Talkeetna city bid appears headed for defeat

Posted: Wednesday, March 20, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Talkeetna residents apparently want no part of a measure to turn the town into a city.

With 277 ballots counted, the measure was failing 216 to 59 Tuesday. Residents also were overwhelmingly against a sales tax to pay for city services in the case of incorporation.

However, more ballots remain to be counted in the mail-in election. The deadline for receiving ballots is April 3.

About 700 ballots were mailed out. The next vote count will be March 29, state Division of Elections officials said.

Despite the remaining ballots, supporters were ready to concede defeat. ''It's a tremendous landslide against,'' said Billy FitzGerald, a wilderness guide who supports incorporation and is a candidate for mayor if the measure passed.

FitzGerald said he expected an uphill battle. Talkeetna residents rejected the idea of becoming a city once before, in 1981.

''I think there's a negativity about government in general,'' he told the Anchorage Daily News. ''I certainly don't think it has to do with the sales tax or any other intricacies of the petition (for incorporation.)''

But some opponents said residents were concerned about the type of government proposed. They said it took on too many services.

''I think this one was the wrong one,'' said Suzy Kellard, a local gift shop owner.

Supporters needed voters to approve both the idea of becoming a city and the sales tax in order for the town to be incorporated.

The measure would a 24-square-mile chunk of land that surrounds downtown into a city with a city council and a mayor who would take over many duties the Matanuska-Susitna Borough government now handles, such as road maintenance and animal control. About 800 people live in the proposed incorporation area.

Supporters argued that a local government would be more responsive to complaints and problems than the Mat-Su Borough, whose headquarters are 90 miles away in Palmer.

Opponents questioned whether the city would be overwhelmed by the cost of providing services.

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