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Service area boards connect residents, borough

Posted: Friday, October 01, 2010

There's a numbers problem, one that borders on a civics issue, in the upcoming Oct. 5 election.

Of the 28 seats open on various service area boards across the Kenai Peninsula Borough, there are only 22 candidates, and just four of the races are contested.

Eleven seats don't even have candidates running for them.

Compared to previous years, those numbers are right on the status quo, too.

According to statistics dating back to 2000 that were compiled by Borough Clerk Johni Blankenship, on average, 85 percent of SAB candidates have run unopposed.

While she didn't have any historical stats for the number of seats without any candidate at all, Blankenship said that this year that number appeared to be a bit higher than usual.

If there are no candidates for a seat then the borough is required to advertise for the vacancy and the SAB is responsible for appointing a person to fill it until the next regular election.

Neither Blankenship nor Borough Attorney Collette Thompson said they could pinpoint a single reason why seats up for election are left without a candidate or candidates so frequently run unchallenged.

Blankenship noted that sometimes incumbents simply don't file for re-election because they miss the deadline, which was Aug. 16 this year.

Thompson said as well that the roles of the boards aren't always clear.

"We've worked toward clarifying that and continue to do so," she said.

The borough has even taken steps in the past to open eligibility requirements for serving on three of the smaller SABs, allowing a person who provides an operating service the board oversees to also hold a seat.

There are a total of 12 service area boards in the borough, providing a range of, well, services. The majority -- seven of them -- are fire and emergency SABs; but some of the boards address things like recreation, senior issues and road maintenance, among others.

All but the Road SAB are made up of members that are publicly elected; the former's members are appointed.

The roles of the boards may change over time as well, and new ones can be created through a citizen's petition or the introduction of an ordinance by an assembly member.

While Thompson said there hasn't been a push to create any new SAB's in the recent past, in mid-September Borough Mayor Dave Carey proposed a Health Care Task Force that would, among other things, look at changing or doing away with the Central Kenai Peninsula Hospital SAB.

Each SAB's function is basically similar, though their individual powers all differ according to how they're written into borough statute, explained Thompson.

"They are the board that represents the service area and serve as the eyes and ears of the assembly and the public to the needs of that service area," she said.

Additionally the boards are responsible for preparing and recommending the budget for the service area to the mayor for approval by the assembly.

She contrasted some of the responsibilities of the boards. The Seward-Bear Creek Flood SAB, she explained, oversees developing, implementing and furnishing a plan for flood services in the eastern Peninsula service area.

In a different twist, the North Peninsula Recreation SAB operates the Nikiski Pool, the Jason Peterson Memorial Ice Rink and numerous other recreational activities to people living in that service area and outside.

"At the end of the day the service areas are in many respects the portion of the borough that people see because they're the ones that provide the services," Thompson said. "They're the ones that are in your neighborhood and are very noticed."

More information is available on individual SAB's at the borough's web site under the "Service Areas" link on the left hand side of the page.

Dante Petri can be reached at dante.petri@peninsulaclarion.com.



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