Soldotna, borough bond issues fail; assembly stays same size

Posted: Wednesday, October 03, 2001

Borough residents just said no to spending more money and changing the number of representatives in the assembly.

Proposition 3, which would have allowed the borough to take out a bond to finance the remodeling and expansion of the Borough Building, the Soldotna bond proposition, which would have allowed Soldotna to take out a bond to finance the construction of an events center, and Proposition 2, which would have changed the number of seats in the Borough Assembly from nine to 13, all failed to gain voter approval.

The failure of Proposition 3 means the borough assembly will have to reconsider its options in dealing with the overcrowded conditions and renovation of the Borough Building.

"The voters turned down the bond, so the assembly is going to be pushed with deciding to either build onto the Borough Building out of the general fund balance without going to bonds, or it will have to go to the private sector and lease space," said Tim Navarre, president of the borough assembly.

The proposition being turned down does not mean the assembly will forgo plans to remodel the existing Borough Building and attain more space for borough and school district offices. The assembly has no choice but to do so for health and safety reasons, Navarre said. It will just have to find money in its own budget to do so.

The Soldotna bond proposition, which would have generated $3.5 million for the construction of the proposed $7 million events center, was turned down by Soldotna voters.

"I felt the good people of Soldotna voted very wisely on all the elections except this one," said Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey.

A lack of advertising for the city proposition could have contributed to it being voted down, he said. The city council did hand out 950 information flyers about the proposition, which Carey paid for, and held a public hearing on the matter, where only three people showed up, Carey said. But the city council cannot pay to advertise for propositions and it did not raise money to do so.

For Carey, the negative vote means the events center issue is dead, although it is ultimately up to the council to decide its fate.

"My feeling is, if the people vote no, we won't spend money on it," Carey said.

Voters also chose to keep the number of seats on the borough assembly at nine, instead of increasing them to 13.

"I think a nine-member assembly serves the borough very well," Navarre said. "If 13 would have passed, we would have been the largest body in state of Alaska, other than the Legislature. So I think voters understood and were smart on that issue."

Reapportionment committee co-chair Betty Glick of Kenai, who sat on the assembly from 1982 to 1996, said that, while she wouldn't have minded either outcome, a nine-member assembly can make it too easy to circumvent the public's wishes.

"The thing that bothers me the most is with nine members it only takes five votes to push something through," Glick said. "If we have more members then we would have more discussion, and that is as it should be. With 13 members it would take seven votes to enact a piece of legislation."

Glick used borough Proposition 1 as an example of a proposal getting pushed through without enough discussion. It there were 13 members, she said, there would have been more discussion, and it would have been harder to get approval for it.

"And you have to look at the quality of people being elected," she said. "Are they there to do a public service to better their community or are they there to better themselves? I have a great deal of heartburn at the things (the current assembly has) done. They've taken powers a secondary borough wouldn't normally take without a vote of the people."

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