Community commitment was the guiding star of Thursday night's Nikiski town meeting.
More than 50 people crowded into the Nikiski Senior Center to hear a six-member panel address effects of the proposed 10 mill cap, public safety concerns and options for Nikiski's future.
The meeting's format provided for public input. Those attending took advantage of the opportunity to ask questions, offer suggestions and make comments.
Panel members included Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dale Bagley, Assembly President Bill Popp, Nikiski Fire Chief Billy Harris and residents Fred Miller and Gary Superman, along with Jack Brown, Nikiski's representative to the borough assembly, who also chaired the meeting.
Sen. Jerry Ward participated via telephone from his office in Juneau. Lt. Tom Bowman also was on hand to answer questions about Alaska State Troopers presence in Nikiski.
"(We need) to get back to the basics of raising our children and cracking the whip on them. Regarding guns and being stupid, that's not the parents fault."
- Chrystal Schoenrock, Nikiski resident
Highway maintenance, jobs, and law enforcement presence dominated discussions of Nikiski's present situation.
"First and foremost, we need the road (maintenance) problem taken care of," said Gary Superman.
Chief Harris underlined Superman's comments.
"My No. 1 concern is that we get our fair share of dollars to keep the (road maintenance) station open," said Harris. "I hope I impress on Sen. Ward the importance of getting our roads maintained."
Ward offered hope that state funding would reopen the Nikiski road maintenance site, which was closed in 1999.
Lt. Bowman fielded tough questions and criticisms about trooper presence in Nikiski, encouraging people to call him if they have problems.
"Do we need more troopers?" he asked. "Absolutely. But we're out here as much as we can be."
Bowman explained the biggest obstacle to faster response time is the number of troopers, 31, assigned to cover the entire peninsula. He cautioned residents against taking matters into their own hands.
"The vigilante route doesn't work," he said.
Caroline C. Huhndorf peppers Alaska State Trooper Lt. Tom Bowman with questions during a portion of the meeting dedicated to public safety concerns in the Nikiski area.
Chrystal Schoenrock said law enforcement presence in the community isn't a new issue.
"We've been through this thing before," she said. "(We need) to get back to the basics of raising our children and cracking the whip on them. Regarding guns and being stupid, that's not the parents' fault. It's everyone else that should disappear."
Robin Williams, principal at the middle-senior high school, is a Nikiski newcomer, but she said her time there has opened her eyes.
"At first, I didn't like the attitude of 'we'll take care of it on our own,'" Williams said. "Now I understand it. But I still don't like it."
Incorporation also was discussed, although not for the first time, either. Brown and Superman have been proponents of incorporation, but found that an unpopular position in the past.
"If we had incorporated 20 years ago, we would have $200 million federal and state monies, people working and jobs for kids," said Brown. "There would be a lot of quality things that we don't have now."
Miller, Nikiski's representative on the Kenai Peninsula Resource Conservation and Development Council, offered an option to incorporation.
"The (council) was set up to assist the unincorporated areas of the Kenai Peninsula with community development." said Miller.
"The first step is development of a community action plan," he said.
His idea met with enthusiasm.
"I've had 11 people ask to participate," said Miller, who anticipates a May meeting to begin the process.
"This is super. It's really a good response out of the community to create an identity."
Mayor Bagley gave a presentation on the property tax and assessment limitation initiative, which set the value of property at its assessment on January 1 of the first year the bill is in effect. Bagley said the initiative, which has been reviewed by the Alaska attorney general and certified by the lieutenant governor, will be on the ballot this fall.
Given an opportunity to make closing comments, Ward spoke positively on the possibility of Nikiski's selection as terminus for the proposed gas line.
Popp interjected words of caution.
"This is a long-haul effort," Popp said. "It could be the year 2007 before it's built. Don't plan on it being a panacea."
At the end of the meeting, Brown said he was encouraged by the participation.
"There was a real positive atmosphere here tonight," he said, adding that he was encouraged by the willingness of those in attendance to define Nikiski's focus for the future.
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