Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Election Board member Kim Macdonald cuts out enough stickers to keep up with voters during a special election Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at Soldotna City Hall in Soldotna, Alaska. The election held to decide if the city would form a charter commission saw a steady stream of voters during lunchtime hours.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Election Board member Kim Macdonald cuts out enough stickers to keep up with voters during a special election Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at Soldotna City Hall in Soldotna, Alaska. The election held to decide if the city would form a charter commission saw a steady stream of voters during lunchtime hours.

Commission accomplished

A seven-member charter commission will likely spend the next year working on a home-rule charter for Soldotna.

In a special election Tuesday, Soldotna voters approved a proposition that asked “Shall a Charter Commission be Elected to Prepare a Proposed Charter?” Unofficial results Tuesday night showed they approved the commission formation by a vote of 243 to 162, said City Manager Mark Dixson.

If the approximately 115 absentee ballots come in at roughly the same percentage, the commission will be formed, he said.

The commission now has a year to come up with a charter to make the city home rule, which will also go before the city’s voters. If the charter is voted down, the commission has another year to come up with another charter. If that charter were also voted down, it would end the home-rule process at that point.

Running for the seven seats that make up the commission were Roberta O’Neill, Penny Vadla, Scott Davis, Jerry Farrington, RoseMary Reeder, Linda Hutchings, Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Dale Bagley and Soldotna City Council members Linda Murphy and Tim Cashman.

Of those nine, Farrington and O’Neill received the fewest votes. There were 42 write-ins, Dixson said.

“I think everybody worked very, very hard on educating the public,” Hutchings said.

The next step will be for the commission members to start looking through the home-rule charters of other Alaska cities, which Hutchings said they have already asked to be sent to them. She said work on the charter should begin “very soon.”

Residents came to vote in a steady stream that picked up around lunchtime, said Election Board Member Carol Freas. By about 1 p.m. Tuesday, 154 people had placed their vote. Dixson said the turnout appears to be about the same or a little less than last year’s special election on the same issue.

Marlene Lewis said she voted in favor of forming a charter commission because she thinks “it’s a good move for everyone.” In terms of what could happen with the city’s sales tax, she said it would be more beneficial to have it year-round.

“It’s really going to hurt all the community members if they don’t have it because their taxes will come in harder in other areas and it will be limited to a few,” Lewis said. “Otherwise it’ll affect others too and it’ll be more well rounded to benefit everybody. … I think it’s a more fair distribution for everyone.”

Lin Kennedy also voted in favor of forming the commission.

“Personally, having lived in Soldotna for 30 years, I think the residents, the citizens of Soldotna, should be the ones that dictate what we can and can’t do,” Kennedy said. “And I don’t appreciate people outside the city trying to tell our city council what they can and can’t do, so I think (a) home-rule charter in the long run is going to be best for the residents of Soldotna.”

A handful of voters coming and going Tuesday afternoon said they had voted against forming the commission. John Lansing Sr. has lived in Soldotna for 38 years, and said he voted against the proposition because he doesn’t believe in home rule. He has seen special interest groups come forward and dictate how things are run too often, he said.

The issue of forming a charter commission was put back before Soldotna voters in part because the city’s year-round sales tax on nonprepared food items was repealed during the last October general election. Several candidates have said the most logical way to make up for the projected $1.2 million loss in sales tax revenue is to make Soldotna a home-rule city, since that would give it the power to set its own tax rates.

Home-rule cities have other powers not afforded to first and second class cities. In a previous Clarion interview, Murphy said she would be interested in looking at the makeup of the Soldotna City Council. As it is, Mayor Pete Sprague is not a voting member, but has veto power, unlike in other home-rule communities.

Without home rule as an option, Soldotna administrators had suggested raising the city’s property taxes. Soldotna’s proposed budget currently includes a mill rate increase from 0.5 to 2 mills, a fourfold increase. Cashman and council members Paul Whitney and Keith Baxter all said they would not be comfortable raising the mill rate that high at a May 3 budget work session. The city council will vote on the budget June 8.

During the same budget work session, Dixson said annexation is another way Soldotna could make up for lost revenue by annexing areas on the city’s borders where businesses have been cropping up.

Of the election, Bagley said it’s now time for the commission members to roll up their sleeves and get to work on the charter.

“I think the yes votes will prevail,” he said.

 

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion A voter fills out her ballot during a special election Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at Soldotna City Hall in Soldotna, Alaska. The election held to decide if the city would form a charter commission saw a steady stream of voters during lunchtime hours.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion A voter fills out her ballot during a special election Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at Soldotna City Hall in Soldotna, Alaska. The election held to decide if the city would form a charter commission saw a steady stream of voters during lunchtime hours.

More in News

Kenai Fire Marshal Jeremy Hamilton is seen by one of Kenai Fire Department’s Tower trucks on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022 at Kenai Fire Department in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Get up, get out and get safe’

Kids taught about fire safety as part of prevention effort

Bob Bird, left, chairman of the Alaskan Independence Party, and former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman make the case in favor of a state constitutional convention during a debate in Anchorage broadcast Thursday by Alaska Public Media. (Screenshot from Alaska Public Media’s YouTube channel)
Constitutional convention debate gets heated

Abortion, PFD factor into forum.

Carol Freas (right) helps a voter fill out absentee election materials in Kenai City Hall ahead of the Oct. 4 municipal election on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Absentee voting already underway

Absentee in-person voting has been made available across the borough

Graphic by Ashlyn O’Hara
Graphic by Ashlyn O’Hara
What’s on the ballot: Reapportionment, new field house, school bond

Voters will decide on ballot measures that address schools, public safety and legislative bodies

Cars line up ahead of dismissal at Mountain View Elementary School on Thursday, September 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. A bond package up for consideration by Kenai Peninsula Borough voters on Oct. 4 would fund improvements to the school’s traffic flow. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Parking lot problems

Lack of space for pickup and drop-offs creates traffic jam at elementary school

Soldotna Elementary School Principal Dr. Austin Stevenson points out elements of the school building on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Aging school on the brink

Renovations are cost prohibitive at Soldotna Elementary

Rep. Mary Peltola, an Alaska Democrat, delivers a speech on the U.S. House floor before Thursday’s vote approving her first bill, establishing an Office of Food Security in the Department of Veterans Affairs. It passed the House by a 376-49 vote, although its fate in the Senate is undetermined. (Screenshot from official U.S. House video)
Poll: Peltola’s a popular pol

Food for vets bill passes House, pollster says she is “the most popular figure in Alaska right now.”

A parking sign awaits the new executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund at its Juneau headquarters, Three finalists will be interviewed for the job during a public meeting Monday by the fund’s board of trustees, who are expected to deliberate and announce the new director immediately afterward. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Interviews, selection of new Permanent Fund CEO set for Monday

Three finalists seeking to manage $73.7B fund to appear before trustees at public meeting in Juneau

Principal Sarge Truesdell looks at cracked siding outside of Soldotna High School on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. The siding is one of several projects in a bond package Kenai Peninsula voters will consider during the Oct. 4 municipal election. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Split siding at SoHi

The damage has been given patchwork treatment over the years

Most Read