Soldotna council candidates share plans at Chamber forum

Sep 26, 2018

 

Paul Whitney, Jordan Chilson and Justin Ruffridge discuss the issues at a Chamber of Commerce candidate forum Wednesday in Soldotna.
Credit Shaylon Cochran/KDLL

The city council races in Soldotna aren’t as competitive as the race in Kenai. Three candidates are running for three seats.

 

 


Paul Whitney is seeking reelection for Seat A. He sees a few big issues coming the council’s way. Annexation, which he’s in favor of in principal, a remodel at the sports center which also has his support, and a new visitor’s center. The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce would like to relocate and expand next to Soldotna Creek Park.

“I have a few misgivings about the conference center down there by the park. That park is used all the time and the people I’ve talked to, they say we should be expanding the park and not taking away from it. There’s just too many activities that go on there all the time, so I still have a few misgivings about that plan.”

The sports center and the visitor’s center aren’t the only big projects that are being planned. More upgrades at the wastewater treatment plant could be necessary down the road. Jordan Chilson is a network engineer for the school district running for Seat C. He says the city can’t rely on revenue sharing from the state or federal government to pay for local operations. Instead, growing the business base and the city’s footprint should be the path.

“I am of the opinion that a raise in property taxes should be the last resort. And we should instead pursue other options like growing our city boundaries or potentially a bed tax. I just think we need to pursue all options first before looking to property tax to diversify revenue.”

Growth is also what Justin Ruffridge is hoping to usher if elected to the council for a full term. He owns Soldotna Pharmacy and was appointed to the council earlier this year. His eyes are on making decisions now that will facilitate that growth sustainably into the future.

“There has to be a 15 year plan and that has to be for the growth of Soldotna both in small business and in how many residents can live within our city limits. I think that helps with funding if funding ever comes from the state again, to help show that we are a growing population area, because we are, and we just don’t fit that much within our city boundary currently.”

The candidates touched on a range of other issues during Wednesday’s Chamber of Commerce forum, including the city’s role in combating opioid addiction and whether or not the city should give an official opinion on the statewide Stand for Salmon ballot initiative. Absentee voting is closed in Soldotna. The regular election is October 2nd.