Mat-Su voters may decide dock plan

Posted: Sunday, August 17, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) Matanuska-Susitna Borough residents will likely vote on an $11.5 million dock expansion at Point MacKenzie.

The borough assembly had planned to make a decision on the issue, but then the state rejected the borough's approach to shouldering its share of the costs because it didn't involve a popular vote.

Borough manager John Duffy said he found out Friday morning about a late-breaking opinion from the state attorney general's office.

''This is unfortunate information to get at this point,'' Duffy said as he shared the news with members of the Borough Assembly. ''We still have enough time to react.''

Now it appears Mat-Su voters will be considering a general obligation bond for the borough's $10 million share on Oct. 8, the date of the borough's regular elections, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Several Assembly members immediately applauded the shift, saying they'd been getting an earful from constituents criticizing plans to go ahead with the dock without hearing from voters first. The original plan floated earlier called for the state to reimburse the borough for its cost of the project, but some feared borough taxpayers could end up shouldering some or all of the burden if the state balked.

At issue is a law legislators passed last year that authorized state reimbursement of up to $10 million for the dock extension and associated road work. Originally, borough officials chose to access the state-backed funds by repaying the debt using revenue from dock operations, an option in which the borough does not promise to raise taxes if needed to cover costs. That option would not require voters' approval.

The plan was for the borough to put up borough offices and land in Palmer for collateral. Assembly members headed for a possible decision Tuesday about the dock were mindful of the fact that the payments come up for consideration every year, and the Legislature could opt not to pay, as it has for other projects.

The state on Friday told Duffy that the revenue bond payment scheme didn't qualify for reimbursement, he said.

The dock project marks a rare public-private partnership for the borough in which the borough's $10 million share is joined by a timber firm paying $3 million in materials, plus $8 million for a loading conveyor to move gravel and wood chips.

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