City commission gets disbanded

Fading into history

Posted: Friday, November 17, 2000

Kenai's Historic Commission is history.

Like the treasures of the past the group was charged with preserving, the panel has receded into the shadowy recesses of memory.

The commission, created in June as the latest iteration of the former Kenai Historic District Board, was disbanded Wednesday night by the city council after it chronically failed to have enough members show up to reach a quorum.

The council has a long-standing rule of thumb that says if a committee or commission is not achieving its intended purpose, it should be eliminated.

"While I don't want it done away with, the commission has been a lot of trouble for a long time," said Mayor John Williams. "I would be happy to work with any group interested in a historic nature."

No members of the commission attended the council meeting to speak in defense of the group. In fact, there was little discussion at all on sunsetting the commission, as most council members have long let their feelings be known on the matter.

In February, when new members were appointed to the Historic District Board in an effort to revitalize it, council member Jim Bookey expressed skepticism.

"I'm hesitant to appoint anyone to this board when we're not even sure we're going to keep it," he said.

The board was kept, though, and turned into the Historic Commis-sion in June.

Though only charged with meeting quarterly, the board could not drum up enough members to reach a quorum, costing the city money each time to pay for a contract secretary. The problem did not get any better when, as a commission, the group was scheduled to meet monthly.

"I'm sorry it had to be disbanded even though we had a lack of a quorum," Mike Huhndorf, chair of the commission, and before that the board, said Thursday. "I wish we could have continued by finding new members, however, I believe the city did what they needed to do."

Huhndorf said the problem has been finding members who were motivated to attend.

"I think there was a core group who attended every meeting, and if those members were not there, there was often not a quorum," Huhndorf said. He cited his own situation where he missed three meetings in a row due to a new job that kept him working in the evenings.

"A quorum shouldn't depend on one person not being there," he said. "I wouldn't have minded stepping down from the board and attending as a non-member just to see it continue to exist."

As a board, it was within the group's mission to review building permits in Old Town, Huhndorf said, to comment on whether they conformed to the historic nature of the area. As a commission, that power was given to the Planning and Zoning Commission, but the group still worked on preserving historic aspects of the city.

Huhndorf said he hopes other groups in the city will take up the mantle of historic preservation. He suggested the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center and the Kenai Historical Society.

"I still think the city needs to have its own group, but at least these other entities will fill the void somewhat," he said.

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