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Saturday, January 20 2018 @ 01:46 AM AKST

To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake, Alaska

Big Lake CityThe Question seems simple enough: Should Big Lake transition from an unincorporated Community to a 2nd Class Alaskan City, or not? If so, why, and if not, why not? In my informal discussions of this topic with residents, business owners, and members of the community, many questions have been raised. Because of the importance of this action to the Big Lake Community and the Valley, we'll provide some information that you may not have heard about. We'll also attempt to translate the legalese for you.

This is a rather long article, but a very important subject. Feel free to make your voice heard, anonymous comments to this article are enabled.

First, some background:

From the LBC report: "The Petition to the Local Boundary Commission for Incorporation of Big Lake as a Second-Class City within the Organized Borough using the Local-Option Method (Big Lake petition) was submitted to LBC staff on October 17, 2013. It was returned to the petitioners to gather more valid signatures, and to address deficiencies within the petition. After the petitioners addressed those, the department accepted the petition for filing on July 24, 2014."

A question that has been asked of me numerous times is "Who signed the petition, and where was it circulated?"

"The notice that both petitions had been accepted for filing was published in the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman on July 29, August 5, and August 12, 2014. The opportunity for the public to submit written comments for both petitions started on July 29 and ended on October 3, 2014. This provided ample opportunity for public comment. Interested parties were given 66 days to submit responsive briefs and comments supporting or opposing one or both petitions. No responsive briefs were filed for either petition, so there are no respondents. 22 comments and reply briefs were submitted."

Deadline for Comments on this Report
The deadline for receipt of written comments concerning this report and its recommendations is 4:30 p.m., Friday, January 16, 2014. Submit written comments to:

LBC staff
550 W. 7th Ave., Ste. 1640,
Anchorage, AK 99501
Fax: 907-269-4539

Email:
LBC@alaska.gov

Big Lake Incorporation Petition
Jim Faiks,
Petitioner’s Representative
19559 W. Bryant Road Big Lake, AK 99652
alaskalpaca@mtaonline.net

and/or

Houston Annexation Petition
Mayor Virgie Thompson,
Petitioner’s Representative
13878 W. Armstrong
Houston AK 99694
vthompson@houston-ak.gov

After all of the comments have been submitted, the staff will then consider and analyze the petitions
and comments. After doing so it will issue a final report with a recommendation to the commission.
The recommendation could vary from or remain the same as the recommendation in the preliminary report. The report will be publically available."


http://commerce.state.ak.us/dca/lbc/2..._Petition/

Twenty people submitted comments. Your opportunity to be heard is still open. See below. To submit your comments see above. You can also post in the comments section of this story.


Map of proposed revised boundaries.

Further, from the report: "Commerce finds that Big Lake encompasses a community in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough (hereafter “borough”) for several reasons. First, according to the latest estimate from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Big Lake has 3,590 people as of July 2013. A permanent population of 3,590 greatly surpasses that of the 25 permanent residents required by the regulations. Further, Big Lake has existed for at least 30 years. It was originally a summer recreation destination that evolved in to a community with over 3,500 year round residents. Residents frequent local restaurants and stores, support local social groups such as the Big Lake Lions Club. The Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District has an elementary school in Big Lake. The proximity of all these services and infrastructure allow for frequent personal contacts and interaction.

Also, under 3 AAC 110.920(b), public access to or the right to reside at the location of the population is not restricted, nor is the location of the population provided by an employer and occupied as a condition of employment primarily by persons who do not consider the place to be their permanent residence. Thus, Big Lake still constitutes a community. After analyzing 3 AAC 110.005,3 AAC 110.920 and3AAC 110.990(5),

Commerce finds that Big Lake comprises a community, and that the standards are met."

More: "Per 3 AAC 110.010(a), Commerce finds that the Big Lake community demonstrates a reasonable need for city government.

"On the other hand, a city council can administer municipal powers more effectively. It can also represent the community’s interests more effectively than having constituents drive to the borough seat in Palmer to meet with borough officials. It can provide services that the community association cannot.

"The community demonstrates a reasonable need for city government because of existing or reasonably anticipated economic development. The populations of both the borough and the Big Lake territory are growing rapidly. There is recent or planned development near Big Lake. The Goose Creek prison southeast of the proposed city boundaries recently opened. Rail extension and the Knik Arm Bridge are also being planned. The residents of Big Lake can better control or influence planned development if they have a city because the city could eventually adopt planning powers, if permitted to do so by the borough.

