Commission raises issue of Delta Junction borough

Posted: Friday, December 27, 2002

DELTA JUNCTION (AP) -- A state commission has some Delta Junction officials scurrying to head off what they think could be another attempt to force them into a borough.

The report by the Local Boundary Commission says the Upper Tanana Model Borough is one of eight unorganized regions in Alaska that ''may have the financial capacity to operate borough governments.''

The Upper Tanana Model Borough stretches from Fairbanks Northstar Borough on the west to the Canadian border on the east. It reaches north past Eagle and south to Mentasta Lake and a diagonal border with a proposed Copper River Basin Model Borough.

A preliminary report was released earlier this month. A final report will be presented to the Legislature by Feb. 19.

The report doesn't sit well with city and school officials in Delta Junction. They say if the area is forced into a borough, it should include a smaller area, either the Delta/Greely School District or that region minus the Healy Lake area, which might better meld with Tok and the Native villages east of Delta Junction.

School board treasurer Richard Mauer suggested it may be time to be proactive to head off an attempt by the state to force consolidation with the Alaska Gateway School District. By statute a borough can contain only one school district.

''It may be time to look at our own borough,'' Mauer said at a Dec. 19 school board meeting. ''That conversation is going to need to take place if we see this coming toward us.''

State Sen. Gary Wilken said it is past time for Delta area residents to do what people in his district do -- pay their own way. Wilken, who represents part of Fairbanks, called the push to organize certain areas into boroughs a fundamental issue of fairness.

''I can't find one reason, not one, that the people of Delta/Greely don't pay for their school,'' Wilken said, referring to a recent decision by the Delta/Greely school board to purchase land for a new school complex. ''I find it embarrassing they'd build a new school without a way to pay for it.''

Delta Junction officials are communicating the message that any borough for Delta Junction should encompass just the Delta/Greely school district, perhaps less Healy Lake, and include all of the Pogo Mine area.

''The city is trying to get the Local Boundary Commission to recognize that the Upper Tanana Model Borough doesn't make sense at all,'' city administrator Pete Hallgren said last week.

Delta/Greely superintendent Dan Beck agrees the district should be the size of the present school district, but said it should include Healy Lake, which has been part of the district for 20 years.

''If we're forced into it, probably the school district boundary makes sense,'' Beck said.

Paul Knopp, president of Deltana Community Corp., also said the school district, more or less, is the more practical boundary. But Knopp said the state will push for the larger unit.

Knopp said by adding the areas to the east of Delta Junction, it spreads the revenues from the Delta Junction area developments to a wider area, essentially funneling funds from an area with an economic base to one without.

''They'll stick to this boundary unless we in this area do something about it,'' Knopp said.

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