A group of citizens organized to explore forming a Nikiski city government has decided instead to explore forming a home-rule community as might be allowed under a bill now before the Legislature.
Jack Brown, who recently announced he will be stepping down from his Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly seat to take a borough job, said a group of about 40 Nikiski residents has been meeting since fall, considering primarily whether Nikiski could incorporate as a home-rule or first-class city.
"They want more local influence on what goes on around here, but they're not willing to take the leap of faith to form a city," he said. "There's too much mistrust of government. The common theme is that people here don't want another layer of government."
The bottom line is that many do not want to pay any more taxes, he said.
"We just can't get over the hump," he said.
As a home-rule community, Brown said, Nikiski would elect a council that could serve as a unified voice to speak out on capital projects or other matters that affect the community. Forming a home-rule community could offset many long-standing fears that forming a city would preferentially benefit particular individuals or businesses, he said.
"A home-rule community would be recognized by the state of Alaska. There may be some services that could be performed through a home-rule community. It could be almost like a service area," he said.
The bill to allow formation of home-rule communities, House Bill 16, was introduced by Rep. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River. It has passed the House and moved to the Senate, where it has been referred to the Community and Regional Affairs, Finance and Judiciary committees.
Under the bill, a home-rule community would adopt a customized charter, and might provide services such as police or fire protection. It could levy property taxes of no more than 20 mills, equivalent to $2,000 for each $100,000 in assessed value. A home-rule community could, upon approval from the Local Boundary Commission, hold an election to become a home-rule city.
Brown, informal chair of Nikiski's incorporation committee, said there were no objections Thursday to his suggestion to end the effort to incorporate a city and explore forming a home-rule community.
The plan is to meet in August with Dyson, Sen. Jerry Ward, R-Anchorage, and Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, to explore the home-rule community option, he said.
"If Nikiski does it, other communities like Cooper Landing or Anchor Point, who have expressed an interest in having something more than they have now, may want to pursue it," Brown said.
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