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.

Courtesy of the Kenai Soil and Water Conservation District

Farmers market season is right around the corner but so is a giant crop of uncertainty regarding COVID-19 restrictions.

Still, market organizers on the central Kenai Peninsula are planning to open on schedule, if not completely as normal.

With businesses shut down or slowed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that doesn’t just hurt employees and owners, it hurts the local governments that rely on sales tax revenue generated from those businesses.

In the Kenai Peninsula Borough, that also hurts the school district, as sales taxes are the pot of money that’s used to fund schools. The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly and KPBSD Board of Education held a joint work session Monday afternoon to discuss the numbers.  

Borough Finance Director Brandi Harbaugh painted a bleak picture.

"We estimate between 15 and 30 percent reduction in sales tax revenues over the next year and that coincides to a fairly large number for the borough. We’re looking at approximately $5 million loss at the end of this fiscal year, which we did not budget for. And then an additional $6 million to $7 million in next fiscal year. So, we anticipate a 15 percent reduction next year and then it slowly recovers over the next 24 months and it actually relates to a little over $11 million sales tax loss,” Harbaugh said.

Redoubt Reporter file photo

State officials say they are working with commercial, sport and personal-use fishery user groups to figure out a way to conduct fishing season in light of COVID-19.

In a press conference Friday, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum said working groups have been set up to get recommendations on how to keep people safe while still having a fishing season. Crum said there’s a specific group just for coastal communities on the road system.

“There is a group that has actually been started, as well, that (includes) Cook Inlet fisheries trying to figure out this, ‘How are we going to deal with working with coastal communities?’” Crum said. “You know, Homer and Kasilof and Kenai where these boats launch out of to go out for some of those salmon fisheries. And so, yes, that’s an ongoing concern and conversation, talking with the city managers and leadership about those groups.” 

Drug Enforcement Administration

The Alaska Department of Public Safety is warning of counterfeit Oxycodone pills in circulation in Alaska. The department received reports of several overdoses last week, linked to light blue, round tablets with an M30 marking, that appear to be 30-milligram Oxycodone pills. The State Crime Detection Laboratory analyzed the pills and found the primary component is fentanyl, which is far more potent.

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

Hikers: Just because daylight is increasing and snow is receding, that does not mean every trail is ready for foot traffic. The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is asking people to stay off trails during breakup that sustained damage in last year’s Swan Lake Fire.

Voters in House District 29 will have a new name to consider on the ballot this fall. Nikiski resident Paul Dale announced his candidacy this week.

Dale is a lifelong Alaskan who has lived in Nikiski since 1989. He and his wife, Brenda, started Snug Harbor Seafoods in 1990, employing at least 250 people every summer until they sold the majority of the company’s assets last year. 

Dale says he’s been wanting to run for the Legislature for 30 years, but business kept him too busy. 

“I’ve been interested in politics all of my life, Alaskan politics. And I got sidelined with developing Snug Harbor Seafoods and at that time it was easy to focus on family and business. We sold most of the assets six months ago and I now do have time to try my hand at elected politics,” Dale said.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Office of Emergency Management focused on community needs in its twice-weekly community conversation Thursday night. 

Love, INC., a faith-based community support organization headquartered on Kalifornsky Beach Road, is serving as the donations and volunteer coordinator during the COVID-19 pandemic. Executive Director Leslie Rohr said they’re at home in that role, even if the needs lately are higher. 

“We operate as a clearinghouse on a regular basis and that is, needs come into our ministry and then we do find the appropriate resources to fill those needs, and we just are doing it on a larger scale now,” Rohr said.

The city of Kenai is contemplating ways to help residents and businesses through the economic hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic. At a council meeting Wednesday, city manager Paul Ostrander said he heard about a town in Oregon that is trying to boost businesses by rewarding people for shopping. 

“It would encourage people to go out and shop locally but also provide some benefit to our residents that are members of our utility,” Ostrander said.

The idea is for any city resident who spends $25 at a local business to get a $15 credit toward their city utility bill. Turn your receipts into the city and get up to a $75 credit for spending $125.


Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced Heath Mandate 15, loosening restrictions on nonemergency health procedures Wednesday. The new mandate will be rolled out in two phases. Starting April 20, health care facilities can resume services that require minimal protective equipment and safety protocols for prescreening, such as physicals, routine exams and minimal procedures. 

