Governor names city manager to commission: Semmens part of group who oversees municipal annexation within the state

Posted: Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It often pays to know people in high places, but the recent appointment of Soldotna's chief administrator to the Alaska Local Boundary Commission is not likely to benefit city folk directly.

Gov. Sean Parnell appointed City Manager Larry Semmens to the five-member commission, which oversees municipal annexation within the state, but Semmens already said he would recuse himself should the question of Soldotna annexation arise again.

The city considered expanding its boundaries on four fronts about two years ago, but after overwhelming opposition from residents in the proposed impact areas, then-Mayor Dave Carey vetoed the city council's vote to annex.

Had the council action stood, any annexation proposal would have been subject to acceptance by the Local Boundary Commission, which would then recommend the city boundary change to the state Legislature for final approval.

That method of annexation is known as the legislative review method, the most popular of seven possible annexation methods. All seven methods require boundary commission approval.

Semmens, who was appointed to fill the remaining 2 1/2 years of Lynn Chrystal's five-year term on the commission, said he expects annexation will remain on the horizon in Soldotna. Chrystal left the Southcentral commissioner seat to become the at-large representative and commission chair.

"We've extended water and sewer (service) beyond our boundaries and it's in our best interest to annex those areas," Semmens said on Tuesday.

Semmens said that the service extension encourages commercial development in those areas outside the city. The development could be in direct competition with businesses inside the city limits from which Soldotna receives sales tax revenue.

Commercial enterprises outside the city do not contribute to Soldotna coffers.

"This city depends on sales tax," he said.

Two areas outside city limits that now receive city water and sewer service are along Funny River Road across from the Soldotna Municipal Airport and along Kalifornsky Beach Road out toward Kenai Peninsula College.

The K-Beach area residents adamantly opposed annexation in January 2008, when the topic was before the council.

In addition to reviewing annexation proposals, the Local Boundary Commission acts on petitions for incorporation, dissolution, merger and consolidation of cities and boroughs, for detachment from cities and boroughs and for reclassification of cities. The commission also prepares studies of local government boundary problems.

Semmens drew the interest of the state director of boards and commissions, after being asked to resign from the state retirement management board when he became Soldotna's city manager.

Prior to being hired by Soldotna, Semmens was finance director of Kenai from 1996 to 2008. The seat he held on the ARM board was designated specifically for a finance officer.

Semmens, who has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Boise State University, is the current chair of the Alaska Public Entities Insurance Pool and a member of the Alaska Government Finance Officers Association, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the International City Managers Association.

On the boundary commission he represents Alaska's Third Judicial District, which covers Southcentral Alaska.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to learn the procedures, participate in the process and contribute to solid decision making regarding the Local Boundary Commission responsibilities," Semmens said.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.



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