Kenai Conversation: Stephanie Queen, Soldotna City Manager

Jul 11, 2018

Annexation may have been one of the hot topics over the past couple years in Soldotna, but there's a lot more going on. This week, we talk with city manager Stephanie Queen about everything from partnering with the city of Kenai on infrastructure projects to how the city gears up for fishing season. And, of course, the next steps in the process toward potential annexation.


Interview highlights:

On financing a remodeled Soldotna Regional Sports Complex:

“One thing that the city council members have expressed and are very aware of is that this is not likely to be a project that has a majority of its funding found in other sources, unlike in years past, where those were possibilities. The question now is going to be is the city council willing to incur debt and borrow? And a lot of our past projects have been paid with a combination of pay-as-you-go, kind of out of our own fund balance, combined with other sources; state revenue grants and things. It’s going to be a different type of question as to whether or not this is the right project to potentially incur some debt. And that’s a question where they need some more information from us. The administration is pulling together information on how much that debt service would be,  how much of it will be deferred by revenue by the facility from activities there, so that they have all that information to make that decision. And I anticipate we’ll be able to bring that information back in the next two months or so.”

 

On the challenges of zoning newly incorporated areas into the city, should they be annexed:

“There are some common themes. One of the biggest concerns we hear from people, which I understand, is regulations. It’s a very different regulatory landscape in terms of building codes and zoning whether you’re inside or outside the city. It doesn’t worry me that we wouldn’t be able to address many of the concerns that we’ve heard. We have a staff that is...open to ideas that are different. Zoning can be a really scary thing. Zoning doesn’t have to mean that all of Soldotna has to look the same. So if there are areas where paving, landscaping, signs, don’t need  the level of regulation that we feel that our downtown does for different reasons, we’re willing to accommodate that. I think that makes sense for our community.

On handling seasonal visitors during fishing season:

“From a public safety (standpoint), activity really ramps up in the summer. Not from a crime perspective, but from a traffic perspective. And our campgrounds and parks, they do as well. We’ll staff some extra folks to accommodate those heavier times. I think most people will stay pretty close to Kenai, but we do get people who will come and clean fish at Centennial Park. It’s probably 10 to 15 additional hires that are temporary and seasonal that we bring on and again, those are often staffing the campgrounds and areas where we see quite a bit of traffic in the summer.”