Two propositions on Tuesday's ballot are at the center of the race for a seat on the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area Board.
At a sometimes raucous meeting Thursday of the Nikiski Chamber of Commerce, incumbent Paul Lorenzo and challenger Vicki Pate lined up on opposite sides of the debate as each made a case for election.
Pate supports Proposition 3 and Proposition 4, which are designed to limit the power of the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area, as a member of the group responsible for getting the propositions on the ballot.
The propositions were created in response to a plan by the recreation service area to turn the vacant Nikiski Elementary School into a new community center.
Proposition 3 would kill the plan to convert the elementary school into a community center. The proposition would prohibit the service area from using or committing taxpayer funds for a community hall, prepared food facility or the conversion of municipal buildings for sublet to other organizations.
Proposition 4 would further limit the power of the recreation service area by reducing the amount the service area can spend without voter approval. The proposition requires a vote by Nikiski residents on any project funded by the service area costing $500,000 or more. Currently, any project with a cost of $1.5 million or more requires voter approval.
Pate said she helped put Proposition 3 on the ballot because, given the current economic climate, Nikiski can't afford to pay for a new community center.
She said Proposition 4 would give the residents of Nikiski a more direct say in how the recreation service area board spends taxpayer money on large projects.
Pate said she personally uses the facilities provided by the recreation service area very little, and, if elected, she would look out for the interests of area residents like herself.
"I'm gonna try to represent the people who don't use the rec area, but still have to pay for it," she said.
Lorenzo said he is against Proposition 3 because a community center would provide additional recreational space for kids and help make up for cuts in school physical education programs.
He said he supports turning the elementary school into a multiuse community center and believes the public also supports the idea. If elected, he said he would put the community center project on the top of his agenda.
"I, for one, think a community center is the No. 1 priority for the community," he said.
Lorenzo said the $500,000 limit Proposition 4 would impose is impractical. Due to today's costs, voters would be forced to approve virtually all projects, he said.
Debate over the proposed community center may be active, but the project is not. Plans to convert Nikiski Elementary to a community center currently are not being pursued due to increased costs associated with the project and the current economic situation, according to a fact sheet provided by the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area Board.
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