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Local Boundary Commission Approves Petition to Incorporate Big Lake as a 2nd Class City

Big Lake CityA Public Hearing regarding the proposal to incorporate Big Lake as a 2nd Class City was held on 23 June 2015 at The Big Lake Rec Center. The Big Lake Times was present to cover the hearing.

The primary purpose of this hearing was to present to the LBC (Local Boundary Commission) testimony on various issues that would help the LBC decide to approve or deny the petition to incorporate Big Lake.

There were 60 chairs set out for members of the public, and almost every seat was filled. One of the LBC staff said they did not expect such a large turnout. The hearing began shortly after the scheduled start time of 2:30 p.m., delayed for a few minutes while audio issues were worked out. Members of the LBC were present, with other LBC members participating by teleconference.

After the formalities were completed, 6 witnesses presented testimony on various subjects to the LBC and the members of the public. Each were sworn in before testifying.

Full House at the Hearing Photo by Dennis Garrett

First up was Jim Faiks, Petitioner for the proposal. Mr. Faiks' subject topics were to support the requirements to establish that Big Lake is a community as required by state statute, and that the proposed boundaries for Big Lake are appropriate, reasonable, and on a scale suitable for the growing community. He also stated that there would be “no new taxes”, and that the proposal had widespread support by the residents.

Mr. Faiks stated that, if approved by the LBC and the voters, the City of Big Lake would be the “2nd most populated 2nd Class City in Alaska.” He was asked by the LBC about state land within the boundaries, and if there are any unpopulated areas within the proposed city. Mr. Faiks answered that there are no unpopulated areas within the city, as every resident has access either by road or water. “Unpopulated areas are not allowed” within the proposed area, he said. Mr. Brett Williams of the LBC answered the question regarding state land by stating that there are State lands, some of which could possibly be appropriated by the City, but only until or unless the petition is approved by the LBC and the voters. DNR (The Department of Natural Resources) would have the final say. Exactly how much land would be decided by the DNR, he said.

Jim Faiks also presented some interesting facts and figures, including the growth of Big Lake since 2000: a 36% growth, and a 100% increase in the number of residents age 65 and older.

Next up was Floyd Shilanski. Mr. Shilanski is a Registered Financial Consultant, Accredited Investment Fiduciary, and board member of the Big Lake Community Council. He testified that services could be better provided locally than by the Borough, and stated that the proposed boundaries are appropriate, reasonable, and on a scale suitable for a growing community. Mr. Shilanski also remarked on the lack of representation Big Lake currently experiences before the Borough, a situation that would be remedied were Big Lake to become a city, he said.

Ken Walsh, a Licensed Civil Engineer, next talked on the subject of how incorporation would allow Big Lake to better maintain and improve our roads in an efficient, cost-effective manner. He covered the topic of problems with local road maintenance, in particular the failure to meet road standards: roads that are too narrow, too steep, and Cul-De-Sacs with no proper turnaround, which is a serious problem for maintenance equipment operations. Other problems include failure to provide proper drainage on some roads, a situation that is worsened by the winter weather.

Mr. Walsh then presented his testimony on the funding situation for our roads, pointing out that funding is inadequate, and that at current levels of funding it would take 100 years to bring our roads up to standard at current funding levels. Other road problems include the lack of a clear right-of-way in many cases, and a higher maintenance cost due to the many problems. Poorly constructed roads require “repetitive repairs”, and cause higher maintenance costs. An “acceptable level of service” can be achieved by becoming a 2nd Class City, he said. He stated that standards do exist for our types of roads, and talked about the “Call of the Wild” road as a test that has successfully proven that standards can be achieved at a very low cost to the City.

Carol Kane, Board member of the Big Lake Community Council, presented information to establish that Big Lake has the human resources “who are professionally qualified to employ and fulfill general administration and road maintenance for the city.” She also talked about the great volunteer spirit of Big Lake. “The Can-Do Spirit is reflected in Big Lake” she said. LBC Commissioner Darrol Hargraves commented favorably in agreement to Ms. Kane's comments.

