Soldotna

Sabine Poux/KDLL

An Alaska State Trooper based in Soldotna is jailed on charges he sexually abused two girls, and authorities are asking the public for information about other possible victims.

Thirty-nine-year-old Benjamin Strachan was arrested Wednesday on one count of sexual abuse in the first degree and six counts in the second-degree. Strachan moved to Soldotna to be an Alaska State Trooper in June 2020. 

Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

Soldotna welcomed back its Progress Days event on Saturday with a bang—or lots of them, depending where along the parade route you were standing.

There were tractors. There were horses. There were dancers. There was a giant copy of the U.S. Constitution. Most importantly to many of the kids along the way, there was plenty of candy. The parade was cancelled last year due to concerns about the coronavirus, but came back this year with gusto, along with vendors and music in Soldotna Creek Park this weekend.

Lemonade Day fills streets with sweet treats

Jun 28, 2021
Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

If you looked around the central Kenai Peninsula on Saturday, you might have felt heavy pressure to buy a glass of lemonade. Dozens of entrepreneurs were trying their hands at all kinds of advertising, from sign-spinning to price undercutting, on the streets of Kenai and Soldotna.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

June is Pride Month — a time for members of the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate love and identity and commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, which in part catalyzed the gay liberation movement.

One of the key cornerstones of pride today is visibility. In a small town like Soldotna, that can mean a lot. 

Kenai Peninsula Peace Crane Garden Trails

Construction begins Monday on a Soldotna park three years in the making.

Sarah Pyhala, who’s spearheading the Kenai Peninsula Peace Crane Garden Trails, plans to build a Japanese-themed garden and 2,700 feet of trails near Marydale and Riverwatch in Soldotna. She has longer-term plans in mind for the park, too, including a fish pond and tea house.

That’s been a sticking point for neighbors, who say the project has changed a lot since it was first proposed.

Alaska Legislature

The widow of late Rep. Gary Knopp has filed a counter complaint against High Adventure Air Charters, the Soldotna company whose plane collided with Knopp’s last summer, resulting in seven deaths.

Representatives of four of those passengers filed lawsuits last month against Helen Knopp and the Knopp estate, alleging Knopp was negligent because he was flying his private plane without a valid medical certificate.

Alaska DEC Contaminated Sites

A Soldotna construction company has settled with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for $130,000 after an unauthorized injection well was discovered on the property.

Office of Rep. Gary Knopp

Rep. Gary Knopp had impaired vision caused by glaucoma when his private plane collided with a charter plane last summer, according to a medical report released Monday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The report is among hundreds of pages of documents released by the board on the mid-air crash that killed Knopp and six others July 31. It's an interim step — the board's final report is still likely months away.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

When the Moose is Loose bakery closed in 2019, it left a donut-shaped hole in its fans' hearts. 

Ever since, hungry Sterling Highway passersby have been taunted by the unfulfilled, mouth-watering promises of the building’s iconic pink storefront.

Not for much longer. The donuts are coming back.

Office of Rep. Gary Knopp

This story was last updated Thursday evening.

The families of four passengers killed in a mid-air crash last summer are suing the estate of Gary Knopp, the former Alaska state representative who was piloting the plane that collided with theirs.

Representatives for Kristen Wright, Caleb Hulsey, MacKay Hulsey and Heather Hulsey, all of South Carolina, filed two separate federal lawsuits today against Knopp’s estate and his wife, Helen Knopp.

The governor proposed cutting six DMV offices out of the state budget this year, including the office in Homer, a two-person operation on Lake Street.

It’s one of the easier-to-reach communities with a DMV on the list. Also at stake is the DMV in Haines, a ferry ride away from the nearest office in Juneau. 

Residents say they’re not thrilled about the cuts. But the state has been eyeing another idea: instead of closing up shop completely, shift some DMV services to private businesses.


Courtesy of Sara Erickson

Fish skin is hardly a hot commodity. Processors like Kenai’s Pacific Star Seafoods usually grind up and discard the stuff once they’ve separated it from the meaty goodness that goes to market.

But these days, Pacfic Star is selling more than 3,600 pounds of cod and halibut skin to Sara Erickson, owner of the dog treat business AlaSkins. Erickson orders another 2,550 pounds of skin from Icicle Seafoods in Seward and 300 pounds each from 10th and M and Cooper River Seafoods in Anchorage.


