t even know going into the meet that, ‘Hey, this is going to be our last race.’ So, yeah, it’s unfortunate,” Boonstra said. “They’ve been working really hard and running really well and looking to end the season there but unfortunately got cut short for them.”

Kenai Peninsula Food Bank

After a year of hurdles, heaps more people needing their services and extra helpings of challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank was looking forward to a return to normal.

The food bank’s annual Soup Supper and Auction, scheduled for Saturday, was supposed to be held as usual — in person, with live and silent auctions, with everyone in attendance getting a hand-made pottery bowl and something delicious to put in it.

But COVID isn’t done throwing curve balls. With case numbers spiking on the Kenai Peninsula, the food bank’s board of directors made the call this week to cancel the in-person event and shift to a virtual model this year.

Amy Van De Grift is the bookkeeper at the food bank and one of many hands helping to launch the virtual event tomorrow.

“Let’s just say, you know, 2020 prepared us. So, our staff has been amazing and has handled these last-minute things and we are just fighting to do what we have to do in order to get where we need to be,” Van De Grift said.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that nursing homes receiving Medicaid and Medicare payments must require all staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 if they want to continue receiving those funds. 

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are crafting the regulations, which could go into effect as soon as next month. 

That means staff at Heritage Place in Soldotna, operated by Central Peninsula Hospital, will be subject to the requirement, as the vast majority of the nursing home’s income is in the form of Medicaid payments.

“Ninety-four percent. It’s a big deal,” said Bruce Richards, director of external affairs for the hospital. 

Most of that 94 percent is Medicaid payments, will a small amount of Medicare. The remaining 6 percent is from private insurance and a small amount of self-pay.

Given that, Richards said they have to comply.

“I don’t think there’s another option,” he said. “We would have to close, obviously, if we don’t get paid by CMS for providing these services.”

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