Starting May 4, health care providers can perform non-urgent or elective procedures, with defined safety protocols for patients and staff, including biopsies and angiograms. 

Bruce Richards, director of external affairs at Central Peninsula Hospital, said the new mandate will go through the hospital’s surgery committee before deciding on the hospital’s course of action.

“They would go back to that committee and run that through everybody there and make that everybody was in agreement on what they understood and if there’s any guidance that comes went with it,” Richards said.

Kenai Watershed Forum

The Kenai River Festival should be celebrating its 30th year this June but the Kenai Watershed Forum announced today that the festival will be taking a year off in light of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Branden Bornemann is the executive director of the Kenai Watershed Forum. He said staff and the board of directors made the difficult decision.

“We did not feel comfortable, we did not feel like we could successfully hold the festival and keep people safe, and that includes the many hundreds of volunteers who help us put on the festival, the vendors, all the local businesses and everyone who comes out to enjoy the festival,” Bornemann said.

Census.gov

April 1 came and went with COVID-19 stealing the headlines but organizers of the 2020 U.S. Census are hoping to remind Alaskans that the filing period is open.  

Tim Dillon, executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, is the census coordinator for the borough. He said everyone should have gotten their census form by now if they get mail at their home. He’s asking residents to submit their information online.

“The census has pulled back all of the enumerators at this stage, nobody’s knocking on doors or visiting communities or anything, so what we’re doing is getting people to go online. They just need to go to my2020census.gov and fill it out. It’s 10 questions, less than 10 minutes and it’s over 10 years worth of funding,” Dillon said.

On this week's Kenai Conversation, the central Kenai Peninsula's legislative delegation shared their thoughts on the state budget, COVID-19 stimulus efforts and next year's budget outlook. Thanks to Reps. Ben Carpenter and Gary Knopp and Sen. Peter Micciche.

Redoubt Reporter file photo

The COVID-19 pandemic will not prevent Alaskans from fishing this summer. 

But, residents are being asked to take precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We’re not closing anything. Every fishery out there is going to run as they would normally,” said Rick Green, special assistant to the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

On April 13, Fish and Game released guidelines aimed at allowing Alaskans to participate in sport and personal-use fisheries, while following state health mandates. 

“We came up with the guidelines of how, basically, you can get through a community without interacting with the locals to stave off any possibility of spreading of COVID,” Green said.

Kenai Fire Department

Kyler Michlitsch’s birthday Sunday was a lot different than it would have been outside quarantine. It was just his immediate family at their home in Nikiski to celebrate. 

Mom, Britney Baier, said there was no extended family, no friends and no fun outing to Jumpin’ Junction, as would normally be the case. 

“Just us here at the house, just the family members. We had cake and presents but that was it. No other family members, no grandparents, no aunts and uncles and cousins, it was just us. It was sad, his grandma actually dropped the cake off on the front porch. She made his Garfield cake but he had to wave through the window and he couldn’t go out and hug her or anything,” Baier said.

Kyler just turned 4 and doesn’t have the life experience to expect much else. Baier said it was fine but a pretty quiet affair. That is until the Nikiski Fire Department showed up in a fire truck, lights flashing and sirens blaring.

“They came by, they had the dog (Sparky the Fire Dog) and they had a fire hat to give him and a little stuffed animal. It was just really awesome. They sang happy birthday to him through speaker thing on the truck. It was special, it was just for him, they talked to him and said his name and happy birthday. I know he’ll remember it forever,” she said.

KPBSD

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s announcement Thursday that distance delivery of education will continue through the rest of the school year did not come as a surprise to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. Communications Director Pegge Erkeneff says the district has been expecting to continue the remote learning system it began March 30 through the end of school May 20.

“Overall, we’ve heard really positive things. The schools are there for our kids, our nurses are reaching out, we’re doing the lunch programs. And we can always improve, so we look forward to hearing, ‘What do you need?’ And we’ll be as responsive as we can,” she said.

Businesses across the country are suffering the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic but businesses on the Kenai Peninsula are dealing with a couple of extra doses of insult to injury.

Timing of the economic shutdown could not be worse for fishing, lodging and other tourism-season businesses. On top of that, businesses from Cooper Landing through the western peninsula already took a hit last year from disruptions due to the Swan Like Fire.