Local Boundary Commission

A decision by the Alaska Local Boundary Commission on Soldotna’s annexation petition has been pushed back a week or longer so the commission can decide whether it wants to put the subject to a public vote.

In the meantime, the commission is again accepting written public testimony — not on the city’s annexation petition, but on whether the matter should be determined by a vote.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Monday marked a changing of the guard for Soldotna. Pete Sprague finished his tenure as two-time Soldotna mayor and Paul Whitney had his first day on the job — though it was also the observation of Alaska Day, so he had the day off.

Whitney is looking forward to jumping into the role after years of serving on city council. He said a big goal of his is to get the city back to its pre-COVID self.

“Once we kind of get back to a normal lifestyle here, continue on one of the things we’ve been doing, we’re right now working on a remodel project at the sports center, and some time maybe look at another expansion of the sports center, there is a need,” he said.

High Adventure Air Charter

On Friday, the central peninsula was shocked when two small planes collided above Soldotna and killed all seven people aboard. Around 8:30 a.m., a deHavilland Beaver from High Adventure Air Charter on Longmere Lake collided with a Piper PA-12, piloted by state house Rep. Gary Knopp of Kenai, sending both planes down around Mayoni Street just east of town. It’s still not entirely clear what happened, but until it is, the community is mourning the loss.

The pilot of the de Havilland Beaver plane, Greg Bell, had been flying for a very long time. Bell, who was 57, was a co-owner of High Adventure Air, a lifelong Soldotna resident. Friends, colleagues and clients remember a cheerful, skilled pilot and a man of faith.

Representative Gary Knopp of Kenai was reportedly killed in a plane crash outside of Soldotna this morning, along with six other people.
 
Knopp was reportedly flying his own plane, a Piper Aztec, outside of Soldotna when it collided with a de Havilland Beaver around 8:30 a.m. The collision reportedly happened above Mayoni Street between Soldotna and Sterling, about two miles northeast of the Soldotna airport.The Beaver was reportedly owned by High Adventure Air, and co-owner Greg Bell was also confirmed dead in the crash. Knopp flew alone, and the other four people killed were passengers in Bell’s plane. That included Kansas resident David Rogers, who troopers identified as a guide, and South Carolina residents Caleb Hulsey, Heather Hulsey, Makay Hulsey, and Kristen Wright.

Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

The Kenai Peninsula is one of the best places in the world for outdoor recreation, but sometimes the weather is less than great and the lakes are too cold to swim in. Usually, there are community pools and indoor recreation facilities to help with that, but like most things, the coronavirus pandemic has interrupted that.

Most of the pools in the central peninsula area are operated by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, as they’re inside the schools. Because of the pandemic, the schools have been closed to the public since mid-March, but the district reopened the pools on a reservation basis in early July. But rising case numbers triggered the district’s “high-risk” scenario starting on Monday, leading it to close the pools again until cases come back down.

City of Soldotna

This week, Soldotna will be celebrating its community and businesses with a scaled-back version of its regular annual festival, Progress Days.

Instead of the usual fanfare, parade, live music, and barbecue, the more modest event will coincide with the Wednesday market. The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the event, scaled back its plans in response to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and the City of Soldotna’s regulations about large events, particularly in Soldotna Creek Park.

Nonprofits and businesses inside Soldotna city limits can now apply for some coronavirus relief money through the city’s CARES Act grant program.

The city launched its first phase of business and nonprofit relief on Friday, making $2.75 million available for qualifying organizations, regardless of whether they’ve received other relief funding. The caveat is that the expenses they’re applying for help with can’t have been covered by any other relief funding they’ve received.

Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

Fred Meyer and Safeway are joining Walmart in requiring all customers to wear face masks starting next week.

Safeway’s policy goes into effect on next Tuesday and Fred Meyer’s next Wednesday, while Walmart’s goes into effect on Monday. Fred Meyer says small children and people who medically cannot wear a mask will be exempt and are encouraged to consider alternatives, like a face shield, and if not, requested to use curbside pickup or delivery. All three companies say they are doing so to protect communities and help slow the spread of coronavirus, which is rapidly spreading in many regions of the country.

Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

When the pandemic began shutting down schools and businesses in March, the best advice to avoid getting sick and getting others sick was to stay home as much as possible. As the weeks and months dragged on, though, it became clear that just staying home wasn’t really going to be possible. So businesses began reopening, and when they did, some of the employees were masked.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing a cloth face covering whenever going out, primarily to avoid giving the virus to someone else if you are asymptomatic. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services highly recommends wearing a mask in public settings when it’s hard to socially distance, like in grocery stores or other indoor retail facilities. Because of the shortness of supply, both agencies are recommending people make cloth face coverings or use cloth to cover their noses and mouths, as opposed to using medical PPE, which medical workers need.

The Soldotna City Council got an early look at the beginning of the fiscal year 2021 budget at its meeting Wednesday. City administration wanted to give the council a heads up on what they might see in terms of financial repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sales tax is a huge chunk of Soldotna’s revenue. City Manager Stephanie Queen says the city anticipates the biggest hit being in March and the current quarter, with things slowly recovering over the next fiscal year.

“We are anticipating a reduction of sales tax revenue in the current fiscal year of about $800,000, essentially about 10 percent of the year in total reduction. And then, for FY21, the budget we’re building, we’re anticipating essentially double that, so, a 21 percent reduction, which is equivalent to $1.7 million reduction,” Queen said.

Soldotna Chamber of Commerce

Join host Bill Howell on this month’s Drinking on the Last Frontier for a report from Frozen River Fest, a visit with Gakona Brewing Company and an apples-to-pears comparison of ciders and perries. Cheers!

Courtesy Jenny Neyman/Redoubt Reporter

Anybody who grew up 30, 20, even 10 years ago, would know a library as a place for quiet reading and study, whispered conversations and stern looks for causing any sort of disturbance, no food or drink, no music outside of headphones, no video games or messy art activities. And certainly no running.

Those libraries are a thing of the past.

“This last Friday we had live-action Pac Man tag, which is exactly what it sounds like — they pretend to be characters from the videogame Pac Man and they chase each other throughout the library after hours. Which is a lot of fun to be in a space that usually you need to be very quiet, and they get to really be themselves,” said Rachel Nash, director of the Soldotna Library.

The library celebrates five years since its building expansion with a party from 4 to 5 p.m. Friday in the community room. The original facility, built in the early 1970s, was a constrained, and, yes, pretty quiet place. The expanding role of community libraries got too big for the cramped space.


Jenny Neyman/KDLL

How far back does your memory of Soldotna go? Do you recall the old two-lane Sterling Highway bridge over the Kenai River, before the current one was finished in 2007? How about the one before that, started in 1948, when the Alaska Road Commission was just beginning to push the Sterling Highway on toward Kasilof?

Al Hershberger does. That first bridge is what brought him to Soldotna.

CES relocation plans on hold

Sep 10, 2018

 

Plans to relocate Central Emergency Services Station One in Soldotna are on hold for now. The borough assembly was supposed to vote on an ordinance approving the purchase of property near the intersection of the Sterling and Spur highways at its meeting last week. But that ordinance was withdrawn after the borough was unable to come to terms with one of the property owners.

ECON 919 - Thinking long term on short-term rentals

Jun 1, 2018

 

This week, temporary lodging. With nearly 4 million listings world wide, AirBnB has dramatically changed how people travel. They actually list more rooms to rent than the top five hotel chains combined. But it’s not just the big hotel companies that are having to deal with online, short-term rental bookings.

 


Soldotna Community Schools

  If you're the type who just ignores inserts in your daily newspaper, go back and see if you can dig this one out: the Soldotna Community Schools Fall 2017 Course Brochure. It's 24 pages of courses being offered that range from Dutch oven cooking to storytelling to stand up paddle board yoga. KDLL's Jay Barrett spoke with Joel Todd, the assistant director of the Soldotna Parks and Recreation Department, who coordinates the community schools program.

Soldotna sign rules finding some direction

Aug 3, 2017

The picture of a future, revamped, reformed sign ordinance in Soldotna is beginning to come into focus.

Soldotna council votes down proposed ballot question

Jul 13, 2017

Voters in Soldotna will not have to consider a ballot question changing the city’s charter, which was just updated last year.

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