The community also demonstrates a reasonable need for city government because of the existing or reasonably anticipated health, safety, and general welfare conditions. The populations of both the borough and Big Lake are growing. Despite that growth, there is no borough police department. Instead, borough residents outside of the cities of Wasilla, Palmer, and Houston rely on the state troopers. While Big Lake enjoys a much lower crime rate than both the state and national median, crime does exist. The prospective city would like to have the ability to develop a police department in the future. A Big Lake police force is not possible without incorporation.

"Most importantly, the community demonstrates a reasonable need for city government because of the
inadequacy of existing services. Big Lake is a rapidly growing community whose needs are not effectively met by the borough. If Big Lake incorporates, it can assume the responsibility of road maintenance of local roads from the borough. The borough currently provides road maintenance though the Big Lake Road Service Area (RSA #21). It levies 2.57 mills in FY 15 to pay for the road maintenance in the proposed city. The FY 2013 actual revenue generated from RSA #21 includes real property taxes, delinquent property taxes, penalty and interest, vehicle tax state collection, and interest on investments. Those sources generated $1,127,864 in FY 13, $1,203,100 in FY 14, and are estimated to generate $1,249,350 in FY 15 for the borough. The petitioners feel that a city government can provide more effective and efficient road maintenance through an annual contract of $600,000. Their capital expenses start at $300,000 and go to $450,000. The proposed city could exercise the power over road maintenance to provide safer roadways for the residents within Big Lake.

"Regarding 3 AAC 110.010(c), no other city or borough can provide Big Lake with essential municipal services more efficiently or more effectively than a city of Big Lake could. As shown above, the prospective city could offer the essential municipal service of road service for less money than the borough. It is likely that the city would have a very good knowledge of the road conditions within the city. The borough cannot provide road service to the city more effectively or efficiently than the city could. Further, as above, the borough cannot provide police service because it has no police department."

I realize this may be a lot to try and digest during the Holidays, but there's more:

"(A)the reasonably anticipated functions of the proposed city; The Big Lake petition states that if incorporated, the city would exercise local community development, local economic development, taxation, disaster planning in coordination with the borough, capital improvement programs, road maintenance, and parks and recreation powers. The petition also states on page 42 that the city would provide road maintenance, parks, recreation, and general administration, but states on page 30 that road service is the only power that the city will take control of upon incorporation at that time. The city would initially provide road maintenance and city administration. It is the staff’s understanding that in two years or so the city would assume parks and recreation service, but that there are no definite plans to assume other services. The community of Big Lake has a community inhabited by a diverse group of skilled and professional residents that possess the necessary skills to employ and fulfill the general administration, road maintenance, and parks and recreation departments. "

This will answer some questions posted previously: "(B) the reasonably anticipated expenses of the proposed city; The petition includes the proposed city’s budgets for the first four years of incorporation. The budgets
include general and capital revenue and expenses, and generate a surplus for the first four fiscal years after incorporation. After reviewing the budget, staff has found a minor error in the addition of the second year’s revenue and this has offset the following years by a revenue decrease of $22,000–$26,000.

"City expenses include staff, travel, facility expense, supplies, equipment, elections, and a road service contract. Commerce’s figures indicate that total expenditures for the first fiscal (FY) year is $1,403,272, second FY is $1,468,886, third is FY $1,544,731, and the fourth FY is $1,626,866. Commerce’s figures indicate that
the proposed FY budget will have a surplus of $274,312 the first year of incorporation, and at the end of the fourth year of incorporation, the city will have an estimated $81,024 budget surplus. The budget shows capital expenses rising by $50,000 in each of the first few years, but it is staff’s understanding that the city will not continue to make capital expenses at that increasing rate; the spending would only occur if there are sufficient funds to do to."



The LBC recommends the incorporation of Big Lake.

We plan for more articles on this subject.

