Assembly to discuss mayor/manager issue

Posted: Monday, August 03, 2009

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly has one remaining meeting to decide whether or not its constituents will have a chance to vote on a possible change on who runs the administration and/or whether or not the community should build a sports dome.

Though the assembly voted at its last meeting to put the mayor/manager question to the voters, Seward Assemblyman Ron Long gave notice for reconsideration on the ordinance during his closing comments.

On Tuesday, Long could make a motion for reconsideration. If the motion passes, the topic would be open for discussion once again, requiring a new vote to be taken.

The assembly, which was split on the issue, voted 5-4 in favor of posing the question to voters on the October ballot.

Arguments against the initiative included poor timing of the ordinance and making current Borough Mayor Dave Carey the central point, rather than focusing on the issue of any mayor running the borough versus a manager.

The cost of removing a badly performing manager, too, was discussed.

Assembly members who were in support of the ordinance argued it's just a question to be put to the voters, nothing more.

The mayor would retain veto power and chair assembly meetings, while the manager would run the day-to-day tasks.

"It is still a form of government elected by people, it's just redefining job duties," said Assemblyman Gary Knopp at the last meeting.

The borough manager would be a hired position, working for the assembly. The manager would be in charge of hiring and dismissing borough employees, supervising enforcement of laws, preparing the budget -- essentially taking over all current responsibilities of the mayor.

Should voters approve the change, the assembly would have 60 days to form a management plan. A borough manager would have to be approved by a majority vote of the assembly.

Due to an amendment passed at a previous meeting, should the voters approve the measure, it would not take effect until 2011, after Carey's three-year term has ended.

Tuesday also marks the final meeting to pass Ordinance 2009-32, establishing a Central Peninsula Multi-use Facility Service Area. The assembly unanimously voted to postpone action on the item at its previous meeting.

The assembly kept its comments to a minimum during the July meeting and let the public weigh in. Those in favor argued an indoor sports dome would give children and adults a place for recreation during Alaska's long, cold winters.

Those against the dome said it is not fiscally responsible to build a multi-million dollar facility at this time. Dissenters also said only those who will use the facility should pay for it. Communities that vote against the dome should not be forced to pay for it.

Nikiski residents are exempt from the service area. Those boundaries mirror those of the Central Peninsula Hospital Service Area limits.

Assemblyman Gary Superman moved to have the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area excluded from the Central Peninsula Multi-use Facility Service Area and his amendment passed on a 7-2 vote.

Superman said many of his constituents are against paying for another recreation service area. He estimated the mill rate would increase by .65 mills with the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area excluded.

Assemblyman Paul Fischer followed Superman and requested District 7 -- the Kasilof residents he represents -- also be excluded. Another amendment was made to postpone action on the item before discussion could take place.

Thanks to a substitute passed last meeting, should voters approve this measure, an elected, five-person service area board of directors will be created.

Should the cities of Kenai and Soldotna agree to join the service area via ordinance, one majority vote of all residents within city limits and those outside of city limits but within the proposed service area is needed. If the cities do not join by ordinance, three, separate votes will be taken; one in the city of Kenai, one in the city of Soldotna and one including residents outside of the cities. Approval from all three districts is required in order to pass.

Ordinance 2009-35, providing for the submission to voters the question of the issuance of general obligation bonds to pay for the dome's construction, too, will be discussed if the previous ordinance is passed.

All ordinances containing ballot measures must be passed by Tuesday to have the questions appear on the October ballot.

Mike Nesper can be reached at

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