FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A move toward consolidating the city of Fairbanks with the Fairbanks North Star Borough took a small step forward Wednesday with verification of a petition to turn the city into a borough service area.
While backers of the plan think it could save $2 million a year, city and borough officials say the savings, if any, would be minimal. The issue now goes before the state's Local Boundary Commission, which will take public comments and then decide whether it will go to voters.
''We are really pleased that we are moving forward at last, and we have received overwhelming and favorable support from the people we have talked to,'' said Don Lowell, leader of the consolidation effort.
The plan calls for elimination of city government. The city of Fairbanks would become a service area of the Fairbanks North Star Borough, and the entire area would be renamed the Municipality of Fairbanks. North Pole would remain a separate city.
The new service area would continue to furnish all services already provided by the city but not provided by the borough, such as fire and police service said Lowell, who estimated that consolidating both governments would save $2 million annually.
But not everyone is convinced that the savings warrant consolidating.
Ralph Malone, borough chief of staff, said the savings generated from consolidation would be minimal and would have very little effect on creating a more efficient government.
The borough and the city provide services that the other one doesn't, Malone said, adding that roughly the same work force will still be needed.
Fairbanks Mayor Jim Hayes said the city could lose its powers as a home rule city and could face loss of revenue.
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