Incorporation: Would it benefit Nikiski?

Posted: Wednesday, November 29, 2000

Struggling with growing pains, Nikiski residents are covering all their bases.

Fred Miller, president of the North Peninsula Community Council, said his group is working to develop a long-term plan for the area. A second group, headed by Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Jack Brown of Nikiski, is exploring the possibilities of incorporation.

"On one hand, it's disheartening to see that this group goes forward without making contact," said Miller of the incorporation effort. "It's the same group that was part of this group, but dropped out. I hope it doesn't fracture (the community) apart to where we can't complete our goals. I guess we'll find out."

Miller said he plans to attend the 6 p.m. Thursday meeting at the Nikiski Senior Center to hear a presentation on incorporation.

Brown, who helped start NPCC and said he is still involved with that group, said the council has chosen to look at Nikiski in the broad sense.

"I see the groups as having separate agendas," Brown said. "The council really has a broad-based agenda that is going to be helpful if we form a city. If we don't, they'll continue with their work and help create a better quality of life for the residents of Nikiski.

"Incorporation is a really risky business," Brown said. "We may work really hard at it and not end up with a positive result. But I don't think that should slow down the community council. I think the council should keep on with their business."

Joe Stanford has served as NPCC's treasurer.

"I told them I was going to withdraw a couple of months ago," Stanford said. "They want to do cleanup drives, but I think we should do something else, and that's basically one of the reasons I withdrew."

The "something else" Stanford is referring to is incorporation.

"I'm very much for it," he said. "We're letting too much money go out of this area. We should be getting some of it back."

Dave Phegley is an active member of NPCC. He believes the council's role in the incorporation effort should be one of fact finding.

"If we were involved, it would be in an education role, not taking sides one way or the other," Phegley said.

"Basically, what (the council) is trying to do is come up with a long-range community plan for the area," he said. "Nicer parks, better roads, air strips -- anything people out here would be interested in seeing in our community. We're more of a clearinghouse of ideas.

"What we're looking for is people coming to the meetings and voicing their opinions," Phegley said of the council's effort.

Toward that end, the council conducted a poll of area residents at Nikiski Days and is in the process of collating that data.

"We had a pretty good response," Phegley said of the 200 people that took the time to answer the council's questions.

"We did get a lot of response on incorporation," he said. "Some for and some against."

Brown is also getting some response.

"A lot of people have contacted me," Brown said. "Most people are pretty favorable. The ones that aren't favorable, most of them want to at least take a look at what the numbers would be, the impacts, the pluses and minuses."

According to Brown, the reasons given to oppose incorporation include taxes, increased layers of government and the concern that special interest groups will benefit.

"I think their major concern would be tax liability," he said. "They feel that if we incorporated as a city, it would mean additional taxes that they would have to pay.

"Another concern that's been voiced has been that people don't want another layer of government. They like living in an area where they can do pretty much what they want to do. They are concerned about restrictions of personal freedom," he said, referring specifically to the borough permits required for building and junkyards.

"What I tell people is that the numbers will be what they're going to be," Brown said. "If people aren't getting the right numbers and there's questions as to the validity of the numbers, I'll be the first one to say I'm out of it. I won't endorse the project anymore. And I think a lot of other people would do the same thing."

Tim O'Brien said he has decided to throw his lot with the incorporation effort.

"I'm jumping off that board," he said of his involvement with NPCC. "They have their own goals and I'm not saying anything against them.

"They (organized) one cleanup that did clean up the ditches," O'Brien said. "I didn't join (NPCC) to be a trash collector, which I'm not against, but they are more for doing their own things, and I'm more into the incorporating thing."

Two representatives from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development are scheduled to attend the Thursday night meeting, according to Brown. Gene Kane, a local government specialist, and Steve Van Sant, the state assessor, will talk about incorporation and be available to answer questions.

"The second part of the meeting will go into more discussion and then we'll probably look to form an incorporation committee," Brown said.

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