Cliff Cochran, director of the Kenai Peninsula Small Business Development Center, on K-Beach Road, says he’s been getting a lot of anxious calls from businesses wanting some sort of crystal ball. He says the best research he’s seen shows it takes six to eight months following a pandemic for travel and spending to return to normal. That’s not an answer any seasonal business wants to hear.

“Folks I’ve talked to the number of cancelations they’ve received is just astronomical. Obviously, we need the revenues from June, July and August to make it through September to May this winter. So if this summer is gone, it impacts not just the next six months but the next 15,” Cochran said.

Alaska Division of Forestry

The Kenai Peninsula had its first wildfire of the season Wednesday

Firefighters from the Alaska Division of Forestry and Homer Volunteer Fire Department responded to a small grass fire off East End Road near Homer on Wednesday afternoon.

A person on the scene told firefighters he had discarded a cigarette butt in the grass and put it out with his foot. He left and came back a few minutes later and saw the grass burning, so called the fire department, which in turn called Forestry.

The city of Soldotna is contemplating ways to help its businesses and residents get through the financial upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

During a city council meeting Wednesday, council member Justin Ruffridge voiced concern about businesses in the city.

“Obviously, our economics are going to take a pretty big hit and it’s hard to predict what that’s going to be but our businesses probably have a tough road ahead, especially if tourism season doesn’t happen,” Ruffridge said.

City Manager Stephanie Queen says the administration is considering various ways the city can help ease the financial strain. One idea is to adjust water and sewer rates. The city already announced that water and sewer payments can be deferred and no interest will be charged until July. Queen said that measure was to buy the city time to decide what else it might do.

Alaska Division of Forestry

Here are two crises that are bad enough on their own — a worldwide pandemic and wildfires.

The Alaska Division of Forestry is taking proactive steps to try to prevent those two situations from overlapping. 

Forestry announced Tuesday that all burn permits in the state will be suspended May 1. This is applicable to small- and large-scale burning on state, municipal and private lands.

KPBSD

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is as up in the air as everyone else about what the coronavirus pandemic will mean, financially.

The district’s Board of Education met Monday via teleconference. Acting Superintendent Dave Jones outlined several factors that will impact the district — one good, most bad.

The district has no mechanism to raise its own money, so is at the mercy of the borough, state and federal governments for revenue. Borough administration had committed to funding the district next year to the full amount allowed under state statute. But, given the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic, Jones said that Mayor Charlie Pierce has warned that might not happen.

“He’s very concerned about the economic effect that’s happening in our borough, especially what is going to happen with our sales tax and with the possible delinquent taxes that could not get paid. Has a concern that they may not be able to support to the amount that they had originally committed to,” Jones said.

It’s Easter on Sunday. Celebrations are going to look a lot different this year, following mandates for COVID-19. The state of Alaska issued a health alert today regarding religious services and Easter baskets.

Citing a previous health mandate prohibiting gatherings of non-household members, the alert says online streaming of religious services is allowed, as long as those producing the service number 10 or fewer, and practice specific social distancing and masking requirements.

Kenai Change

Looking for a way to save the world? Here’s an idea: Feed chickens, not landfills.

OK, that’s maybe overly optimistic, but Kenai Change is finding that even a small project, like repurposing food scraps, can have a big impact. In October, the group started a community composting project to reduce the amount of organic waste going to the Soldotna landfill. The idea came out of a book-to-action series, which helped the group brainstorms ways the central Kenai Peninsula could help combat global warming.

The book, “Drawdown,” presents potential solutions, large and small, and the group used it as a way to research and plan what to work on locally. Kaitlin Vadla, with Cook Inletkeeper’s Community Action Studio in Soldotna, helped facilitate the program.

The state of Alaska says drivers can feel free to leave their studded tires on for an extra couple weeks. Studs are allowed in Alaska from Sept. 15 through April 30, but the Alaska Departments of Public Safety and Transportation announced last week that the deadline to remove those tires is being extended to May 11.

Kenai Peninsula Borough

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly had some housekeeping measures to take care of related to the borough’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The assembly met for an emergency meeting at 2 p.m. April 3.