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To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake, Alaska | 35 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Anna on Thursday, December 18 2014 @ 04:14 PM AKST
I wanted information, now I have it. Thanks. I may have more questions.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Lisa on Thursday, December 18 2014 @ 05:01 PM AKST
I'm starting to think this would be a good thing for Big Lake. We have almost everything here.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, December 18 2014 @ 05:11 PM AKST
That answered a lot of my questions, questions I think many of us are asking that are learning about this. I and some people I have talked to have heard that it failed to pass. I think we need a community discussion on this.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Lisa on Friday, December 19 2014 @ 01:40 PM AKST
Everyone please get this on facebook, email, twitter, talk to people where ever you go. People in Big Lake need to know about this and be heard.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, December 19 2014 @ 11:59 AM AKST
Yes we can chew it and then chew it some more BUT the end result is still the same.....tastes bad!!
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, December 19 2014 @ 01:33 PM AKST
What do you think it bad about it? Seems like our property taxes will go down, be used in Big Lake, and we'll have a say.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, December 19 2014 @ 02:15 PM AKST
I'm now leaning in favor of it as well after having seen some facts. I think the people working for this need to get answers out to the community. Questions need to be answered before it gets my vote. Like a previous posted asked: Where will City Hall be, and how will it be paid for? Who's thinking about running for mayor and other positions? Maybe they could come here and answer our questions?
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Steve on Friday, December 19 2014 @ 02:52 PM AKST
So far, to me anyway, it doesn't look like it's going to cost me more in property taxes, in fact if I read this right it's LESS property tax. There will probably be a city license for my business but what's another $50? I'm not seeing a downside to this, anyone else? I want to hear facts and sources.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: DG on Saturday, January 10 2015 @ 02:04 PM AKST
I should have asked that question during the meeting, and I shall get an answer. I did ask if there'd be a sales tax and the answer was no.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, December 20 2014 @ 07:19 AM AKST
Still not 100% sure, this is a major deal.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, December 20 2014 @ 08:39 AM AKST
Same here. At least we're finally getting some info.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, December 20 2014 @ 02:16 PM AKST
Seems kind of strange that so few have heard about this. I don't read the Frontiersman, or go to the Willow Library, but why wasn't it posted around Big Lake like so many other petitions and events and things are? Thankfully someone is digging into this, the adn.com article was short on details.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, December 20 2014 @ 02:59 PM AKST
Someone told me to check this out, this is the first I'm hearing about it too. Did I miss something in the mail?
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Arthur on Saturday, December 20 2014 @ 03:23 PM AKST
Hi, like this site.

I just want to say that change is inevitable. Big Lake and the surrounding area has grown since the first person settled here. We have an opportunity now, each of us. If you are a resident, own property or a business, or work and recreate here, then your voice should be heard.

That said, my vote is to make Big Lake a city. Reading through all the materials on this site (very thorough and "Just the Fact's Ma'am" stuff-good job staying unbiased) I sincerely believe that it gives us a say in the growth of our community. From what I read of the articles here, property owners will actually pay less, and more money will stay here in the (proposed) Big Lake City. Even with parks and rec maint (which makes us a great city prospect) there would be a surplus. I wonder where city hall will be. And do we need a full-time city hall? Use the Big Lake Lions Convention Center!

Seriously, It's a risk, but there is no reward earned without risk. Are all the facts in yet? Are the yes people publishing anything or have a website? Is anyone opposed to it? I cannot believe only 20 people in Big Lake and the surrounding area care about this.

If I don't heard a solid argument against it, I'll vote for it. And urge others in my circle to vote the same.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Bob on Saturday, December 20 2014 @ 03:56 PM AKST
Hello everyone, first time poster long time reader. Hope all your Holidays, whichever they may be, and bright.

I've been in Big Lake awhile, some of you may know me so mums the word, and this idea has been floated before. But back then Big Lake was a 'dead-end' or 'end of the road' spot, for people to diss. Now we have a thriving, vibrant community, with something going on all the time. And sometimes some really BIG things going on, and we can have more.

Whichever way you lean on the votes, and if you want to make your comment official see the link they provided in the story, and make your say. If you don't say anything then those that do are heard, and everyone should be heard, I think.

We have a growing business and services base, I see on the Big Lake Times facebook page that we are getting a dental practice here in Big Lake. That's a sign of our progress, and again more people need to get involved. The article has contact information.

Make yourself be heard, that is a fundamental freedom of our United States.

To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, December 20 2014 @ 04:04 PM AKST
This is a great thread to an important story. Good job on that BTW.

Thank you.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Welp on Saturday, December 20 2014 @ 04:31 PM AKST
Welp good job Libs amirite? Hey I can make up any name here! There should be a test to get on the internet. Oh yeah, the slider thing.

