Assembly Vice President Brent Hibbert prepares to vote on legislation during a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Assembly Vice President Brent Hibbert prepares to vote on legislation during a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Assembly nixes in-person Seward, Homer meetings

Supporters said the meetings offer the opportunity for assembly members to make important in-person connections.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly will not have in-person meetings in Seward or Homer next year following a vote by the assembly Tuesday. The assembly has historically met in Homer and Seward once a year, but stopped doing so in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Assembly member Cindy Ecklund, who represents the east peninsula, proposed amending the assembly’s 2022 meeting schedule such that the body would travel to Seward in April and to Homer in September. The assembly approved the body’s 2022 meeting schedule during their Nov. 9 meeting with the understanding that it could be amended at a later date to include in-person meetings.

“There’s so many people serving the borough in these other areas,” Ecklund said Tuesday. “I just thought that would be something that people would want to do. … (It’s) one time a year, guys.”

Those who support the assembly traveling twice a year for meetings say it offers the opportunity for assembly members to make important in-person connections, while those opposed said Zoom has improved the experience for people participating remotely.

Brent Hibbert, who has served on the assembly during such in-person meetings, said the day usually involves the borough clerk traveling to the city ahead of time to set up and that assembly members sometimes eat lunch with the local city council. Hibbert pointed out that the Homer mayor and Seldovia city manager participated in Tuesday’s meeting remotely via Zoom.

“I don’t know why we can’t do this by Zoom,” Hibbert said. “We have the capabilities. It keeps us off the road, it keeps us safe. We’re not driving back in the dark … I’m going to vote no.”

Assembly member Lane Chesley, who represents Homer and attended Tuesday’s meeting remotely, said he’s received “split comments” on the issues and proposed a hybrid model where just the mayor and chief of staff traveled to different parts of the peninsula and attended an assembly meeting with regional members.

“A lot of folks have been telling me they’re satisfied with the Zoom format,” Chesley said.

The assembly ultimately voted 6-3 to not hold meetings in Seward and Homer, with assembly members Chesley, Mike Tupper and Ecklund voting in support of amending the meeting schedule to include in-person meetings in those communities.

Homer resident Ingrid Harrald, who said she listens to borough assembly meetings regularly, told the council during testimony given Tuesday that she was “disappointed” in the decision not to meet in smaller communities.

“You have borough assembly members from the small communities that travel to Kenai and Soldotna all the time, and nobody talks about the safety and the travel for those assembly members,” Harrald said. “As somebody who is very involved in local politics, me talking over Zoom or over the phone does not have the impact of sitting in front of you.”

Tuesday’s full meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly can be viewed on the borough’s website at kpb.us.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Soldotna City Council members convene for a work session to discuss how the city should use federal COVID-19 recovery funds on Wednesday, April 27, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna council to review mini grant applications next week

Soldotna City Council members will convene earlier than usual Wednesday to mull… Continue reading

Voters cast ballots in Alaska’s special general and regular primary elections at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Division of Elections data: Primary turnout higher than previous elections

Turnout among central Kenai Peninsula voters in Tuesday’s primary election was higher… Continue reading

Elisif Harro, Mark Harro and Daniel Harro. (Photo courtesy John and Denise Harro)
‘We lost 2 first-class people’

Daniel, Mark Harro die in Idaho plane crash

Two trombone players and a saxophone perform during a KCHS Marching Band practice on Aug. 18, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
KCHS strikes up the band

Only a couple of days into the new school year, Kenai Central… Continue reading

tease
Man wanted in relation to Amber Alert arrested; missing teenager found

A Fairbanks man wanted in connection to an Amber Alert was arrested… Continue reading

tease
School district extends meal program deadline amid confusion

Credit for breakfast and lunch meals will be provided as needed to… Continue reading

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks at the Kenai Classic Roundtable at Kenai Peninsula College on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022 near Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Bycatch stirs debate at fisheries roundtable

Bycatch was the issue du jour at Wednesday’s annual Kenai Classic Roundtable… Continue reading

Kenai Peninsula College Director Cheryl Siemers in her office on Aug. 18, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
KPC to welcome back community with open house

One week before the start of the fall semester, Kenai Peninsula College… Continue reading

National Weather Service radar for the Kenai Peninsula and Southcentral Alaska on Aug. 17, 2022. (Screenshot)
Rain, rain and more rain

Low pressure systems drive wet conditions in Southcentral

Most Read