Dan Nelson

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Three seats on the Soldotna City Council are up for grabs this October.

KDLL has been interviewing the candidates for that race and other municipal races on Kenai Conversation. You can play the interviews in full and learn where the candidates stand on city issues — including riverfront development, COVID-19 mitigation policies and 911 dispatch services — online any time.

Municipal elections in the Kenai Peninsula Borough are around the corner.

This week and last week, we spoke with the candidates for the three open seats on the Soldotna City Council.

Dan Nelson is running for Seat C and joins us in the studio. Erick Hugarte is also running for the seat. He did not respond to requests for an interview.

Dr. Kristin Mitchell, with Central Peninsula Internal Medicine, Justin Rufridge, co-owner of Soldotna Professional Pharmacy, and Dan Nelson, manager of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management, are here to discuss the COVID vaccine this week.

KPE OEM

As the COVID-19 pandemic has stabilized in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the Office of Emergency Management has shifted from response to mitigation and planning for the future.

OEM Director Dan Nelson briefed the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday night. Back in February and March, OEM focused on contingency planning.

“Specifically around health care facilities. Remember, we were seeing models at that time that this may overwhelm our local hospitals and health care faculties, what we would call patient surge, so what that looked like,” Nelson said. “What kind of contingency plans for response should we have another incident that occurred, a natural disaster, let’s say, during COVID. And many, many other plans.”

Luckily, the peninsula wasn’t hit with a fire or earthquake amid COVID. The infection curve flattened and a patient surge did not occur. But OEM still keeps a daily eye on the numbers and has twice-weekly check-ins with hospitals, cities and other entities. Part of OEM’s job once a disaster declaration has been issued is to obtain resources and getting them where they’re needed. During COVID, that means testing supplies and personal protective equipment.

“In a typical incident that we would manage, we usually have 50 or less of these resource requests. I looked this morning, we are at 312,” Nelson said. “And this is something that is not just a one-time thing. We have some great folks that have worked to track that and got those things to the places they’re needed all across the borough. So the logistics piece of that is a response that’s going on still to this day.”

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.

The Swan Lake Fire was almost out when strong winds whipped it back to life Saturday night. Hot spots flared up and the fire jumped the Sterling Highway at Milepost 60 around 2 a.m. Sunday. The wind-driven blaze is exhibiting fast-paced crown-burning activity, according to Mike Hill with the Swan Lake Incident Command.
    The fire has caused the closure of the Sterling Highway from miles 58 to 75, as well as Skilak Loop Road due to encroaching flames and dense smoke. The Kenai River from Kenai Lake to Skilak Lake is also closed.

Spring time in Alaska also means it's fire season. On this week's Kenai Conversation, we'll talk with Dan Nelson, Emergency Manager for the Kenai Peninsula Borough, about the recent fires that triggered the start of the season, evacuation protocol during a fire and some of the things homeowners can do to prepare for the season if they haven't already. 


CERT training prepares for next big or little one

Dec 19, 2018
Kenai Peninsula Borough

 

People across south central are still processing the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that shook the region for several minutes last month. For folks who work in emergency management, it was yet another test of how well their local programs provide a response to such events.

It's been a busy year for the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Office of Emergency Management, from floods to tsunamis to earthquakes. On this week’s Kenai Conversation, OEM manager Dan Nelson talks about the borough's response to such events and upcoming opportunities for residents to become part of the response team.

Interview highlights-

Borough working to survey earthquake after effects

Dec 5, 2018

 

Borough staff are still analyzing their procedures in responding to last week’s magnitude 7.0 earthquake.

Borough finished with updated hazard mitigation plan

Nov 15, 2018

 

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management has finished its draft update to the all-hazard mitigation plan.

Borough phones (your) home in KPB Alerts test

Aug 14, 2018

The new alert system designed to better inform Kenai Peninsula Borough residents of vital emergency information will have its capacity tested this week, and you’re all invited to participate.

KPB Alerts, the phone, mobile, and text mass notification system, was put in place earlier this year after a large earthquake in the Gulf of Alaska exposed shortcomings in the previous system. One of the last steps is to test the voice-calling capability, which will start on Wednesday.

Volunteers spruce up Aspen St. dog park

Jun 29, 2018

The Soldotna City Council Wednesday night heard some good news about the Three Friends Dog Park. The news was welcome after vandals spread broken glass in the fenced off area recently.

Upgrades have been done and more will be coming thanks to contributions, cash and otherwise, from several organizations, which park booster Connie Hawker said would be acknowledged at the park on a sign.

The 7.9-magnitude earthquake which struck near Kodiak in January generated plenty of tsunami alerts -- though little in the way of actual tsunamis -- throughout coastal communities in the Gulf of Alaska, including here on the Kenai Peninsula.

Unfortunately, many people who needed to be notified of potential doom were not able to be reached because of limitations in the equipment the borough's Office of Emergency Management uses to contact citizens in times of crisis.

Last month’s 7.9 magnitude earthquake off Kodiak Island meant different things to different people on the Kenai Peninsula, and it all depended on where they lived. In areas closer to the open ocean of the Gulf of Alaska, it meant evacuation to high ground, while in the Central Peninsula, it was a midnight diversion, something to post about on Facebook for a few days.

For the people of the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Office of Emergency Management, it was the time to swing into high gear to warn residents in vulnerable areas of possible tsunami danger.