Talkeetna residents to vote on whether to turn town into city

Posted: Monday, February 25, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The state began mailing ballots to Talkeetna residents Monday with this question: Shall Talkeetna become a city?

If the measure is approved, a 24-square-mile piece of land surrounding downtown would be the first new city in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough in more than 25 years. Wasilla was the last to make the move, in 1974.

Supporters, however, face major hurdles, including a vocal opposition that shuns the idea of more government.

About 800 people live in the proposed incorporation area. For the measure to pass, a majority must approve the idea of becoming a city and either a 4 percent seasonal sales tax or a 2 percent year-round sales tax to help pay for city services such as animal control and road maintenance.

The ballot also includes a list of candidates for mayor and City Council who would be seated if incorporation is approved.

Supporters say a local government would be more responsive to complaints and problems than the borough, whose headquarters are miles away in Palmer.

''You've got to drive 70 miles one way (to Palmer) to speak for three minutes on an issue you want to deal with,'' Sandra Shoulders, who has lived in Talkeetna since 1984, told the Anchorage Daily News. ''It's very frustrating. We're a poor stepchild up here.''

But others say more government is the last thing they want.

''It's just not real Talkeetna,'' said Suzy Kellard, who owns a gift shop. ''This is still the last frontier. People moved here to get away from government, to get away from extra taxes, to get away from everything.''

Over the years, several communities in the borough have attempted to strike out on their own. Residents in Big Lake and Lake Louise, on the borough's northern edge, have tried to incorporate and failed. Big Lake tried twice.

A similar incorporation effort in Talkeetna failed in 1981, by a vote of 180 to 66.

Other communities have discussed forming their own governments, including residents in Sunshine, near Talkeetna, and Meadow Lakes, just north of Wasilla, according to Gene Kane, a staff member for the state's Local Boundary Commission. The commission has to approve requests to incorporate before residents can vote.

Joe Page, a schoolteacher who has spearheaded the incorporation effort in Talkeetna, said support in the town is split. He estimated an equal number of residents are for, against and undecided.

The deadline for returning ballots is March 19.

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