First off Merry or Happy Christmas or Xmas, with whatever Roman Numerals may follow, or any other holiday. May your dreams come true.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, December 21 2014 @ 11:58 AM AKST
I'm not voting either way until I get some answers. I suggest everyone else do the same.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, December 21 2014 @ 12:10 PM AKST
Slow your roll People, this is a long ways from being put to a vote yet. We need more Community discussion. If you never get involved or vote, this is one time to make an exception. Talk to your friends and neighbors about this important movement, on FB or twitter or groups. This is the future of Big Lake we're discussing here!
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Zach on Sunday, December 21 2014 @ 01:05 PM AKST
Hey thanks for letting me say something without having to register. That's rare on the 'net these days. And want to say great site, excellent work. I get the local news that the outside-owned dead tree print can't match.

That said, I am speaking on behalf of some people I have talked to about this as well as myself. I may be repeating some of the concerns and questions others have posted before both in this article and others related to this.

I'm calling for a Town-Hall style meeting. Let's have it someplace large and central, like the Big Lake Lions center or the Big Lake Library, or the Faith Bible Fellowship on Hollywood if we can separate politics and religion. Better yet make a convention of it on the ice of Big Lake. There's noting to draw Big Lake folks like a party. Invite our reps to show up, tents for the Chamber of Commerce and Community Council, food, crafts, etc. Big Lake could handle an event every week if we wanted it, especially with the Lions Center completed. . This brings in a lot of cash that mostly is circulated in the community.

Back on topic, if meetings are held and no one knows about them, or can attend, then what purpose do they serve other than becoming an echo chamber? I did a google and this is the only site mentioning it, nothing in the 1st 30 links! As someone else posted, I too do not read the Frontiersman, or go to the library every day. I cannot remember the last time I was in either the Willow or Wasilla library, and have never been in the Houston City Hall. The Birthday of the Big Lake Library drew a HUGE crowd. I remember when meetings were held in the fire station. Let us bring that back, to the center of the community. And community organizations should meet in a centrally located, downtown space.

In one post a poster suggested that we incorporate lest Houston or Wasilla, or even the formation of a KGB City could annex an unincorporated community of Big Lake. This is a serious consideration. Houston has been struggling to make ends meet, and has other troubles. Don't get me wrong, it's a nice enough town, just seems stagnant. They are our neighbors, so lets do what we can to lift all boats on the rising tide. Likewise let's band together and have a say. I don't see this as an us-against-them fight.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: No Degas Nada on Sunday, December 21 2014 @ 01:28 PM AKST
Just sayin'

"Deadline for Comments on this Report
The deadline for receipt of written comments concerning this report and its recommendations is 4:30 p.m., Friday, January 16, 2014. Submit written comments to:

