Three candidates are running for two seats on the Soldotna City Council. The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce held a candidate forum Wednesday, with a wide-ranging set of questions.
Lisa Parker is running unopposed for reelection to her seat. She is president of Parker Horn Company, a consulting firm, and previously worked for Apache, Inc. and Agrium. She served on the council in the 2000s and was elected again in 2016.
Dave Carey and Pamela Parker are vying for the other seat.
Carey is a retired teacher and has previously served as a city councilman, Soldotna’s mayor and the Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor. He’s also on the Homer Electric Association Board of Directors and is a volunteer at Wildwood Correctional Facility working with inmates fighting substance-abuse problems.
“I’m also aware of how many businesses, how many people in our community are injured or damaged as a result of that,” Carey said.” … I make a commitment to be a catalyst for looking for solutions and programs dealing with addiction. The safety of the people in our town, the safety of businesses to exist and to not have issues done, I want to be the catalyst for that.”
Pamela Parker and her husband moved to the area four years ago. They are the owners of Everything Bagels and Snappy Turtle Photobooths. Parker is the president-elect of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce board and current president of the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council board.
All three agreed Soldotna that is well-positioned with its current budget. When asked if the city should diversify revenue streams, both Parkers said they’d be open to a bed tax, should a change in revenue be needed. In the future, they’d both like to see better development of downtown Soldotna, especially focused on the river. For Lisa Parker, that involves building a bridge:
“So that kids can ride bikes from here over to the baseballs fields and over to the college and the bike trails over there,” she said.
Carey said he doesn’t see a need for diversifying revenues but said the city should lower water and sewer rates.
On the issues of building a new visitors center and field house, Pamela Parker sees a need for both.
“We’ve listened to folks and the feedback that we’ve received about the location of the visitors center,” she said. “And, so, while I do think that there is a place for it in our community, perhaps the place we were initially looking at, right there in Soldotna Creek Park, might not be the best place. So I think going back to the drawing board and finding a spot that doesn’t take a corner of our park.”
Lisa Parker thinks a new visitors center that could hold conferences would be economically viable. Since a bond for a new field house was voted down by residents, she supports the city doing renovations to the existing sports complex.
Carey said he thinks residents should be in the driver’s seat on decisions to build large facilities.
“If the people of this area are adequately and conscientiously informed of what could go on if we went ahead, I think the people make a good decision based on their own pocketbooks. If the people can’t afford it, we should not be telling them we’re going to do it anyway,” he said. “If a demonstration can be provided showing we could do these things and now we can’t, then I think we put it on the ballot for the people say yes or no.”
Annexation has been a hot-button issue in Soldotna, with the council to vote on a resolution later this month whether to submit an annexation petition to the Local Boundary Commission.
Lisa Parker said she supports annexing areas along Funny River Road and Kalifornsky Beach Road that are already served by city water and sewer.
“So for those areas where we have said, yes, extended the water and sewer and they said, yes, we won’t object, yes, we should annex those areas,” she said.
Carey, in his time as mayor, vetoed the council’s previous vote to go ahead with annexation. He said he wants people in the proposed areas to be annexed to have a vote in the matter.
Pamela Parker didn’t say whether she was in favor of or against annexation but focused on what would happen if it does go forward.
“When we begin to implement annexation, if it does happen, making sure that we are planning properly — using certain zoning areas to help alleviate some of the concerns that folks have, like being able to ride their ATVs or shoot guns in their yard, grandfathering businesses in with the sign code, with business structure — things like that,” she said.
The municipal election is Oct. 1.