Soldotna to vote on charter commission

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Thursday, January 22, 2015 10:22pm
  • News

During a special election on Feb. 3, Soldotna voters will determine if the process for developing a home rule law charter will begin.

If the formation of a charter commission is approved, the seven candidates receiving the most votes will fill the seven seats.

Commission candidate, and city council member Pete Sprague, said this will be the first real step in starting the home rule process.

“This is not the last step, this is one of the very early steps in the process,” Sprague said. “Nothing has been decided at this point.”

Sprague said the process of building a charter will be a lengthy, but very public process.

“The process needs to be open and it will be,” said commission candidate and Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly President Dale Bagley. “Meetings will be open to the public, and will be advertised.”

During his time on the assembly, Bagley noticed significant freedoms Kenai and Seward had as home rule cities that the city of Soldotna could not exercise. Many candidates have cited concerns about the city’s revenue sources as a reason for pursuing a seat on the charter commission.

Commission candidate, and owner of Birch Ridge Golf Course, Patrick Cowan said he was worried about the future of the city’s ability to collect sales tax during the winter season, which is nearly 90 percent of Soldotna’s revenue during those months.

Soldotna services over 25,000 people annually, even though it is such a small geographical area, Cowan said.

Commission candidate, and city council member, Keith Baxter said he is not going into the process with preformed conclusions.

According to Alaska statute, the charter commission will be provided model charters to look at as examples.

Soldotna resident Jerry Farrington, who has been advocating for widening city driveway widths, said he is hoping to come up with a charter that equally benefits the public and the city government.

Farrington said he hoped to be of assistance to the city, and that the public will take an interest in the process.

Meetings of the charter commission shall be open to the public at all times, according to Alaska statute. A journal of commission proceedings shall be kept and made available for public inspection at the borough office.

Baxter said he believes moving to home rule is in the best interest of the city. He said the charter will not dictate policy, but how policy is created.

“You don’t pass a bed tax with a charter,” Baxter said. “You define how it could be pursued.

If approved, one of the first actions the commission will take is to come up with dates for meetings, Baxter said.

Sprague said regardless of how voters feel about moving to home rule, he hopes everyone will turn out on Feb. 3.

 

Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulclarion.com.

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