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.

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.”

Salmonfest returns

Aug 6, 2021
Sabine Poux/KDLL

After taking a year off in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Salmonfest is back, Aug. 6, 7 and 8. KDLL reporter Sabine Poux is at the fairgrounds in Ninilchik to see how the 10th annual music festival is shaping up. Cook Inletkeeper Executive Director Sue Mauger and Kenai Peninsula Fisher Poet performers says its important to celebrate salmon.

Courtesy Soldotna Rotary

Outdoor, in-person beer festivals return after the dark year of COVID, including the 10th annual Kenai Peninsula Beer Festival. Bill gets an update from KP beerfest organizer Matt Pyhala and muses on what makes a good beer festival (hint: quality, not quantity). Plus, interviews with Girdwood Brewing and Darcy Kniefel, with the 2021 Alaska Craft Brew Festival, on July's Drinking on the Last Frontier.
Cheers!

On this month’s Drinking on the Last Frontier, aging beer in whisky barrels is a great way to add class to craft brews. Plus, Bill checks in on the new location for Bearpaw River Brewing Co. in Wasilla, the new construction for Grace Ridge Brewing Co. in Homer and the newcomer brewery to the peninsula’s beer scene — Stoney Creek Brewhouse in Seward.

Cheers!

Sabine Poux/KDLL

The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank is fully open to the public once again, serving regular meals in its Fireweed Diner starting June 16. To celebrate another step toward more usual operations after a year upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, the food bank threw a Spring Festival in conjunction with its weekly Farmers Fresh Market from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 15. KDLL reporter Sabine Poux visited the food bank to get a taste of the festival.

Gherkin Radio Theatre offers a double-header for episode four:

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

Zach Henry from St. Elias Brewing joins Bill Howell for a live edition of Drinking on the Last Frontier for KDLL's spring membership drive May 15. Thanks to everyone who called in!

Bid online for local art to brighten your space!

Breakup in Alaska is not the most beautiful time of year. KDLL and the Kenai Fine Art Center can help! We’re holding an art auction to give us something beautiful to see until spring really does spring forth on the central Kenai Peninsula.

Artwork is on display at Veronica’s Café in Kenai through April, open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays.

In our final week of the KDLL/Kenai Fine Art Center April Art Auction, we meet painters Chere' Avigo, Dan Verkuilen and fiber artists Emily Kornelis, Amy Kruse and Jen Luton. Artwork is on display at Veronica's Cafe in Kenai and you can bid online for your favorite piece through May 8.

In week four of the KDLL/Kenai Fine Art Center April Art Auction, we meet Sue Biggs and Kaitlin Vadla. Artwork is on display at Veronica's Cafe in Kenai through April and you can bid online for your favorite piece.

Whose beer is it, anyway? Bill answers that question, plus the mysterious magic of the gueuze. Plus interviews with Brian Hall, of the new Alaska Craft Beer Podcast, Mike Healy of Skagway Brewing Co. and Clarke Pelz of Cynosure Brewing in Anchorage.

Cheers!

In week three of the KDLL/Kenai Fine Art Center April Art Auction, we meet Melinda Hershberger, Sandra Sterling and Abbey Ulen. Artwork is on display at Veronica's Cafe in Kenai through April and you can bid online for your favorite piece.

In week two of the KDLL/Kenai Fine Art Center April Art Auction, we meet Marion Nelson and Jason Ramirez. Artwork is on display at Veronica's Cafe in Kenai through April and you can bid online for your favorite piece.

In week one of the KDLL/Kenai Fine Art Center April Art Auction, we meet Lori Engler, Angela Bell and Susie Scrivner. Artwork is on display at Veronica's Cafe in Kenai through April and you can bid online for your favorite piece.

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