The Kenai Peninsula Borough building, pictured Sept. 12, 2018, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kenai Peninsula Borough building, pictured Sept. 12, 2018, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)

Assembly to decide service board selection

The ordinance would change elected service board roles to appointments.

An ordinance changing service board elections to appointments will be voted on at Tuesday’s Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting.

The ordinance was postponed in October to allow for local service area boards to make recommendations on the ordinance.

At Tuesday’s public hearing on the ordinance, a teleconference site will be established at Homer City Hall to take public testimony.

During their monthly meeting on Sept. 12, the South Kenai Peninsula Hospital Service Area Board voted to oppose the passage of the ordinance that would appoint board members rather than elect them.

The borough has 12 service boards, of which seven boards include elected positions.

The North Peninsula Recreation Service Area voted unanimously to oppose the ordinance, as well. In an Oct. 28 letter to the assembly, the service area says they strongly recommend maintaining the voting rights of the citizens in the Nikiski Service Area.

The Seward Bear Creek Flood Service Area Board, the Nikiski Senior Service Area Board and the Nikiski Fire Service Area Board also unanimously opposed the ordinance.

The Bear Creek Fire Service Area board voted to support the ordinance. The Joint Operating board for the Central Emergency Service Area and the Central Peninsula Emergency Medical Service Area unanimously voted to support the ordinance.

Historically, it has been difficult to find qualified candidates willing to run for service board seats, an Aug. 22 memo to the assembly from assembly members Willy Dunne and Brent Hibbert said.

“The borough is one of the few boroughs, if not the only, in the State of Alaska with elected service area boards,” the memo said.

Changing from elected boards to appointed boards will significantly reduce the time and expense involved in borough elections, the ordinance said.

Earlier this summer, the Election Stakeholders Group — a group established by the assembly to research ways to increase voter participation — published their final report and recommendations.

One of their six specific recommendations asks the borough to appoint service board members, rather than hold elections.

“Appointed boards have proven to increase public interest in service on a board as potential board members would not have to run or otherwise comply with the election process requirements,” the memo said.

The clerk’s office has indicated thousands of dollars could be saved by eliminating the seats from the election process.

Cost savings would come from a reduction in printing costs and the time required of election officials and the clerk’s office when it comes to reviewing ballots, the memo said.

The ordinance said the appointment process will remain a public process, where openings will be advertised and the mayor will appoint interested applicants and the assembly confirms the appointment.

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