Welles resigns, borough ballot finalized

Aug 16, 2017

Assembly Member Stan Welles has resigned his seat representing District 5 in Sterling and Funny River.
Credit Kenai Peninsula Borough

Though his term was set to expire in October, Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Member Stan Welles has resigned.

He’s represented the Sterling and Funny River areas in District Five since 2014. He cited health concerns, having undergone open heart surgery earlier this year, and a slower-than-anticipated recovery. His seat, along with two others, are up for grabs in October.

Welles’ seat in District 5 has two challengers — Norm Blakely and Leslie Morton. Blakely, a self-described conservative, runs an auctioneering business and owns Alaska Trading and Loans. Morton is a former U.S. Senate staffer and serves on a number of local nonprofit boards.

In District One, which covers Kalifornsky Beach Road and most of Soldotna, incumbent Brent Hibbert will run against Dan Castimore and Kate Veh. Castimore is the IT director for the city of Kenai and serves on the school board. Veh is a full-time mom and has worked in elementary education.

The other race is in Kenai in District Two. Incumbent Jill Schaeffer, just coming off a DUI charge last month, will face former assembly President Hal Smalley and a former Kenai City Council Member Duane Bannock.

On the southern peninsula, current assembly President Kelly Cooper is running unopposed for reelection. Same for Kenn Carpenter on the eastern peninsula.

In the mayor's race, current assembly member and former borough Mayor Dale Bagely will run against a former assemblyman, Charlie Pierce, and Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings. She's served on a number of local boards and commissions and is the chief financial officer at Hutchings Auto Group in Soldotna.

Four ballot measures were considered, but only three made the final cut. Proposition 1 is the cannabis question — it asks voters to approve a ban on all cannabis businesses outside the borough’s cities. Proposition 2 asks for approval of general obligation bonds to pay for upgrades to the Borough Building in Soldotna.

 

The proposed bed tax that has been debated for weeks failed to make the ballot. Instead, voters will be faced with a choice of whether or not to raise the cap on sales tax in the borough from $500 to $1,000. This was just voted on last year. It failed. At that time, a 3 percent increase to the tax cap was proposed.

 

But Cooper brought it back again, because she thinks, after some more conversation, there’s a better understanding of the measure and more yes votes.

“When we talk about it failing at the ballot box last year, I do not believe that it failed because of the issue itself. I believe we had too many things on the ballot. I believe that we were not able to get people to understand. And as I spoke to people in my area, I have achieved a lot of support and people helping us educate voters so they know what they’re voting for at the ballot box.”

Both tax proposals are intended to juice up the borough’s finances. This year’s budget was approved, but at a deficit of around $4 million dollars. The balance came from savings, but borough Mayor Mike Navarre said again that’s a temporary solution. He says that claims that borough spending is growing too much are unwarranted.

“The budget has gone up, since 2009, less than 2 percent annual growth. We’re not growing out of control. What we are and what we have is a demand for services, strong support for education and we have to meet those obligations we make for spending decisions with revenue decisions. Putting this on the ballot really does set up the choice for voters about whether or not they want to support and increase in sales tax or whether they want an increase in property taxes.”

And so begins the debate as we head into election season.