Seward Electric election too close to call
This week’s special election in Seward is too close to call — meaning the city won’t know for another day whether it has the green light from voters to sell its electric utility to Homer Electric Association.
As of Wednesday, just over 58% of the 320 ballots tallied were ‘Yes’ votes (186 votes to 134) for the $25-million sale. But Seward city code requires 60% of votes for a proposition to pass. The city still has to count more than 60 votes that were cast absentee.
Only voters inside city limits were eligible to vote on the proposition — a total of 1,765 registered voters, according to City Clerk Brenda Ballou. That’s a little over half of Seward Electric’s current members.
Officials from the city have been vocal about their support for the sale. They say as it stands, their city-owned utility can’t make upgrades to its lines and infrastructure without raising rates, majorly, for its nearly 3,000 customers. They say customers stand to benefit from the support and economies of scale of a merger with a bigger utility.
Homer Electric, for its part, said adding more members would put downward pressure on rates. HEA provides power today to over 25,000 members across the Kenai Peninsula.
But a sticking point throughout the process has been Seward’s decision to go with Homer Electric as a potential buyer, instead of Chugach Electric Association — which provides power to Anchorage and the northern Kenai Peninsula. Last month, Chugach got involved and released a statement taking issue with parts of the contract process.
This is the second time since 2000 that Seward has put the question of a sale to voters. Last time, it fell just 8% short of the 60% threshold.
The city will canvas the remaining votes Thursday at 1 p.m., in the city council chambers Seward City Hall. That meeting will be livestreamed on the city’s YouTube page.
More than two-thirds of the remaining votes would have to go to the ‘Yes’ side for the sale to be approved by voters.
Another proposition put to Seward voters this week would remove the requirement that Seward’s city manager reside within city limits. Voters decisively approved that measure, nearly two to one (209 votes to 108), which the city said will help as it starts to search for a new city manager and continues to grapple with housing shortages, city-wide.
The election will be certified at the Seward City Council’s next meeting, on Monday, May 8.