Statewide trend away from cities

Posted: Sunday, December 03, 2000

The issue of city incorporation raised an important question at Thursday's Nikiski meeting -- what other areas have succeeded in the effort?

Longtime Nikiski resident Alan Bute posed a key question to Gene Kane, local government specialist with Alaska's Department of Community and Economic Development, about the number of cities that have incorporated in the past decade.

Bute said he asked the question because he has been interested in the incorporation process over the years.

"To me, it is just a frustration with folks around here, " he said, "I think the whole process is to tell people we are not getting the services we should."

Kane answered that the trend seems to be going away from cities and into boroughs.

"There have been more cities dissolved than established during the 90s," Kane said.

He said that the only successful incorporations in the state in the past 10 years have been Pilot Point and Egegik, both second-class cities on the Alaska Peninsula.

Pilot Point Mayor Gust Griechen said the city incorporated in 1992 because the community wanted to form a tax base as well as bring in additional revenues.

Griechen said the population of the fishing community is 100 in the winter, escalating to a couple thousand in the summer months. The city encompasses approximately 67 square miles of land and 17 miles of water, according to the state of Alaska Web site. Egegik has a population of 120 and encompasses 135 square miles of land and three square miles of water.

Griechen said since incorporation services have improved, including road maintenance, quality of water, sewer and electrical.

He said the incorporation effort was supported by the Lake and Peninsula Borough that both cities are part of.

But not all boroughs support such efforts.

Talkeetna's petition for incorporation was opposed by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Kane said at the meeting. Sandy Shoulders, a Talkeetna resident and petitioners' representative, said the process has been long and cumbersome.

"We have been going through one hoop after another" she said.

She said the 500 to 700 residents are looking at the incorporation process because they have no local control, no zoning and land-use control, and they must drive in excess of three hours to speak with a governmental representative.

"We have no say because we have no government," she said

Shoulders said Talkeetna is trying to get a home-rule city status, but the borough had arguments in the first petition submitted. The group amended the petition and resubmitted. According to information from Mat-Su Borough Clerk Sandra Dillon, the borough's concerns expressed in the 1998 responsive brief are "that the level of services contemplated by the petitioners do not support the constitutional statutory and regulatory standards required for incorporation of a home-rule city within a borough ..."

The original effort began 15 years ago, Shoulders said, but the current process began about five years ago.

She said the residents are not totally set on incorporation, though they are thinking about it.

"But we should have a chance to discuss it," she said.

According to Kane, in addition to the two recent incorporations, five inactive cities in the state's unorganized borough -- Atmautluak, Kasigluk, Newtok, Tuluksak and Tununak -- were dissolved in 1995.

Also, Akiak residents petitioned for dissolution of their city, but at the dissolution election, voters rejected it. The city of Yakutat also was dissolved upon incorporation of the Yakutat Borough in 1992. Local officials and residents of the Haines, Ketchikan and Fairbanks areas are presently engaged or have recently been engaged in consideration of consolidation of their respective cities and boroughs, Kane said.

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