Fairbanks area voters reject merger proposal

Posted: Wednesday, August 29, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Nearly 9,000 residents, or about 79 percent of voters, have rejected a proposal to consolidate the governments of Fairbanks and the Fairbanks North Star Borough

Fairbanks mayor Jim Hayes said he was confident the proposal would be turned down, but was surprised by the margin.

''My goodness,'' Hayes said when he heard the tally after the polls closed Tuesday. ''I estimated that it would go down 2 to 1.''

There are still thousands of votes to be counted in the coming weeks, but consolidation proponent Don Lowell conceded the election Tuesday evening after 8,923 voted against the measure and 2,369 voted for it.

Lowell wanted to do away with the two-government system. The petition would have dissolved both the city and borough governments. In their place, a new 11-member borough assembly would have been elected and that body would have overseen the merger of the two governments.

As is, a dozen or so city officials, including the mayor and City Council, will not lose their jobs. This fall's municipal election will be held Oct. 2.

Fairbanks area voters were uniformly against consolidation. The Division of Elections broke results down by state House of Representatives districts. All six showed equally wide margins of defeat.

Residents of District 33, roughly encompassing the Two Rivers, North Pole and Fox/Chatanika areas, were the most disapproving at 84 percent against. District 29, which includes the University West, Chena Pump and Ester areas, had the smallest margin, with 74 percent voting against. Both city districts, 31 and 32, cast 79 percent no votes.

At the downtown post office and at the state elections counter, voters cited their reasons for rejecting the plan.

''No one on either side seemed to know how this would really work out,'' said voter Diane Fleeks, as she descended the stairs after voting in the state building's second-floor elections office.

''I'm concerned that the city wouldn't get the representation it needs,'' said Mary Wyatt.

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