This past week a group of Nikiski residents presented their ideas for incorporating their community.
The plan, in essence, would establish a home-rule charter, designating powers to a council and mayor to oversee the services currently under the purview of borough government.
Under its current government structure, Nikiski has a number of service area boards — fire service, recreation, and senior services, for example — that function in an advisory role to the borough government, and elected representatives on the borough assembly and board of education.
The Nikiski Citizens Incorporation Study group has been working on its plan for about two years, consulting with various entities, studying other municipal charters and learning about the incorporation process for the Alaska Local Boundary Commission.
The idea of incorporation in Nikiski has come up from time to time over the years, particularly in conjunction with law enforcement issues. While the current proposal does not include plans for a law enforcement agency — Alaska State Troopers would continue to fill that role — continued growth and a changing population in the area make it a good time for residents to evaluate what they want from government, and whether more localized control would be beneficial to the community.
Nikiski has seen quite a bit of population growth in recent years and the North Road is now a community of nearly 6,000 people — similar in size to Kenai and Soldotna. Looking ahead, it will be crucial to involve as many of those residents as possible in the incorporation discussion to ensure that the vision for Nikiski’s future reflects the wishes of the whole community, and not just the views of a specific segment of the population.
It will also be important to remember that, while it will be constrained by the charter document, individuals elected to office may have a different view on what government should be. While that may cause some heartburn, incorporating new ideas is also how communities successfully manage growth and change.
We encourage all Nikiski residents to become involved in the discussion, and should an incorporation measure make it to the ballot, to become well informed on the subject before heading to the polls.
Like it or not, growth in Nikiski means change is happening. We’re glad to see Nikiski residents taking an active role in managing that change. Whether residents decide to maintain the status quo or to establish their own government, we’re looking forward to a discussion that brings together the whole community.