Petition submitted to create Delta-area borough

Posted: Sunday, April 02, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Residents of the Delta Junction area have filed a petition to create a new borough that would cover some 8,000 square miles of the eastern Interior.

But some in the rural farming region are opposed to the measure, saying the proposed Deltana Borough would result in too much local government.

The petition, filed with the Local Boundary Commission last week, calls for a first-class borough that would border the Matanuska-Susitna, Denali and Fairbanks North Star boroughs.

Organizers claim it is better for the area to organize now under its own terms than to be annexed by a neighboring borough or be forced by the state to incorporate.

''If we don't organize our own borough, we're going to have one organized and put on us ... within the next couple years,'' said Delta city councilwoman Mary Dowling. ''I'd rather that we do something in our own style, with our own boundaries.''

But others worry that the region's 4,100 people cannot support both a borough and a city government.

''It would not make sense to have two governments,'' said Pete Hallgren, who recently moved to Delta Junction from Sitka to take a job with the city.

Supporters seek first-class designation for the borough to cement basic laws -- such as the property tax rate -- in a charter that can only be amended by a popular vote.

''Control remains in the hands of the people, rather than in the mayor and assembly,'' borough backer Carlene Smith said. ''That's very important to us.''

Second-class boroughs, such as the Fairbanks North Star Borough, have no such charter. The assembly sets property tax rates.

Taxes would be capped at 8 mills and would be assessed against property worth about $140 million, according to the petition. The tax would also apply to the portion of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline that runs through the borough. Value on that portion of the line is about $258 million.

Residents in the region now pay no property taxes.

If the boundary commission approves the petition, voters would have the final say in deciding whether the borough was created.

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