Poll workers Patricia Linville, left,, and Mark Kansteiner prepare to assist voters in Seward’s special election on Tuesday, May 2, 2023, in Seward, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Poll workers Patricia Linville, left,, and Mark Kansteiner prepare to assist voters in Seward’s special election on Tuesday, May 2, 2023, in Seward, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Seward certifies special election results

Seward residents narrowly voted against the sale of the utility to Homer Electric Association

The Seward City Council on Monday certified the results of last week’s special election, through which sale of the city’s electric utility and residency requirements for the city manager appeared on the ballot.

Seward residents narrowly voted against the sale of the utility to Homer Electric Association and overwhelmingly supported allowing the city manager to live outside of Seward city limits.

Just seven votes decided the fate of Seward Electric, which city council members last year agreed to sell. Both HEA and Chugach Electric Association put in bids to buy the utility, before the council opted to move forward with a $25 million contract with HEA.

HEA General Manager Brad Janorschke told council members Monday that he is “disappointed” in the outcome of the election, but that he appreciates the city’s support of the HEA staff who spent time in Seward to help promote the sale. Janorschke told attendees at last week’s annual Meeting of the Members called the vote a “heartbreaker” but said “it is what it is.”

“To this day, I believe it’s in the best interest of both utilities to merge the two,” Janorschke told attendees last week.

Residents also offered their thoughts on the election during Monday’s city council meeting.

Tim McDonald said he thinks Seward is “split right down the middle” when it comes to the electric utility sale and that the decision came down to a limited number of voters that may not reflect all Seward Electric customers.

“There’s more people outside the city than there is inside the city, and the minority was voting on something that affected the majority,” McDonald said.

Lynda Paquette disagreed. She said voters weren’t split 50-50 because more than half of voters cast ballots in favor of the sale. She said some who didn’t support the sale cited a lack of trust in the council’s judgment when picking HEA over Chugach Electric.

“In each of those cases, they would have voted yes had the vendor been Chugach,” Paquette said of the people she talked to after the election. “The perception in their mind is that, because Chugach is so much bigger. It was obvious to them that that was the better way, even if the offer wasn’t as appealing.”

Monday’s Seward City Council meeting can be streamed on the City of Seward’s YouTube channel.

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

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