A vote to change how some local service area boards are put together was postponed at Tuesday night’s borough assembly meeting. The boards oversee everything from firefighting to hospitals to recreation and senior services to roads.
There are 12 throughout the borough, but only seven find their members through elections. As assembly member Hal Smalley explains, those elections rarely have more than one candidate for a given seat, and are often filled through an assembly-approved appointment anyway.
“Historically, it’s been difficult to find enough candidates in those elected seats, and they end up being appointed. Probably a third of the current serving members of these boards have been appointed over time.”
Earlier this year, a borough working group on elections recommended switching to appointments on those boards, citing the lack of candidates and a potential cost savings. Mary Jackson of Kenai told the assembly those elections are still important.
“This borough is one of the few in the state with elected service area boards and it suggests that we comply with the rest of the boroughs who don’t have elected service area boards. I would suggest that this is something that we should be proud of, that we have an elected process. Not flip over to what the rest of them are doing. Why would we want to emulate other boroughs?”
Of the seven service area boards that do still have elections, some support the move and others don’t. The boards for the Bear Creek Fire service area and Central Emergency Services both recently voted in favor of going to appointments, while boards for the South Peninsula Hospital and Seward Bear Creek Flood service areas were opposed. Service area boards in Nikiski have yet to weigh in.
The assembly will vote on the issue when it meets next on October 22nd.
Last night was also the final Assembly meeting for three members who were forced off due to term limits. Assembly President Wayne Ogle of Nikiski, Paul Fischer of the central district and Dale Bagley of Soldotna all attended their last meeting -- at least for three years when they may run again.
In his farewell address Bagley, recapped a 25-year career in local politics.
"I remember when I first started coming to assembly meetings, bird poop was the hot button issue. The swallows had nests around the borough (building) under the eaves. And I believe it was Mayor Gilman that solved the problem with the curve shields that are still in place... I'm sure I'll be back here to testify at assembly meetings to tell the assembly and Mayor all the things they're doing wrong. Or maybe I won't, but I just want to thank everyone for all the fun times that we've had and I'm going to miss the assembly.
Outgoing assembly president Wayne Ogle delivered his last Nikiski Nugget, a little piece of news from the North Road that he has always included in his closing statements at meetings.
“(It’s) about the Nikiski Hardware Store. I went to the grand opening...Lou and Stacy Oliva stepped up and poured their fortunes as well as their heart into making a new business for the community, at great risk...I certainly admire their efforts to serve their community, as far as putting their fortune on the line in that regard.”
Paul Fischer also had some parting words, touching on his time in the state senate and multiple terms on the assembly.
“I enjoyed working with you folks, and I’ll tell you what; as you get older, things seem like they were just yesterday. Mr. (Brent) Johnson told me I was on this (assembly) for 27 years. It seems to me like five or six.”
New assembly members Tyson Cox, Brent Johnson and Jesse Bjorkman were all sworn in Tuesday.