Bill Kramer, President of the Big Lake Community Council, talked on the subject that Big Lake has the financial resources to operate as a city without any increases in taxes for the residents. He also stated that there would be minimal administrative costs.

Bill Allen, a resident of Horseshoe Lake, was the final witness. Mr. Allen is a former Mayor of the Fairbanks North Star Borough, former Commissioner for the State of Alaska, former Mat-Su Borough Assembly member, and former City Manager for the city of Palmer. The topic of Mr. Allen's testimony was to establish that incorporating Big Lake is in the best interest of the State of Alaska for maximum local self-government. “Big Lake is a unique community” he said.

Not present in person was Victor Fisher. Mr. Fisher is one of three of the 55 Delegates to the Alaska Constitutional Convention still living. His resume includes an MBA from Harvard and a Planning Degree from MIT. He witnessed Stalin's Great Purge, fled to America and served in it's military, was Anchorage's first City Planner, served in the Territorial Legislature and the House of Representatives. He's the Founder of the University of Alaska's Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER), former State Senator, Director of the office of Russian Affairs at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, and is currently studying Alaskan Native and Regional governance. Mr. Fisher was to address the brief history and background of the Constitution of Alaska with emphasis on 2.11 Article X: Local Government Section 1, “to provide for maximum local self-government...”

Commissioner Hargraves suggested that the Petetioner(s) “Should have been asking for a Borough”, adding “Fantastic job” regarding the work done towards the City.

The Commission then opened the hearing to Public Comment.

Dan Mayfield, our Mat-Su Borough Representative (District 5) commented that he supports the incorporation of Big Lake, and talked about the taxes. “No new taxes” was the bottom line. Mr. Mayfield also talked about the size of the proposed city, and that Big Lake is an historical Community.

Dan Mayfield speaks to the hearing. Photo by Dennis Garrett

Mr. Mayfield sent The Big Lake Times this information via email: “The Local Boundary Commission, meeting in Big Lake this evening, has approved the Incorporation petition of Big Lake. The LBC approval places the final decision in the hands of Big Lake voters to decide whether or not Big Lake will Incorporate into a 2nd Class City or not. No specifics on the method or date of the vote have been released as yet. More to come.”

Related articles may be found under this topic: Big Lake City

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Local Boundary Commission Approves Petition to Incorporate Big Lake as a 2nd Class City | 4 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Local Boundary Commission Approves Petition to Incorporate Big Lake as a 2nd Class City
Authored by: A Big Lake User on Wednesday, June 24 2015 @ 01:57 PM AKDT
Excellent coverage of local news! BLT ROCKS!
Local Boundary Commission Approves Petition to Incorporate Big Lake as a 2nd Class City
Authored by: Dave on Friday, June 26 2015 @ 03:13 PM AKDT
Thanks for covering this important story, if it weren't for you guys I probably wouldn't have heard about it, at least not as in-depth as this.
Local Boundary Commission Approves Petition to Incorporate Big Lake as a 2nd Class City
Authored by: anonymous on Thursday, June 25 2015 @ 08:58 AM AKDT
I consider myself an "Informed Citizen", and after reading through all the materials on this site and the links (great job BTY), I believe this is an overall positive step for Big Lake. I've lived in Big Lake for over 15 years, and have seen the changes. Of course, some folks don't like change, but that doesn't stop change from occurring any more than yelling at a cloud to move out of "your" sunlight. It's important for citizens to have the facts and make up their minds, and despite the wealth of information, there will always be those that refuse to inform themselves, and base their decisions on emotion, superstitions, and the opinions of others. Hopefully they are not the type to vote, just complain.
Local Boundary Commission Approves Petition to Incorporate Big Lake as a 2nd Class City
Authored by: Anna on Friday, June 26 2015 @ 02:53 PM AKDT
Great article guys. I've been following this since you first started reporting on it, lots of great information to use in making the important decision.