LBC staff
550 W. 7th Ave., Ste. 1640,
Anchorage, AK 99501
Fax: 907-269-4539

Email:
LBC@alaska.gov

Big Lake Incorporation Petition
Jim Faiks,
Petitioner’s Representative
19559 W. Bryant Road Big Lake, AK 99652
alaskalpaca@mtaonline.net "
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, December 21 2014 @ 02:13 PM AKST
OK first your name means don't say anything, roughly. This is the thread to SAY something. There's some good points made so far. Just look at what we have: an airport, a Big Lake, parks and trails and events and businesses and a community and more. People we Have A Town! It's experiencing growing pains, and soon may give birth to something special. #BigLakeCity Study it out.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Houston Booster on Sunday, December 21 2014 @ 02:29 PM AKST
I forget what is the name of Big Lakes winning sports team?
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, December 21 2014 @ 02:46 PM AKST
Let's keep it civil, and yeah why no Big Lake Solstice Party? Who's steering this boat?
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, December 23 2014 @ 08:31 PM AKST
Big Lake could be rich on cannabis, farming and tourism. Don't screw this up.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Anna on Saturday, December 27 2014 @ 01:26 PM AKST
Hey could you pin this or something? I think it's important that people know what's going on. Seems to be a secret, and I don't like that.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Emily Acker on Sunday, December 28 2014 @ 12:14 PM AKST
I, for one, am still undecided. There are many unanswered questions.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Dave on Sunday, December 28 2014 @ 12:41 PM AKST
Same here. Excellent points other posters have made in this and related articles. But there are still questions that must be answered.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: DG on Saturday, January 10 2015 @ 12:57 PM AKST
I attended a meeting today regarding some issues relating to this matter, and will post a followup shortly.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Jim Faiks on Saturday, January 10 2015 @ 06:18 PM AKST
Wow!
I had heard about the Big Lake Times, but it wasn't until Dennis attended the Library Advocates meeting today and encouraged participation in the discussion that I finally tuned in. What a lot of great comments, especially the informed ones. And that is the real issue about the possibility of Big Lake becoming a city. The 2009 Big Lake Comprehensive Plan outlined many goals and strategies. Many of these have seen some progress, like the Jordan Lake park improvements next to the library. One of the strategies in the plan was to look at the pros and cons of Big Lake becoming a city. The Community Council took this on as a project about 3 years ago and came to the conclusion that it made sense to get all the facts out and let the residents decide. Getting all the facts and following all the State procedures has been an arduous but necessary journey. The Preliminary Report by the Local Boundary Commission of the Alaska Dept. of Commerce published in December was the culmination of a lot of effort. It is available at the library or on line at www.commerce.state.ak.us/lbc/2014 [Editors note: Use This link instead] They have concluded that incorporation does indeed make sense for our community. Their next step is to publish a final report after receiving input on this report (which is due January 16th). A public hearing will be held in March in Big Lake wherein the Commission will decide if the issue will be allowed to come to a vote by the residents. That vote will come sometime late summer or fall.
I really appreciated some of the comments in the Times by people who were concerned enough to look into the facts about this important issue. I will try to answer questions that you have through this venue.
It is ironic that I find myself as the "petitioner's representative" on the incorporation issue. I was against the idea at first, because I didn't want more taxes, more government or more regulation. I attended meetings and learned that the current Borough Property taxes (NO SALES TAX) would provide sufficient funds to operate the limited functions of the proposed city. We could control our destiny and keep Big Lake the type of community we have come to love even if exploding growth is happening around us.

The first question I noticed is: "Where would the city hall be located?"
I don't know, but most likely in one of the vacant spaces in a building in Big Lake's core area. Perhaps at the Lions (which is where the Community Council meets now), if that would work for both entities. The decision will be made by the Community Council whose members will become the first City Council members (until the first election). By the way, the Community Council meets this Tuesday the 13th at 7 PM at the Lions Rec. Center. See you there.

I edited your link-Editor

Edited on Monday, January 12 2015 @ 05:43 PM AKST by Editor
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: DG on Sunday, January 11 2015 @ 10:02 AM AKST
Excellent post, and thanks for stopping by to answer some questions folks have about this. Here's a few from various posters:

Are there downsides to becoming a city, and if so what are they and how could any potential downsides be mitigated or eliminated?

Will this attract or deter new business? Will there be a City business license/tax, and if so, how much?

Someone has been keeping the Big Lake bike paths cleared this winter, could we make this a regular action?

Probably the answers may be found in the linked documents but people have a lot of reading to get caught up on. I understand that there is quite some time before this comes to a vote, and now is the time to get the information to the voters.

In yesterday’s meeting one point that was brought up was the fact that as a city we'll not be subject to the whims of the Borough Assembly. I think that is a very important point.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Anna on Thursday, January 15 2015 @ 04:52 PM AKST
Good questions.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Kb on Sunday, January 18 2015 @ 12:34 PM AKST
I would like to commend you on organizing all this voluminous information into a section that I call follow. I've been thinking about this and reading everything, and I don't see this as necessarily a bad thing. A lot of reasonable comments as well. To echo another commenter, I think we need more info, but I have found that most of mine and others questions can be answered by reading the stories and linked info. The deadline for commenting has passed, did anyone comment? I should have. We really need to get this out to everyone in Big Lake. Use your twitter and facebook and other media to get everyone involved.
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: Jim Faiks on Thursday, March 26 2015 @ 04:44 PM AKDT
There is a special meeting of the Borough Assembly about the Big Lake incorporation effort that will be held in Palmer at 4 PM Tuesday, April 7th. It will be very informative and a great lead-in to the public hearing with the State Boundary Commissioners scheduled for April 15th at 1 PM at the Big Lake Lions club rec center.
Hope to see you at one or both of these,
Jim
To Be or Not To Be: The City of Big Lake
Authored by: DG on Thursday, March 26 2015 @ 06:19 PM AKDT
Thanks for posting the dates and times (and locations) of the meetings. We'll add these to the calendar.

Once again, as a citizen you have an opportunity to make your voice heard.
Edited on Thursday, March 26 2015 @ 07:45 PM AKDT by DG