All four measures on the agenda passed unanimously. The assembly extended the payment deadline for special assessment districts from March 31 to June 30. Interest on late payments won’t start to accrue until July 1.

South Peninsula Hospital will be allowed to keep additional cash on hand in case the hospital has increased costs in responding to COVID-19 patients. Usually, the hospital would transfer any additional money beyond 90 days worth of operating expenses into the hospital’s plant replacement fund at the end of the quarter, which was March 31. That’ll be put off until the end of the next quarter.

The assembly also gave SPH a green light to apply for a paycheck protection loan, which is part of the federal coronavirus relief act passed by Congress last week. Since elective medical procedures and noncritical services are not being allowed for the time being, SPH estimates an $11.4 million operating loss from March through June. The hospital will apply for $5.6 million to cover payroll and other operating expenses.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

Alaska hunters spent an unhappy 24 hours reeling from an announcement that all spring bear hunting would be closed through May 31.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s decision was released by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at 5 p.m. April 1. The emergency order states says the decision is meant to prevent travelers from bringing the coronavirus to rural communities, which do not have adequate health care resources to deal with an outbreak.

Ted Spraker, chair of the Alaska Board of Game, said the decision is out of the board’s hands.

“None of this is a biological issue. All of this is just a coronavirus, people issue,” Spraker said. “Normally, the governor does not get involved in wildlife management issues. That’s what he has the Board of Game and the commissioner for, and all the Fish and Game staff. This was more public safety than game management.”

Central Peninsula Hospital is continuing preparations in case the worst occurs with the coronavirus pandemic and the hospital is inundated with cases of COVID-19.

Bruce Richards, CPH external affairs director, joined the Kenai Peninsula Office of Emergency Management nightly update Tuesday. He said the hospital continues to be closed to the public and visitors in all but a few exceptions. All nonemergency procedures are still canceled. Staff at the hospital have to maintain social distancing as much as possible and take additional steps like changing clothes and shoes when they get to work and when they leave.

The hospital currently has five ventilators and the possibility of converting other equipment if need be and is trying to build up supplies of masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment.

Soldotna Chamber of Commerce

The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce is encouraging families to go on a bear hunt.

“Not real, furry, live bears, no,” said Sarah Hondel, tourism and education director at the chamber.

It’s a scavenger hunt for stuffed bears or pictures of bears, not actual, live bears. Similar bear scavenger hunts are happening in communities nationwide.

“For the idea of kids that are at home during the pandemic, they can have a chance to go out with their families from a safe distance, i.e., in their car for family car rides, to try to find on a scavenger hunt where all of these bears are hiding in their own communities,” Hondel said.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

Humans in Alaska are required to stay home as much as possible these days but global pandemics and government mandates have no say over wildlife. As daylight lengthens, snow melts and nature edges toward spring, bears might soon show up in a social distance near you.

“They are definitely starting to come out. We haven’t had too many reports yet. I believe it would have been about a week and a half ago we had a black bear report here in Soldotna,” said Jacob Pelham, a wildlife technician with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Soldotna. “It wasn’t necessarily getting into trouble, it was just probably coming out of its den and walking around looking for food. So people just need to keep that in mind, that this is definitely the time of year right now that bears are going to be coming out and looking for snacks.” 

CDC

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy issues two new mandates Friday to try and stop the spread of the coronavirus, putting additional restrictions on interactions and in-state travel.

Dunleavy mandated that all people not engaged in essential health care services, public government services and essential business activities remain in their homes. Outdoor recreation is allowed, but people out walking, hiking, skiing, etc. must be at least six feet away from anyone but close family members.

Public or private gatherings involving non-household members are prohibited, no matter how many people are gathered. Church, weddings, funerals, graduations and the like are not allowed. 

The mandate closes non-essential businesses, unless all employees can work from home. A list of essential vs. non-essential businesses are included in the mandate.

The social distancing mandate went into effect at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Courtesy of KPEDD

A survey to quantify impacts to Kenai Peninsula businesses from the COVID-19 pandemic shows disheartening results.

The Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District collected responses throughout the borough last week and crunched the numbers over the weekend. Executive Director Tim Dillon says the cheeriest number was participation.

“I was hoping for 250, 300 responses from businesses on the peninsula and, low and behold, we had 721 businesses across the borough respond. I have 45 pages of comments,” Dillon said.

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