The Kenai Peninsula Assembly is considering whether or not it should bring back the practice of holding one meeting a year each in Seward and Homer. The assembly currently meets at the George A. Navarre Administration Building in Soldotna.
The assembly previously held one meeting per year in Homer and in Seward, but stopped that practice during the COVID-19 pandemic. The body then in 2021 opted to continue not holding the meeting in those communities for 2022, citing apparent satisfaction with the borough’s Zoom services.
Assembly member Cindy Ecklund, who represents the eastern Kenai Peninsula, brought the topic forward for discussion at Tuesday’s meeting of the assembly’s Policies and Procedures Committee.
Ecklund said she was asked at a recent meeting of the Seward City Council whether the assembly plans to resume in-person meetings in Homer and Seward. She noted that the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District holds its Seward meeting at Seward High School, which has Zoom capabilities.
Assembly President Brent Johnson said that, because the assembly is hearing from Homer and Seward that those communities would like meetings to be held there, the assembly should “head in that direction.”
“We heard from Homer and Seward that ‘Well, you know, we don’t think it’s all that necessary,’” Johnson said of the assembly’s decision not to continue meetings in those communities. “Because it’s a stress for the staff and for the clerks and because there’s some cost involved, we were glad to not do that.”
Assembly member Bill Elam said that the board of education’s meeting in Homer was “one of the largest” that he’s been to. If there is a way for the assembly to resume those meetings in a way that is cost effective and doesn’t place a significant burden on the borough clerk, it is a good opportunity to connect with borough residents in those areas, he said.
“It was quite incredible what the turnout was there,” Elam said of the school board’s Homer meeting. “I was glad that I went and, I don’t know, I actually really enjoyed going and being part of the community.”
Micciche, who said he is “very supportive” of such meetings, told assembly members that he encountered borough residents during his bid for mayor that supported assembly meetings in Homer and Seward.
“We’ve become very electronic in this building,” Micciche said. “I don’t know what kind of difficulties that brings to us, but I think if the clerk can, perhaps, put a little white paper together on just some of the issues, we can work through them together and still provide a quality meeting in those communities. I think it’s really important.”
Assembly member Brent Hibbert said that the assembly hasn’t been able to have in-depth discussions with local leaders during previous trips to Homer and Seward and that such trips are expensive for the borough. He floated an alternative of hosting assembly town halls in some borough communities to make themselves available to residents while not burdening the borough clerks.
Acting Borough Clerk Michele Turner told assembly members that, while members of the public do like when assembly members hold meetings outside of Soldotna, the borough is more limited than the school district, where two IT staff are available to assist with school board meetings.
“It is a big to-do,” Turner said. “I’m not saying that it can’t be done if that is the wishes of the assembly, but I just wanted you to be aware.”
The assembly’s full meeting schedule can be found on the borough’s website at kpb.us.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.