Assembly approves ordinance allowing volunteers to serve on service area boards

Volunteers for two Kenai Peninsula service areas can also now serve on the service areas’ boards.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly approved an ordinance allowing one member of the Anchor Point Fire and Emergency Service Area board and one member of the Bear Creek Fire Service Area board to be a volunteer for the service area at the same time. Prior to the ordinance’s passage, volunteers were barred from serving on the boards because the boards approve the budgets for the service areas, making it a conflict of interest for the volunteers.

The ordinance, sponsored by assembly members Willy Dunne, Kenn Carpenter and Paul Fischer, passed unanimously at the assembly’s Tuesday meeting.

“There was some interest in some of the smaller service area boards that were having a hard time recruiting members for that board,” he said.

The ordinance solves a problem faced by most of the service area boards on the peninsula, particularly the service areas in the more rural areas. Most of the services in the peninsula are delivered via segmented service areas, approved and paid for by voters in a particular area, such as Central Emergency Services. The members of the boards that govern those service areas, with the exception of the borough-wide Road Service Area, are elected.

However, the borough has struggled for years to find candidates to run for the open seats on those boards. Most of the time, there is either a single candidate or no candidate for open seats. The borough mayor then has to work with the service area board to nominate a candidate to fill the seat for the net year until the next election and send it to the assembly for approval. The appointee then fills the seat until the next election, at which point the whole process starts over.

Dunne originally proposed the ordinance because one of the members of the Anchor Point Fire and Emergency Service Area Board was forced to resign because he became a volunteer. He originally drafted it as up to two members, but in the case of a conflict of interest, if two members were required to abstain, it could affect the board’s ability to vote on issues because of the lack of a quorum. Dunne amended the ordinance to only allow one.

There are other solutions to the problem, too. The Kachemak Emergency Service Area was originally part of Dunne’s ordinance but requested to be excluded because the board members preferred the option of converting to an appointed board rather than elected. Another ordinance, also introduced by Dunne, would convert that board along with the Seldovia Recreational Service Area board to appointed rather than elected boards. The assembly is due to hear it on Feb. 6.

“Like other service area board appointments, it would be appointed by the mayor,” Dunne said. “Typically the mayor gets input from board members, from the community, from the public. There’s public notice put out that there’s an opening on the board.”

Another ordinance, sponsored by assembly member Dale Bagley, would allow members of elected boards who are appointed to fill a vacancy to serve in that spot until the end of the term rather than until the next election. The assembly is due to hear that ordinance on Feb. 6 as well.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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